by Lew Migliore
The flooring industry continues to change and evolve. Recent figures out in the Dalton newspaper report the unemployment rate is 12.5%. The energy that surrounded the industry just a few short years ago has abated. It’s not gone by any means but the visual signs around town have subsided. And, within the last couple of weeks some manufacturers have gone through another round of paring down employees.
Most of these are in the technical area, particularly commercial. This always seems to be the area that gets the chop first as management mistakenly believes technical people don’t pay for themselves and are an expense.
I would strongly beg to differ.
These are the people who save the companies untold millions of dollars in claims and problems in the field, as well as save face and protect the reputation of the manufacturer. If technicians don’t exist, or their ranks shrink, there are fewer knowledgeable people to help if you have a problem.
This will continue to have a serious downside effect on the commercial market. These guys are worked to the bone now and with fewer of them to serve existing needs, the stress it will place on those remaining will be high. At a time when commercial business is actually booming—and it is despite what you may have heard or think—this is not the time you want to get rid of the very people who can make or break you.
With new backing systems, adhesives, installation issues, new manufacturing processes, sustain- able product integrity issues and more change than has occurred in the entire history of the industry, it isn’t wise in my opinion to get rid of people who actually know about this stuff. Maybe management thinks they know too much because they’ve voiced concerns about some of the new products? It is not that far-fetched.
If you think a sales representative can fill in for a technical person, think again. I was on a conference call with a client the other day, which included the manufacturer’s rep who, when asked pointed questions about problems with the product, went mute. This call may have cost the manufacturer millions of dollars in sales. It was so shocking to get no response from the rep that I even felt uncomfortable.
Six of one, half a dozen of the other I have mixed feelings about all this. On one hand it bodes well for our business. Since LGM & Associates provides a unique service that includes much of what technical reps do, and since we’ve absorbed some of the best of them, this is good news for us.
However, we only get called as a last resort, in most cases to provide answers to end users. We don’t do much work for the manufacturers other than some consulting, bringing new technology to them and providing assistance only as a last resort. Their field services and technical people take care of helping get their products installed correctly, answering initial concerns or determining what someone is doing wrong with their product and helping them.
Further, we’re seeing more and more installers and installations compromised because the installer doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing, what he’s supposed to do, or know what he may be doing wrong will come back to haunt him and cause a failed installation. This costs the industry and everyone in the food chain involved money and pain. Our job is to take the pain away, which often means more pain but with an absolute answer.
I’ve mentioned before that over the last four decades, the very people who have taught me the details of the business have been the victims of economic slowdowns. Without them, when business really picks up overall, the manufacturers are going to be left hanging for help and that means you will be too.
Lewis Migliore is a troubleshooter, consultant and speaker based in Dalton. To reach him, call 706.370.5888, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to lgmandassociates.com.