Associations, buying groups bring training to the masses

HomeNewsAssociations, buying groups bring training to the masses

by Matthew Spieler

(Second of two parts)

When it comes to keeping up with the latest trends, tools and techniques, industry associations and buying groups have become respected, go-to resources for people wanting to receive professional education and training—from selling to installing to general business practices.

Part 1 (FCNews, July 16/23) of this two-part feature looked at some of the educational offerings from major mills and trade shows. This time we concentrate on some of flooring’s main associations and buying groups. (Editor’s note: Due to its sponsorship of Surfaces, the World Floor Covering Association’s educational initiatives were included in Part 1.)

CCA Global Partners

In the past decade, a surge of new technologies, showroom enhancements and product developments have impacted the way many retailers do business, noted Howard Brodsky, co-chairman and co-CEO. For CCA retailers, adapting to these changes has been made easier with the help of CCA University. The training arm of CCA provides members with thousands of hours of training annually, ranging from e-learning and Webinars to instructor-led classes and business consulting.

“We offer a broad training curriculum, including courses in sales, customer service, product knowledge, flooring installation, leadership, management, business operations and technology,” said Bob Hutter, vice president of CCA University.

Developing a high performing sales and service culture takes more than a single approach, he noted, which is why the university offers “a comprehensive solution to improving business performance.” For ex-ample, providing a Hiring for Success program to get the best candidates in the pipeline, a Fast Start sales training program that blends over 300 online University modules with five days of instructor-led sales and service training, and an annual certification program to ensure a high level of service.

CCA University features a state-of-the-art online university for each CCA division. “The online catalog includes everything from product and brand knowledge to communications and service skills,” said Bill Gauthier, director of training development and technology. “We average over 600 modules taken per week among our online universities. Members said it is one of the top three programs CCA offers.”

The university also has “a talented team of instructors and consultants” who travel the continent to provide members with performance and business improvement support, Hutter said.

For more on CCA University, call 800.450.7595, ext. 2185.



The International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) has become an installation training force throughout the world through its partnership with the WFCA, training more than 49,000 industry personnel since 1993. Programs are de-signed for installers, sales associates, installation managers, inspectors and anyone who works directly with installation.

CFI programs include two-day, hands-on workshops in small groups to focus on skills as well as knowledge. Carpet, ceramic, resilient, laminate and wood courses can also be designed to meet the specific needs of the hosting party. “The courses involve all aspects of a flooring installation from start to finish with the emphasis always on providing the finest customer service,” said Robert Varden, CFI’s president.

The team of 78 CFI instructors offers training in various levels for certification. The residential entry and advanced categories, commercial entry and advanced categories and the Master and Master-II designations are offered for carpet. Resilient offers a residential and a commercial certification with the opportunity to also achieve the Armstrong professional certification. Laminate and wood also offer the Armstrong professional certification and opportunity to become certified through the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA).

“All training addresses professionalism, job-site evaluation, preparation, OSHA, EPA, safety; ANSI standards, substrates, moisture testing, acclimation, controlled environment, subfloors, grade requirements, material handling, estimating and planning, tools, cleanup, safety, maintenance and the characteristics of the flooring products,” Varden explained. The wood and laminate courses cover such things as pre-finished products; nail, glue and floating floor; transitions; cuts—plain, quarter sawn, rift sawn—strip and plank; engineered; Janka hardness; cork and bamboo; radiant systems; maintenance, and problem solving.

Participants in the ceramic workshop learn of the properties and characteristics of tile vs. stone, setting materials, deflection, backerboards, membranes and radiant systems.

The residential resilient class covers all aspects of the substrate, corrective procedures, seam cutting, embossing, adhesives and repair techniques.

The carpet training and certification covers seaming of various types, power stretching, direct and double-glue, stair upholstery, trimming and more.

Varden added other workshops include CFI’s Technical Certification for those who are not actively engaged in installation; Estimating and Measuring, which provides detailed information on procedures, customer preparation and “painting a picture” for the installation team to achieve customer satisfaction; Flooring Installation Inspection Workshop, designed for those who work directly with installation and includes how to avoid problems and find solutions should they occur, and the Woven and Patterned Carpet Workshop, which provides two days of hands-on training.

For more, call 816.231.4646, email or visit


Fuse Alliance

A significant benefit to members is access to knowledge and training. Fuse University is the umbrella for this.

Beginning with the interactive online training site, member companies and their associates have 24/7 access to content specifically designed to address the educational needs of today’s professional flooring contractor. Content is provided through video, slide and audio presentation formats.

Beyond the university site, Fuse uses Webinars and physical training classes to increase members’ knowledge on topics such as leadership, recruiting, presentation skills and making customers. Monthly leadership Webinars provide owners and managers insights to becoming better leaders and getting the most out of their people through coaching and mentoring.

Last October, Fuse held a Sales Boot Camp in Chicago. Veteran and new salespeople came together for a day-and-a-half of sales training focused on making customers, rethinking old habits and a fresh perspective on the sales process.

For more, call 407.574.6600 or visit



Education is one of the North American Floor Covering Distributors’ four core pillars of value, Michelle Miller, NAFCD’s executive director, pointed out, and is joined by leadership, networking and trends. “Strengthening the partnership between retailers and distributors is very important to our members, which is why we offer several educational opportunities:”

•AEA Webinars and seminars. NAFCD is a member of the Association Educational Alli-ance, which offers affordable educational products and programs, including Webinars from top distribution industry experts.

•University of Industrial Distribution (UID), the industry’s premier distribution-specific education program, Miller said. Presented by NAFCD and other leading industry trade associations, UID lets participants select from courses with topics such as: Distribution marketing; branch management; sales and sales management; value-added selling; business leadership; distribution profitability; consumer psychographics and channel alignment. Participants earn credits toward their Industrial Distribution certificate, provided by Purdue University upon completion of 90 hours (9 CEUs) of qualified instruction.

•2012 annual convention and Executive Networking Forum. NAFCD offers an abundance of learning opportunities focused on sales, merchandising, economic trends, political climate and how it affects business, and building stronger relationships. The convention provides a venue to network and the opportunity to participate in a peer best practice sharing session.

•The annual convention: This year, NAFCD will again be co-sponsoring a convention with the North American Building Material Distribution Association. The event offers “a unique blend of networking functions, distribution management education and a venue to bring together suppliers and distributors.”

•Trends: Through the year, members can participate and leverage trend reports to help navigate the business climate.

To learn more, call 312.321.6836 or visit



For those wanting to achieve a higher level of expertise, NALFA certifying curriculum provides a competitive edge in an increasingly competitive industry.

NALFA offers three, one-day classes to give students comprehensive hands-on training designed to expand knowledge and skill level while working side by side with industry experts.

The Advanced Installer Certification class includes a four-hour installation, which covers installing with obstacles, molding and stairs, testing for flatness and moisture, and plank replacement.

The Inspector Certification Class includes a Laminate 101 session, installation requirements, inspection tools and standards, product defect review and inspection reporting and process. Prerequisites are a minimum of three years’ experience as an inspector, being a NALFA-certified installer or being certified by another nationally recognized inspection organization.

A brand new offering is The Sales Pro: Laminate Flooring Expert Certification class. Topics cover the manufacturing process, when to suggest laminate flooring, why some laminate products are more expensive than others, the value of the NALFA certification seal, installation requirements, product defect review and inspection reporting.

Class fees range from $200 to $350. For dates and locations, call 423.316.1566 or email



Michael Martin, president and CEO, said for more than 25 years NWFA has been training and educating wood flooring professionals from all over the world in installation, sanding, finishing and sales of wood flooring.

This year, NWFA is reviewing and revising the curriculums of each hands-on school to reflect the changing market and emerging technologies. New schools being developed for 2013 include a stronger emphasis on factory-finished product.

NWFA will also be offering schools with shorter durations, making it easier for contractors to attend training without leaving jobs unattended.

The association offers a variety of schools designed for those just starting out as well as experienced professionals. This year schools include Wood Flooring Basics, Subfloor Preparation, Solid & Prefinished Installation, Jigs & Medallions, and Inter-mediate, Advanced and Expert Installation and Sand & Finish.

NWFA Certified Professionals also offers the Wood Flooring Inspector School, which covers a variety of topics required for conducting thorough inspections. Students learn about tools, photography, concrete, moisture testing, production, adhesives, leveling products, report writing, legal ramifications, professionalism and handling complaints. It also offers a retail sales certification program.

“Best of all,” Martin said, “scholarships are available, whether you are an NWFA member or not.” Scholarship amounts vary for each school.

To learn more, call 800.422.4556 or visit


Preferred Brands

Preferred Brands and its two retail brands, Floor To Ceiling and World of Floors, recognized retailers must change some basics in the way they do business in order to survive, and education is a key component in bringing that change about, said Steve Sindlinger, president and CEO.

To meet this challenge, some members continue to rely on the more traditional face-to-face training that is synonymous with the company’s annual Showcase event and sessions at its corporate headquarters in Burnsville, Minn. Topics include everything from financial analysis to showroom layout and then back to basic product knowledge.

In contrast to classroom training, the popularity of its online Showroom Video Learning Series continues to grow, Sindlinger explained. For the salesperson, seven video modules have been developed outlining selling strategies specifically designed to substantially improve margins. In addition, there are eight comprehensive presentations covering successful negotiation and 11 more aimed at mastering individual presentation skills.

The video series has also evolved to address changing management needs, he added. One important area deals with how to clearly differentiate the value of a brick-and-mortar store from that of online competition. “Personalized service is the key and an expanded curriculum is devoted to showing how to transform a company into a true service organization.”

Additional modules concentrate on other fundamentals of business, such as marketing, social media, email marketing and database marketing.

For more, call 952.890.8979.



As a marketing cooperative, Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership is focused on providing a range of educational programs to its flooring contractor members, noted Deb Esbenshade, vice president of member services. In some cases, she explained, training is conducted via live seminars focused on a target group such as sales managers, salespeople, installation managers or new business developers. “We work to be efficient with our training, partnering with FCICA for our 2012 Installation Manager’s Meeting, and holding our Specifier’s Seminar the weekend before NeoCon as two examples.”

Another way of offering efficient, cost-effective training is by staying on top of technology, Esbenshade noted. Starnet has been offering at least monthly Webinars to its members for more than six years. “Most often we partner with our preferred vendors to bring product and program information quickly and directly to our members. Over the years, vendors have seen the value of interacting with 20 to 40 members at a time on a Webinar.”

Also taking advantage of technology is the 24/7 online training school, Starnet University, which offers courses in product knowledge from its preferred vendors as well as Starnet-developed courses.

One Starnet member, CTS Flooring in Limerick, Pa., developed and shared a course, “Planning a Successful Floor Preparation Project,” which is one of the most popular courses, she said, “particularly for new employees.”

The Starnet Best Practices committee and the Training and Development committee worked together to develop two other hot-topic courses, Esben-shade added: “The Importance of Moisture Mitigation” and “The Anatomy of a Commercial Flooring Contractor.”

For more information, call 800.717.4520 or email

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