CFI: Group heads into third decade with vision for future

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Installers learn techniques, business skills

September 15/22, 2014; Volume 28/Number 7

By Louis Iannaco

New Orleans—At its milestone 20th year anniversary convention last year in Baltimore, the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) enjoyed a time of reflection, celebration and recognition of achievements earned during its first two decades in existence. Now, members are acknowledging that this is not the time to rest on its laurels as there is still much work to be done.

Among the topics of discussion at CFI’s 21st annual convention held here earlier this month was the status of a proposed ANSI standard for flooring installation, how the industry can attract the next young generation of mechanics and the ongoing focus on proper installation training.

For the first time, the CFI convention was run in conjunction with the Floor Installation Association of North America (FIANA) convention and trade show, held just down the street from the CFI conference (see story on page 18). However, as per usual with CFI, the bulk of the convention schedule placed a heavy emphasis on education.

The seminars covered a range of topics, including “The Science of the Correct Adhesive,” by Tim Provence and Tony Pastrana of Armstrong and Scott Parks of Tri-West; “Moisture Testing— Wood/Concrete: How It Relates to Flooring” by Jason Spangler, Wagner Meters, and “Selling Flooring Installation” by CFI CEO Jim Walker.

CFI certified installer Alania Lagatore, owner and operator of All Over Flooring and assistant manager of Lagatore’s Carpet in Columbia, S.C., said in addition to learning about new flooring installation methods, tools and products while at convention, she was particularly interested in finding out more about hardwood installations. “I’m doing a lot of wood inspections now, and the wood seminar was one of the better ones here regarding problems you can face in the field. It was good to have an expert tell us our allowances and all that goes along with that.”

Lagatore also attended the moisture-testing workshop, noting she always finds attending a seminar on moisture and concrete “beneficial because it’s a scientific issue, and they are finding out more about it as time goes on.”

Another attendee who took advantage of CFI’s workshops is Mary Young, co-owner of Howard Young Flooring in Milton, Fla. “We like to use the different thoughts and ideas we hear here, so we take them back and implement them into our business. It just helps us to become better.”

As a retail and installation company, she said the information she gleaned from the “Selling Flooring Installation” seminar was very beneficial. “[Walker] helped us understand things we need to be charging for and how we should not be giving too much away or leaving money on the table. There was quite a bit of information in that course that we’ll take back and utilize.”

Jake Gregory, director, technical services, Sponge Cushion, likened CFI’s 21st convention to the group’s past events, consistently providing valuable information for those seeking it. “These people are here to learn. [The attendees] always impress me because they’re here to absorb as much as they can. They are the people doing the work on the floor, and we have to depend upon them to do it right. And that’s why they’re here.”

Convention highlights

New products were the centerpiece of the CFI Associate Showcase, which featured the latest from several manufacturers, including Armstrong, Tarkett, Taylor Tools, Personna, Spray-Lock, Pak-Lite, Sponge Cushion, Armor Lock and Wagner Meters. The convention also included a tour of the local USG facility.

“Many of the people who come here do so for different reasons,” said CFI executive director Robert Varden. “Many are here for the education, and our seminars are put on by the best the industry has to offer. My goal at convention is to have all attendees leave with something they can use in their businesses or on their day-to-day installations.

“When we come to convention, we get so energized, but there are times when some of that energy and enthusiasm fades after they leave here,” Varden added. “I want to find a way for them to keep that [enthusiasm].”

To help maintain high morale, Tom Jennings, vice president, member services, World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), told CFI members during the convention’s general session that the WFCA completely supports CFI. “What you do absolutely matters. I always say, ‘Let’s not talk about the bad installers; let’s showcase the impact of good installers.’ You can find anybody to put flooring down; the issue is how to put it down correctly. And because not all installation training is the same, that’s why we support CFI.”

Jennifer Hughes, conference manager, education, Hanley Wood, was responsible for bringing CFI installer training certification to Surfaces, and she continues to recognize the value the group brings to the flooring industry. “They’re so supportive of the industry. We love partnering with them. It has been a great relationship.”

Regarding the ANSI flooring installation standard, which is considered to be a vital step forward for installation and the industry overall, Varden said the document is complete. “All the public review comments have been addressed; it is now in the hands of ANSI. I’m told that process takes about three months, so I’m hoping to be able to have the published document in hand by [Surfaces].” The ANSI S-600 for professional carpet installation is set to cover residential and commercial applications.

FIANA partnership    

In anticipation of CFI’s visit to FIANA’s trade show, Varden mentioned how “neat it is seeing the level of excitement both on that side and the people with CFI. We are really excited about [partnering with them].”

According to Walker, the enthusiasm at this year’s convention hasn’t waned at all. With CFI’s core group showing up in force, as well as several first-timers, CFI’s CEO was pleased with the organization’s convention, which included coupling with FIANA. “It’s an opportunity for installers to meet with manufacturers that, in normal circumstances, there would be no reason to have contact. It gives them a better understanding of the industry, and that’s where we want to take our group; we want to show them the power that knowledge can provide.”

Doug Ray, president and CEO of FIANA, welcomed CFI members to the FIANA trade show. “These guys are our customers. This is an extra bonus for our manufacturers that show here. CFI people are very loyal. The Walkers have been friends of FIANA since day one. We’ve both supported each other. For us to have our conventions in the same city with some synergies working, such as our trade show and the tour of USG’s facility, is a boon for us.”

As far as the future, the top issue for CFI moving forward is determining how to get new installers into the industry. “Installers already in the industry need to clean up their act as far as being professional,” Walker said. “People respect people who look and act professional. We’re trying to teach our people that it takes more to be successful than just the act of installing carpet. You have to be a better businessman and have people skills, which are just as important as hand skills.”

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