Installments: The installation VIP

Home Columns Installments: The installation VIP

October 13/20, 2014; Volume 28/Number 9

By David Stafford

There is often that moment during projects when the wrong call can spell disaster, or when a cunning, astute decision pulls a win from certain defeat. Frequently, that very important person is the installation manager.

I once had a multi-story floor replacement project that was going down the tubes. It was July, the HVAC wasn’t working properly, there were other trades in the way, and the client was screaming at me.

So I went to my VIP, an installation manager with over 20 years of experience, to the site. “If we can’t find a way to fix this, it will cost us this job and our reputation,” I said. “That job is worth $300k and there are others coming.”

His novel solution was to temporarily pull in two other crews and assign our best field inspector as an on-site traffic manager to run interference. He was able to calm my client down, keep the crew from fighting with other trades and deliver the job on time.

It was not just my VIP’s knowledge and experience; it was also his calm demeanor in the face of absolute chaos and a screaming client.

“Yes, I know you’re upset, and we are behind schedule,” he said. “I know this is important, so let me tell you what we can do: If you reassign your other trades so we can get a clean area, we’ll have an extra crew here on Thursday to make sure we get back on schedule. Fair enough?” Presented with a solution, the client agreed, stopped yelling and made the necessary adjustments.

In another situation, my VIP’s task was to keep an installer, Jason, in the right frame of mind by listening to his feedback and giving positive reinforcement. Jason was exceptionally skilled at intricate pattern installation and certified on several types of flooring. However, he was high maintenance.

“Yes, Jason, I know the floor prep is taking more time,” my VIP admitted, “but we cannot kick everyone out of the area. What you’ve done so far looks great and the client is ecstatic. I’ll see if I can get you a little something extra, OK?” It really wasn’t the job or site conditions, or even a little extra money; Jason just needed to hear that someone appreciated the quality he was delivering, and my VIP knew that.

Conversely, an installation manager of whom we had high expectations ended up being a complete flop. Paul was an excellent former installer with a 25-year career. He spoke well, understood floor plans and related with the crew chiefs. However, he could never quite make the transition to that of a manager; he became their “change order advocate” rather than dealing with frivolous requests.

The final straw was when he got into a screaming match with a frustrated client rather than offering a solution. After that debacle, we agreed to part ways. He had loads of experience and charm, but he was not a manager. He simply lacked the emotional maturity that the position requires.

A great installation VIP must have industry experience, be emotionally stable, an insightful manager and a customer service pro. An integral part of his success will be how well he is trained in his position. The FCICA is now offering its Certified Installation Manager (CIM) program. This program was created by flooring experts from their years of experience and features various knowledge modules and testing. There is also valuable information for project managers, field supervisors and project coordinators, even for those not running crew labor. This would be an excellent requirement for your own VIP. Check it out at

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