Eye on installation: Fighting the labor shortage via training

Home Columns Eye on installation: Fighting the labor shortage via training

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10
By John McGrath

Gary Johnson, president and CEO of Toledo, Ohio-based American Flooring & Interiors, believes he has figured out a way to combat the single-most important issue facing the flooring industry today: the lack of qualified installers. The solution, he says, lies in a successful business model built on hiring the right people and fostering their growth via education, training and certification.

For instance, when hiring installers, Johnson identifies core personality characteristics that distinguish the kind of person most likely to succeed. Among them: integrity, outstanding work ethic and a sense of loyalty. When he finds people with these invaluable characteristics, he invests in their future because he knows it can only benefit his company.

Johnson accomplishes this by providing the employee with access to comprehensive training and certification programs developed by INSTALL (the International Standards and Training Alliance) whose comprehensive training and certification program is based on the direction and continued review of flooring manufacturers.

At the end of the day, it’s about teamwork and trust. “Our business philosophy is built on the premise that nobody is more important than the next person,” Johnson stated. “Whether you’re the person delivering the materials to the job site, or the individual installing the flooring, everyone is equal. If one person fails then we all fail. It’s very important to me that everyone who works for me is on board with that mission. By partnering with INSTALL for training, I have people at my disposal who embrace that philosophy. There’s a built-in trust in the people I’m getting.”

So far that philosophy has produced tangible results. American Flooring & Interiors has grown more than 500% in the last five years. In addition, it was ranked by Fortune magazine as the 11th fastest growing company nationwide located in an inner city. The award, the Incentives for a Competitive Inner City 100 (ICIC100), seeks to highlight businesses located within major metropolitan areas that have experienced rapid growth and prove that inner cities can indeed be a mecca of economic development.

The INSTALL factor
The personal and professional development that employees at American Flooring & Interiors receive through INSTALL is just one of the benefits Johnson touts. He also recognizes a significant advantage in his company’s ability to handle larger contracts by gaining access to a pool of experienced, certified installers from across the country that he can tap into as needed to support any size contract or bid. Johnson often relies on INSTALL’s bank of trained professionals to support his team when they’re bidding on a large-scale project.

American Flooring & Interior’s business model of starting with the right people and then building them up with professional training is a direct method for pulling new blood into the skilled labor force. As Johnson states: “If more floor covering businesses adopted this model—using INSTALL as a key tool in developing new workers—the country would be on a better path to combatting this and any future skilled labor crises.”


John McGrath, Jr. is director of INSTALL, an association of professional installers, contractors, manufacturers, associations and consultants. He is a 30-year flooring installation veteran and accomplished speaker. For more information, please visit installfloors.org.

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