By Jason Goldberg
I’ve been working in the flooring industry for 34 years. In every one of those years, having enough qualified installers has been ranked as one of the top three issues facing this industry. It’s like Groundhog Day: always happening and no solution.
That’s not to say there has not been a lot of talking about it over those 34 years, but the problem has never been solved. So, allow me to let you in on a little secret: it never will be. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix it.
At the core of the issue is training, which goes hand in hand with installation. Resolving the qualified installer shortage begins with training and pay. If we want qualified installers there must be training available to teach those in our industry the correct way to do things. Organizations such as CFI, NTCA, CTEF, NAFCT (National Academy of Floor Covering Training) and the NWFA have been leading the charge in this respect, but they can’t solve the training issue alone. We all need to be working collectively on training and making it a priority within our industry.
Furthermore, properly trained installers need to be able to make a fair wage in our industry. The reality is there is a ton of money to be made by qualified installers. We as an industry have simply done a poor job of presenting our industry to potential young people as a viable career path.
At America’s Floor Source, training is a top priority for both employees and contractors. We built two training centers and have daily sessions on the correct way to do things.
From a technology standpoint, we as an industry are nowhere near where we need to be. In my opinion, there are three components that need improvement: the operating software retailers use to run their businesses; the communications technology between businesses and suppliers; and better technology for installer recruitment and training.
Regarding the operating issues, I started a new company called Retail Lead Management (RLM). Currently, this software has modern-day lead management capabilities as well as CRM functionality. We are in the process of programming in-site assessment and scheduling and field management capabilities. The hope is that as we move this software forward, our friends in the ERP space can build a better software for point of sale through general ledger.
For communications between retailers and suppliers, the FCB2B organization is working diligently to provide standards and ways for this communication to happen. This requires suppliers and technology providers in our industry to work together implementing these standards. This has to be taken more seriously.
With respect to installer recruitment and training, I have launched two initiatives to help solve this. The first is an LMS (Learning Management System) we use at AFS for training.
As far as installer recruitment based on technology, we are trying to solve that problem with the launch of a new company I started called TraLaMa—the idea is to connect trade labor with businesses that need trade labor.
There are a number of problems facing our industry. Let’s all take action to help solve them.
Jason Goldberg is the CEO of America’s Floor Source and Retail Lead Management (RLM), and the creator of TraLaMa. His company, a $100 million operation, is celebrating 20 years in business.