Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 11th annual CFI Convention in St. Louis, and it was a tremendous learning experience for me. From the hands-on seminars to the product demonstrations and manufacturer panel discussions, every hour of the conference was jam packed with useful information for installers of all levels. Watching these dedicated installers sharing their knowledge and working hard to perfect their craft, two words came to mind: pride and professionalism. These are the qualities that the CFI members, no matter what their backgrounds are, all have in common, and these qualities are what set them apart.

The pride that members have is obvious even to the casual observer; they take pride in every installation they do, from the smallest repair job to the largest commercial job, in every aspect of the job, from the first meeting with the customer to the cleanup afterwards.

Professionalism is another quality that sets these installers apart. From maintaining a professional appearance and demeanor to staying abreast of the latest installation tools and techniques, professionalism is the cornerstone of the CFI ethos. Several years ago, I saw Jim Walker give a presentation in which he stressed the importance of professionalism for today's installers. After relating a story about a haggard looking carpet installer he had recently seen driving a rusted out van, Jim gradually raised the intensity of his speech until he reached the fevered cadences more typical of a Southern Baptist preacher than a carpet installer. This was my first exposure to Jim Walker and the organization he founded, CFI, and since then I have seen him speak many other times. Every time, the conviction of his belief in pride and professionalism always shines through.

I have been to many conventions and trade shows during my career, but the CFI convention is different than any other I've experienced. There is a sense of camaraderie and community that is really infectious. Sometimes it seems more like an extended family than a trade organization, and that it one of its greatest strengths. The connections that are made here are truly lasting, and go beyond the level of business contacts; these are friendships for life.

As with any organization, the future of CFI depends on expanding membership, growing the existing chapters, as well as starting new ones in areas that do not currently have chapters. If you have not yet gotten involved with this important organization, what are you waiting for? The organization needs you, the professional installer, to get involved, in order to advance the floor covering installation industry.