When it comes to meeting a lot of people on the installation side of the flooring industry, I consider myself lucky. From the two-men companies to the largest "work rooms," I get to visit installation businesses with many different service models, and they are all striving to please their demanding customers and squeeze a viable profit out of the process. The installation companies strike me as the hardest working group in the floor covering industry. During my conversations with these front line installation contractors, one theme stands out. Everyone likes to talk about best practices -- procedures and tips that create efficiency, save time, and drive profit in their businesses. They often share an interesting "nugget" of knowledge that points to a better way. I try to benefit from these tips and put them to use in our business. This brings to mind an important issue. Every business needs to be changing and fine-tuning their processes to stay competitive and gain new advantages.

Where are you getting your supply of fresh thinking? One proven way to get worthwhile new ideas is to join the Floor Covering Installation Contractors Association and attend their annual convention. The opportunities for education and networking are fantastic. You'll meet people with similar businesses to your own out of your market that are not your competitors. You'll make friends, and begin to share war stories and solutions to similar problems. You'll learn what is and isn't working across the country: material handling, demolition, incentive plans, regulations, insurance, etc. You'll pick up technical and non-technical topics and training options -- it's all happening at these conventions. I urge you to take some critical time to work on your business, instead of in your business.

Take a minute to call the Floor Covering Installation Contractors Association (FCICA) at (248) 661-5015, or online at www.fcica.com, and get a start on creating your competitive advantage.