Whether you're an installer working for yourself, a larger company, or have your own company and multiple crews, you can excel at handling problems and drive profit to your bottom line by networking with others in your field.

If your specialty is installing carpet, wouldn't it make sense to get to know some of the most talented installers in your field? You can do this easily by getting the toll free number for the technical service department of the major mills and calling them for advice and information about how to install their products. It will be so refreshing for them to hear from someone who doesn't have an "end of the world as we know it problem" that they will happily provide detailed information about the latest techniques and tricks of the trade. So what mill should you call? To give you a start, you might just look at FCICA's website, www.fcica.com, and select "technical resources" and then look up your favorite supplier; if you don't see what you need, select "technical assistance" and send a note to FCICA's TechNet.

Ask your dealer to recommend (and give you the phone numbers) of one or more of their major suppliers and be sure to explain that you are looking to increase your expertise and stay up to date on the latest installation techniques. If you are perceived to be more valuable, more informed, and better qualified, then you will be able to charge premium rates for work performed, ask for that raise, or have a chance at those special jobs that pay at the top of the local scale.

You should also use every opportunity for more training and look for certification opportunities. Another excellent way to network is through local, regional, and national associations such as FCICA, WFCA, and CFI. You will meet some of the finest, most knowledgeable people in your field, and I believe you will be inspired to sharpen your skills and spend the time to give something back to the industry. A bonus is that you will know who to call when you have a big problem and you're feeling all alone. Invest the time to network, now. It will pay off.