When identifying problems, it sometimes pays to take a look in the mirror.

Me, labeled? Well, I guess I am, if you label me as an industry advocate for qualified flooring contractors and installers. I believe we perform an important job and offer a great value for our customers. Our trade requires product knowledge, problem solving abilities, communication skills, tools, and a lot of hard, physical work. And when your talents elevate you to journeyman status, you have earned the right to draw top scale from this trade.

While attending Surfaces 2000 in Las Vegas, NV, I was drawn into conversations concerning installer compensation. I found myself hearing the same old gripes: Installers who do not show up on time; who rub customers the wrong way; and who are, in general, hacks. Why would I look to promote them? they asked me, affixing the “advocate” label squarely on my chest. My answer? I don't. But there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Why would anyone hire installers, or continue to retain them, if they cannot do the job? If you, the reader, are unable to engage the services of professional crews at your current installation rates, you already know the answer. But more importantly, what about providing some guidance to the under achievers, instead of simply dismissing them? Help them help themselves, and everyone benefits. Identify their shortcomings, find ways to correct those problem areas, and treat them with respect.

Many of the two-man subcontractor teams are isolated. They need to be made to feel that they are a part of the whole. Many retailers I know have weekly meetings for their sales force, but rarely do they establish any positive reinforcement for their installers.

Arrange for the technical people from your material vendors to talk with the installers about the products they are working with. Bring in your company’s financial manager to help subcontractors stay on course with regards to their own finances. Associations, colleges, and chambers of commerce all offer speakers who cover a wide range of business topics. Promoting education and training will improve the work force.

There are solutions to the problems, but someone has to step up to the plate. Retailers are ready to spend more for installation, but will often hesitate until they know they will get their money’s worth. Installers must act in a competent, responsible manner in order to secure their trust. There can be plenty of blame that goes both ways, but what matters most to you is the relationship you have with the people that sign your check. If you're labeled as a journeyman, by all means live up to the standard.

As an installation professional, you are expected to get the material installed correctly. It's all those other talents that raise your value. Perform your role competently and get compensated for it.