A Carpet Installer's Notebook: Questions from a Young Installer
October 25, 2011
Yup, it’s midsummer, Janet’s garden a bloom with a riot of growth, the Gazebo in place, radio playing, I’m settled in with an icy cold adult beverage, and a nice smoke. You know what that means…
A young installer who I met at a CFI certification 5 or 6 years ago here in Pittsburgh contacted me recently with questions on what he could do to improve our industry. He told me his experience at the certification had changed his view of the industry.
In his area of central Pa it seems is hard to get the installers on board with CFI or any other industry training. He has through his efforts developed the one of the best reputations in his area for installation. People know if they come to his shop they will get proper high-quality installation. He goes the distance to assure customer satisfaction and doesn’t understand why some people still shop with those that don’t vacuum or clean up after themselves. “It makes us all look bad by association,” he says. He closes with, “Any ideas of what I can do to help clean up this mess?”
We need more guys like this in our trade. Not only has he set a high bar of quality installation and customer satisfaction for himself, but wants to assist others to reach his level of professionalism. Bravo! I responded to him thusly:
“Well, my friend you have put your finger right on it. There is no real reason for guys to go for extra training or certification, other than pride, caring about their industry, and wanting to become a better craftsmen, like the reasons driving you. There is no negative consequence for their lack of ongoing training and certification. No manufacturers insisting on qualified installers to support their warranties.
The residential portion of our industry has been abandoned by the Union with its training programs and benefits. What’s a guy to do?
You on the other hand are a light in the dark and I do believe you will make a difference. How? Well first and most importantly, keep true to yourself and the level of professionalism you demand from yourself. Make sure that you, or whoever is selling the job, is selling you as well! Tell the customer what you are going to do that separates you from the other installers, justify why your price is higher and that your price should be higher.
When I went out to quote a job for Jon and I, it was more than just measure and flop out a price. First I took off my shoes at the front door, unless they said “No, no leave them on the whole place is a mess.” Now bear in mind Jon and I charged for everything; furniture, stairs, seams, pull up, haul away, concrete, patterns, walking the dog, etc. We ended up being much higher than anyone around us. Each job had to be sold, not just measured. This is what I mean by sold; I told the customer in detail everything we were going to do for them so they knew exactly what they were paying for. For example, on a typical job the conversation would go something like this:
“When we come to do the installation I would like you to remove all of the small breakable items, lamps, pictures, dishes in china cabinets, and disconnect all the electronics; please remove the ones you can,. On your quote there will be a line for furniture moving which we can deduct if you prefer to move the furniture yourselves. We will be moving all the furniture completely out of the room. The reason for this is, if we leave furniture in the room we will have to move it a minimum of six times. If we move it out we only have to move it twice, once out, once in, much safer and less chance of any damage to your property. It would be best if you vacuum the carpet one last time before we remove it, as this will lessen any dirt and dust getting into the air. When we pull up the carpet we will do it carefully, again to protect your indoor air quality. On the quote there is a line for hauling away the old carpet and pad. If you prefer we can cut the carpet and pad into three foot strips, tape it closed, (we used strapping tape) and place it at the end of your driveway for your local rubbish service to remove. Once we have removed your old carpet and pad, scrapped up the old pad staples, we will inspect the old tack strip for proper placement and condition, if necessary; we will remove and replace with new. We will sweep the floor, and vacuum under the raised baseboards. Then the new strip goes down or the old, if acceptable, re-inforced to handle a proper stretch. One more final sweep then a complete vacuum to get every bit of dust or debris we can before installing your new carpet and pad. During the installation process we will be following and exceeding the manufacturer’s installation specifications as outlined in the Carpet and Rug Institute’s manuals 104 & 105. All seams will be sealed and the carpet properly power stretched. By exceeding the specifications for example we will put a strip of duct tape on the top of the pad at the nose of each stair to reinforce the padding, extending the wear and life of your stair carpet. The reason for this is that no manufacturer warrantees carpet on stairs because of the excessive wear stairs receive. After the installation is complete, all scraps removed and the entire area vacuumed we will replace all furniture we removed.”
It’s all just sales brother; everyone is sales, most just don’t realize it. I have done seminars and asked a room of 60 people, “How many of you are in sales?” and maybe three or four hands go up. Then I’ll ask, “How many of you are yardage installers?” and the rest of the hands go up. “Y’all should have raised your hand the first time!” I would say. I always taught my sons, even when they were little boys, “You are always in sales no matter what you are doing. Trying to flim-flam your mom and I into one of your harebrained schemes. Flipping burgers at Mickey Dee’s, selling yourself and job performance to the boss. It’s all sales.” When I went to work at Leon Beloian Rug Co. in Chicago the owner, my first teacher in the trade, Michael Isberian told me, “You are my last salesman. My mother or I may only have an hour or two on the sales floor with our customer, but you may be in their home for two days. You are their last contact with, and impression of our store, make sure it’s a good one, for all of our sakes.” See what I mean; it’s all sales. Re-read “Selling You” March 21, 2005 issue of FCI on the web-site just put selling you in the search box or my name, if you want to expose yourself to more of my babblings.
Ok, but what can you do besides the above mentioned? I would say start a local CFI Chapter. I know, I know, you don’t know how to do that, have never done that, yada, yada, yada. Start one you will have more help than you can imagine. People will come to do presentations at your chapter meetings; I’ll come up. Roland Thompson, president of the Delmarva Chapter, will help you; he doesn’t even know I am volunteering him, but he won’t care. I did call him later; he said, “Of course I will, you know you didn’t need to ask.” Get the installers in the area to come to the meetings; they don’t have to be certified to come. Let them learn better installation techniques and practices, learn their real cost of doing business. Then they may raise their prices to a realistic level. Not to mention improving the quality level in your area. It might not occur to you, but the mills will appreciate it. Without proper installation, people have a bad experience and shy away from carpet the next time. That happens enough; the mills lose business and without carpet being sold…Who needs carpet installers?
It’s been said a rising tide lifts all boats. Will it work? Won’t know until we try, will we? Let me know how I can help.