Attendees at the 2010 WFCA Leadership Conference

FCI Columnist Michael Hetts explains the latest installation tools during the 2010 CFI Convention.

The International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) held its 17th annual Convention on August 19-21 in Kansas City, Mo. Attendance for this year’s conference was up almost 30 percent over last year’s event, with 39 first-time attendees.

 “We’re really elated with this year’s attendance,” said CFI’s Jane Walker. “It shows the level of commitment of these professional installers that we have some many here this year, including many first timers.”

The convention kicked off with the annual WFCA Leadership Conference and Dinner, which featured a keynote presentation by Tom Jennings, chairman of the board of WFCA Services, Inc. and a lifetime veteran of the retail flooring business. Jennings highlighted the need for increased installation training and cooperation between installers and salespeople in his presentation, “Installation is Not a Dirty Word.” He also offered advice for installers to improve their presentation and customer service, and presented an optimistic outlook for the future of installation training, in light of the ongoing development of ANSI installation standards.

 “This is huge paradigm shift for the flooring industry,” Jennings noted. “What it means is that if you don’t install to a certain standard, warranties will not take effect. If we can change the customer’s expectations, we can improve the outlook for the future. Service is going to be reinvented, and those who can provide it will be ahead of the game.”

FCI Columnist Anthony Palandro explains the benefits of NALFA installation training during the 2010 CFI Convention.

Bob Gillespie, past president of CFI, presented the Charles R. Gress Award for Outstanding Service to CFI to Roger Huff of Louisiana, Scott Terryberry of Colorado and Keith Moore of Iowa. There were selected from a group of CFI Certified Installers who have given above and beyond what is expected to promote the organization, committed to high standards of ethics, integrity, pride and responsibility.  They join the group of 80 former winners of the prestigious award.

Daris Mulkin, past chairman of the Certification Committee, presented CFI Certification 25+ Pins to Cynthia Aufiero, Bob Gillespie and Roy Davison.  The recipients of the pins that are awarded in 25-event sequences have participated in numerous events, donating their time and financial resources to promote quality flooring installation. 

Bruce Gentry, Andrew Smith, Doyle Slaughter and Scott Bradley welcomed the group on the behalf of Mohawk.  Bruce also presented Jim Walker with a hand-crafted knife created by a well-known, Dalton knife maker.  The gift was sent in appreciation by Scott Faulknor of Southern Home Flooring Specialist of Dalton, GA.  Bruce read from the accompanying note written by Scott: “I recall Jim saying in the early days, I look forward to the day when we grow 10,000 strong and become a voice that the industry cannot reject. Seventeen years ago, that was a dream.  Today, it is a reality.  Because of Jim’s vision and diligence, the installation industry has become more readily recognized as a skilled trade; installation standards have been raised, removing the stigmas that plagued the industry for decades.  As an installer who has been highly influenced by Jim’s vision and CFI, I commend Jim for following his dream.”

Teiya Eubanks and Sabad LeSerna of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), discussed ideas for a continued partnership between the two groups and presented discount training coupons during their seminar presentations.

Chelsie Thornton, Surfaces conference manager, addressed the attendees and provided an in-depth overview of Surfaces 2011. During the Convention, Surfaces offered all CFI members in attendance complimentary registration through September 10, 2010.  Thornton also stated, “All attendees, CFI members or not, who register for either show before December 16, 2010, will gain access to both shows’ amazing conference programs at no additional cost.”  At the end of her visit to the convention, Thornton held a drawing for an all-expense paid trip to Surfaces 2011, which includes airfare, hotel accommodations, and admission to the show and conference programs.  Richard Olesen of Columbia, MO was the winner of the drawing.

Winners of the 2010 Charlie Gress Award; pictured (L to R): Roger Huff, Scott Terryberry and Keith Moore

Neva Weaver and Ken Brown of Shaw Tech Services encouraged the attendees to continue to hold the CFI standards high.  Ken said, “I am a CFI Master-II Installer and everywhere I go in my travels for Shaw Technical Services, I emphasize the importance of CFI training and certification.  We must keep moving forward because the CFI brings high standards to this industry.”

Stan Cunningham, CFI’s oldest certified installer, said, “CFI has certainly come a long way.  I never expected to see such a large audience.  We began this organization on pride and I can tell the foundation is strong,” as he spoke to the group about his life experiences. 

The CFI Staff, Ed Braile, John McHale, Jill Sheets and Whitney Robinson directed the programs that allowed the manufacturer’s presentations to be presented in small-group settings.  The knowledge gained from these informative seminars places the members on a cutting-edge of new tools, installation techniques and requirements for providing their customers with the latest information.  Always a highlight of every Convention, this knowledge is shared with the CFI Chapter Members in their local communities.  The $500 winner of the Associates’ Showcase prize sponsored by Duo-Fast was Dave Garden, owner of Installation Services of Michigan, who unselfishly presented the gift to very surprised first-timer, Nathan Ferrell of Alabama.

Another highlight of the CFI Convention was the presentation of numerous installation and product workshops that provided the attendees with hands-on involvement and unique ideas for working with the numerous products.

The Friday Night Fun Night sponsored by CFI Associates as always, was a very entertaining affair with everyone offered the opportunity to compete for over $2,000 in cash prizes. With everyone involved in a game to eliminate contestants until the final 10 were chosen, CFI’s version of “A Minute to Win It,” met with fierce competition and laughter throughout the evening. The winner of the event by process of elimination and winner of the $500 prize was Allan Lewis of Eagle Interiors of Phenix City, AL. Second place was awarded to Rhonda Varden of Texas; Daniel Bennett won third prize and Keith Moore (MAPEI) was fourth.  The other contestants included Neva Weaver (Shaw), Teiya Eubanks (NALFA), Daniel Bennett (Seamer Down), Michael Buckhardt, Valerie Hall and Bill Potter.  The sounds of laughter resonated throughout the huge convention hall as the contestants competed in events such as “Junk in Your Trunk,” shaking until all ping pong balls were out of a tissue box, stacking cookies on their foreheads, picking up cotton balls with an oily substance on their noses and much more. 

Tony Buckhardt, CFI secretary, explained the importance of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation that is available for industry members when catastrophic illness strikes and the Buckhardt Memorial Foundation for Installers, organized in the memory of his father, George Buckhart, that provides short-term assistance when the need arises.  Each year, CFI raises funds through various opportunities to assist with the two foundations that have a tremendous impact on the lives of CFI installers who have faced life-threatening challenges and difficult situations.  In another display of kindness, Nate Hall of Wisconsin, the convention grand prize winner, donated his cash award to be equally divided between the two funds.

On the final evening, members of the CFI Chapters gathered on stage to roast Roland Thompson, president of the Delmarva Chapter of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.  They showed no mercy toward the Delmarva group as the chapter received its’ sixth first place award.  The Chapter has won since the L. Fishman Group established the award in memory of Pat Fell, CFI Master-II Installer who lost a battle with cancer in 2003.  The Chapters have put Delmarva on notice that the competition in the coming year will be fierce to win the monetary awards to be used for continuing education. 

 “All of us at L.Fishman enjoy being involved in installer education events,” said Bob Wagner, president of L. Fishman.  “Pat Fell was our source of technical information and knowledge was very important to him.  In his memory, L. Fishman salutes the chapters that participate and wish them continued success in the year ahead.”

Valerie Hall, an employee of Installation Management Services of Dallas, TX, was given the business by Jodi BlueJacket prior to her death in 2009.  She carried on Jodi’s tradition of presenting monetary gifts to all of the first timers to enjoy the convention.  Valerie also announced the formation of the Jodi BlueJacket Educational Foundation, which is designed to provide payment for educational events that benefit the CFI installers.

The grand prize winners who received an abundance of CFI Associate’s gifts were announced. Each installer left the event with more than anyone could expect with great appreciation.  The grand prize winners were Richard Olesen, who won several major gifts, including the all-expense paid trip to Surfaces, 2 skids of MAPEI adhesive and the Husqvarna concrete saw, which he generously donated to several commercial contractors; Jim Walker won the Schluter Ditra gift; Randy Davis of Pro Floor Network won  a skid of AAT Adhesive; Jerry Miller won the $6,000 wool patterned carpet donated by Fortune Contract and generously donated it to a First Timer; Kent Meier won a skid of MAPEI adhesive and the Duo-Fast Floor Master Kit; Valerie Hall  won a skid of Ardex Carpet Adhesive; Alan Ellis  won a pallet of Mapei;  and Marcus Mason won the complete Roberts/QEP Tool Kit.

Robert Varden, CFI’s incoming president, concluded the final dinner celebration by reminiscing over the past 17 years and CFI’s value in the industry.  He presented a challenge for growth and participation in the years ahead. As he addressed the group, he expressed his appreciation to Jim Walker.

 “Every time I stand to speak, I always remember what Jim taught us at the certification team meetings,” Varden said.  “He was adamant that we stand tall, speak loud and be prepared as the expert on the subject.”  Robert further stressed the importance of returning home with the same high level of enthusiasm and continued involvement in training, chapters and promotion of CFI.  He asked for a commitment from each one present to bring one more person with them next year.

The 17th CFI Convention closed on a high note with expectations of an exciting year ahead with the high level of enthusiasm that the convention brings to the membership, Varden concluded.