The Floor Installation Association of North America (FIANA) brought manufacturers and distributors together while focusing on new installation techniques and products at its 18th annual convention, held recently in Orlando, Fla. According to Gary Verhey, FIANA president, “We ended up with 220 [attendees], which was roughly the same as last year.” Despite the similar attendance numbers, this year’s show also marked several changes. “This year we moved away from any motivational speakers and invested in speakers presenting current business and political issues that are affecting small businesses, and also included industry speakers.”

Speakers included Gene Marks (presenting “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”), Tom Jennings (“Selling More Than the Floor”) and Mike Marks (“New Pathways to Growth”). They gave their insights on current issues in politics and the economy, best business practices and sales techniques. Gene Marks focused on what Obamacare means for company owners and their employees. He reviewed the timeline for the healthcare reform, the mandate, full time vs. part time, tax credit and the state exchange. With the gradual implantation of Obamacare, Marks recommended “taking your accountant out to dinner and learn about new tax information that will affect you.”

Tom Jennings, CCA Global Partners, addressed the challenges companies are facing today when it comes to the speed of word-to mouth via the Internet. “She [a customer] has told 13 people in 13 seconds. It spreads so fast it isn’t even fair.” He said that a customer can either recommend or discourage others from using your business in that short an amount of time.

Additionally, Mike Marks spoke about the ways the economy has forced many people to change the way they do business, and challenged manufacturers and distributors to take a hard look at their prices and adjust them to better represent and compete in the industry.  He also talked about the importance of sales training. “It’s never about the product, it’s about how you make the customers feel.”

During the convention, FIANA also promoted its BlueVolt/FIANA University. The university allows manufacturers and distributors to bring together training videos and sessions that are beneficial to their employees, and lets employers track training videos, courses and quizzes that have been completed, according to FIANA. The progam and also offer incentives called Blue Bucks for completing courses.

Mike Medhurst, branch manager for Shamrock Floors, based in Calgary, Canada, said he was looking forward to attending the educational events. “Education is a big thing. We always look to take back education and training to our employees.” He also added that the show remained a top priority for him. “With the economy, it is hard to get to a lot of shows and we are happy to be here.”

According to exhibitor Anthony Nelson, LATICRETE technical sales representative, the show offers valuable insight into the customers’ mindset. “We are continually trying to understand the needs of the non-hard surface flooring customers and how we can better serve them. And although it is not my decision, I feel confident that LATICRETE will be participating at FIANA next year.”

Verhey is already making plans for next year’s show. “Next year we will have current networking sessions on distributor best practices, and again speakers discussing what small businesses are doing to succeed in the current economic and political environment.”  FIANA 2013 will be held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 11-13. For more information on FIANA and future events, visit www.FIANA.org.