The Flooring Installation Association of North America (FIANA) welcomed close to 40 exhibitors as part of a close-knit meeting of distributors and manufacturers for its recent convention in Nashville.  As previously reported, FIANA President Gary Verhey announced his retirement at the event before introducing his successor, Doug Ray, formerly of the Cronin Co. While that news was certainly significant, it was far from the only topic of discussion at the show.

Both Verhey and Ray said FIANA has a responsibility to train distributors so they can help recommend products to their installer customer base. “The majority of people learn on the job,” Verhey explained. “We accept that responsibility to educate our members so they can educate their customers, the installer.”

As part of that push, both men used the meeting partly to talk about the benefits of FIANA University, an online training program where manufacturers provide courses for distributors to take. “It gives manufacturers the opportunity to show their product and gives distributors the knowledge to recommend these products,” Verhey noted.

Educational Events. Industry veteran and speaker Jon Trivers opened the general session with his presentation, “Yarns from the Tufter.” He challenged attendees to start making investments in their business and stop hedging their bets on the health of the economy.

“You know times are better – the question is when are you going to be all-in? It’s good out there right now, but you know bad and you’re afraid it’s going to come back. But if you put a governor on your engine and just hire a skeleton crew; if you don’t begin now to invest in the future, then someone else is going to risk it and take your sales,” he warned.

Trivers also said selling consumers on a quality installation should be a focal point of any floor covering sale. “When you start talking about sound abatement, insulation, non-slip products and larger formats, the packaging of those things is not an irritant. You’ll get the sale. The hidden story of any floor is the quality of the installation and the installation materials. This should be part of the marketing of any floor covering store.”

Sales and profitability consultant Robert Langdon shared his views on the psychology of pricing during his presentation, “Financial Forecasting in a Changing Environment.” He said, “Never quote a price to an unsold buyer. At that point all you are doing is negotiating – you’re done selling. Instead, say my price is competitive. Then ask them the right questions so they will understand what is more important than price.”

Langdon also stressed the importance of being specific. “One great exercise is to list out five ways your company is different. Don’t say things like ‘quality’ and ‘service.’ We actually believe the customer is listening when we say things like that, but they’re not. Be specific. If you ask this question of the sales staff and they come back with the same answer, it’s not their fault. It’s yours for not training them properly.”

Management speaker Gene Marks closed out the presentations with a wide-ranging talk about the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Installation Products. Ardex’s Mark Walsh, U.S. director of sales, and Robert Dalton, director of customer operations, showcased the company’s line of tile and stone-setting materials, its floor preparation products, and Ardex AF 207, an adhesive designed specifically for the installation of Schluter Ditra over wood subfloors. “This show is important for us,” Dalton noted. “We’re here to support FIANA, and it gives us an opportunity to connect with our business partners.”

 Greg Gundlach, president and CEO of Beno J. Gundlach Co., demonstrated several products, including horseshoe tile spacers, the patent-pending Proleveling System (a tile leveling system using spacers and caps to help eliminate lippage) and the new CGP-1424 Carpet Grabber Pads.

“These pads are designed for making your own deadman,” Gundlach explained. “The user supplies the plywood, and you fasten the pads to it. The advantage is they’re non-directional, so you can push from any side.”

Bob Moffett, Ceno president, talked about the company’s Vortex 3 vacuum. “It has three motors in the same unit. Two suction motors will run while one idles. The one that’s idling goes through a filter cleaning process. As the motors cycle, each filter gets cleaned continuously without having to stop the machine and without losing suction.”

Tom Downey, Halex Corp. vice president of sales and marketing, explained the benefits of the company’s seaming tapes and the VersaShield MBX rolled moisture barrier. Regarding the show, he said, “Our customers are here and we want to be here, not just to sell but to listen to what they have to say. That’s very, very important.”

Territory Business Manager Kris Day was a first-time exhibitor with his company, HPS Schonox. “We’re showing our whole line of AP and APF self-leveler, and our MSP Basic wood floor adhesive,” he said. “We came to FIANA just to let people know we’re here, and that there’s another name out there in flooring prep.”

Christopher Palmer, owner of Imperial Blades, said this about his company’s offerings: “We carry 50-plus different blades including titanium, high-carbon steel, carbide, diamond and more.”

Bobby Mitchell, Laticrete technical sales representative, used the FIANA show not only to talk about the company’s Stratamat upcoupling membrane and the Hydro Ban shower system, but also to share information on some of the company’s specialty products.

Mike Sawicki, Miracle Sealants Co. sales manager, talked about the new and improved Grout Shield for sanded and non-sanded cement grouts. “You can upsell this as extra stain protection in the grout, and tile contractors can make more money,” he said.

Bill Strother, Pam Fastening Technology marketing manager, hot melt systems, said PamTite adhesive can be used to repair commercial or residential carpet tiles. “If a carpet tile curls or becomes loose, with PamTite you can push it back down and fix it. Remove the existing adhesive from the subfloor, heat up the gun for five minutes, then apply the PamTite and press down firmly. After five minutes, the adhesive will be set. You can get up and walk away.”

JN Strausbaugh, Power Adhesives southeast regional sales, said his company “makes glue guns and glue sticks. To us, the glue stick is part of the tool – it’s the piston. The better the bond, the better it can repair any defects in the floor.”

Ross Donnelly, president of exclusive U.S. importer of Raimondi tools Donnelly Distribution LLC, displayed several products designed for use with large-format tile, including a system designed to help lift and move tile up to 10’ by 5’. “These large-format tiles are here to stay,” he said.

Russo Trading Company (RTC Products) showed a range of tools at its booth, including the Hammerhead Super Scraper, Smart Float, leave-in tile spacers and the Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) system designed to eliminate lippage in tile and slab installations on walls and floors.

“The system uses three components – a reusable cap, reusable strap and base plate,” noted Steve Sprung, sales manager. “The caps can be used over 100 times and straps can be reused as well. There are also rubber feet and steel tongue inserts available to avoid scratches.”