Namba Reflects on FCI and the Flooring Installation Industry
Since taking on the mantle of FCI editorial director, what positive changes have you seen in the magazine? Is it moving in the direction you want it to go?
It is. My goal for the magazine is to bring information that’s current and covers the needs of the installer, so they can gain more knowledge, better themselves and ultimately make more money. If we can help an installer go through some of the hoops and hurdles, have a successful installation, make money, keep that money and maintain that type of business, that’s what we want. We want to see installers be successful. If I can do that as editorial director with articles that impact them directly and make a difference, I feel we have value.
In what specific ways would you say the coverage brings value?
We utilize writers that are still in the field. They still come into contact with these issues every day. They’re able to identify with the readership because they’re still in the trenches. They know how difficult it is to run a business. I’m in the same boat. I’m still running an installation business in Salt Lake [City], so I know the challenges. I totally identify with the installers out there. I feel that really helps me, and that helps us as far as our articles. It enables me to identify where some of the needs are for installers and address those.
The industry is constantly changing. That’s why it’s important to have someone who is still out in the field, to keep on top of things and make sure we’re identifying what is important to installers. I want to create a magazine that’s installer-focused, and I believe FCI is. It was a smart move for the magazine to bring someone to the team with an installation background, rather than an editorial or writer background.
Looking more broadly, what are some of the challenges you still see facing the installation industry?
Talking to manufacturers, I’m finding the number-one concern is the lack of new installers coming into the field and the existing pool of installers that are now starting to retire and move out of the installation segment. There’s definitely a void there. Talking to these manufacturers, I know they’re worried. Because the industry is lacking in qualified installers, they’re getting pressure put on them to warranty the installation now. Even though they might not have control of the installation, due to the lack of professional and qualified installers the end-users are demanding more from the manufacturers. They’re starting to see the quality of workmanship degrading. It’s going to be a challenge for years to come.
Can you talk a little bit about the value of training? A common complaint out there is training costs time and money, and even if you’ve spent the time and money to become more skilled, someone is going to win with the lowest bid anyway. How do you fight that perception?
I look at it this way: If a training event costs $3,000 and I have one failure, that $3,000 suddenly becomes a bargain. It’s not necessarily just losing time from work; it’s investing in your future work. As for the lowest bid, that’s always going to be a challenge. You’re never going to get rid of that segment – that’s the free market. That’s competition.
I would ask are you selling on price or are you selling on quality? As a business owner you have to see where it makes sense for you. There’s no golden rule, no one answer. But the better-equipped you are with certification, training and tools, the better the opportunities are. People are going to look at you as more of a professional.
People that price-shop are always going to price-shop. There’s no getting around that. So the question becomes do you go after the price-shoppers, or are you going after the more quality-minded? The schools can give you the tools for selling and installation, but ultimately the way you run your business is based on the decisions you make.
How did you grow your business?
Our business grew from reputation. People knew that we did a good job, and we showed up when we told them we’d show up. We tell them up front that we’re not the cheapest. Right there you’re going to pre-qualify the end-user. If they’ve had a bad experience – which a lot of end-users have had – we create the solution for that problem. That’s why we’ve been able to establish ourselves in our community.
You have to take that leap of faith. Don’t be afraid to ask for more money. But ask for it in a positive and confident way. Don’t ask for it in a hesitant way, because then they’ll know you’ll be able to negotiate. Stand behind your workmanship and make sure you deliver. I’ve always said we don’t sell jobs, we build relationships. A lot of our clients go back 25 years.
Thanks, Jon. Anything else you want to add?
We want to make sure FCI is promoting the good things in the industry, and we love to hear feedback. We want to hear from our readership. What do they want to see? Let us know. It’s all about the readers. The magazine is driven around their needs, and that’s what we want to deliver on.
As far as the industry goes, there’s so much potential out there. The entire industry knows there’s a lack of professional installers. The more knowledge and professionalism installers can show, the more opportunities are out there. They just need to position themselves correctly.
You’re already starting to see that. Back when resilient markets started to slide, a lot of those resilient guys got out of the market. Today you look at the resilient side of the industry, with LVT and the new and improved resilient flooring out there, and those installers that stayed in resilient before it came back are very well-positioned and making good money now. They stuck with the trade, and they are in demand. They’re in a prime position.