Marty Murdoch, executive vice president of flooring contracting company M.E. Sabosik Associates in the metro New York and Philadelphia area, shared his insights with us on finding good installers and keeping them. While he noted that he runs a union shop, these tips can work for non-union firms as well, according to Murdoch.

“We cannot and must not leave it to the installer to fend for himself. As the owner or person responsible for seeing that the job is installed in a way that we can all be proud of, we must take a hands-on approach to the outcome.

“It starts with attitude—yours as well as the installer’s. You can’t just say, ‘it’s up to you to know how to install the new stuff.’ Show some enthusiasm about the new product. Explain how it is going to make their life easier, and mean it. Arrange with your supplier for a training seminar at your location, and invite your best installers. Order pizza and soda. How about a free tool giveaway as a door prize?

“My surefire way to get attendance is to put out a letter three weeks in advance of the seminar. Tell them what it is about, and let them know that their learning the new stuff is important to you ‘as the one that assigns the work.’ Then tell them it is RSVP. Here is the ace in the hole. What day do the men come to get their paycheck? That is the evening you hold the seminar. Tell them they can pick up the check after the seminar.

“Don’t put down the online training videos available from the manufacturer. Most of them are great! If you have a job coming up with a new product, call a meeting and have a review with the guys that will install it. It’s better than having them try to figure it out in front of your customer.

“The unions have a program called Helmets to Hardhats designed to bring ex-servicemen into the trades. There are people without college education searching for a way to make a living. Be a mentor. Find a couple people with good hands and a spirit to work. No matter how bad you think the working conditions are, remember, his last employer had people shooting at him.

“I’m not trying to make light of this industry issue. It is real, but also not insurmountable no matter where you are located. If you are sitting in your office waiting for someone to solve your problem, you might as well save your money, turn out the lights and go home. The game is over.”

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