Mike Newberry, manager of technical training and education for Inside Edge Commercial Interior Services and chairman of FCICA, recently sat down with us to discuss his perspective of the industry, how he got his start in the business and the benefits of FCICA’s Certified Installation Manager (CIM) program.

Q: How did you get started in the flooring industry?

A: Probably like most folks, I came into the industry through a friend. I learned how to do estimating, and through my 30-plus years in the industry, I’ve noticed how products have gotten easier and easier to install. Manufacturers want to make installation more simplistic. The benefit is less inherent difficulty; the downside is some of the true artisans in the industry are no longer participating.

Q: How’s business? What trends are you seeing right now?

A: Back when I started we were doing a lot of carpet tile in hospitals. That was all the rage, and now of course hard surface is returning and carpets are disappearing. It’s all cyclical. As end-users become more informed about a product’s lifecycle and maintenance costs, and as moisture issues get bigger and bigger, the products keep changing to meet those specific needs.

We’ve had a number of good years in a row since crawling out of the recession in 2008. Lots of clients are telling us that capital expenditures are up. We’re seeing lots of activity in the long-term care and assisted living market right now, which sees a lot of large pattern carpet. Installations in big box stores lean toward LVT-type products. We also see stained concrete in certain markets.

Q: What do you think of the overall health of the installation industry?

A: There is definitely a skilled labor shortage, and I don’t know what the solution is. If we don’t find a way to recruit new folks into the industry it’s just going to become more and more difficult. We continue to experience the pressure to put enough experienced labor on the projects on our docket. When there are shortages pricing pressures go up, and those costs are hard to pass on to the customer.

We’re also seeing a number of customers with a much higher awareness of moisture issues. We’re no longer seen as just the bearer of bad news when we come across high moisture; rather, customers know we’re going to present a number of solutions to them, from adhesives to additives to full-blown mitigation. It’s inevitable, and it’s the reality.

Q: How did you become involved with FCICA and what benefits does the group offer?

A: I became involved in FCICA about 15 years ago. For a number of years I didn’t participate a great deal, but then a friend of mine encouraged me to become more involved. That’s when I discovered how many quality contractors are out there, and how we all have a common goal to build our businesses and make the industry better. So when the opportunity to become chairman presented itself, I was happy and eager to take it on.

We have our annual convention and our Mid-Year meeting, and they’re slightly different. The Mid-Year meeting is our business meeting and offers a minimum of four educational sessions, covering everything from new standards to new products in the industry. At our convention we throw in a tabletop show, where technical representatives from manufacturers come in and speak face to face with contractors about how their products perform and what situations to use them in. At these events you get to spend time with some of the greatest technical minds in the industry, and they share information freely on what to do and what not to do before starting a job.

Probably the biggest benefit we offer is our CIM program, which trains project managers and installation managers on industry standards and best practices. I see it as a natural progression for installers in the field to become project managers, and I have become convinced that training is crucial to the success of the industry. It raises the IQ of your company when you take the time to train your project managers.