Statistics prove that when the economy is in a recession, part-time enrollments go up at colleges and universities. Why? Because people see that their job or position might not be so secure. People see a need to get additional or continued education — or learn a new skill altogether. 

I'm not aware of any colleges, universities, or schools in this area that teach a course called “Fuzzy Side Up 201”—let alone 101. So, what school do professionals who have anything to do in the flooring industry attend to learn the difference between shedding and fuzzing on carpet or between strip and plank wood floors? Too often, I'm afraid, it's the anatomical school known as the "seat of the pants," unless you continue to attend the ever-famous, world-renowned, got one in every city and town, "school of hard knocks." I hope not, because they don't care if you ever graduate. I know, I've been there and done that. Got the tee-shirt. 

I was in the carpet cleaning, maintenance, repair and restoration business for 17 years before my present occupation. About halfway into that time I attended my first Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) school on carpet cleaning. I found out very quickly, and to my chagrin, how much I didn't know about the very services I provided to my customers. 

I have come a long way since then and have attended many more schools taught by IICRC-approved instructors such as: carpet color repair, carpet repair and installation, odor control, water damage restoration, upholstery and fabric cleaning, and the most grating of them all—Senior Carpet Inspector. 

Senior Carpet Inspector school was five days of 10 plus-hour classes, then 10 hours of exams, plus one year on probation before I got my certification and worth every painful hour and dollar.  

Each year I spend no less than $5,000 to maintain my credentials. If I don’t attend various flooring or related industry conferences, events or classes, I will lose my credentials as an instructor and mostly as an inspector because I would not have enough continuing education credits. Certifying organizations like to make sure you are staying up to date on changing methods, products, and standards. 

My education did not stop there. Over the years companies like Pergo, Mannington, Mohawk, Shaw and lots of other manufacturers and distributors offered training to me and other inspectors over the years. 

In some cases, I attended a school to get the education I needed because potential clients had needs I did not feel qualified to help them with. Other times I was just curious about whether there was a "right" or better way to perform a service or investigate a flooring failure.  Every time I walked away with much more than my money's worth. Very often the return on investment was within the first year. 

But back to the question, "Where can you go to get the degree that's higher than the school of hard knocks, as a cleaner, restorer, floor covering store owner, sales representative, sales associate or installer?” I recommend three things: read, listen, and get involved. 

Reading: Not one of my favorite things. Except the weekly and monthly publications that pertain to our industry. Read publications outside of your realm. If you are a flooring dealer, sales rep or installer, read articles meant for the carpet cleaning and maintenance industry. If you are a cleaner or restorer, read publications meant for flooring dealers and installers. Read the installation guidelines, warranties and care brochures that come with the products you sell. It amazes me as I visit homeowners that a person will read from front to back the instruction brochure that comes with a hundreds-of-dollars dishwasher, then never think about doing the same for their thousands-of-dollars investment in new carpet or floorcovering. 

Listen to presenters at different events to find out that there might be something to learn even though you have been at it for the proverbial “30” years. Listen to your customers, your installers and cleaners who work with your customers. If you want to know how products perform, listen to the people who live with it, work with it, and maintain it to help people get one more year of life out of it. Distributors and stores will often have learning events. Take the time out of your day to connect with fellow installers, salespeople, reps. Often these events are worth more than the education; networking is a very valuable resource. 

Listen to the manufacturing reps. Then go one step further and try it once their way to see if they're right even when they sound all wrong. Talk back to your reps when you have tested a product, or procedure and found them wrong. Don't just sit and stew. Keep asking until you get an answer that makes sense. Listen to classes on content interesting to you. In today’s digital age, there are classes on sales, installation, managing business, anything you feel you need to improve on. Make the time to make yourself and your company better.  

Get involved by volunteering to be part of local associations that pertain to your industry. I am a member of the Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians (SCRT), National Institute of Certified Floor Covering Inspectors (NICFI), National Association of Floor Covering Technicians (NAFCT) and have several responsibilities with The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), such as chairman of the ANSI/IICRC S800 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Inspection of Textile Floorcovering, Carpet Cleaning Technician Exam revision committee, and Shareholder Representative.  

Write letters to the editors, or more so, write an article to the publications you read. They are always looking for relative content. Having published content gives you a step above your competitors. 

With the shortage of skilled flooring technicians there are many organizations who are addressing this concern. The Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) is one of those working on increasing the number of installers. Look in your area at trade schools or check with your local Building Industry Association (BIA) for schools teaching flooring skills. Volunteer or teach a class in the skills you have and wished you had starting out.  


The Bottom Line  

Be smarter. Continue your education as part of your job. Read. Listen. Get involved. Invest in yourself. Your customers will know the difference.


Source article originates on the Violand Flooring Inspections and Instruction website and is published here with permission from Mark Violand.