Editor's Note:Senior editor Howard Olansky's column in our April issue, "Where have all the (good) sales reps gone?" touched on a major issue in the flooring business. Increasingly, retailers and other in the industry are having difficulty recruiting top-notch talent. The column drew a number of responses from people in the industry including the following letters:

The article "Where have all the (good) sales reps gone?" asked some great questions and I would like to answer a few of them from the perspective of a family-owned flooring business.

Is the Floorcovering industry populated with truly professional salespeople? No it is not. It is filled with territory managers who have been forced to run their business like a tycoon. The commission system has these people thinking only about quantity, not quality. He will do whatever it takes to sell. Unfortunately, this often involves the rep breaking his/her word to another dealer, selling direct to the end user and ignoring the retailer altogether. This industry has become all about the "Me! Me! Me!" in lieu of promoting unselfishly.

Do we recognize that our flooring installers and floor care techs are an integral part of our industry? Yes, but unfortunately many installers are subcontractors who are not interested in adding any value to their services. We offer them additional training on our dime but no installer has taken us up on that offer. Why? Because they will lose a few days wages. I imagine that if we provided the training, the installers would hold that over our head and insist on higher pay. The answer is crews that work directly for the store. Train them in installation practices, as well as good customer service and then we will be back on the right track. It will also establish a recruitment process that integrates new candidates with professional crews to train the future of our business. Subcontracting has been a nightmare for our industry, not a blessing.

Are we getting the word out about opportunities in floorcovering sales? No! When I attended Indiana U. I never saw a job posting at a carpet mill. Why not? Also, it is hard enough for retailers to find good people so why do carpet mills constantly recruit from stores. Who suffers? The store suffers, and in the end, the mills and distributors do too because we are constantly recruiting and training people. This is a huge problem.

Think about this for a minute. The stores recruit good people, and the mills and distributors come in and cherry pick the best ones. When this happens frequently, how much effort do you think we will put into training and recruitment? Is the problem lack of training or is it that mills are not supporting the dealer? If you are not sure, ask yourself how many sales reps cut their teeth in retail?

There are many problems facing this industry regarding its personnel. I can tell you honestly that the problem stems from the way carpet mills recruit. They bear much of the blame. That is my opinion and I'm probably not alone.

Jason Elkin

M.T. Dearing Carpet Company

Sellersburg, Ind.

Shortage? Why can't our son find a job?

I read with great interest your commentary regarding the Manpower survey results. I agree with the philosophy you've expressed.

However, my specific question is: Where are the companies seeking qualified, experienced installers? Companies that truly value these craftsmen as an asset to their company, as a reflection of their retail business?

I am sincerely asking because of our son. A family man, and a trained installer who has been subcontracting for more than eight years, he cannot find a company that is not union-controlled or has enough work to keep his schedule full. The box stores have gone to union-based installation and since we sold our independent retail flooring store, the jobs are not steady. We have trained a qualified, hardworking professional and instilled in him values and industry potential. It is disconcerting that he is now unable to find work.

Kathy McBroom

Princeton, Minn.