FCICA’s focus on training commercial installation/project managers was in full force at the group’s recent convention in St. Pete Beach near Tampa, Fla. The show boasted one of the highest turnouts in recent memory with 149 attendees, including 29 first-time guests. “We are in the black and on the rise,” Gerry Swift told show-goers during the opening general session.

The convention featured six educational sessions, including two modules as part of the group’s Certified Installation Manager program, along with presentations on a variety of products including resilient flooring adhesives, transitions and modular carpet. The trade show, which was extended for the first time to 3½ hours, rounded out the offerings with more than 30 exhibitors.

Two of the presentations focused directly on how installation managers can take better control of their businesses. Sloan Bailey, FCICA general counsel, shared his views on understanding contractual obligations. He said, “Your only obligations are to the party in the contract; the only party you need to be in communication with is the general [contractor]. Even if the owner wants something, it should go through the general.”

He also cautioned about taking on work you know is substandard. “You should know what the industry standard is, and you must follow it. You cannot say you did not know; you are not entitled to say that as a professional in the industry. If you do decide to take the risk, take it with open eyes.”

Bailey also recommended contractors always have their licenses and insurance up to date. “The smallest piece of paperwork can control your right to payment.” He also advised attendees to keep daily documentation of all their projects. “Have a simple daily report form, and keep a log by the telephone of who you spoke to and why.”

He added, “Do not put off disputes until the end of the project. Deal with problems immediately on the site. The pain you feel at that moment is going to be less than the pain you will be suffering years later, long after the project is completed.”

Mike Newberry of Inside Edge in Eagan, Minn., presented “Scheduling and Assigning Resources for Installation.” His main point was to be a leader in your company. “Always be clear, and instruct in a coaching manner. Encourage creativity. Companies always take on the personality of their leaders.”

He, too, stressed the importance of keeping a daily log. “Find whatever tool works for you to keep track of your resources. Daily updates from the project are a must. One of the easiest ways to do that is have your crew take photos on their phones and send them to you. Get information to and from the jobsite on a daily basis.”

Newberry noted installation managers should make sure they are part of the sales process as well. “Insert yourself into the sales process to protect your organization, so you don’t go after projects when there will be no crews available.”

Ardex’ David Fabyonick, an exhibitor at the trade show, said supporting FCICA was valuable. “This show is fantastic and we really get to have [quality] interactions with other companies that on any other day of the week would be competitors.”

Dave Darche of Bona noted the optimism of attendees. “The spirit of the people in attendance is good. Everyone is talking about good, steady, manageable growth.”

Wagner Meters’ Jason Spangler said the show gave him a chance to connect with the commercial contractor side of the industry. “When we first joined with FCICA, frankly it was mostly to just show our products. But as we became more active, we started to get a lot more out of it. This has continued to be a very beneficial relationship.”

Ceramic Tool Co.’s April Short, a first-time exhibitor, said she preferred FCICA to some of the larger industry events. “This show is the right size to be able to genuinely talk about the product lines and genuinely share ideas with one another.”

Bill Treiber of MoldingsOnline.com said his company is experiencing a “big growth year” and was excited to be part of the convention. “We’re looking forward to a productive future with FCICA.”

Tek-Stil Concept’s Adam Baker said the convention gave his company plenty of time to meet with customers. “This show has been a good experience. It’s been a good turnout, and I’m happy with the presentations and the venue.”

Jim Messer of USG stated the event offers many opportunities to make new contacts. “The scale of the show gives you a lot of time to spend with attendees, and it’s beneficial to everyone.”

Daniel Tallman of Schönox echoed those sentiments. “The networking has been good, not only with customers, but with other suppliers.”

First-time attendee Andy Chilcote, project manager for Baton Rouge, La.-based Cornerstone Flooring, said he loved the focus FCICA puts on training the people who train the installers. “That focus makes perfect sense. By training the trainers, you touch so many more projects and installers than if you just went out and trained the installers individually.”

He also agreed with the advice presented during the business sessions. “I am absolutely behind the importance of recordkeeping and documentation. If you don’t do that now, you need to start. You can quickly identify problems and keep yourself protected.”

Chilcote said the mindset of a project manager is different from that of an installer, and that can be a tough transition for someone who is used to installing floors. “An installer only asks two questions—where is the floor and where are we putting it down? But as a project manager, you really need to be on top of everything and have it all together. There are lots of questions, and FCICA is where you can find the answers.”

In an exclusive interview with Floor Trends, Swift said he was happy more people are understanding FCICA’s role within the industry. “We’re finally getting the message out to the commercial flooring segment that FCICA has a specific role to train and certifying installation managers. Good flooring contractors want their key people here.”

He added, “Our installation managers learn more than just the technical side of installation. They’re understanding contracts, scheduling and how to better deal with general contractors. They’re learning about the management side of the business. I hope the manufacturers and other leaders in this industry—the associations, groups and cooperatives—endorse and recognize us as an independent association that has a focus which is very much needed on the commercial side of the industry.”

Swift stated, “I’m enjoying the ride and enjoying the growth. I’m happy with the record turnouts we’re seeing. I’m just happy to see all our members grasp the importance of this and see this vision through.”

FCICA will host its Mid-Year Convention Oct. 8 to 10, in Chattanooga, Tenn., featuring a plant tour of H.B. Fuller Construction Products. The 2015 Convention is set for March 1 to 4 in San Diego. For more information, call (877) 863-2422 or visit fcica.com.