Flooring inspectors are some of the most broadly knowledgeable people in their hometown about flooring. Not only have inspectors spent thousands of dollars and countless hours away from home attending training, they have also worked to build a network of reliable, intelligent, flooring professionals around them when they run into a situation they don’t fully comprehend.
So how can we inspectors continue to make money when inspections slow down? I’ve recently learned how to use my knowledge and offer my services before an inspection is ever needed. In my opinion, improving the flooring industry will not only eventually lead to more inspection work, but also to more income in our pockets.
About a year and a half ago I was performing an inspection. Everybody was there: lawyers for both parties, manufacturers’ reps, the owner of the retail company, the installation manager, and the homeowner. They all were looking to me for answers. When I completed my site investigation, I spoke with the commissioning party, the retailer. Their lawyers asked me what I thought about the situation. I shared that their installers didn’t follow standards, their installation manager did not hold the crew accountable as he should have, and that they should just get out their checkbook. The retailer looked at me a little shocked.
I proceeded to explain the deficiency, and without hesitation, I offered my services to train the installation manager and installers to help the company live up to its reputation. They did not hire me at that time, but about every two months, I would call and ask if they needed anything. Mind you, I do this with many retailers in my area. I have several retailers that hire me on occasion for a two-hour training on a topic of their choosing. Many also call me from time to time to get my advice on one topic or another.
My goal in doing this is to have a certain amount of money coming in on a steady basis to compensate for the fluctuation in frequency of inspecting jobs. I even have one retailer who has hired me to sit in when a new product rep comes calling. He has asked that I research the product before the meeting and then be there to ask questions that they may not know in order to advise them on the pros and cons that the retailer needs to be aware of with the new product.
I was making my usual call to the before-mentioned retailer in January and, this time, the general manager asked to sit down and discuss the situation with the company. They were interested in cleaning up their reputation, which, up until the last few years, had been impeccable. They asked what I could do to help.
I asked about the problems they were experiencing. I already knew some of them as I had been hired directly by customers and the retailer to look at some of their work as an inspector. It was explained to me that they were having a lot of issues with wood floors and tile. I explained that in my opinion, the right way to address the challenges would be to train the staff, starting with sales, and then the installers.
They were a little surprised that I suggested starting with sales training since they weren’t having problems selling. I went on to tell them I wouldn’t teach the sales people how to sell, but explain the specifics about floor prep, time lengths for jobs, and setting the correct expectations with customers. This is paramount to a good installation.
As a former installer, I understand what installers go through when they arrive at a job site. If the site isn’t ready, or the customer is unaware that floor prep was needed, extra work is required for the installer, and the project’s completion time is impacted.
I explained to the retailer that I could train the sales staff myself, but I would also like to bring in other training resources to go into more detail, and even send some of the staff to get more in-depth training in specific product categories like wood and tile.
Further, I explained that once the sales team was trained and had a complete understanding of the installation process, we would turn to installation training.
Training takes time, and you can’t shut down an entire company for a few weeks to get all this done. While the training was taking place, I committed to be their eyes in the field, reporting back on mistakes the installers were making, and correcting those on site. I would also serve as a “go-to” for the sales team when explaining to customers the importance of floor prep, job site timing, and other requirements. My job would consist of on-site training and correcting issues before an inspection would ever be needed.
Since that meeting, the company has hired me on a part-time salary basis. I am also leveraging the time and money spent on training and certification to increase my revenue. For both of us it is a win-win. I am still able to do my inspections, but I can improve the flooring industry in my geographic area and continue to grow my business.
The truth is, with the amount of knowledge that inspectors have obtained, to only use it for failures is a disservice to the flooring industry. We often hear that all inspectors want to do is point the finger; well, I for one want to be a part of the solution. There will still be plenty of inspections out there.
Jason Cantin is an NWFACP Certified Inspector, Certified Installer, and Certified Sales Advisor. He is also the owner of The Flooring Guru and Concierge Flooring Inc., in Tampa, Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.