Installer Briefing: The Case for Training How training can give you a competitive edge
 
July 1st, 2004

 

By Bart Bettiga July-August 2004

Training. We see this word in every publication we pick up and read in the tile industry. We hear it at every seminar we attend. We nod our heads in agreement. We all recognize how important it is in our company.

Why then is it that when I ask people about training, they give me a funny look? Why is it that we are so busy we don’t have time to create and implement an effective training program?

I have worked in our industry for nineteen years. I was guilty of the same mistake many of you are making right now. I felt I had to take care of my customers’ needs. We were too busy to focus on training programs. What a mistake!

Training lies at the essence of a successful company. Whether you are a retailer, distributor, contractor or manufacturer, successful and highly profitable companies demonstrate a continuing commitment to training. Don’t take my word for it. Observe and copy! Look at companies in your own market and see what they are doing. I guarantee that you will see what I am talking about.

Does training cost money?

Maybe. However, I contend that your investment pays for itself in the end due to better installations and fewer customer service problems – both of which save you money and lead to happier customers, and more business. The question is not whether you can afford to implement a training program. It is: Can you afford not to?

A number of training resources are free or low cost, especially if you tap the training available from industry resources. Organizations such as the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), are a great source for materials to start a training program. The NTCA Reference Manual Problem Solving Guide and Incremental Training Manuals can be used in training programs for tile contractors, outside and inside salespeople, and customer service representatives. The same is true for the CTDA Tile Training in a Box and Shade Variation programs. An understanding of the TCNA Handbook for Installation should also be included in this process. These materials, incorporated into your own company policies, can be a great place to start.

Suppliers are an inexpensive, expert training source for product and installation training. They should be encouraged to provide seminars for both your employees and your customers on a consistent basis. Keep in mind that the more hands-on your training sessions are, the more effective and long lasting they will be.

Training is not a one-time event. It needs to be a continuing part of your business plan. New materials require new techniques and new training. The same goes for new regulations.

A case study in training

One company who has embraced training and incorporated it into their businesses is DMI Tile and Marble of Birmingham, Alabama. DMI Tile and marble, owned by Jim and Marilyn Isaminger, is in the contracting business, specializing in commercial tile and stone and terrazzo installations. In addition, they operate a highly successful stone fabrication facility. Finally, under the name of Design Tile and Stone, they are successful tile and stone distributors.

Several years ago, DMI Tile and Marble launched a career craftsmanship training program, approved by the Department of Labor. It is the only one of its kind in the U.S. sponsored by a private employer. The program was so successful that DMI opened the Jim Isaminger Lifelong Learning Center, which serves as an apprenticeship program for contractors. In addition, the building serves as a training and media center for project managers and superintendents. Product demonstrations and seminars for both employees and clients are held on a consistent basis. A program emphasizing safety awareness is included in the curriculum.

“I hear all the time that people don’t want to spend money training employees out of the fear that they will go on their own and become the competition. We have found the opposite to be the case. The more we invest in training, the longer our people tend to stay,” says Jim Isaminger. “This investment has really paid off.”

It is never too late to implement an effective training program. Technology and products are constantly changing. Every employee should have a basic knowledge and understanding of your vision and mission, as well as your products. Encourage cross training. In distribution, some of our best salespeople were the warehouse and customer service employees, because they had the most contact with the customers. By training them on products and services and equipping them with sales training techniques, you are adding to your sales force.

Similarly, tile contractors need to stay on top of the latest technology in tile and stone installation. They also interface with the customer on a daily basis. Their communications skills – as well as installation training – should be taken into consideration. Training employees in safe working habits can minimize accident risk, reduce workemen’s compensation costs, and keep OSHA from the door.

Training is not a cost. It is an investment in the future and will go a long way to ensuring long-term success and employee longevity. Training is a continuing, career-long process.

Bart Bettiga is the Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association and a former President of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association. The National Tile Contractors Association, established in 1947, represents the entire tile and stone industry and is dedicated to providing quality education to ensure proper installations. For more information, contact NTCA headquarters at 601-939-2071 or www.tile-assn.com.

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