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Getting out there, keeping connected!

Get out and about to find out what’s happening in flooring says Carl after he was enthused by a visit to CDW in May.

At the time of writing, my visit to Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) is fresh in my mind. My two days at this huge design festival got me thinking – about design (naturally enough), as well as networking and the power of engaging and meeting people.

As contractors we often talk about the technical aspects of flooring. Is it sustainable? Is it durable?

Is it hard-wearing? Is it easy to lay? Is it a good price? But we don’t always seem to focus on the aesthetic so much, or refreshing and updating our internal library of ideas. So the opportunity to see some innovation, showrooms, pop up displays and new product ideas at CDW was incredibly welcome. There were some splendid examples on display at CDW, not just in flooring of course, but in interior and exterior design generally that inspired and informed me. I would strongly recommend anyone who has not been to CDW in the past to take the time to visit next year, just for that experience alone, if they possibly can.

Of course, CFA were an event partner this year and I definitely want CFA to build on that for next year. The CFA logo and all the benefits are something I am using more on a day-to-day basis. Flooring is incredibly well represented at CDW, so the addition of links to the CFA directory and technical information made available to specifiers who attend (and there are lots!) can only again strengthen our position and drive profitable, quality work our way through the CFA logo.

As well as seeing new products, new designs and new creative work from right across our industry and far beyond, an event like Clerkenwell is also a great opportunity to get out and meet people, to network, to establish and renew business contacts and relationships. That for me is probably almost its most important role. It is often said that the use of Teams (other online conference facilities are available) is a positive that has emerged for business from the pandemic, and that of course is true, in that we can ‘attend’ meetings quicker, more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly way than ever before.

However there is a converse danger – that of hiding behind our screens indefinitely. This is certainly not the best approach for winning new business and meeting customers both old and new. We don’t want to lose the art of networking! The opportunity to actually see people and build relationships through events like Clerkenwell Design Week is definitely one that I will continue to exploit. There were some great daytime conversations but also a very enjoyable evening vibe and many events you could attend. I am a social animal by nature and I know that I helped both the business and personal profile by putting myself out there.

Talking of getting out there, I would like to take the opportunity to encourage members to attend the CFA AGM, which is being held this year on 15th August at the FITA Training Centre, Loughborough. This is always an important event for members, at which the directors and officer positions for the coming year are ratified and other important decisions ratified with regard to the running of the CFA. It is your opportunity to hear what we have achieved over the past year and also to hear our priorities for the coming year – as well as having the chance to have your say of course.

This year promises to be extra special, as we have Tim Balcon as our keynote speaker. As most of you will know, Tim is the Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Training Board. At a critical time of national skills shortage, combined with a funding crisis in many areas of training, Tim is very much in the firing line currently and he will no doubt be telling us about his commitment to vocational training as the most important way of creating opportunity and driving up excellence in the construction sector. I’m sure what he has to say will be of great interest to members. I sense a different approach from Tim and willingness to engage that I have not seen before.

While I’m plugging CFA events, please do also get your tickets – if you haven’t already – for the CFA Ball. This year’s event will take place on Saturday 14 October at Slaley Hall Hotel Golf and Spa Resort in Hexham, Northumberland. Ticket price is £95 plus VAT. Table sizes available are 8 or 10 persons and of course we are as always happy to take smaller bookings as well. This is one of the CFA’s top events of the year and I would strongly urge you to come along and join in the fun – and don’t delay, places are selling out fast.

As mentioned above, we are still unfortunately in something of a crisis with regards to recruitment into our sector and also workplace training. Because I am a big supporter of training and apprenticeships, I have become a judge for the CFA’s Apprentice of the Year Competition and I am also happy to sit on the committee that is reviewing the Apprenticeship Standard. Furthermore I also became a STEM Ambassador to support CFA in helping to bring more floor layers into the industry.

Here at CFA we certainly do not underestimate the task ahead of us in improving the situation, but we are also committed to doing exactly that. Our ongoing Future Fitters campaign continues to push forward on this issue on a number of fronts, promoting the opportunities which exist in the flooring industry to potential new entrants, while also encouraging member companies and others to take on apprentices and provide training opportunities within their own businesses. Interestingly there is now a wealth of evidence which confirms that businesses which do this tend to be the most successful companies in the sector in terms of staff retention, contracts won and reputation within the industry.

My colleagues at CFA are continuing to do great work as STEM Ambassadors, going into schools and colleges and promoting the exciting and rewarding opportunities which await them if they opt for a career in floorlaying. At Westcotes we have found that, working together with the CFA and offering to engage and to do presentations on flooring and the industry has ended up winning us tranches of new business that we may have never got. This shows that a focus on the needs of our industry generally can have a very real business benefit for individual companies. Like a lot of things with the CFA, it is a ‘win win’ situation!
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