If you're an established LBM dipping your toe into installed sales, it's typical to use subcontractors before investing in full-time employees as you build your business. Since subcontractors usually are self-employed, dealers aren't directly responsible for investing in their training, but that doesn't diminish the need for high levels of knowledge, experience, and education. Creating and enforcing a culture of training starts with checking references for subcontractors through official and unofficial channels. Conduct rigorous interviews in which you quiz them on their experience, and inspect specific jobs they've done before hiring them. Ask if they've invested in training to sharpen their own skills, and probe whether they've had complaints from customers, injuries, or other indicators that suggest they may be less than prepared to represent your company.
Check on subs' work after you hire them, and use such spontaneous interactions to impart ideas and quality-control principles. Such talks might not fix a problem at the job they're working on, but it will help ensure they fully understand your future expectations and the needs of your customers.
Once you hire your own installers, you can invest in one of several types of training: product and manufacturer-specific programs and more general certifications that apply across many vendors' products. Manufacturers directly train many companies and installers that are starting out, and those that make high-volume products–think insulation, windows, and doors–regularly offer training in their facilities, typically free for installers or their employers. In addition, manufacturers or their distributors will send employees to dealers' facilities to work directly with installers to ensure they have access to the latest techniques and practices. LBM managers say the skills their installers gain through training sessions is critical in ensuring jobs are done right the first time. Correct installations also prevent voiding product warranties. One additional technique is to take photographs before, during, and after completion of remodeling jobs, and then use those photos for training purposes.
The LBMs with the most advanced approach to training go beyond manufacturer-specific education with certifications through independent organizations that train and test installers. This approach requires LBMs to have budgets earmarked specifically for training. Companies at this more advanced level also may have employees or managers spend some or all of their time training employees, including installers.
Independent programs train installers on jobsite conditions, construction materials, and other factors they must understand when installing products, particularly in remodeling jobs, in which more variables are usually encountered. Their overriding goal: maximum performance for those products being installed.
Examples of such programs include the Vinyl Siding Institute's Certified Installer Program. Among other features, that program promotes the practice of using only products that have been certified as meeting the organization's quality standards. VSI only admits experienced installers to its certification program; the program isn't focused on basic training for new installers. Another is the Installation Masters Training and Certification Program, which offers a residential window and door installation focus. Such programs give customers the highest level of assurance that they're paying for quality work. That's a level of trust that LBMs can use to differentiate themselves.