Seize the Moment

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By Stanley Quentin Hulin

Over the past several years, hard surface flooring sales have surpassed carpet sales by offering additional diversity in natural and manufactured materials. This includes designs in flooring that may be combined or engineered with different materials, surfaces, and textures. These changes can impact the methods for cleaning and maintaining them.

The hard floor maintenance technician must adjust to changes in the industry by continuing to learn new information and validating that knowledge through certification from the manufacturer or industry association.

It’s not like you wake up one morning and decide you are going to become a floor maintenance expert. Many times, it’s not considered an option in the slightest. Instead, it is a gradual acquisition of incremental information through classes, courses, or experience that slowly builds over time until you become knowledgeable about the subject.

The catch is that hard floor maintenance is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are many categories and classifications that the floor maintenance technician will be exposed to and therefore be required to learn.

Hard floor maintenance is generally taught on three levels: basic, advanced, and expert.

Basic hard floor maintenance

Basic skills are achieved by learning to identify hard surface flooring materials, as well as the environment, dirt/soil, and the cleaning cycle or program. An understanding of the components (chemical products, equipment, tools, and materials) required to perform hard floor maintenance is essential at this level. You must also know how to use these components properly and safely. Additionally, hands-on training for the general service procedures combines what is learned and put into application. Basic skills are essential for performing all hard floor maintenance.

Advanced hard floor maintenance

Advanced instruction is a more detailed study of different environments (external and internal) and the individual hard flooring categories. The categories of hard surface flooring materials are natural stone, concrete, clay-based, wood, resilient, and specialty. These categories are based on the basic properties and characteristics of the materials. Within each category resides several classifications.

Although two classifications within a category may be similar and even made from the same material, the methods for maintaining them may be completely different. Advanced instruction provides a broader range of information that can be applied to the individual classifications of periodic and restorative maintenance service procedures.

Expert hard floor maintenance

The expert level of education may center on a specific hard surface flooring category with a focus on initial installation and/or complete restoration, which may include some repairs. The expert has progressed through basic skills and advanced instruction whilst acquiring knowledge through experience. Some technicians may wish to focus on one category and become an expert in it while others may wish to expand into more than one category.

With experience comes opportunities for growth

Learning about hard floor maintenance opens up a multitude of opportunities for personal and financial growth. A technician may start in a small company and advance to a larger company. Their expertise may focus on the commercial industry or one of the other environments such as industrial, health/medical, education, government, transportation, or residential. Each of these environments creates additional opportunities to explore.

Leadership roles

These opportunities go way beyond just performing the service procedures. Knowledgeable individuals often advance from technicians to lead, supervision, and management positions. Trained supervisors are more proficient at scheduling, which leads to accomplishing better results. Marketing and salespeople of hard floor maintenance services become much more effective and profitable when they have a better understanding of what it is they are selling. Managers and owners benefit by being able to articulate all of the above to their customers.

Hard flooring inspector opportunities

However, these opportunities are not just limited to working in the building service contract arena. Another natural career development route is to become a hard flooring inspector, which seems to always be in short supply. The knowledge acquired above—in addition to some flooring manufacturing and Inspection Certifications—can propel an individual into solving flooring challenges that may go all the way to court. Many people may start in the installation or maintenance of flooring materials and ultimately end up as inspectors.

Cleaning distribution and supply success

The opportunities don’t stop there either. A person can jump channels in the cleaning industry by taking that same gained knowledge into the distribution and supply side of cleaning to advance in that field as well. They could also take it one step further and work in the manufacturing of cleaning chemicals, equipment, tools, and materials. Cleaning industry manufacturers benefit from hiring people that have knowledge, skills, and experience in the field with the products that they make to support it.

Manufacturing and distribution roles

One other avenue of career development or change would be to switch gears completely and go to the manufacturing and distribution side of the hard surface flooring materials industry. This opens up doors to learning about raw materials and the manufacturing process that is required to make hard surface flooring. There are several distribution retailers both large and small that would benefit from having a staff person on their team that really understands floor maintenance.

When opportunity knocks, seize the moment

In the end, the opportunities that a thorough hard floor maintenance education provides can serve as the perfect foundation for a fruitful career in several industries. The point is not to look at hard floor maintenance as a dead-end job. Instead, look at it as a vehicle to learn and grow. Expanding your training, instruction, education, and experience is the key to unlocking that opportunity.

Stanley Quentin Hulin has over four decades of hard floor maintenance, services, training, educating, sales/marketing, and management experience. He is currently president and CEO of Future Floor Technology, Inc. and The League of Hard Flooring Professionals. Hulin has been involved with the IICRC since 1998, with many positions within the organization, currently as vice-chair of the Hard Surface Maintenance division.

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