A tough question we face is whether training programs and seminars are worth it for niche and specialty product lines. That’s a tough question to answer, for as many reasons as there are seminars for specialty products. Training seminars vary widely in their scope, level of detail, and ability to deliver bang for your buck, but generally, the answer is “yes,” even in this tough economy.
As the technical director for ArcusStone Products LLC, a manufacturer of two specialty decorative limestone coatings, one of my responsibilities has been to discuss the company’s training program with potential new applicators. You can pretty much guess the responses I’ve heard from people when told that there was a mandatory requirement for attendance at a one-day training session and that there was a training fee to boot.
But once the potential new applicator understands more fully how one could make substantially more mark-up using our materials, this person would usually get past the “why” in a hurry. The upside potential for financial gain through the use of a specialty product can eliminate the temporary pain of investing a relatively small amount of money and time to be able to offer something to your customers that is unique and interesting.
WHAT IT’S WORTH
But part of the answer as to whether or nor specialty product trainings are worth the time and money starts with an honest assessment of your skills, abilities and temperament as related to the specialty product you’re considering training for. This should be the starting point to determine if it may be right for you and your company.
For instance, ArcusStone products are hand finished, and as the saying goes, the finish is only as good as the hand that finished it. In other words, to be successful with troweled on specialty products, you need to assess your own and your crew’s basic proficiency in the use of trowels, their experience and understanding of working with “mud” in whatever its form-gyp based, cement based, acrylic based, etc., and the temperament of the individuals that will be applying the product.
When I say temperament, ask if you and your crew are the kind that are better suited or more comfortable working with products that require more of a repetitive type application and finishing process, or are you and the crew the type that enjoy working with products that have a broader range of processes that can be employed to vary the finish? The latter would be more suited to application of ArcusStone products, so if you have a bit of an artistic bent, that would be a favorable trait to have as an applicator.
Beyond that, to give you the best chance for success with any specialty product, you need to spend time with it-literally. By definition these products are considered “special” or different from the usual, so it should follow that the use and installation of these products would require some specialized knowledge or training. There is no better way to do that then in a structured, focused training environment where you can gain an understanding of the characteristics of the product by working with it without the pressures inherent in learning about it on the fly in an on-the-job installation scenario.
A COMPANY MANDATE
ArcusStone made the decision 14 years ago to require that new applicators attend a basic training session as one of the prerequisites for approval for purchase of the products. This serves a few purposes; the first and foremost being to provide the applicator with a good foundation of knowledge and initial experience with the products.
The training forum also provides opportunities to demonstrate what not to do with the products. For example, one of our application directions that’s repeated over and over during the session is to avoid over-troweling the material when laying it up. To demonstrate what happens if you do not follow this direction (bubbling and de-bonding from the substrate usually occurs), the instructor will purposely over-trowel the product to create problems and then demonstrate how to fix it, if possible.
We use the old teacher’s trick of restating an important concept at least three times, so it sinks in. The adage is that the first time you hear something new, it doesn’t really register. The second time you hear it, it registers. The third time you hear it, it usually sticks in your mind.
Another benefit to company-based training is that the applicator is not only instructed in how to use the products, but it gives a company the chance to go into a higher level of detail with the applicators concerning the marketing of the products and assistance with understanding how to bid jobs properly so they can maximize profits. After all, that’s the point.
Training in the use of specialized product applications is the first step toward fattening up the bank account, even in these troubled times, as the Applicator will have a product that he can make more with in the same amount time as he would if applying other basic or generic products that yield less profit. W&C