How to Bring Home Improvement Industry Leaders Together
If you want to bring home improvement industry leaders together, you have to be persistent, open minded and willing to communicate. At least that’s what Earl Ward, Vice President of the Exterior Contractor Alliance at FEI Group has found. We sat down with Earl to understand how he builds a strong culture with industry leaders and turns competitors into lifelong friends.
Ingage: Let’s start off with who is FEI Group and what is your role there?
Earl Ward: FEI Group is the nation’s largest co-op of flooring, kitchen, bath and exterior contractors who network with each other to encourage growth and success for each individual contractor. I am the Vice President of the Exterior Contractor Alliance Group, one of our main areas of focus is sourcing market advantage opportunities by creating programs and unique events that inspire contractors to communicate more while collectively raising the bar for the industry as a whole.
Ingage: It sounds like a powerful group of industry thought leaders, what do you think drives leaders to this group?
Earl : Membership in FEI groups is invite-only which means we can ensure that like-minded, intelligent management level leaders are invited to join. This is essential because our goal is to not only have leaders share best practices, but also gain new insights from other leaders that they hadn’t thought of before. Because we have this open stream of communication, I’ve found our members feel more like a family. They’re all working together to achieve the overall goal of raising the bar in the industry. When you have so many like-minded leaders working together, even the biggest competitors become friends and ultimately take actions to help the industry.
Ingage: We have to commend you on building such a powerful culture, how do you maintain it?
Earl: Persistence is key when you’re trying to build and maintain culture in a group like this. That’s why we have our core values of integrity, class, attitude, respect and of course, persistence, that we hold our members to. Because of this, members come into the group with an open attitude and a willingness to communicate, share and be vulnerable when and where they need help. We’re able to keep the communication flowing through regular Zoom meetings and hosting exclusive pre-conference events where members can network and learn directly from some of the speakers at the conference. Our annual FEI Group National Conference is another amazing example of maintaining culture for such a large group. We bring together the brightest minds across divisions and carve out time for members to attend learning sessions, make supply connections, celebrate wins and make new connections.
Ingage: We always look forward to the annual FEI Group conference and sharing our platform with your members. Can you speak to how Ingage and FEI Group work together and why you chose us to be your presentation partner?
Earl: We were first introduced to Ingage from one of our group members, Eric Clemente at Alure Home Improvements. We’re always eager to hear about what tools our members are using and when Eric mentioned it was a great tool for selling virtually, I knew we should check it out. Once we found out you could easily customize presentations and have access to platform analytics, we started recommending it to all of our members. We have even created an Exterior Contractor Alliance presentation and have found it very helpful and easy for viewers to visualize concepts and immerse themselves in the storytelling aspect of the sales presentation. When you’re doing a basic presentation, people fade out, but Ingage makes it easier to listen and be attentive to whatever you’re pitching. Plus, it falls in line with our mission to always be future thinking. It’s win-win.
Ingage: We’re excited to hear you enjoy the platform! Jumping on your future thinking mission, with the state of the industry right now, how do you adapt to changes in the market?
Earl: It is an ever-changing business environment but because our members have a future thinking mindset, they are not overly phased by a lot of these changes. Of course, there will always be standard problems like procuring materials and finding good labor, but when it came to virtual selling during Covid, our members were prepared and thrived.
I think that’s where a lot of contractors should focus, in that future thinking mindset. Consider your tech stack, is it measuring up to what you actually need? Do you have software to help you make estimates that integrate with your ordering platform? If not, you may not have the tools you need to support you long term. It’s about looking at pieces of the puzzle and seeing where the holes are while also considering tools that will help you increase ROI. There are so many options out there so I recommend looking for ones that integrate with each other and make your life easier, Ingage is one of those.
About FEI Group
FEI is the nation’s largest and finest network of interior and exterior finish contractors and interior finish showrooms.
We support the largest network of serious contractors, with operations across more than 200 markets. Members benefit from collective negotiating strength, participation in invitation-only events, and exclusive business resources, enabling them to buy ‘right’ and serve their customers better.
FEI is affiliated with CCA Global Partners.