Leveraging Your QCP License: An Interview With Mike Sarno

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In our latest podcast, Greg Parham, Executive Director for AWI’s Quality Control Program (QCP), speaks with Mike Sarno, owner of Mass Cabinets Inc. (MCI) in Methuen, Massachusetts, about the power of leveraging your QCP license.

Continue reading to hear about Mike’s experience with QCP, the process of registering and bidding on a project, and how you can leverage your QCP license to bring value to your clients. If you would like to listen to the full podcast, you can do so here


A QCP Licensee Since 1999

First, let’s start with a little background on why Mike decided MCI should be a QCP-licensed company. This is a journey that began 22 years ago in 1999, when Mike first realized the benefits of complying with the Quality Certification Program

Mike: “For one, QCP is a great program that gives us the ability to deliver better projects and get involved in some wonderful ventures. But we can also use it as a marketing tool when approaching general contractors, and as a way of securing better projects from architects. I felt that it put us on a higher level of hierarchy, being able to offer this type of quality assurance to the clients that we serve. It sets us apart from regular millwork shops.”


The Process of Registering a Project with QCP

Greg then asked Mike about what his best practices and processes are when it comes to registering and bidding on QCP certified projects. He tells us: “The first step is reading the project documents and contract documents, and finding the proper language in the specifications. Once we’ve identified the required specifications, we go to the QCP website and register the project, which involves putting in the names of the architect and, if known, the contractor. QCP then issues a registration number back to us, so at this point it’s on their database as a registered project with the architect.

“When we bid for the project, we make a note stating that this is a QCP job, that we’re a QCP member and are certified to do QCP work. We then put the registration number on our bid, and submit it to the general contractor.”

Mike goes on to say that the projects MCI are involved in are typically state and federal projects, including different agencies like GSA (General Services Administration), the US Coast Guard, National Parks, and so on. These are the types of agencies that typically require QCP work because of the high level of quality they demand.

Mike: “After we bid the general contractor, we’ll hear back in around two to three months on whether we’re negotiating or have been awarded the project.”


Can Architects & GCs Remove the QCP Element from a Project?

This podcast was actually precursored by an email from Mike, in which he told us that MCI lost a project after the QCP requirement was removed by the architect.

Mike gave Greg the full story in the podcast: “A couple of weeks after we had registered a project with QCP and submitted our bid to the general contractor, the architect issued an addendum removing QCP from the project. When we reached out to the architect, asking what was going on and how this occurred, we were informed that several millwork companies had contacted the architect, saying that they weren’t able to bid on the project because of the QCP requirement, and requested it to be removed. 

“While the architect explained that they didn’t want to remove it, it left us with a bad taste in our mouth. We felt we’d done all the right things, complied with QCP language and specifications, and yet the requirement was still removed without any just cause. And it’s really a deficit to the owner, too, who took the time to work with a QCP shop, only to have the requirement suddenly withdrawn from the project.”

Unfortunately, this is something we hear more times than we would like. While we’re unable to stop an architect or owner from withdrawing the QCP requirement from a project, we can help in educating architects on the importance of QCP, as well as help members win more projects. 

Another thing we can do, Greg explains in the podcast, is reach out to the architect and general contractor on a project and drive home the importance of QCP certification.

Greg: “Once a project is registered with us, if we do have the GC and architect’s contact information, we will periodically contact both of those parties to see if the project has been awarded and if the woodworker who was awarded the project is a QCP licensee. If they’re not licensed, we let the architect and GC know that the woodworker’s not licensed in the program and, therefore, the project cannot be QCP certified. We’ve had a few instances where we’ve done this and the architect has then required the GC to go back out and rebid the project and award it to a QCP-licensed firm.”


Can Non-Licensed Firms Get Licensed While Working on a QCP Project?

In the podcast, Mike explains that if they lose a project, they follow up with the general contractor to get feedback on who the job was awarded to. Mike: “This gives me the ability to look at the QCP-registered participants so that I can see if the awarded millwork shop is QCP-licensed or not.” 

In these cases, Mike explains, they reach out to AWI-QCP so that we can begin contacting the GC or architect about the importance of QCP certification. But the QCP program actually does allow a company that is not currently licensed to bid on and be awarded a project, and then go through the QCP application process while working on that project. If they succeed in becoming licensed, the project can then be QCP-certified

Greg says that this is a double-edged sword: “On the one hand, for you, or other QCP companies that lose out on a project, this policy isn’t really helpful. But on the other hand, this policy enables more people to get into the program and promote QCP.”

Allowing non-licensed woodworkers to earn their license while working on a project furthers the ultimate goal of AWI’s Quality Certification Program: to unite members of the woodworking industry in excellence. What makes this option so useful to woodworkers isn’t just the competitive edge they’ll earn from complying with an esteemed quality assurance program – as Mike puts it, it’s also the fact that following QCP requirements is easy. 

Mike: “We found that being QCP-licensed doesn’t add that much work to our end of the project. It doesn’t change our shop drawings, it doesn’t change what we’re building, and we found that it really doesn’t add a lot of steps, nor a lot of costs, except for the fee to pay QCP for the labels and certification, which is still only half a percent of the project.”


The Value of Leveraging Your QCP License

As Mike mentioned earlier in the podcast, becoming QCP licensed gives you a competitive edge when it comes to approaching architects and general contractors about a project. It shows that you are committed to following best industry practices and delivering a high level of quality each time. While earning your QCP license does require time, Mike says it’s well worth it for the value it brings to your business.

Mike: “It’s not a process that’s going to happen overnight – doing the right thing takes time. But being able to offer this to your clients is worth doing. It gives us the ability to say “Hey, we’re a QCP shop!” We have it on our advertisements. We have it on our letterheads. We have it on our business cards and vehicles. It sets us apart. Following the AWI Standards and taking that next step to become a QCP participant is worth doing for any millwork shop.”

Greg echoes this: “QCP is setting people apart from the rest of the gang out there.” When you’re QCP licensed, it shows you’re making a commitment, you’re making the effort to go that extra mile, and you’re setting a standard that goes above and beyond the average woodworker out there. Not only this, it also benefits architects and general contractors.Greg: “Our goal was to give the architects, general contractors, and the owners the assurance they need. If they use a QCP-licensed firm such as MCI, they’ll get exactly what they wanted, made exactly how they stated, and it will all be done properly.”

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