Distributors’ perspective: A brighter future

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by Bob Wagner

We all learned something from the NAFCD conference this year. What did you take away from it? Was it the roundtable discussions that got you thinking? Maybe it was an educational session that gave you that “ah-ha” moment. Perhaps you visited an exhibitor that gave you a great deal, or maybe you ran into someone who will now be a lifelong contact.

The convention truly was “one event, two organizations and three days of relationship-building and education” as the tagline promised. The unique blend of networking functions, distribution management education, exhibits and business-to-business appointments truly made this an excellent event. Distributors were given the chance to interact with a larger concentration of peers from across North America while also interacting with senior executives from the leading manufacturers of a wide variety of building materials and flooring products. Working together is the only way we can advance.

The ability to troubleshoot, brainstorm and problem-solve with other leaders in our industry is one of my favorite NAFCD benefits. I hope our annual meeting, co-sponsored with the North American Building Materials Distribution Association (NBMDA), allowed you to visit both exhibit floors and get a chance to network with NBMDA members as well.

As NAFCD’s new president, I will do all I can to help the association move forward. My guiding principles will be the core pillars of value we already have in place: leadership, networking, education and trends.

And, of course, I won’t be going at it alone. Your board will continue its quest to bring you conferences, Webinars and training to help your businesses. I can assure you that we listen to you and your needs but we can only do that if you tell us what you need. As I wrote in the March 2010 FCNews column, NAFCD’s leadership wants to hear from you before, during and after the conference. We value our members’ opinions and it is our intent to exceed your expectations for value and content in a conference. The only way for us to know your need is through your feedback. This is your conference, your association, and we want it to be of high value to you and your companies.

We are developing an inclusive organization that welcomes all facets of the flooring industry. We’re currently a fragmented bunch, but we want to reach out to all groups and organizations within our industry to bring everyone together.

After all, what matters most is our user’s experience with our products and services. When we focus more on the buyer’s experience and less on our own self interest, we create a situation where everyone can win.

Of course, none of this is easy when the economy and our industry are struggling. As distributors, we get to look both up and down the selling channel. We must be mindful of our role, and change when necessary. Our role of providing great value in the market while the channel keeps changing can be hard work, even frustrating. The rules that we once knew don’t always prevail.

NAFCD will continue to work hard to present ideas you can act on and ways to help your business. Your board of directors cares about how well your business is doing. We want you at the next conference. We want you to think about volunteering to spend time on your board. We want to provide educational opportunities that will make you better business people.

I appreciate your support and the confidence you have shown in me by electing me as your next president. Here’s to a successful year ahead!

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