March 2012: Industry mourns passing of WFCA CEO Chris Davis

Home Inside FCNews March 2012: Industry mourns passing of WFCA CEO Chris Davis

Volume 26/Number 16; Dec. 17/24, 2012

For nearly 18 years, he was more than just the leader of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), he was a leader of the industry, promoting the professionalism of its people and beauty of its products to every media avenue possible. Along the way, he selflessly gave himself to help those in need. On Feb. 22, D. Christopher Davis unexpectedly passed away from lung cancer, less than three weeks after turning 64.

Davis was the first and only person to have been in charge of WFCA since it came into being Jan. 1, 1995. He was actually hired in August 1994 in anticipation of leading the new organization that would result from the merger of the Western Floor Covering Association and American Floorcovering Association (AFA), a merger he was also charged with facilitating. On top of that, Davis was brought in to oversee the trade show started by Western six years earlier, an event on the verge of exploding into the largest the industry has ever seen as well as becoming one of the top shows in all the U.S.—Surfaces.

Davis had already forged himself a highly successful career after graduating with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1970 and being named Sigma Delta Chi’s Outstanding Graduate in Journalism.

But for all his previous successes over a 25-year period, they paled in comparison to what Davis was able to achieve in the flooring industry. He was what many would classify as a true champion, a person who worked tirelessly on behalf of all segments and levels of the industry with one simple goal: To make each bigger and better.

Under his leadership, the industry in general became more recognized, more respected and more profitable. What makes Davis’ achievements even more notable is many of his deeds were done under the radar, out of the spotlight and with no fanfare. And, perhaps taking a cue from his days as a journalist, he was unbiased in his efforts and the people with whom he collaborated. So long as the goal was something that pushed the industry forward in a positive way, he was for it and lent his support in any way possible.

Davis’ commitment could be seen from the way he grabbed the reins of the WFCA, overseeing every aspect of the growing organization and turning it into the “unbiased voice” of the industry. From legislative, educational and business initiatives, he implemented programs designed to better the industry by bettering its people.

A key factor that allowed Davis to make WFCA a model association was Surfaces. The trade show was a cash cow for the association, allowing it to do things never before possible, such as offering trade scholarships—even if the class was not offered by the organization.

Davis always looked at the big picture; he dreamed big and turned his dreams into reality. During an interview, Davis said his intention was “to take Surfaces to the next level.” He not only accomplished what he set out to do—turning Surfaces into one of the top 50 trade shows in the U.S. as noted by Tradeshow Week—many would say he exceeded it “40 million” times over when he facilitated Surfaces’ sale in 2000 to the tune of more than $40 million, plus allowing WFCA to retain sponsorship rights for a minimum of 25 years.

The situation to run Surfaces and lead the WFCA presented itself as a perfect fit for Davis as he had a very successful track record running the convention and visitors bureaus in places such as Long Beach; Oakland, Calif., and Corpus Christi, Texas. He also coordinated and supervised major national events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention; Super Bowl XIX (1985); the 1972, 1973 and 1975 World Series; the 1974 NBA Championship; the 1987 baseball All-Star Game, and the 1992 American Bowling Congress.

As the head of WFCA, Davis used the association’s wealth and influence to foster relationships throughout the industry and beyond. He understood from the beginning this is a people business and if the industry was to ever reach its full potential, every single person on the ladder needed to have a voice and be taken care of.

He was always willing to reach out and let someone know he was doing a good job or had done something well, and always encouraged people to push themselves to greater heights in order to fully reap the rewards that come with greatness. And Davis did this no matter the person’s position in life—from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to the janitor at an installation workroom. To him, they are both special people with unique talents and abilities and he wanted everyone to recognize that in themselves and to use their gifts to succeed.

Though he headed an association for retailers, Davis understood it took other segments, specifically installers, to make his members successful. As such, he championed the cause of having professionally trained, certified installers, going so far as to help the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) with more than money, but time. For Davis was never one to shy away from helping and giving himself.

That is why he went beyond WFCA, chairing and participating in numerous industry initiatives such as the National Carpet Installation Standard currently in development and organizations, including the Floor Covering Business-to-Business Association (fcB2B), the Flooring Industry Issues Council and IICRC.

Perhaps Davis’ greatest love, though, was the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF), the charitable organization dedicated to assisting industry personnel who experience catastrophic illnesses or severe disabilities. Davis served as president and CEO, calling FCIF “one of the most noble causes out there.” He donated WFCA’s resources to running the non-profit promising its founders —industry icons such as Walter Guinan and Al Wahnon—he would make the Foundation reach its “utmost potential.”

As with everything else he touched, Davis turned FCIF into a guiding light. In the 20 years prior, FCIF donated $1.5 million to assist those who needed it most. Under Davis, that amount is now close to $5 million.

Though he never produced, designed, distributed, sold or installed flooring, Davis will be remembered as one of the industry’s noble figures. He fought for and succeeded in raising the standards by which flooring is viewed. And in doing so leaves behind a legacy many individuals will benefit from for generations.

D. Christopher Davis was born Feb. 2, 1948. After graduating college, he worked for ABC News as a journalist and as an independent commercial photographer. He left ABC News to become communications director of the Oakland, Calif., Chamber of Commerce and then president and CEO of the convention and visitors bureaus of Oakland (1981 to 1987); Corpus Christi, Texas (1987 and 1988), and Long Beach, Calif. (1988 to 1993), before starting his flooring career.

Davis is survived by his daughter, Jessica (Alan) Gates; stepdaughter, Amber (Victor) Padilla; grandchildren, Parker and Paige Gates, and Logan and Victor Padilla; sister, Alix Davis Hay, and brother Richard (Cathy).

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made directly to FCIF, 211 E. Howell Avenue, Anaheim, CA 92806; 714.634.0302;, or the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718 Oklahoma City, Okla.

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