Wants association to help entire industry succeed
by Matthew Spieler
When Scott Humphrey was announced as the new CEO of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) last month, it may have taken many by surprise. After all, he spent the last 25 years working at one of the industry’s largest mills, while the WFCA is the industry’s leading advocate organization for independent specialty retailers.
But for anyone who knows the affable Humphrey and his career at Shaw Industries, the choice to have him fill the position left vacant by the unexpected passing of Chris Davis in February 2012 was an appropriate decision.
“We wanted the best candidate,” Harold Chapman told FCNews. Chapman, who was part of WFCA’s search committee, is president of Bonitz Flooring Group in Greenville, S.C., and WFCA’s chairman. “Our goal was to get the best person for the job,” and following a year-long search that included over 70 applicants, “we feel we have met that goal with hiring Scott.”
Though he comes from the manufacturing side of the industry, Humphrey has significant experience working with retailers and helping formulate methods for success. As the director of the Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) he was responsible for managing over 2,000 independent Shaw-aligned retailers, while overseeing an $8 million budget that contributed to several hundred million in sales and a staff compiling a large number of direct and indirect reports.
Humphrey was also a visionary behind the Shaw Learning Academy—recognized as one of the top 100 internal training programs worldwide for the last nine years by Training magazine (FCNews, Feb. 18/25). He also wrote, developed and facilitated S.A.L.T. (Shaw Academy for Leadership Training), a highly successful four-day intensive leadership program attended by hundreds of top managers from Shaw and key retail partners.
In fact, at the most recent SFN convention in February, Steve Boardman of MMM Carpets in Santa Clara, Calif., said he was both a better manager and person overall after going through the program. “The leadership skills apply to both business and life.”
Chapman said beyond having a strong industry background (Humphrey actually started “working” at his family’s flooring business when he was seven), “He’s worked closely with retailers so he understands their needs. Plus, everyone we have spoken with including other manufacturers have nothing but respect for Scott. He will be a great leader.”
During an exclusive interview, Humphrey told FCNews, “I have no agenda. I have just one desire: To build relationships and make the WFCA an organization that can contribute to everyone’s success.”
Humphrey, who officially took his position on April 1, said the association is in a unique position to act as one of the key voices for the industry. He credited both his predecessor and the people who kept the organization running in the interim between Davis’ passing and now. “Chris did a great job bringing together key players from different audiences—from dealers to installers, distributors to manufacturers, salespeople and more—and I want to re-establish that and expand upon them. It is important for the industry to speak as one voice, especially on the key issues.”
He added the people at WFCA’s headquarters in Anaheim, Calif., did an exceptional job “during a very difficult time.” He specifically cited the work of Cammie Weitzel and Tom Jennings. “I am so impressed with Cammie and the work she does. Plus, she was forced to step in and take control after Chris and did a magnificent job. And Tom jumped right in and became the face of the organization, especially when it came to training and education. Both turned a tough situation into a positive and the association and industry is better thanks to them.”
Because of their work, Humphrey said Weitzel was rewarded with a two-year contract and was promoted from general manager to vice president of operations. Meanwhile, Jennings, who was not an actual employee of the organization, is now vice president of member services.
Humphrey will not relocate from his Georgia home to California, noting most of the people with whom he will communicate on a daily basis are east of the Mississippi. Weitzel will re-main in Anaheim and direct staff at his discretion. Mean-while, Jennings will be based out of Kansas.
According to Chapman this arrangement will be sufficient, considering WFCA’s board members are scattered throughout the country and many meetings are conducted via phone and video conferencing. Plus, this gives WFCA “a presence on the east, central and west coasts.”
Humphrey added his main goal is to “make a difference. That’s why I chose this job. It’s scary to leave a company you’ve been with for 25 years, especially one as good as Shaw. But this is an opportunity to make the most impact and help the most people. The people at the WFCA—board members—all volunteer their time, energy and talents and they don’t have to do that but they really do want to make a difference. They want to make the industry better. These are the kinds of people I want to be associated with. I’ve never had to answer to a board, so it will be a challenge. But Warren Buffett once told me to run toward what you’re afraid of.” (Editor’s note: Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is the parent company of Shaw).
In fact, Humphrey said one of the things that will make his transition easier is the dedication and work already exhibited by the association. For instance, he plans on having WFCA continue to provide the administrative work, among other things, for the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF). “FCIF is part of the reason why I took the job. It is a noble cause and I look forward to stepping in and filling whatever role is needed.”
The same can be said for WFCA’s contributions toward ensuring installers receive proper training. “Installation is a vital element to the industry and is also something that has been frustrating for as long as I have been around. So if we can help find a solution then I’m all for it.”
While Humphrey wants to continue along and even widen the path on which WFCA has traveled, he is quick to note, “I don’t have all the answers, nor do I pretend to. That’s why I want to meet with as many people from as many different areas of the industry. I want to get their input and ask for their assistance to help elevate this wonderful industry to even greater heights.”
He added there are two types of leaders: “One who evaluates the situation and makes changes as needed to improve things, and one who comes in and changes things whether they are working or not. That’s not me; I’m the first kind, and there are many things the WFCA is doing well right now. We just need to figure out what is needed down the road.”
As such, after WFCA’s new executive committee and board members come in this summer, Humphrey said the group will take a “visionary retreat to go over long range plans including opportunities to develop alliances and partnerships with other organizations that will drive growth and business for members and the industry overall.”
In taking the position, Humphrey said he has a “sense of responsibility” because of the legacy left by Davis. And while he has no intention of trying to fill Davis’ shoes, “I know what I’m coming into. I only worked with Chris a little but what I know of him I liked. The more people I meet who knew him makes me realize just how special he was. My goal is to surround myself with the best people, just like he did, and take risks, also like he did, to improve the industry.
“My goal,” he concluded, “is not to be right, but to do what is right.”