NAFCD: Mood, attendance on the rise as business rebounds

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Speakers, revamped structure lend to event success

Nov. 18/25 2013, Volume 27/number 15

By Jenna Lippin

Chicago—The mood through-out the 2013 annual convention of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) + North American Building Materials Distribution Association (NBMDA) held here Nov. 12-14 represented a new phase of the flooring industry, one that many members have been awaiting. Optimism is spreading, business is better and as one attendee said, “These things are fun again.”

George Roth, president of Lockwood Flooring in St. Louis and outgoing president of NAFCD, recognized the wave on which the industry is currently riding. He noted that 2013 has been a good year for the industry, and there is a very promising outlook for 2014. “A lot of us are riding the rising tide and enjoying better business than we have in the past.”

The picture of a positive outlook was painted by Brian Beaulieu, principal of ITR Economics and NAFCD regular, who returned for an insightful closing session with realistic and detailed projections for the next few years. “We’re not oblivious to the slowdown that’s taking shape in the housing market, but we don’t see any major derailments in 2014,” he said. “We have four good years ahead of us.”

With exhibit space sold out for the tabletop business session, coupled with strong attendance, the event reinforced the strength of the industry; many are ready to get back in the game and solidify business. According to Craig Folven, vice president of sales and marketing at Herregan Distributors in Eagan, Minn., and incoming NAFCD president, attendance was up at least 20% from last year.

Scott Rozmus, president of Florstar Sales in Chicago and NAFCD director, said the significant increase in attendance is the result of the stronger economy. “As business conditions improve, firms won’t hold back on expenditures, they’ll start reinvesting in themselves, and we’re seeing that here.”

Also contributing to the rise in attendance is a format change that was unveiled in 2012 that was particularly reflected on the show floor and reception held on the first night of the convention. These changes were dictated by member surveys completed in previous years, Rozmus said. For example, tabletop exhibits were preferred to a tradeshow or business meeting format. “Manufacturer partners like it and distributing members like it. There is informal networking within a formally scheduled event at the opening cocktail reception.”

Folven agreed that taking action based on member feedback is what created the 2013 convention’s success. “We were losing value to our members, so we did the extensive survey and found we were really disconnected on some fronts,” he explained. “That research led to increased membership and increased activity, and we want to make sure we continue that. So for 2014, we will pause and reassess, like any good business, to make sure we are headed in the right direction. There will be a strategic planning session with the board and we will conduct a member survey like we did three years ago. We will also look to see how we can bring more value to our manufacturer partners.”

2013 also saw NAFCD investing in a new logo and website. “One thing we needed to do was to increase value to members,” Folven said. “As an example, ITR Economics’ quarterly reports can be accessed through the NAFCD website. When a website looks stale, the perception is that the content is stale.” The same can be said for the NAFCD logo. “The old logo depicted different types of flooring. It was stale in its messaging. This organization is not really focused on product. It’s more about the process, how you can be better as a company. The new logo is more consistent with our message.”

According to Chris O’Connor, COO of CMH Space Flooring Products and NAFCD’s incoming vice president, the organization saw substantially higher revenue and relatively lower expenses in the past year. A new dues structure will take effect in January, which takes into consideration the different branches, geographies and product lines of NAFCD members.

The new board was also announced, which, aside from Folven and O’Connor, includes Torrey Jaeckle, vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, Madison, Wis., as secretary; Rosana Chaidez, vice president of sales and marketing and procurement at J.J. Haines, Glen Burnie, Md., as treasurer, and Roth as immediate past president.

Thanks to NAFCD’s strength in numbers, committed board and enthusiastic convention attendees, the organization has also continued its relationship with partner groups, including NWFA and Surfaces.

Michael Martin, NWFA CEO, noted that the collaboration has allowed “NWFA to be the voice of wood flooring within NAFCD.” Prior to the convention opening, NWFA hosted a focus group with NAFCD distributor members, facilitating “planning for the course of the future” and “adding value to both memberships. [The focus group] will also help develop the agenda for the Wood Flooring Expo in the spring.”

NAFCD’s growing partnership with Surfaces is also helping to expand and improve the show’s value to distributors. “Distributors are a very important part of our show,” said Amie Gilmore, associate director, Surfaces. “We want to make [the distributor]

experience at the show the very best. We’ve worked very closely with NAFCD, and we will now have a distributor lounge on the show floor to…help make the experience at the show more fun and easier.”

Spotlight on speakers

While networking and industry updates are key to any successful conference, guest speakers can make all the difference when gauging the value of any event. And this time around, it appeared the NAFCD hit the mark.

“I think members found value in the speakers and education,” Folven said. “The important part is it is relevant; we kind of missed that in previous years. People can see celebrities, or people they know, but they really want meaningful takeaways.”

One session, which featured Walter Bond, former shooting guard for the University of Minnesota, focused on “Developing a Culture of Accountability.” He encouraged attendees to turn off the news (it only has negative things to report), start selling hopes and dreams, create a positive image and, of course, take accountability for actions. “It’s toxic when people focus on the performance of others,” Bond said. “Everyone should take ownership of their own performance and production.”

NAFCD members found value in the presentation. “Walter Bond was outstanding,” said Hoy Lanning, CEO at CMH Space Flooring Products in Wadesboro, N.C. “I heard a couple of guys say in the past year that we didn’t need to hear another political speech. What we needed to hear was something that would help us in our business. He did a great job motivating us and motivating our people.”

One of the most informative sessions was led by Sam Richter, author of Take the Cold out of Cold Calling, who focused on sales intelligence, buyer intelligence and utilizing the Internet. “The Internet has changed the way we do business,” Richter said, explaining key elements of “Google math” and how the search engine can be used to its maximum capability. However, he also warned about Internet predators using Google against us, and how easy it is for anyone to gain access to personal information that most people don’t realize is readily available.

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