Distributors’ perspective: Turning challenges into opportunities

Home Columns Distributors' perspective: Turning challenges into opportunities

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By David Powell

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

To run a successful flooring business—whether it is in retail, installation, distribution or manufacturing—inevitably we will face challenges from the market, government regulations, competitors, the list goes on. Even in the best of times, there will be problems. I propose that every challenge is an opportunity, every negative event is a chance to improve our business acumen; I believe this is a value proposition that can be beneficial for every business leader, manager and employee. Nothing is good or bad per se, it’s just a challenge to overcome. The opportunity to overcome those challenges improves us and makes us better prepared for the unexpected.

The Great Recession is over, but how are you preparing for the next one? How are you preparing to meet with the next “Uber” of the floor covering industry that will disrupt our business models and force change upon us?

What challenges are we faced with that we could benefit from a consultative approach from our business channel partners? If you’re a retailer, have you spoken with your local distributor about how best to overcome staffing issues or qualified labor shortages? If you’re a distributor, have you spoken with your suppliers about ways to improve inventory turns, volume and related issues?

Have you looked at challenges from all perspectives or angles, perhaps one you haven’t thought of before? Sometimes it takes someone looking from outside of our preconceived notions to help us see the solution that was evading us.

Bruce Lee, the famous martial artist and movie star, said, “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

With the current labor shortage in the construction industry in general, and in floor covering specifically, if you are having trouble sourcing qualified installers or sales staff, have you looked at other alternatives such as the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) or other trade associations for training programs for your sales staff and installers? What about potential leads on new ones? The NWFA recently launched their new online university so the employee doesn’t even have to travel anywhere to take a course. WFCA has online training tools available as well as regional training seminars for retail sales staff.

Associations like the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) and WFCA exist to help members prepare for future challenges and deal with current ones with market data reports, benchmarking, training, trend analysis and speakers who are experts in their respective fields to address current and future trends. The time is now to overcome the challenges in your path to growing your business and being more successful. The time is now to prepare and plan for the future. Organizations like NAFCD and WFCA can help you with those plans, whether you’re a retailer, distributor or manufacturer.

 

David Powell is the marketing director & IT director for Erickson’s Flooring & Supply, Co., in Ferndale, Mich. He also serves as vice president of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors.

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Volume 31, Number 12

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