By Megan Salzano
Out of what may seem like a vast ocean of potential candidates, five uniquely qualified nominees stood out beyond the rest in our search for movers and shakers in the flooring industry. From all walks of flooring—distribution, installation, retail and manufacturing—these five people under the age of 40 are pushing the industry forward. A common denominator among them is their steadfast drive to add youth and diversity to an industry so woefully lacking in both departments. Through education, training, marketing and business growth, these five under 40 are helping move the industry into the future.
AJ WARNE, 30
Director of resilient sales, Abraham Linc, Bridgeport, W.Va.
— NAFCD VOLUNTEER DIRECTOR
— YOUNGEST VOLUNTEER TO SERVE ON THE NAFCD BOARD OF DIRECTORS
— LEADING THE NAFCD’S CHARGE TO ATTRACT YOUNGER/DIVERSIFIED LEADERS
“I’m not bashful about trying to get people involved in the educational opportunities our industry has to offer. We need to be recruiting younger people and making distribution and the industry better. Companies that don’t have young leaders today will have inexperienced leaders tomorrow. And it’s a very homogenous group of 50- to 65-year-old white guys. As someone who came right into flooring distribution from college, that’s not what the rest of the world looks like, and I think it’s important to overcome this.”
What others are saying: “AJ views all industry issues and topics from the unique perspective of a young executive and is always willing and eager to share his feedback and opinions on important topics,” said Kevin Gammonley, executive vice president, NAFCD. “AJ is in-sync with the mindset of his peer group and serves as an ambassador for this important target audience, making certain their values and beliefs are represented in all NAFCD board of director discussions. AJ is a passionate cheerleader for our industry, the distribution channel and the NAFCD.”
ADAM NONN, 34
Owner, Nonn’s Flooring, multiple locations in Wisconsin and Florida
— SECOND-GEN FLOORING RETAILER
— YOUNGEST MEMBER OF THE WFCA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE/LEADING WFCA’S EVOLUTION
— CHAMPIONING EDUCATION TO ATTRACT A YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHIC TO THE INDUSTRY
“The WFCA really has to work for everybody and all the different trades. We all have different needs, but we also have a lot in common. We’re developing new programs to get all of the industry involved and give everyone a voice.
“The education and training side of things is an area we so often forget. With WFCA, we’re making these new training modules to get some of the younger demographic interested because, when you look at our industry, a lot of people are in the baby boomer age group. We have to show that this is a great industry where you can make a really good living, be challenged and experience growth.”
What others are saying: “Before joining, Adam said to me, ‘What are we accomplishing? If we’re simply here casting votes but not doing anything, I don’t want to be involved,’” said Scott Humphrey, CEO, WFCA. “He’s not only willing to point out what could be done, he’s willing to put his time and effort behind it. Adam also thinks differently; he has a really good grasp of technology; he’s a risk taker. I think that, too, makes him unique.”
LAUREN VOIT, 34
President, Great Western Flooring, Naperville, Ill.
— SECOND-GEN INDEPENDENT FLOORING RETAIL LEADER
— IMPLEMENTING STANDOUT GROWTH STRATEGIES
— YOUNGEST MEMBER OF WFCA BOARD/LEADING WFCA’S EVOLUTION
“I think most would say I don’t mind challenging the status quo on policy or philosophy. I love how our industry came together under the WFCA, but we have to keep innovating. I’m excited to be a part of that change and to revive and maintain the excitement and momentum in our trade.
“While generational companies are not new to the flooring industry, what is unique about [Great Western Flooring] is that this second generation is young and female. What this has translated to is a different perspective on how to run the business, and I am not afraid to take a different approach—much more fashion and experience focused, lots of technology implementation and a clear set of values that positions us for growth and innovation.”
What others are saying: “Lauren wants to be a part of doing something that makes the industry better for all the people who rely on it,” WFCA’s Humphrey said. “She has a phenomenal eye for the business and understands customers better than many others. I think because she has grown up in this business and seen it from all sides, she really gets it.”
ANGELA DUKE, 34
Director of brand marketing, Mohawk Industries
— RAPIDLY RISING IN THE RANKS OF THE LARGEST FLOORING MANUFACTURER IN THE U.S.
— SPEARHEADING CREATIVE CAMPAIGNS
— EVOLVING COMMUNICATION/MARKETING TO ATTRACT A YOUNGER GENERATION
“I started my career in international customer service and advanced quickly as my ability to speak Spanish opened many doors. I’m thankful Mohawk’s culture provides limitless opportunity for advancement. I’ve been able to pave my own way and work in all facets of the business.
“I have experience in multiple areas of Mohawk Industries, including customer service, builder and multi-family, hospitality and residential brand marketing. I love what I do; not many people are lucky enough to feel that way.”
What others are saying: “Angela Duke is an exceptional marketing director, leader and team member,” said Karen Mendelsohn, senior vice president of marketing. “She is innovative, creative, strategic and thoughtful. She applies her detailed understanding of the product and the business, and combines that with deep knowledge of the industry, our customers and consumers to develop positioning and campaigns that are right for our brands, resonate with our stakeholders and cut through the clutter of flooring communication.”
JONATHAN VARDEN, 36
Senior manager of training, CFI
— SECOND-GEN FLOORING INSTALLER
— INSTRUMENTAL IN ATTRACTING YOUNGER MEMBERS TO THE INDUSTRY
— CHAMPIONING TRAINING FOR CFI
“I think it’s vital to bring in the younger generation because that’s the future. We are all getting older—the average age in this trade is 36 and above. I’m a part of that through my involvement with CFI. I learned from a lot of really good trainers and certifiers and installers. I’m one of the younger senior certifiers, but I think at any age it’s about the environment you create in class. I think it’s always good to break the ice, create a healthy environment. That’s when these kids tend to open up and learn more.”
What others are saying: “Jonathan has been instrumental in teaching students across the country, especially the young newcomers to the industry,” said Robert Varden, vice president, CFI. “He not only does a great job of instructing but also relating to incoming youth. We once had to pull Jonathan out of a training class to attend a staff meeting. What really speaks to his talent is how happy the students were to see his return. That’s his biggest strength. They have such a respect for him and have viewed him as a mentor for years.”