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Checking in: Learning about life from a legend

by Steven Feldman

When legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passed away earlier this month, the world lost more than the greatest basketball coach who ever lived. It lost someone who bettered this world.

What does this have to do with flooring? Pretty much nothing. It has to do with life. Wooden was not only a coach; he was a leader, a teacher. He made his players better people. And that has everything to do with every reader of this column who has at least one direct report. That’s because managing is only part of the job. The best managers are leaders who positively impact people’s lives.

We can all learn from John Wooden. First, he taught us how to win. Ten national championships. Four perfect seasons. An 88-game winning streak. That takes drive. We all should be driven to be our best every single day so we can win, however each of us defines winning: ways to grow the business, taking market share, increasing close rates, customer service, etc. By the way, reading FCNews 26 times a year will help you win the game.

Wooden also taught us how to be innovative. His 2-2-1 zone press left opposing coaches clueless. We all need to be innovative. For FCNews, it could be our unique guides, which are dedicated to products like hardwood, laminate and resilient, environmental issues and business. Of course, those are just examples. You need to be innovative, too—marketing, merchandising, promotions, pricing—anything that will set you apart from masses and make the competition say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Wooden taught us to stress the fundamentals and begin with the basics. He said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” On the first day of practice every year, he did not start teaching the freshmen how to play defense. He first taught them how to tie their shoes. Pull up your socks, leaving no loose flaps inside the sneakers. Then pull the laces tight and even, and tie them tightly. No blisters, no sprained ankles. Likewise, when you get a new salesperson, don’t first teach them how to upsell the customer or the nuances of the Lacey Act. Teach them about the industry and the products they will be selling. The aforementioned Selling Guides will help, as will our spe- cial issues, like FCNews’ 20th anniversary issue from four years ago and the WFCA 50th anniversary issue.

Most importantly, Wooden taught us how to be better people. He would say: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Remember, this is a relationship business. People buy from people they like. Your character is what will win people over 99 times out of 100.

We are graced by the teachers in our lives, and even in his passing, we will never stop learning from John Wooden.