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Associations, Penn partner for education

by Matthew Spieler

Philadelphia—Recognizing there is a need to help their members—and, ultimately, the industry—improve their business management skills, four industry associations have partnered with one of the world’s leading business universities to create a customized program designed to provide participants with an opportunity to study the essentials of business management and develop new skills and strategies to grow their businesses.

The Partnership for Executive Development and Business Growth is a collaboration between the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD), National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), Association of Rug Care Specialists (ARCS) and University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences, including the famous Wharton School, which was the world’s first collegiate business school and has the largest faculty of any school of its type.

“Education is universally accepted as a way to improve business,” said Bob Fishman of L. Fishman & Sons, “and right now the industry is feeling stressed and looking for ways to grow. The timing is excellent for this type of program.” Fishman is helping represent the NAFCD in the discussions to create the curriculum for the course, which, according to school officials is a first, even for the 131-year-old Wharton.

Rick Holder, executive vice president of Derr Flooring and NWFA chairman, added, “This is a way to improve the industry as a whole by having four leading industry organizations coming together and sharing ideas.”

Michael Martin, NWFA’s president and CEO, added, “With the tough economic environment we’ve been challenged with, this program offers a real opportunity to acquire the strong business skills needed to not only survive in a down market, but prosper as well. The customized curriculum addressing the unique needs of flooring professionals is a big plus.”

Ken Adams of ABC Oriental Rug & Cleaning Co. and past president of ARCS, noted, “If not for the floor covering industry, none of us would be in business. So it’s important to learn about all that is going on in the different areas of the industry as we all rely on each other in one way or another. This program will allow those who participate to come out better and smarter.”

And, Jim Walters, WFCA’s immediate past chairman, pointed out, “Education is a fundamental mission of the associations, but the emphasis has been overwhelmingly on improving members’ technical skills at the expense of business management skills. This is an incredible opportunity for trade association members to develop their management skills and learn strategies for growing their businesses at one of the country’s most respected academic institutions.”

In fact, as FCNews was going to press, representatives from the groups had just finished a four-and-a-half hour meeting with university officials and faculty to help develop the curriculum and ensure it is tailored to meet the needs of the participants.

The university’s Rita McGlone said the meeting was to hear from members and find out “what keeps them up at night in order for us to develop the tools so as to address them in a way that is applicable to the industry, including having the right faculty, whether we should have teams or individual projects and so forth.”

She told FCNews the plan is to develop a comprehensive program that includes a combination of on-site and online instruction so that participants do not have to take too much time away from their businesses. The initial plan is to develop a two- to three-day program on the school’s campus here, followed by nine weeks of online instruction and then two final days back at the school.

The program is expected to begin in January with the curriculum ready in the fall. FCNews will be providing details of the program as information becomes available—both in print and online at fcnews.net as well as through its various social media outlets.