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LisBiz Strategies: Coverings can help you step out of the box

April 27/May 4, 2015; Volume 29/Number 2

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.43.44 PMIf you’ve come to know me over the years, you know I come from the “soft side” of the industry. When I was in the flooring and furniture business years ago, tile and difficult surface installers were hard to come by in upstate New York, where I’m based. Rather than deal with the problem or look at the trends, we just didn’t sell tile, which was really shortsighted and not very smart. Through the years I’ve taken classes offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) as well as several manufacturers and now have a much broader perspective.

I just returned from Coverings, the international tile and stone exposition in Orlando. Before the show, I asked several retailers if they were going. I received a resounding, “Why would I go? I don’t do that much tile or any stone business.” Sounds familiar, right?

A major benefit of the show is that it allows you to learn more about installing tile and provides access to insight from associations such as the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the Marble Institute of America (MIA), which set professional standards to regulate the industry.

The bottom line is our business is fashion and flooring. Each time I attend Coverings I am blown away by the elegance and sophistication of the show. This is not to detract from Surfaces, which showcases carpet and hard surfaces at a different venue. As an attendee and speaker at Coverings, I have had the opportunity to engage with and observe many cultures, styles and unusual product presentations.

Whether it’s enjoying tapas at the Brazilian pavilion or sipping a freshly pressed espresso with the Italians, the show has a continental flair without going out of the country. How many of us actually have the opportunity to travel out of the U.S. to visit other flooring shows? All of this reminds me that as our world shrinks so do our differences. With Coverings we are able to get another view on things; aren’t we lucky to have this opportunity so close to home?

Not going to Coverings is a way to stay within the confines of familiarity. If you don’t see what’s new, you’re likely not conflicted with expanding your product offerings or questioning your business’ focus. Like many other business consultants, I am always telling my clients if they’re going to be different, they need to build a competitive advantage. Gaining this advantage isn’t easy; to do it you must question what you know and look at all the possibilities for your business. Coverings is a way to gain an additional perspective on what you do.

New ideas can be challenging for all of us, while inspiring and maybe a bit disturbing. We are likely to ask ourselves, “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?” or “What is missing in my business?” Like many of the other speakers at Coverings, I am always looking for new ideas for my customers as well as educational topics.

I have been in the floor covering business wearing many different hats for over 30 years. When I see the amount of effort and ingenuity that goes into all of our shows, I am happy to be part of a continually evolving industry and to learn from people leading the way of change. I hope in some small way I’m able to contribute to the growth of our industry.

Don’t miss any of the flooring shows for 2016. Use the events as a way to inspire and motivate yourself to become better at what you do.