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My take: An achievement well deserved

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By Steven Feldman

 

I rarely devote an entire column to one individual but given this issue of FCNews features our seventh Al Wahnon Lifetime Achievement Award winner, it is both timely and relevant.

Now, no Lifetime Award winner is any more significant than another; each is different in his or her own way and has made unique, significant contributions to the industry, their communities and the world.

Michael Goldberg, owner and CEO of Rite Rug in Columbus, Ohio, is a unique individual. He is also the first retailer to be honored with FCNews’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Every year, we solicit nominations from the industry, either written or verbal. Some suggestions pass the litmus test; most do not. This year, we asked many manufacturer and distributor personnel to throw some retailers’ names in the hat, and the name Michael Goldberg kept coming up.

If you read the story that begins on page 1, you will learn why Michael, someone I have known for 20-plus years, was chosen. He truly checks all the boxes.

I remember my first interaction with Michael back in the mid-1990s as managing editor of Floor Covering Weekly. I was charged with compiling the Top 50 retailer listing, and back then we physically called every retailer on the list. Somehow, I was put through to Michael. “What did you have us down for last year?” he asked, to which I replied: “40 million.” “OK. Put us down for that again,” Michael quipped. Seemed like Rite Rug was doing $40 million every year. Either the company was remarkably consistent, stagnant, or Michael just really didn’t give a flying fork about the accuracy of our list.

Michael soon gained a comfort level with me and invited me to Columbus to do an exclusive article on Rite Rug. He was about as trusting of journalists as Americans would become of Benedict Arnold; but somehow, he saw me as different. I remember meeting him for the first time: the outside-the-box spectacles, the espresso machine, the pasta dish that was apparently ordered multiple times a week.

Michael proceeded to tell me about the history of Rite Rug; his dad, Duke, and conflicts that tore apart his family. Those who know the story know because Michael allows them to know. For the rest of the world, it’s not their business. But anyone this side of Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles could see it had torn him apart.

Over the years, Michael and I developed a friendship—a bond, if you will. He advised me on my most personal matters. He took an interest in my life to the point where he almost insisted I get divorced; practically implored that I stop dating women that he could see were disingenuous, even when my eyes were blinded.

Yes, Michael has his opinions and views. Many suppliers have said he is one of the toughest negotiators they have ever had to deal with. It’s Michael, Marv Berlin, Sandy Mishkin and Olga Robertson—the Mount Rushmore of negotiators. Some say his view on “fair” is having the supplier break even. But all agree Michael lives up to every commitment he ever makes. And every cent he saves on the buy is passed through to the sell. He wants to give his customers the best price possible.

When we asked suppliers for a few quotes on Michael, many wanted to pay tribute with an ad. That speaks volumes— so much so that FCNews decided to donate a portion of the revenue to the Special Operation Warrior Foundation, something Michael supports in a big way.

Michael has taught me success and happiness is impossible without good people. You can’t sit with him for five minutes without him raving about his team. The only thing he values more is his wife, Anita. She is his rock, the person to whom he attributes his success, his happiness. He will always take her call, no matter what. Why? “Because when you love someone, you must make them feel like the most important person in the world. Always.”

We all can learn something here.