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Distributors' perspective: Turning threats into opportunities

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Torrey Jaeckle

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.00.53 AMA recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the tenuous plight of American retailers this year. Major retailers are closing stores at a record pace, as announced store closings this year are double what they were over the same period in 2016. It is estimated that retailers will close almost 9,000 locations this year, surpassing the number of closings during the 2008 recession.

The flooring industry is not immune to the shakeout. According to the most recent Census Bureau data, the period of 2007 to 2014 saw a 26% drop in the number of flooring retail establishments across the nation, resulting in a 34% decrease in employment at those businesses.

While the cause of all this turmoil is multifaceted, two factors are oft mentioned as the culprits: Overbuilding and the rise of online shopping. Overbuilding of retail storefronts has made the retail landscape intensely competitive, leading to a surge of downward pricing pressure. Likewise, online shopping has had its own effect on pricing, due to the ease with which it facilitates price shopping.

The article goes on to state, “Many retailers were slow to seize on the significance of these changes.” And therein lies the problem for retailers in the industry. What can we learn from this? Furthermore, how can we use it to not only avoid a similar fate, but also ensure ongoing profitable growth instead?

First, stay on your toes. The changes happening now in our industry are tremendous. It is critical industry participants, including flooring retailers, stay on top of these changes and develop solid plans for their businesses. The good news: If you’re reading this article you’re already ahead of the curve. Keeping up with the flooring trade journals is one method of staying tuned to what’s going on. Relationship building along with active participation in groups such as NAFCD are also critical. Reach out to your local distributor. As the “middleman” in the industry, we are the only entities with long-term relationships with both retailers and manufacturers.

Second, avoid overbuilding. LVT may be the hottest product right now, but that doesn’t mean you should convert half your showroom to LVT displays. Don’t overreact to any one product or market development. Make the necessary changes in your business, but be flexible so you are quick to react to changes in the industry. Things are moving at a faster pace than ever before, and you don’t want to be caught flat-footed with a showroom that reflects what was popular last year.

Third, take the right approach to online shopping. While there will always be a certain amount of flooring sold over the Internet, I’ve always felt the threat to our industry is much lower than the risk to most other consumer sectors.

However, it’s important to realize more consumers are educating themselves via the Internet, and they are qualifying retailers based on their website experience before choosing which ones to visit. If you want to win at the brick-and-mortar game, it is imperative you crush the online arena first.

Finally, there are a lot of retail sales associates looking for work. Find the best, recruit them and invest in training them on your products and services. It’s much easier to train a quality salesperson on product knowledge than it is to teach selling skills.

 

Torrey Jaeckle is vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, a Madison, Wis.- based wholesaler specializing in flooring and countertop surfacing products. In his current capacity, Jaeckle oversees pricing and ecommerce initiatives, and he also manages the data portions and business reporting aspects of the company’s ERP system.

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Distributor's perspective: Online marketing in flooring distribution

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4

By Steve McKenna

 

In this modern technology age, no one can dispute the importance of developing and maintaining a viable online marketing strategy. Problem is, many of us are not utilizing our websites to their full potential. As I look around the industry, I’m noticing our websites are vastly different from our day-to-day customer interactions.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.39.53 AMIn the flooring distribution world, many distributors choose a strategy that attempts to set themselves apart by being experts in their industry and providing a higher level of service than our clients can receive elsewhere. As distributors, we pride ourselves on being problem solvers for our clients. We offer them a level of expertise they cannot obtain from our competitors.

So why do most of our websites look like, at best, a product marketing flyer? Most of the time we barely communicate who we are, what we really do and how we do it on any level.

Here is the difference between how we market online and how we market in person: In face-to-face interactions, we have a conversation with a client we probably already know. We analyze the situations they are working on. We have an active dialogue together about potential solutions, and we strive to offer solutions that will fulfill their needs, including budgets, time frames and expected performance. We don’t have to tell the clients we are experts; they already know because we have taught them something they needed to know.

Online, however, we might tell someone about everything we sell using a list. We may even have some links to the manufacturer sites, which give the clients the information they are looking for. The more advanced distributors likely have product videos and maybe even a bit of history about where some of our products have been used in the past. Some of us also use online portals that tell customers packaging information, pricing and availability of inventory. But this only serves to easily fill the order. It does not utilize any of the expertise we exercise every day in person.

If we are using our websites to let our customers know we have a pulse and they can place an order with us, then we have missed the point of the Internet. People generally aren’t going online to see who you are and where you’re located. They may do this once, but more commonly they are looking for information. The web is a great learning tool, and if we don’t take the opportunity to educate our customers then someone else will.

The most powerful service we can provide our clients is information that is easy to access, relevant to our specific needs and entertaining so they stay engaged. If we sell hardwood, for example, we know our customers may have several specific questions related to that particular product segment. (For instance: What is the best hardwood to use for my studio apartment? Should I buy oak or maple for this project?)

Odds are your sales and customer service staff are already answering these questions. Imagine if you could provide your clients and staff with a tool that answered all of these questions quickly and efficiently.

 

Steve McKenna is president of McKenna Distribution, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has experience across various positions, including shipping and receiving, inbound and outbound sales, purchasing and management. 

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Distributors' perspective: Life lessons learned from ‘Moneyball’

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Dunn Rasbury

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.14.27 PMA few years back, I read a book by Michael Lewis called “Moneyball.” The story is about the Oakland Athletics Baseball team. In 2002, the team’s general manager, a guy named Billy Beane, was faced with a huge challenge: field a competitive team using a little more than half of the average MLB team payroll. This disparity forced him to look at the “value” of a player differently.

The moral of the story is that by using specific statistical metrics instead of traditional baseball evaluation techniques, he was able to create a team that won 20 games in a row, went to the playoffs and in many ways revolutionized the game of baseball.

The idea of using non-traditional criteria to judge talent intrigued me. It seemed to me that the “old, tried-and-true” method of judging sales potential was “knowing” the customers, the products and the industry. It struck me that those attributes can be learned. What can’t be learned is a high energy level, work ethic and competitiveness. Certainly, it would be ideal to have all of the above but we all know those candidates are few and far between. Maybe hiring on intangibles and then committing to a robust training protocol is a better recipe for long-term sales success? Of course, this would require a greater commitment to sales training than is traditional in our industry. However, if we could get the personality criteria and the training paradigm to align, we could realize a much greater ROI on our sales force investment.

Using specific analytical metrics is a relatively new concept in our flooring world. In the future, analytical data will be the foundation that all sales functions rest. High-performing sales teams are already to one degree or another making themselves more efficient because of the data they gather and use. Think of the efficiencies to be attained if we had empirical data that told our individual sales team members where and with what products they were most likely to have success. Just as valuable would be data on product categories by region or demographic. Aside from sales, think of the money saved in inventory efficiencies by the use of advanced analytics. The new generations that are just beginning to impact the compositions of our sales teams are going to force companies to use such techniques. Millennials, Gen-Xs and Gen-Yers grew up in a world where virtually anything you wanted to know was literally at their fingertips.

There is also an opportunity to leverage technology through things like e-commerce websites and logistics automation that would allow distributors to enhance the “customer buying experience” while still keeping costs in line. Our customers’ expectations of how they purchase product in business is influenced by their customer experience when they buy online. Think of how much more inclined our customers would be to buy from distribution if we could give them an “Amazon-like” service model.

Like most things in life, sales and—to larger extent—running a company, has gotten simultaneously easier and more complicated. It’s the companies that can hold true to their core values yet still leverage the power of innovative, non-traditional thinking and ideas that will win the day.

 

Dunn Rasbury is distributor director, NAFCD, and director of flooring for A&M Supply, Atlanta. He is also a strategic planner, product line developer and sales team builder.

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Distributors' perspective: Turning challenges into opportunities

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By David Powell

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-4-07-44-pmThe Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

To run a successful flooring business—whether it is in retail, installation, distribution or manufacturing—inevitably we will face challenges from the market, government regulations, competitors, the list goes on. Even in the best of times, there will be problems. I propose that every challenge is an opportunity, every negative event is a chance to improve our business acumen; I believe this is a value proposition that can be beneficial for every business leader, manager and employee. Nothing is good or bad per se, it’s just a challenge to overcome. The opportunity to overcome those challenges improves us and makes us better prepared for the unexpected.

The Great Recession is over, but how are you preparing for the next one? How are you preparing to meet with the next “Uber” of the floor covering industry that will disrupt our business models and force change upon us?

What challenges are we faced with that we could benefit from a consultative approach from our business channel partners? If you’re a retailer, have you spoken with your local distributor about how best to overcome staffing issues or qualified labor shortages? If you’re a distributor, have you spoken with your suppliers about ways to improve inventory turns, volume and related issues?

Have you looked at challenges from all perspectives or angles, perhaps one you haven’t thought of before? Sometimes it takes someone looking from outside of our preconceived notions to help us see the solution that was evading us.

Bruce Lee, the famous martial artist and movie star, said, “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

With the current labor shortage in the construction industry in general, and in floor covering specifically, if you are having trouble sourcing qualified installers or sales staff, have you looked at other alternatives such as the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) or other trade associations for training programs for your sales staff and installers? What about potential leads on new ones? The NWFA recently launched their new online university so the employee doesn’t even have to travel anywhere to take a course. WFCA has online training tools available as well as regional training seminars for retail sales staff.

Associations like the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) and WFCA exist to help members prepare for future challenges and deal with current ones with market data reports, benchmarking, training, trend analysis and speakers who are experts in their respective fields to address current and future trends. The time is now to overcome the challenges in your path to growing your business and being more successful. The time is now to prepare and plan for the future. Organizations like NAFCD and WFCA can help you with those plans, whether you’re a retailer, distributor or manufacturer.

 

David Powell is the marketing director & IT director for Erickson’s Flooring & Supply, Co., in Ferndale, Mich. He also serves as vice president of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors.

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Distributors’ perspective: Helping retailers embrace technology

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10
By Torrey Jaeckle

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-03-14-pmOne look at the displays in any retail flooring store these days and it’s easy to see that our industry is rife with innovation. The explosion of product innovation we’ve seen over the past decade is astounding, and something to be proud of. Unfortunately, when it comes to implementing technology on the operational sides of our businesses, our industry is often behind the curve.

The fcB2B standard has been in existence for over 10 years now, but is still a widely underutilized technology throughout our supply chain. Many organizations, including some NAFCD distributor members, have invested significantly in the ability to bring operational efficiencies to their customers. Yet so few retail customers take advantage of leveraging this investment. Why is that?

To be sure, many retailers are currently taking in fcB2B product catalogs from their distributor and manufacturer partners. But there is a hesitancy to taking the next step toward submitting purchase orders and receiving invoices and other documents in the fcB2B world. It is unclear why that is. Fear, trust and lack of resources could all be possibilities. Whatever the reason, I can assure retailers that their NAFCD distributor partners are ready, willing and able to help walk them through those next steps.

The specialty retail floor covering dealer has so much more to offer the consumer than the generic big-box stores. But the big boxes continue to make strides against the specialty dealer. If the specialty retail floor covering dealer is to compete effectively against these larger companies, they need to not only offer higher levels of service and assistance, but also exhibit operational efficiency as well. Consumers understand that you get what you pay for. They will, therefore, pay for higher levels of service, design help, quality products and professional installation. However, they will not pay for non-value-added activities. Are you still paying someone to call or fax in your purchase orders? Do you still have someone manually enter every invoice you receive? Do you still maintain your own product database of the many products you sell? If so, linking up electronically with your NAFCD distributor partners could bring great benefits.

So what can we all do to help move our industry forward? For retailers currently not engaged in fcB2B, contact your fcB2B-enabled suppliers to get started. If you are a retailer currently taking in fcB2B product catalogs but nothing else, contact your suppliers to start the process.

For fcB2B-enabled distributors and manufacturers, begin supplying data to the fcB2B association on a monthly basis. fcB2B is currently collecting data as to the extent of fcB2B usage in our industry. The only way to propel our industry forward is to collectively measure our progress. That is only possible if fcB2B suppliers anonymously share their data.

We’ve come a long way as an industry over the past 10 years, but there is still so much more we can do. In today’s environment, using technology to increase operational efficiency is not a luxury–it’s a must. I can assure every flooring retailer that their NAFCD distributor partners are here to help, wherever they are on the fcB2B continuum. We’ve already made the investments, and we invite retailers to reap the rewards.

 

Torrey Jaeckle is vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, a Madison, Wis.-based distributors of flooring and countertop surfacing products. He also serves on the executive committee of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors. Outside of business, Torrey has written several op-ed pieces for the Wisconsin State Journal on educational issues.

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Distributors' perspective: Enticing the next generation

October 26/November 2; Volume 30/Number 10

By Heidi Cronin Mandell

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 4.44.48 PMHow do you motivate the next generation of workers to get involved in the flooring industry? Most people don’t dream of becoming a floor covering installer and these days taking pride in the craftsmanship seems to be gone. Although installation isn’t looked upon as a glamorous job, it still requires talent, a sharp mind and constant learning, problem solving, customer service and interpersonal skills. No installation is the same as the one before.

Some products are marketed as DIY, but a majority of floor coverings still require a skilled professional. Installers are the key to our trade.

Labor shortages are apparent today due to the strength of the economy and greater activity in the housing and construction markets. Forecasts show the construction industry needs to add more than one million jobs over the next 10 years. With 80 million young people out there, how can we level the playing field? How can we bring them into the flooring industry and keep them?

Six years ago the industry was faced with a downturn. Qualified laborers had to learn new skills or enter different trades to survive. Those who left our trade have not returned. Those who stayed are older and are starting to think about retirement. We simply have fewer incoming workers to replace those exiting ones.

In addition, construction and manual labor jobs are often viewed as undesirable due in part to the economic downturn. Ask anyone who graduated high school in 2008, 2009 or 2010, and he or she will tell you that teachers and parents discouraged students from going into the construction trades. At the time it was tough to argue with that piece of advice but we are currently in a situation where we have a shortage of workers for these “undesirable” jobs. In reality, most of these jobs are very satisfying—both intellectually and financially. The key to fighting this common misperception is to communicate the benefits to interested workers during recruiting efforts. Here are five things to keep in mind when you are recruiting the next generation of trade workers:

  1. Young people typically thrive on regular communication and enjoy collaborative efforts. Mentoring programs will encourage them to stay on board with your company.
  2. What matters to millennials differs from what is important to older generations. Younger generations grew up with and constantly use technology. They have never been without it. Appeal to their interest in the newest technologies by embracing them in your business.
  3. Company culture is important. Younger people seek jobs that come with perks and laid-backs atmospheres, which are common among high-tech firms. To appeal to this group we need to create appealing company cultures.
  4. Develop new recruitment strategies. Long-term employment forecasts are positive, so industries will be competing to fill entry-level positions. There will need to be a shift in how we go about recruiting the next generation.
  5. The construction industry needs to target the right group of young people for field positions, primarily those who just graduated high school. An older group attending a two-year community college program is an up-and-coming target group as well; this group has tried a career path or two and is ready to settle down.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates today’s learner will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38. This statistic won’t instill confidence in your recruitment efforts, but if our industry can think outside the box and mentor younger minds, they will see what we have to offer and we can combat this trend.

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Distributors' Perspective: Time to prioritize counter sales

Aug. 17/24; Volume 30/Number 5

By Bryan White

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.02.51 PMFlooring accessory and supply distributors are ideally qualified to help customers maximize productivity and efficiency while minimizing downtime and costs. They serve as a one-stop resource, represent a broad range of product lines from multiple manufacturers, provide value-added services and technical expertise, and recommend solutions to meet specific needs.

While there are many moving parts to a successful distributor, one of the most overlooked job functions is counter sales. Customers rely on counter sales personnel for information, suggestions about products, substitution products, application help and expertise, new product information, new services and promotional opportunities for cost savings.

These services have become increasingly important because customers now expect and demand competent counter salespeople. Companies have to commit to the fulfillment of this service demand. Those that can do so will have a significant advantage over the competition.

It sounds simple, so why doesn’t every distributor make this a priority? Most counter sales personnel are busy handling customer walk-ins and inbound calls while trying to build relationships with their customers. But we also want them to help with various warehouse responsibilities, work with outside sales on numerous issues, and of course upsell.

This requires specific skills that are dependent upon product knowledge, communication, effective listening and sales training. Even the best counter sales reps will struggle when the inbound burden becomes too great and they do not have the time to dedicate to the customer, exploring options and identifying her needs and interests. They’re forced into a situation where they barely have enough time to keep up with the inbound traffic.

The lack of understanding of the primary function of counter sales can be problematic. Counter sales are the life-blood of any successful accessory and supply distributorship and is the first step to increasing sales, growing market share and increasing profitability. So, to be effective, companies need to invest.

First, counter sales personnel need to be compensated in accordance with their contribution to the organization—performance metrics and the ability to measure productivity are a must. You must then have an adequate amount of staff to handle all inbound traffic. Once this is in place, investment in training for your best counter sales reps, and segmenting roles and responsibilities are key (staff responsible for inbound traffic, inside sales and trained counter personnel). In order to effectively move the needle, counter sales personnel need to be trained in the following:

  • Upselling techniques
  • Suggestive selling techniques
  • Outcall training
  • Product training
  • Communication and questioning skills
  • Needs-satisfaction selling (including features and benefits training, value propositioning and value-added selling, promotional selling, new product and new source introductory selling, and service and warranty selling)

If done properly, the results may surprise you. Counter sales could begin to generate opportunistic sales, growth and increased market share. But keep in mind that this success is dependent upon management’s willingness to allocate the resources and provide support for this type of proactive selling.

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Distributors' Perspective: Technology and trends to look for in 2015

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

By Bryan White

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 5.21.51 PMThere are a number of technologies you are probably already utilizing such as automated warehouse systems that reduce inventory requirements; enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that allow distributors to monitor their overall businesses more closely; PRM software or partner portals, which improve communications between suppliers and distributors, and social media, which helps retailers improve their relationships with customers.

In addition to these helpful tools, there are many new and evolving technologies that have become increasingly relevant to distributors today. But, with things changing at such a rapid pace, it can be daunting to prioritize and stay current. Which technologies and trends should you be keeping an eye on?

Enterprise Suite vs. ERP

The basic difference between a traditional ERP system and an Enterprise Suite (cloud-based ERP) is clear: Traditional ERP solutions are installed locally on your company’s hardware and servers and then managed by your IT staff, while cloud ERP (also called SaaS, or Software-as-a-Service) is provided as a service. With this type of system, a company’s ERP software and its associated data are centrally managed by the ERP vendor and accessed through a web browser.

The trend toward cloud-based ERPs is increasing. Initial costs of this type of system are typically lower because you access it through an Internet connection. The cloud ERP provider hosts and maintains all the IT infrastructure and ensures the system is always running, the data is secure and product enhancements are rolled out without breaking your previously implemented customizations. Ultimately, this all allows your IT resources to focus on innovating and helping grow the business more effectively rather than spending time on maintaining and managing your traditional ERP system.

Mobility

Mobility enables a workforce to have instant access to information through mobile applications anytime, anywhere. People are fundamentally changing the way they work and in order to remain competitive, organizations are making enterprise applications accessible through mobile devices.

One example of this may be a company that requires a large degree of off-site marketing and sales. It may need laptops for sales teams in order to make sure they have the information they need, when they need it. Mobility offers the alternative solution of having all of the information and functionality that a CRM application can provide without the costly expense of purchasing more equipment.

Systems of engagement

Social media has reshaped the way organizations primarily communicate. With the current generation of Instagram, Facebook, tweeting and texting, businesses have had to adjust to new communication channels and techniques. Therefore, business technology platforms must be able to quickly integrate and manage multiple kinds of devices. We are moving from a dependency on systems of record to systems of engagement, which are more decentralized and incorporate technologies that encourage peer interactions.

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Distributor's perspective: Reflecting and looking ahead

January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By Craig Folven

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.07.18 PMAs 2014 came to a close, so did my time as president of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD). 2015 looks to be another great year for not only NAFCD, but our industry as a whole. Most companies will agree the floor covering market slowed in 2014 after experiencing incredibly strong growth in 2013. We still saw growth, but new home construction levels seemed to level off near the end of the year, and commercial market sales continued to be adversely affected by the decline in public construction activity. Despite the slowdown, suppliers appeared to have found the confidence to significantly increase capital spending to offer new products, improve efficiency and provide a more reliable supply chain by in-sourcing production.

This confidence makes it seem as though our industry is entering 2015 with more momentum than we entered 2014. The flooring market appears to continually gain strength, due in large part to the upswing in remodeling markets as well as in the commercial and office segments.

A recent webinar featuring David Crowe, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), discussed the factors that impact growth in the U.S. single-family housing market. He stated that most economists are calling for 26% growth to 802,000 units in 2015 and on up to 1.1 million units in 2016. This is good news for tthe flooring industry.

How do these projections affect our industry specifically? A recent study by The Freedonia Group shows U.S. demand for hard surface flooring rising 5% per year, increasing to 9.3 billion square feet in 2017. The Hard Surface Flooring study shows laminate flooring growing 3.7% annually to 1.11 billion square feet, and wood flooring growing at an annual pace of 4.7%, reaching 1.07 billion square feet.

Given the multiple forecasts of general economic expansion through 2017, NAFCD’s latest Economic Trend Report suggests you should seriously consider the following:

  • Assess if your on-boarding and training programs are adequate to handle the additional labor you may need.
  • Determine if you can increase your use of technology to lessen your dependence on human labor.
  • Do you have enough working capital or capital sources? Growth burns through cash.
  • Ask yourself if you have the systems and equipment to handle additional orders/business. Are you going to be losing market share to someone who can handle more business?
  • Decide if you can maintain quality at higher volumes of output. This is not easy to accomplish, especially when capacity constraints crop up.
  • Raise prices! Capacity-constrained businesses and industries should be regularly raising prices.

Think and act upon the above items as they relate to your business to enable you to get the most return on your investment. Remember that the NAFCD Quarterly Economic Trend Report is just one of the many resources NAFCD uses to educate its members on the emerging trends that impact their businesses.

For those attending Surfaces, be sure to visit NAFCD at booth number S6101 during exhibit hall hours to learn more about what NAFCD has planned for 2015. NAFCD will also be hosting a Distributor Lounge adjacent to the NAFCD booth where member and non-member distributor attendees can hold meetings, catch up on work and talk with other NAFCD members and staff.

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Distributors’ perspective: Driving productivity and profitability

October 27/November 3, 2014; Volume 28/Number 10

By Kevin Gammonley

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 2.46.39 PMGrowing your business requires a number of important efforts, not the least of which is educating your people and building a quality network. Education is key to staying ahead of industry trends, and networking is about making connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships. Ask any senior executive, politician, community leader or successful salesperson who has excelled in his or her career what the keys to success have been. An overwhelming majority will say that to succeed, you must continually educate yourself and your team, and leverage your network.

Facilitating business connections amongst distributors and manufacturers is the most apparent role of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) due to our valued events throughout the year. In addition, a core driver that initially attracts distributors to the association is a desire to learn from other distributors and be exposed to leading-edge training on how to drive productivity and profitability within their distributorship. There are many options for distributors to simply listen to professional speakers, but within NAFCD events they are exposed to trainers, consultants and educators who specialize in wholesale distribution and/or the flooring and building product industries. The opportunity to learn from these individuals as well as from peers, competitors and trading partners is invaluable.

NAFCD is continually monitoring trends that are growing in importance to wholesale distributors as well as talking with other associations both in our industry and across other distribution channels to see what is emerging and what is impacting their members—either negatively or positively. We are also always seeking ideas about new and different topics, presenters and training mediums. Our ultimate goal is to continually refresh our menu of member services and programs with new education and information offerings.

Last year, we introduced the NAFCD Quarterly Sales Trend Survey to give our members insight into how their companies and the marketplace are performing compared to their competitors and fellow distributors in other markets. This year, the report was expanded to include the insights and forecasts of the manufacturer community. These quarterly reports continue to increase in participation while fast becoming a valued data resource.

The 2014 NAFCD annual convention is just weeks away in Dallas, Nov. 18-20. This event is the largest concentration of floor covering distributors and features many opportunities for distributors to learn from each other while being exposed to top-notch speakers covering both distribution management and general business topics. Scheduled on the front end of the convention is the NAFCD Distribution Management University program designed as an exclusive one-day training session for general, sales and branch managers from within floor covering distributorships.

NAFCD represents the premier distributors in the industry. These firms have continued to grow and prosper due to their commitment to educate their people, learn from their peers and enhance their communication to their suppliers. If you are a distributor interested in learning more about how to take advantage of these opportunities, join us in Dallas.