Posted on

My take: Distributors don’t have it easy, that’s for sure

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Steven Feldman


I have always admired floor covering wholesale distributors, and not because I count many of them as good friends. For the most part, they are regular guys; they like to eat, have a few beers and go to sporting events. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They work hard. They are accessible. And yet, their role in the supply chain is probably the most difficult of any channel partner.

For starters, some work on razor-thin margins, and those who don’t are doing only slightly better. Second, they are constantly getting hammered from both ends of the spectrum as middlemen. They have to meet the demands of two sets of customers—their suppliers and their retailer accounts. They require a keen and varied focus because both have different sets of needs to satisfy.

On top of tight margins, it seems distributors are always facing price pressures. In the current job market, the cost of labor has increased. Especially considering many truckers have left the industry over the past five years. As well, when the cost of fuel doubles in a relatively short period of time, who do you think feels it the most? Those who own the trucks, of course. Warehousing costs have increased. And then you have the issue of ELDs, where drivers are now monitored—actually their engines are—and cannot go beyond the limits of the law. If it is mandated that a driver can only drive 11 hours a day, he can no longer drive 14. That means deliveries can take longer. We won’t even get into the subject of the litany of price increases distributors receive from their suppliers, not all of which can be passed on in their entirety. What about rising healthcare costs? Old news.

I recently came across an article that outlined six challenges most often cited by wholesale distributors across an array of industries. They include:

  1. Increasing competition from manufacturers.Increasingly efficient logistics systems allow manufacturers to sell more goods directly to end users, thereby bypassing distributors. Plus, consolidation in many manufacturing sectors has produced large manufacturers with national distribution systems. In our industry, think Shaw and Mohawk.
  2. Retailers demanding faster delivery.As big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target expand their product offerings, they are tightening delivery deadlines and imposing stiffer penalties on distributors for late shipments. Wholesalers may also be fined for providing inaccurate product information. Many companies have invested in technology upgrades and additional employee training to meet the new standards.
  3. Dependence on fuel prices.Wholesaling is the business of transporting products, and fuel prices play an important role in a company’s overall profitability. The cost of diesel fuel can represent a significant portion of total wholesale operating costs. Many distributors pass this cost on to customers in the form of fuel surcharges, but some smaller companies might not have this leverage.
  4. Vulnerability to changing prices.Rapid changes in costs leave distributors vulnerable to changes in inventory values. Although distributors try to limit their cost exposure by pricing products according to a percentage mark-up on costs, competition may make it impossible to mark up expensive inventory when prices are falling.
  5. Worker safety concerns.There are significant hazards associated with the storage, handling and transportation of many products. Companies must therefore implement tight safety standards to avoid system failures and maintain preparedness for potential issues that may arise.
  6. Supplier and retailer consolidation.Wholesalers are losing buying power due to increasing consolidation among manufacturers. Regional distributors have become easy acquisition targets as they struggle to compete with national players. The top chains are increasing their market share and continuing to take advantage of manufacturer discounts for large purchases, giving them additional leverage with distributors that are unable to offer similar terms.

At the end of the day, it is quite the challenge that so many of our floor covering distributors have figured out how to overcome all of this. Kudos to them.

Posted on

My take: What all the money in the world won’t buy

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Steven Feldman


We all work hard for a living. Hard could mean long hours. Hard may mean physically grueling or mentally taxing. Hard could mean responsibility. You get the point.

Why do we do it? To achieve better lives for us and our families. For some, that could mean financial security. It could be the American Dream, giving your kids more than you had growing up. It could be materialistic: nice homes, maybe even a second home, a nice car, fancy clothes, lavish vacations. More money = a better life. Money can even buy you love, or at least companionship. The one thing money can’t buy? Health.

I met Steve Joss about 20 years ago at a Carpet One convention. Great guy. He owns The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md., although his son, Adam, is now running the show (probably with a bit of unsolicited input from his dad).

Steve and I became friends rather quickly. His roots are in New York, and he used to drag race on the JFK Expressway when he was young, a few miles from where I lived for 25 years. Queens boy. Taxi driver. Wholesale toy salesman. We both can appreciate a great meal, maybe too much.

I always admired Steve and his wife, Kathy, especially the closeness between them and their kids, Adam and Lauren. So close that when I asked Steve what he was doing one New Year’s Eve, he said he and Kathy were spending it with Adam and Lauren. What kids in their 20s with a bevy of friends would prefer to ring in the new year with their parents? I knew when I had children, I would want them to feel the same way about me.

Steve was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his 40s and became more physically challenged over time. But it never stopped him; I’ve encountered more girlfriends that complained about a chipped finger nail than Steve did about his MS. Whatever hardships he encountered just became his reality. He joined Carpet One, built a nice business and now has a magnificent showroom. He’s active with the Maryland Floor Covering Association, World Floor Covering Association and board of trusties for Howard College. Truth be told, he’s more involved than most people with no physical restrictions.

A few years ago a scan for something else revealed that Steve had kidney cancer; one kidney was removed. No big deal—you really only need one. Unless you’re Steve, and the remaining kidney starts to fail. He now has stage 5 chronic kidney disease. Kathy’s history with cancer eliminates her as a donor. At 68 he is on the wait list, but the list right now is seven years. The only way to get past the wait list is for someone to donate a kidney directly to the person needing one. There are well over 100,000 people in the U.S. like Steve waiting for a kidney transplant, 5,000 in Maryland alone. Many will die waiting. You can have all the money in the world, but it is illegal to buy an organ. Gofundme does not apply here.

So Steve has to go on dialysis three days a week, 52 weeks a year, but you really have no days off in this situation until such time as he is lucky enough to receive a kidney. There are many rules to follow, like no more than 32 ounces of fluid in a 24-hour period. I’ve swilled that much beer in 15 minutes. He gets cold while his blood is being cleaned—because there is no blood in the body.

Despite all that, Steve doesn’t complain. Everything is always great. He has everything. Except a kidney.

So what is my purpose for writing this column? No, I am not expecting anyone to pick up the phone and offer a kidney to Steve. That would take an unbelievably selfless individual. But if you ever have a loved one who finds himself or herself in this unfortunate situation, know that the University of Maryland kidney transplant center, one of the busiest in the country, has made the surgery easier than ever to donate. Surgery is done entirely through the navel. You are home in one to two days, back to work in a couple of weeks—all with the knowledge you saved someone’s life. And if you donate a kidney and ever need one, you move to the top of the list.

Next, we all must be thankful for what we have. It can always be a whole lot worse. Third, it’s OK to work hard to increase the bank account, but remember money doesn’t buy you health. And finally, even in the most adverse situations, try to stay positive. It’s probably been what has gotten Steve Joss this far.

Posted on

My take: It’s never too early to be thinking about Surfaces 2019

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Steven Feldman

For the past seven years, Floor Covering News has sponsored the flooring component of the comprehensive TISE (Surfaces) education program. Once again, we will be a co-sponsor in 2019, this time under the banner Converge. It is inarguably the strongest, most comprehensive package this industry has to offer. And the best part: It’s free if you register by a certain date.

Honestly, the education alone is worth a trip to Surfaces, and that’s even before the doors open for market hours. Which brings me to a thought I had the other day: Now is the time for retailers to start planning to be in Las Vegas the third week in January. Not attending is really not an option.

I know there are many people who not only know right now they will attend, but they already have made their plane and hotel room reservations. Then there are the people who have already decided they will not attend. They may belong to a retail group, some of which implore their members to stay home because they prefer they buy strictly from core vendors. Their stance is their private-label strategy more than offsets any advantages that can be gained by finding differentiated products at Surfaces from new suppliers.

People may also choose to bypass the industry’s most important trade show because they attend one or both of the major mills’ regional events. And for 2019, you have the big Shaw Flooring Network convention, which precedes Surfaces with a one-day overlap. Some dealers believe they can’t be away from their businesses for a couple of days three times in the month of January.

Another reason is cost. (But that’s why I’m here.) I don’t think every dealer realizes it is not necessarily cost prohibitive to attend Surfaces. For those who want to attend the show on a shoestring, here’s something to consider:

Take the first flight out from your city on Wednesday morning, Jan. 23. If you’re not on the East Coast, odds are you’ll land in Vegas before the show opens. (By the way, pack light and don’t check a bag; you don’t have time to wait.) Take the short taxi ride to Mandalay Bay. Spend a day at the show and intersperse some educational sessions. At day’s end, walk through the Shoppes at Mandalay Place and check yourself into the Luxor. You’ll get a room for about $100. Eat dinner, not necessarily at a five-star restaurant.

Attend educational sessions the next day. You have options in the morning before the show floor opens, around lunchtime and later in the day. Walk the show floor. Make sure you see exhibitors you never knew existed until you stumbled onto their spaces. Then grab a taxi to the airport and get out of Dodge.

In this scenario, you have attended two days of Surfaces and a number of seminars. At what cost? If you can fly Southwest, you’ll get to Vegas and back for anywhere between $140 and $350. The hotel will run you around $125 with tax. Two taxis, let’s say about $50. (It’s always more expensive coming rather than going.) A few meals? You can do that easily for under $125 in Vegas. Grand total: Anywhere from $450 to $650. Of course, this doesn’t include any activity at the tables, which could net you a profit for the trip if you’re lucky. It also doesn’t include alcohol, which for some can cost more than the hotel room.

And here’s the topper: A major retailer friend of mine once told me, “I make money by coming to Surfaces.” How? He takes advantage of the litany of show specials available to dealers for only three days. And trust me, he doesn’t attend the show on a shoestring.

It’s really a no brainer.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

My take: How a brand stands the test of time

August 20/27, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 5

By Steven Feldman

In this day and age, it seems like everyone has a startup idea. In fact, according to Fast Company, “It’s estimated that more than 500,000 new businesses are started every month in the U.S. alone—that’s more than 11 million people starting something on the side or quitting their day jobs to launch the next high-growth startup like Facebook.”

But for every landscape-altering giant such as Facebook, Instagram or Uber, 92% of startups fail within three years. Put another way, the vast majority of companies lack what it takes to scale beyond half a decade, let alone build an enterprise that spans multiple generations. And that’s what makes the world’s oldest companies—some of which have been conducting business for nearly five centuries—so impressive.

The world’s oldest brands can teach us a great deal about forging a successful business; after all, they must have a good idea of dos and don’ts after existing for hundreds of years. By looking at brands such as Heinz, Budweiser, Sotheby’s, Levi’s, Coca-Cola, Barclay’s, Jim Beam, Moët and more, it’s possible to find the keys to their success, including having integrity, staying focused and working as a team.

So, what are some of the secrets that lead a brand to stand the test of time? Here are a few:

1. Reputation is everything. For over 480 years, Cambridge University Press, the world’s oldest publishing house, has been known for publishing esteemed, scholarly works. None other than Henry VIII gave the press permission to print “all manner of books.”

2. Be the best. Coming from the oldest licensed distillery in the world, Bushmills has been winning critical acclaim and international awards since the 1889 Paris Expo.

3. Change with the times. Barclay’s has been brand of many firsts, including launching the first credit card in the U.K. and the world’s first cash machine.

4. Have traditional values and professionalism. Since its inception, Coutts has built an environment of learning and professional development, hoping to better not only itself, but also its employees individually.

5. Focus on quality. Twinnings’ quality is so high, Queen Victoria awarded it a Royal Warrant for its tea in 1837. The company even managed to withstand tea rationing during World War II.

6. Have a pioneering spirit. Moët & Chandon helped bring champagne into the mainstream limelight and make it the staple of celebrations it is today.

7. Don’t be afraid to expand. Sotheby’s, launched in 1744, is the first international auction house with salesrooms in London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong.

8. Have integrity. The Caswell-Massey brand has seen many well-respected buyers in the past 200 years, including presidents Washington, Eisenhower and JFK.

9. Stay focused. Jim Beam’s master distiller, Fred Noe, credits the company’s success to focusing on a goal.

10. Emphasize teamwork. Colgate believes in the power of a diverse workforce.

11. Create trust. Since its creation in 1812, Citibank has prided itself on earning the public’s trust and keeping their interests always top of mind.

12. Focus on the customer. AXA is dedicated to teaching its employees how to best serve their customers.

13. Be recognizable. Cadbury’s iconic purple wrapper and script typeface have been with the company since 1920 and 1921, respectively.

14. Become part of the community. Macy’s has secured its position as a vital member of the New York City community, sponsoring both the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Fourth of July fireworks.

15. Be available. Recognizing the desirability of its name, Hermes offers products at a range of lower prices making them attainable to a wider market.

16. Be unique. From its branding to its “secret” 23-flavor formula, Dr. Pepper is unlike any other soda on the market.

Posted on

My take: The tariff issue is a nightmare for us, too

August 6/13, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 4

By Steven Feldman

We at FCNews have a responsibility that we take very seriously. Simply put, we believe our job is twofold: First and foremost is to help make the floor covering retailer more profitable and professional through education and information that may have an impact on their business. Second is to be that seamless conduit of information from the supplier—our advertiser—to the distributor and retailer. Sometimes we have to tackle tough issues that affect your manufacturing partners, which, in turn, affect your business.

Every day we strive to be a publication that puts retailers first. And sometimes that forces us to sacrifice our own business relationships. When I came to this magazine 12-and-a-half years ago, I said we would never do anything to benefit our manufacturing partners/advertisers at the expense of our retailers. Integrity would forever be the FCNews hallmark.

It is almost always easy to follow this blueprint. But the most controversial issue in which this country is currently immersed—tariffs on Chinese-manufactured imports—is the exception to the rule. Vinyl flooring, according to the Wall Street Journal, at $1.78 billion, is the 13th highest valued import from China. This obviously makes flooring a target as President Trump seeks to generate tariff revenue on $505 billion in exports China sends to the U.S.

Some businesses have supported the tariffs, but others say tariffs would hurt their profits or lead to higher prices for customers. If you are a domestic manufacturer, tariffs are viewed favorably. If your business model is built around imported goods, the idea of tariffs is about as welcoming as that crazy uncle at your annual picnic.

This is one of those rare occasions where we are challenged with the words we publish. We take no side in this issue. We are sympathetic to both sides. Yet any article we publish will result in backlash—either from domestic manufacturers or those suppliers that bring in product from China. We could choose to ignore this issue entirely, but that would not be fair to you.

Within the flooring industry, Mohawk Industries, which manufactures most of what it sells, recently came out in support of tariffs, citing its significant investment in domestic manufacturing. The company cites a desire for a level playing field. “Tariffs happen to be a tool that countries all over the world employ to ensure good competition,” said Brian Carson, president, North America.

We posted that story on our website on Aug. 3. Three days later, we posted the other side of the story, citing why the vast majority of flooring industry executives are against the 10% tariffs on Chinese imports. They believe the likely price hikes will hurt the industry, lead to fewer and less innovative choices for the American consumer and, ultimately, result in American job losses.

Despite trying to report both sides, we stand to lose a substantial amount of income from some of our manufacturer partners. One company, which shall remain nameless, went so far as to sever ties with our magazine after the Mohawk side was posted online, citing “a tone of bias on key industry topics that are not aligned with our direction or beliefs.” The ironic thing? This company’s CEO was among the first people quoted in the counter article posted three days later.

I find it unfortunate that any company would take exception to a magazine reporting both standpoints of an issue impacting many industries in this country. But we always strive to report on all issues, no matter how controversial, if we believe it impacts you, the retailer.

Posted on

My take: FCIF seeks to generate additional contributions

July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Steven Feldman


The Floor Covering Industry Foundation—or FCIF, as it is often referred. I think many of us on the FCIF board take for granted the number of people who do not fully understand the scope and importance of this nonprofit organization. In a nutshell, when an unexpected catastrophic medical event impacts a family, the FCIF is there to help. And to put things in perspective, no industry in the U.S. has anything even close to the FCIF—aside from the charitable work done by the Screen Actors Guild to help those in that profession.

The floor covering industry has a long history of helping its own, in good times and in bad. In fact, over the past 10 years, the foundation has provided $3 million in grants to individuals in need. Hundreds have been assisted by the organization, including installers, retail salespeople, distributor personnel and manufacturing employees.

The grants range from a few hundred dollars all the way up to thousands of dollars based on the severity of the case and the financial need of the household. Grants cover expenses such as medical care, medications, medical supplies and other costs directly related to beneficiary care, as well as basic necessities such as food, shelter and utilities. They are awarded to those experiencing life-altering medical hardships, catastrophic illness or severe disabilities.

Last year, the foundation doubled its grant impact, helping more families that are fighting some of the hardest battles of their lives. This year, we as a board had set a revenue goal of $650,000, which is an increase of $150,000 over last year. To get there, the FCIF is looking for new companies to make a financial investment at the $1,000 level or above through the Fellow Man Campaign running through Oct. 31. Those companies can be retailers, distributors, manufacturers—or anyone for that matter.

Melissa Taylor is one recent example of how the FCIF steps up to the plate. After her diagnosis of breast cancer in 2017, Melissa quickly realized the financial burden of this disease. “You never think to budget for cancer,” she said. Her rare and rapidly growing cancer required frequent, aggressive treatments, so she had to take time off from work. A 23-year veteran of the floor covering industry, Melissa has worked the past 13 years in claims and customer communications at a manufacturing facility. By providing a grant to Melissa to help with her most pressing needs such as medical care, housing, utilities and food, she was able to land back on her feet.

After a year of rigorous treatments and doctor visits, Melissa is now in remission. She has returned to work and learned not to take life for granted. “This grant saved my home, lowered my stress level and gave me peace of mind. The Floor Covering Industry Foundation gave me the strength to push through this difficult time.”

The FCIF was founded in 1981 by prominent industry leaders such as Harry Saul, Walter Guinan, Bob Shaw, Al Wahnon and Larry Nagle. Nagle currently serves as vice chairman; Howard Brodsky, co-CEO of CCA Global Partners, is chairman.

Companies large and small are invited to make a pledge to the foundation at Donations can be a one-time gift or billed monthly. Those companies and individuals who make an annual commitment at $1,000 or more will be recognized in industry trade publications and trade show marketing in late 2018 and early 2019, including being listed as an FCIF donor in Floor Covering News. For questions, reach out to Andrea Blackbourn at 706.217.1183 or email

Posted on

My take: The numbers don’t lie

June 26-July 2, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 1

By Steven Feldman


After literally months of combing through industry statistics and making countless phone calls, the 2017 statistics are in. As you have already read, unless you habitually begin your read with this column, FCNews pegged floor covering industry sales for 2017 to be a shade under $22 billion as well as 19.736 billion square feet, resulting in gains of 3.85% and 3.2%, respectively. While we are quite confident in these projections, it is more than probable that other industry forecasts will be slightly different.

First, some reports contain sales of stone flooring. I have seen some reports that have estimated the stone category to be around $1 billion. Stone includes marble, granite, travertine, slate, etc., which have uses beyond flooring. To this point, I don’t know if anyone has pinpointed whether a square foot of stone is used on the floor or a countertop, indoors or outdoors, or even a statue. Until I am comfortable with something more than anecdotal, it is not included.

Another part of the floor covering world not included in this report is polished concrete. Can concrete actually be considered floor covering? Or is it flooring? Or does it matter? There are people who tell me the polished concrete business is bigger than anyone in our industry appreciable business in the category with
wants to admit. Is it even part of our industry? It requires a completely different skill set to sell and install, and I don’t know how many of our readers are actually involved in the category.

Now, when it comes to ceramic tile, you may see that number somewhat larger in other reports. That’s because other reports are likely to include wall tile. Today, so much of ceramic can be used interchangeably on the floor or wall. We have reached out to many knowledgeable industry insiders, and the feeling is floor tile represents about 75% of the total ceramic number, give or take. So that’s what we use.

Likewise, our rubber numbers include only tile and sheet flooring. Last year we made the decision to eliminate cove base, accessories, stair treads, etc. We revised our numbers back five years to reflect this change. So that $217.4 million encompasses what we are seeking to identify.

Arguably the most difficult category to nail down accurately is resilient. There is so much that constitutes the segment: residential and commercial sheet, LVT and now WPC. You also have VCT and the inexpensive peel-and-stick tile sold primarily at home centers.

But FCNews has taken a unique approach these past few years. I personally call every manufacturer that does any appreciable business in the category with the caveat that I promise confidentialityto the point where we will not even publish market-share information. We don’t request numbers down to the penny, but just enough insight on the respective categories. The manufacturers agree to share proprietary information: residential vs. commercial; LVT vs. sheet; felt vs. fiberglass; dryback, click and loose-lay; VCT; and, of course, WPC and rigid core. For this year, we kept WPC and rigid core together; next year we will separate the two segments.

Everyone is constantly guessing the size of each resilient segment. Now you have reliable numbers. Are they exact to the dollar? No. Are they as good as anything out there? For sure. And for the record, WPC/rigid was around $950 million last year with an average selling price of $1.95. (Since I am asked that question at least once a week by someone.)

The only variable is the import and “other” LVT number. This is the piece we estimate. There are a lot of companies doing between $2 million and $10 million in LVT; it would be impossible to talk to each and every one of them. But we are able to arrive at that number with a high degree of confidence.

Enjoy the accuracy of this report.

Posted on

My take: How to achieve a reasonable work/life balance

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Steven Feldman


Just got back from NeoCon. Somehow, I fit five days of business meetings/appointments into two-and-a-half days. Actually, I know how. No lunch, bathroom breaks only when I felt I was about to burst and meeting with people pretty much nonstop from 9 a.m. until well into the evening.

Unfortunately, this type of schedule is often the norm. There always seems to be more that needs to get accomplished than a normal business day will allow. So the result is abnormal business days. Long hours. Working on planes. In bed. On the couch. Not unlike many of you.

My friend and business partner, Dustin Aaronson, refers to me as a workaholic. He says it affects my nonexistent social life. And he says if I don’t change my habits, nothing will ever change; it’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. He is probably right; I have been unsuccessful at achieving a reasonable work/life balance. Not unlike many of you.

According to a study published by the American Sociological Review, 70% of American workers struggle with finding a work/life system that sustainable over the long term. For many in the workforce, achieving any type of work/life balance can seem like a myth, especially when technology has made us accessible around the clock. Time free from workplace obligations is becoming more elusive by the day.

Despite these realities, many people have managed to carve out satisfying and meaningful lives outside of work. An article in Fast Company outlined some of the tools they practice, some of which we should all learn to adopt:

  1. They make deliberate choices about what they want in life. Instead of just letting life happen, people who achieve work/life balance make choices about how they want to spend their time. They come up with a road map of what is important and commit to following the path.
  2. They regularly communicate about what’s working and what isn’t. Work/life balance going off the rails is usually a result of letting things slide as opposed to any kind of intentional choice. People who are good at staying on track make a conscious choice to continually talk to the important people in their lives about what is working or not and make decisions to change direction if needed.
  3. They set aside time for family, friends and important interests. Successful people don’t just wait to see what time is left over after work. They make a point of planning and booking time off to spend outside of work and powerfully guard this time. While situations come up on occasion, they strongly resist any intrusion on this time.
  4. They set their own parameters around success. People who manage work/life balance have developed a strong sense of who they are, their values and what is important to them. They know what makes them happy and strive to get more of that in their lives.
  5. They turn off distractions. People who maintain balance are able to silence their cell phones in order to enjoy quality, uninterrupted time doing what they enjoy. They realize that multitasking is a myth and focus on the task at hand.
  6. They have goals aligned with pursuing their passion. Many people get caught up in situations that end up controlling them. Those who achieve balance have a defined plan around time frames and make sacrifices to get what they want in the end. For example, many people typically spend a substantial amount of time in the early part of their businesses. That is a sacrifice that will allow them to spend extra time and energy in other areas once the business is established.
  7. They have developed a strong support network. People who have achieved good balance have a strong support network they can depend upon to help them get through difficult times. They are givers who typically extend themselves to help out in their family circles and communities.

Food for thought.

Posted on

My take: Award of Excellence—Behind the winners

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Steven Feldman


Now that the 22nd Annual Award of Excellence winners have been announced, we can dig a little deeper and try to provide a little commentary on the results. In what seems to be the case each year, there were some surprises interspersed between the usual suspects as you will find on page 22. But with the voting surpassing 2,200 ballots this year, we are confident the winners are well deserving of the honors bestowed upon them by the retail and distribution communities.

Just for the record, every vote is vetted. Any ballot that is submitted from manufacturer personnel is deleted. As well, we often find the same retailer voting multiple times. Only his or her first vote is counted; the rest are eliminated.

While FCNews publishes only the winners in each category, it is interesting to look behind the numbers and analyze the vote counts. The most interesting aspect of the voting came in the Resilient – Commercial category, where Johnsonite had won the past two years in a landslide. This year, however, Mannington Commercial turned the tables in very convincing fashion. Given how almost all the votes come from flooring retailers, I surmise they were endorsing Mannington’s Main Street offerings.

The Hardwood B category, won by Anderson Tuftex this year, is traditionally one of the most contentious. Finishing close behind the newly combined brand were Somerset, Mullican, USFloors and Mirage. Those five companies commanded 58% of the vote. Eleven companies in this category scored at least 50 votes.

Speaking of contentious categories, the new Hardwood C group fit the bill. This was the first year we separated some of the smaller suppliers into their own class, 17 to be exact. So we really had no idea what would happen. When the dust cleared, it was HomerWood pulling away by a comfortable margin in a category that saw seven of those 17 companies garner at least 100 votes. Those who performed admirably here were Cali Bamboo, Triangulo, Monarch and Urbanfloor.

I was also interested to see what would happen in the LVT B category once we jettisoned USFloors to the new WPC/Rigid Core classification. Close race between Karndean Designflooring, EarthWerks and Metroflor, which together earned nearly two-thirds of the vote.

One of my favorite categories is Laminate B. Why? Because there are eight companies competing there, and each garnered at least 5% of the vote. No company received fewer than 100 votes and four had at least 250, or 11%.

So, when I was a statistics major in college before switching to economics, I learned the more times you flip a coin, the better the odds of a 50/50 split between heads and tails. But that’s not the case when it comes to voting. The more votes you have, the more one candidate will assert itself. But not when it comes to the Award of Excellence. In the Cushion A category, it was a two-horse race between Carpenter and Leggett. And it was akin to Affirmed-Alydar in the 1978 Belmont Stakes. Over 2,200 votes, and just 14 separated the pair.

As for tile, the last time Dal-Tile lost the A category, Bill Clinton was in office. And kudos to Emser for winning the B category for the second year in a row after increasing its share of the voting from 9.8% to 13.7% to 15.8% to 16.2% these last four years. This is another company growing by leaps and bounds.

One last observation, and I said this last year as well: We have noticed a huge disparity in the voting between ballots cast online and those captured in person at Surfaces. While 95% of the voting is done online, those companies that do not exhibit at Surfaces garner a much lower percentage of the votes in the paper balloting done at the show. I’m sure Informa Exhibitions, our co-sponsor in the competition, will be happy to hear that.