Posted on

My take: The night that gave us cause to remember

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman


Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.46.11 PMOn Thursday night, April 21, two of our industry’s own, Jeff Lorberbaum and Howard Brodsky, were feted at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers’ inaugural Footsteps to the Future Gala for their companies’ contributions in building smart homes for America’s wounded veterans. It was a lavish event where many individuals from our industry came out to pay tribute to these two leaders and visionaries.

Of course, Mohawk and Carpet One executives turned out in droves. And there was the retired Ralph Boe fitting right in like he never left. There was Carl Bouckaert, making his first appearance anywhere in almost two years since a dirt bike accident almost claimed one of his legs. It’s been a long road back, but no one has the competitive spirit of Bouckaert, a former Olympian.

For those who might not know, Stephen Siller was a firefighter who on that infamous day was on his way to play golf with his brothers after finishing his shift when he got word over his scanner of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. Upon hearing the news, Siller drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he lost his life while saving others. He was one of 343 firefighters who perished that day.

The Siller family decided to keep Stephen’s memory alive by starting a foundation and an annual 5K race/walk tracing Stephen’s final steps on Sept. 11 through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Lower Manhattan. Last year’s event drew more than 25,000 entries. The foundation then launched Building for America’s Bravest, which builds the aforementioned smart homes. Mohawk supplies the flooring; Carpet One members facilitate the installation.

While Frank Siller was telling the story of his brother on that fateful day, I couldn’t help but reflect. It has been almost 16 years but it still seems like yesterday. If you’re from New York you probably have your own story. Where you were when the planes hit the towers. How you found out. Who you lost that day. Who you know who escaped death. And…how you have dealt with it for these last 15 and a half years. You wonder if there will ever be a time when you can watch the reading of the names and not ball like a baby when they ring that bell, signifying the two moments when the planes hit both towers.

Like Brodsky and Lorberbaum, others are making a difference. I remember meeting a woman who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of one of the towers. Pretty much the entire company was gone. But she had picked the right day to get married. Three days before Sept. 11. She was on her honeymoon. And was spared. I’ll never forget her. A year later she started a foundation called A Little Hope, whose mission is to help provide bereavement support services and grief counseling for children, teens and young adults who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling or a loved one. Read up on that at

My ex-wife’s cousin, who worked for the same company, was not as fortunate. You can read about her and the foundation that was started in her memory at It also makes a big difference for children.

You know, after 9-11, I never went back to the site. Too many memories. Even as a kid. I must have been 7 when my grandparents would take me to a very nice restaurant called The Downtown. Loved it. It was owned by their next-door neighbors. Then one day they told me we couldn’t go anymore. It was closing and being demolished…to build what would become known as the Twin Towers. So I cried when those buildings went up and cried when they came crashing down.

If I were ever to go back, the reason would have to be extraordinary. When I learned of an event that would be honoring Brodsky and Lorberbaum, I knew it was time. Two men who epitomize the art of making a difference. But I couldn’t help but keep looking out that window and drifting back in time.

It may be painful to remember, but it would be a travesty to forget.


Posted on

My take: Overcoming the top five manager training challenges

Feb. 17/24 2014, Volume 27/number 21

By Steven Feldman

Feldman,-SteveColorI recently received an email from a company called Management Source Consultants that I found particularly interesting. It has to do with the importance of manager training. It begins with the premise that 20% of managers will do well no matter what you do, 20% will fail no matter what you do, and the remaining 60% will do well if they receive the proper training. In other words, the highest performers will succeed and the lowest will fail. But for the rest—which is actually 75% when you factor out the failures—good training makes a huge difference.

The issue, according to Management Source, is the path to quality training is full of challenges. Here are five and some ideas on how to overcome them.

Challenge No. 1: Managers won’t participate.

Having a manager take part in training and having him or her participate are two separate things. If a manager doesn’t engage, if he or she only goes through the motions, that person will absorb very little and act on even less.

However, those aspiring to be better managers will engage in the topics they know they need. That’s the trick. The lure of the right topics will entice avid participation, much like people are drawn to the aroma of a good meal without ever having to actually see the food. Give managers what they truly desire training-wise, and they’ll stand in line for it.

Challenge No. 2: It doesn’t apply to the job.

People will participate most when they can put the training into practice right away. For instance, a manager might knock down your door to get helpful training on interviewing job applicants. But if that person doesn’t actually interview as part of the job, where’s the benefit? If there is no need to use the training, people quickly forget it.

Challenge No. 3: Training is boring.

Any subject can be made interesting, and any subject can be made boring. Manager training is no exception. The best training engages people through creative content and interactivity. Training in shorter doses also helps overcome boredom. Day-long training is almost always too long because very little is retained. Any topic can be broken into 15 to 20 minute segments and then immediately put into practice.

Challenge No. 4: No one has the time.

“I don’t have the time” is the workplace mantra of this millennium. But managers who want to grow and improve must find the time to do so. Sending your managers halfway across the country to a three-day training seminar somewhere is a huge investment of time. It’s reasonable to think managers can make time for a 20-minute, engaging, interactive course that applies directly to their job and is something they actually want to learn. That’s why so many organizations in recent years have turned to online training, where courses are available at the click of a mouse, whenever it is convenient for the learner, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Challenge No 5: Training is too expensive.

All the top business schools preach that reducing expenditures on manager development is short-sighted and counterproductive. But what good does it do you if you don’t have much money in your training budget? Manager training is an excellent way to improve business processes, business streamlining and the execution of business strategies. Training managers to be better “people” managers will boost employee morale, increase employee engagement and drive productivity. That’s been proven time and time again.

The best manager-training strategies include a mix of seminars, professional training programs and online training. All three are available at a wide variety of costs.

Posted on

My take: Who’s driving the industry and how?

Volume 26/Number 26; May 13/20, 2013

Last summer, when I proposed to my team the idea of running a feature in FCNews titled, “The 10 People Driving the Industry,” you wouldn’t have needed Lasik surgery to see Dustin Aaronson’s and Mike Blick’s eyes roll. It’s not that they didn’t like the idea. The fear was that the subjectivity of these features could sometimes ruffle feathers. After all, opinions are like… well, you get the picture.

So, how did those who got on the list (see page 10) make the cut, and why; when you read the feature, will you think we ostracized some individuals?

First, this is not a one-and-done. We’ll be running this feature annually as a way to recognize people who are taking this industry on an upward trajectory. We needed to save some for the future. Second, I think it’s hard to argue with any of our choices this year. In fact, it was so difficult to whittle the list down to 10 that we expanded it to 13 so we could cease banging our heads against the wall. Third, the names on our list were not derived from a late-night meeting amongst FCNews staff at our favorite watering hole. Rather, we not only discussed this internally ad nauseum, but we reached out to knowledgeable industry observers for their thoughts.

So let’s get into some specifics:

Joe Amato. There are a myriad of amazing visuals on the market, but Mannington has always had the reputation of being at the forefront of style. Design sells, and Amato designs. ‘Nuff said.

David Duncan. His picture is in Webster’s dictionary under the “marketing” entry. Ricko the Rhino. License to Spill. Attaching a piece of SmartStrand carpet to an issue of FCNews. He may have a bigger budget than most, but he knows how to maximize each dollar to build the brand. Solid marketing puts design in the spotlight, which motivates sales.

Tim Baucom. There’s a laundry list of Shaw innovations that has moved the industry forward under his auspices. EcoWorx carpet tile, 11 consecutive Best of NeoCon awards for design, LokDots adhesive, developing multiple markets overseas. Commercial sales have grown over 30% in the past three years. That’s the definition of driving an industry.

Christine Whittemore. Two words: social media. Kids are all over it; flooring retailers—for some, not so much. The statistics are staggering. Retailers must get in the game. Christine is determined to show them how. (See her profile exclusively at

Bob Peoples. If one of the industry’s biggest issues is keeping carpet out of landfills, then it only makes sense that the leader of the organization that has gone above and beyond to make this happen is on the list.

Pami Bhular. He works for Invista and, as such, is a Stainmaster advocate, but don’t be fooled. This man spends about 250 days on the road each year visiting retailers, making keynote speeches, advocating professionalism and showing people how to achieve it. Talk to flooring dealers who have had the fortune to hear Pami speak; they are better for it.

Bob Shaw. Who starts a carpet mill at the age of 80? Who starts a carpet mill in today’s world with a goal of doing business of $1 billion? Who starts a carpet mill that has become the darling for many retailers? Only one man may have been capable of this.

Michael Martin. In just two short years, he has enacted significant change. The Wood Floor Expo has been revitalized; certification has become more stringent and the trade show has returned to being a profit center. And there’s more.

Space doesn’t allow mention of the others on the list, but rest assured, they are no less deserving.

Posted on

I’m going to miss Mike Derderian

by Steve Feldman

I was checking into the Beaver Creek, Colo., Park Hyatt for the National Floorcovering Alliance’s (NFA) spring meeting. As I was pleading my case for a view of the slopes, I noticed Paul Engle, longtime vice president of sales and marketing for Royalty Carpet Mills, standing beside me.

“Paul, I was hoping I’d run into you,” I said as I learned I wouldn’t be getting my preferred room until the next day. “I need to talk to you. We’re in the final stages of deciding our Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2013, and Mike is one of the finalists. I need to talk to you about this.” Mike was Mike Derderian, founder and owner of Royalty. Continue reading I’m going to miss Mike Derderian

Posted on

Professor Bhullar’s day in school

by Steven Feldman

Pami Bhullar’s business card says he is Invista’s director of retail development, North America. Retail development is title-speak for training. And training is something Bhullar does arguably as well as anyone. He may spend more days on the road visiting floor covering retailers than anyone in this industry.

When his demanding schedule allows, Bhullar will speak at industry events where he can impart his wisdom on the masses. One such event was last month’s Abbey convention in Orlando, Fla., where I had the privilege to sit in on his keynote presentation. Continue reading Professor Bhullar’s day in school

Posted on

My take: 2013 forecasts from the experts

Volume 26/Number 22; March 18/25, 2013

We hear it wherever we have been over the last year: The market is coming back. But, the truth is it doesn’t matter what we hear. What matters is whether you are seeing and feeling it. Most retailers and manufacturers have reported everything from a strong fourth quarter to “the strongest December we have ever had” to five months of year-over-year growth.

For years we listened to projections that suggested business was certain to return to an upward trajectory. But 2013 feels different. The numbers support the recovery. So, against this backdrop, here are some forecasts that suggest good times are knocking on the door, if not already arrived.



Housing starts (single-/multi-family)

2013 Forecast: 940,000

Source: NAHB

You may think NAHB is the eternal optimist, but look at this: In late 2011, NAHB’s 2012 forecast called for 709,000 housing starts. It was actually 10% under the actual full-year figure of 780,000 as reported in January 2013 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The NAHB forecast for 2013 is a 21.5% increase to 940,000 starts. Single-family starts are expected to increase 22% to 535,000.

NAHB’s optimism is supported by its homegrown metric known as the Improving Markets Index. The association defines an “improving market” as one that shows growth for at least six months in all three of the following: single-family building permits, home prices, and employment. By NAHB’s tally, there were 12 markets that made the list when the measurement was introduced in September 2011. In January 2013, there were 242 markets.

Home prices

2013 forecast: 2% to 3% increase

Source: Freddie Mac

Nationwide, home prices are expected to rise 2% to 3% in 2013, according to Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac. The median sale price of new houses sold in December 2012 was $248,900, up from $245,600 in November, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The average sale price was $304,000, up from $289,900 in November.

But home price stats can be misleading. At the peak, a $300,000 house that lost 66% of its value fell to $100,000. The same house that gains 20% will sell for $120,000.

Factoring into those sales will be historically low mortgage rates that Nothaft said will stay below 4% through the end of the year for a 30-year, fixed rate loan.

Retail sales

2013 forecast: up 3.4%

Source: National Retail Federation

Not counting automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts 3.4% growth for store sales in 2013. But NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay isn’t celebrating. That’s because the pace of growth is expected to slow from last year’s 4.2% figure. Higher tax rates encroaching on disposable income is one of the primary culprits.

Remodeling activity

2013 forecast: double-digit growth

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies

The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University uses the phrase “accelerating double-digit growth” to describe remodeling in 2013. Sounding a note of cautious optimism is Kermit Baker, the director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center. “There are many external economic and political risks that could derail this remodeling recovery. However, the solid momentum behind home-building activity, existing-home sales, low financing costs and remodeling contractor sentiment all point to solid home improvement spending.”

Posted on

Feldman, Aaronson join FCNews ownership

Volume 26/number 18/January 21-28, 2013

Hicksville, N.Y.—Floor Covering News publisher Steven Feldman and associate publisher Dustin Aaronson have purchased an equity position in Roel Productions, parent company of Floor Covering News and Green Operations magazine. Feldman and Aaronson join Mike Blick, who will remain president and CEO, in the ownership of the company.

“Steve and Dustin have helped build this business over the past seven years by working hard and smart,” Blick said. “They deserve a chance to carry forward their visions in the years that follow my retirement.” Continue reading Feldman, Aaronson join FCNews ownership

Posted on

FCNews is looking for a few good men…and women

Last year, if you recall, FCNews and Hanley Wood launched the Best of Surfaces awards as a way to recognize some of the newer products to hit the market. (We define “newer” by making its Surfaces debut. That means the product is brand spanking new, or it was introduced sometime after the previous year’s Surfaces.)

The winners successfully marketed their victories throughout the year, helping to separate themselves from the masses. It proved the awards’ immediate value. Continue reading FCNews is looking for a few good men…and women

Posted on

Reflections on an industry icon

by Steven Feldman

I had a strange dream the other night. I was attending Chris Davis’ funeral and there I was, paying my last respects. I thought I saw a slight twitch. Then his eyes opened and he started talking. The next thing I knew, he was holding court like only Chris could do and life was good.

I was so elated, I immediately called FCNews president and CEO Mike Blick and in his prototypical calm and collective manner, he simply uttered the word, “Unbelievable.” I was running around telling anyone within earshot this great news. Continue reading Reflections on an industry icon