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Nebraska Iowa Floor Covering Association disbands, donates funds to FCIF

Dalton, Ga.—The Nebraska Iowa Floor Covering Association (NIFCA) board, a local affiliate of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), voted to disband its organization after 22 years of operation.

“NIFCA was established in 1995,” said Chris Nordin, president of NIFCA. “To have a local association for that long would not have been possible without the support of our members and from the World Floor Covering Association. I would also like to thank all the past and present board members which have worked tirelessly to make this organization a success.”

The NIFCA board voted to donate the remaining funds, $25,135, to the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF), a nonprofit organization that assists families in the industry who are suffering from catastrophic illness or severe disability.

Nordin was proud that the funds were able to honor two individuals who left their mark on the industry.

“The gift could not have come at a better time,” said Andrea Blackbourn, executive director of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation, who was excited that the foundation was chosen as the recipient of the funds. “We set an ambitious goal of $650,000 in revenue this year, which is up $150,000 over last year. The gift from the Nebraska Iowa Floor Covering Association makes a nice dent in our goal.”

One of the FCIF grant recipients who volunteered to share her story is Melissa Taylor. 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.

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. “My grandkids, God and the Floor Covering Industry Foundation gave me the strength to push through this difficult time.”

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Ten people making a difference

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

One measure of success in business or in life is being able to make a positive impression on the lives of others. Whether that is achieved through strong leadership, perseverance, compassion, humility or some other personality trait, this year’s Ten People Making a Difference list has impacted the flooring world in many different ways—and in some cases well beyond the scope of the industry. As in years past, this year’s list includes top-level flooring executives whose work helped shape their company’s fortunes as well as those from outside whose efforts nonetheless were deeply felt within the flooring sector.

FCNews’ Ten People Making a Difference is an amalgam of movers, shakers and groundbreakers who achieve success in a variety of ways.

Dave Meberg: The Doer

By Brett Morrow

When I think of Dave Meberg, whom I have known as a friend for more than 20 years, I think of a guy who is intelligent, has a big presence—both physically as well as the way in which he conducts himself. One of the cool things about him is he understands the job from the ground up. He’s not one of these guys who hung around the country clubs growing up and just happened to take over his dad’s company.

Dave came from a family of old-school Norwegian guys. He learned to work the trucks; he worked the warehouse where his family made him sweep the floors. He understands the logistics of everything. He knows what the warehouse guys are up against, what the project managers are doing, the estimators and so on. To this day, I am amazed at how involved he is. Dave has his own business (he is principal, president and CEO of New York-based Consolidated Carpet), but he’s also actively involved with the Greater New York Floor Coverers Association, with Starnet and the New York City District Council of Carpenters. You don’t get to be on the district council very easily. To get to the point where Dave has gotten takes tremendous sacrifice, and yet he has earned everything.

Dave is a very good communicator who is extremely well prepared. He is a not a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. If he has a meeting coming up, he does his due diligence. He knows going in what the material costs are, what the labor estimates are, etc. He not only can talk the talk, but he can walk the walk as well.

Brett Morrow is vice president of Soundtone Floors, Long Island City, N.Y.

Rochelle Routman: The Disruptor

By Harlan Stone

When I hired Rochelle Routman to become our first chief sustainability officer two years ago, I anticipated great things from her. We felt her vision and expertise could not only help us, but also transform the resilient industry. But I had no idea that she would have such great impact in such a short period of time.

Two years later, Rochelle has relentlessly pursued her vision for transparency and sustainability, and this has resulted in a stunning series of firsts for our company and the resilient industry. Not only have Metroflor and Aspecta achieved the most rigorous third-party certifications in product, but we have also had groundbreaking achievements in transparency. Most recently, the issuance of the first JUST label for a China-based factory of any kind.

Guided by her leadership, and with the help of our product authority team, Metroflor earned Declare labels—analogous to nutrition labels for building products—across Aspecta’s entire range of commercial flooring, and the first-ever Declare label for a multilayer flooring product. We were also the first to have all Declare labels translated into six languages for full global product ingredient transparency.

But the real crowning achievement of Rochelle’s first two years is this persistent focus on transparency. Not just simple things like material ingredients, but also changing the game with transparency in operations, manufacturing, supply chain and social impact. JUST has arrived in our industry thanks to Rochelle, and it’s only the beginning.

When you go to a sustainability/transparency conference with Rochelle, it feels like you are accompanying a rock star though a music festival. She knows everyone, and everyone wants to stop her and show their appreciation for her never-ending energy and dedication to these important values.

Rochelle is driving and redefining what is possible in transparency and sustainability in the resilient flooring industry.

Harlan Stone is co-chairman of Metroflor Corp.

Stephanie Owen: The Online Educator

By Brett Miller

Stephanie Owen joined the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) in 2015 to spearhead its online learning platform, NWFA University (NWFAU). With no flooring background on her resume, but extensive experience developing educational curricula, Owen immersed herself in the industry while simultaneously researching online learning platforms.

Just 18 months later, NWFAU launched with 50-plus courses. Individual courses are just 10-20 minutes in length, so they are easy to fit into a busy schedule. Courses also are accessible using a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Since the initial launch in July 2016, course options have increased to 100-plus, with learning paths in installation, sand and finish, and sales. A manufacturing learning path launches this month, with future course development planned for inspections, customer service and business skills.

To date, 31,400-plus courses have been completed, averaging about 50 per day. Contributing to the success of the program has been the platform’s convenience and affordability. NWFAU is a member benefit, available for just $100 per year. And since NWFA membership is company-based, all member company employees are eligible to utilize NWFAU. Nearly 900-member companies currently use NWFAU as part of their employee training programs, equating to 6,100-plus individual registered users.

NWFAU and Owen have been recognized with an Association Trends 2017 Learnie Award for Biggest Success Story, and an Association Trends 2017 Gold All Media Award for eLearning & Live Training.

Also included on NWFAU are member-sponsored webinars, Expo education sessions and CEUs registered with AIA and IDCEC/ASID for continuing education credits.

Brett Miller is vice president, education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association.

Gary Sinise: The Humanitarian

By Anita Howard

Actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise has supported veterans for nearly 40 years. His portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump” established his enduring connection with the disabled military community. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he participated in many USO tours, later forming the Lt. Dan Band, which entertains troops and raises awareness at benefit concerts. The band performed at the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) Wood Flooring Expo in 2017.

In 2011, Sinise furthered his commitment to our nation’s heroes by establishing the Gary Sinise Foundation (GSF), whose mission is to serve and honor our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders and their families. The GSF R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) specifically provides mortgage-free, fully customized smart homes for America’s most severely wounded heroes. In 2015, GSF partnered with NWFA to provide wood flooring in R.I.S.E. homes. To date, NWFA has provided flooring, logistics and installation for 26 homes, with another 21 homes in various stages of planning and construction. NWFA also has introduced GSF to other industry partner organizations, including the National Hardwood Lumber Association, National Tile Contractors Association and Marble Institute of America.

In recognition of his humanitarian efforts, Sinise was presented with the Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment, Spirit of the USO Award, Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Dwight D. Eisenhower Award and Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor awarded to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation.

To learn more about GSF programs, visit garysinisefoundation.org.

Anita Howard is the COO of the National Wood Flooring Association.

Kevin Brady: The Lawmaker

By Shana Teehan

You might not know his name, but if you are a small business—and that includes the vast majority of flooring dealers—you could already be benefiting from his work on the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, which offers a 20% deduction for qualified business income from so-called pass-through entities, which include S corporations and limited-liability companies.

Kevin Brady (R.-Texas) chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, regarded by many to be the most powerful committee in Congress with jurisdiction over taxes, health care, Social Security, Medicare, international trade and welfare. Brady is the chief author of the tax reform bill, which was signed into law in December 2017.

The tax break is intended to provide small businesses with some much-needed breathing room to compete with larger businesses and global competitors that have a smaller tax burden. Business owners can use their tax savings to hire new employees, increase employee wages and incentives, purchase inventory, expand their workspace, pay down debt or reduce their prices.

“As House Ways and Means Committee chairman, and lead author of the bill, my goals were simple,” Brady said. “Cut taxes for the middle class, simplify our unfair and broken tax code, and make America the most competitive place in the world to do business.”

Shana Teehan serves as senior advisor and director of communications for Kevin Brady.

Theresa Fisher: The Passionate Partner

By Howard Brodsky

As senior vice president of store design and merchandising, Theresa Fisher has helped shape the customer experience that has come to be the standard of excellence for independent flooring retailers. From the creation of Carpet One Floor & Home’s “Destination: Carpet One” store design program to her hand in developing differentiating branding for CCA exclusive brands, Theresa’s innate sense of style and understanding of today’s customer have made her an invaluable asset to CCA Global.

However, Theresa’s impactful store design is not the only way she has had an impact at CCA Global and throughout the floor covering industry. Without Theresa’s passionate persistence and dedication, Carpet One Floor & Home and CCA Global Partners would not have the rewarding partnership with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and their Building for America’s Bravest program that we have today. This program builds smart homes for catastrophically injured service members, many of them triple or quadruple amputees, to help them regain some of the independence lost due to their injuries.

Theresa has helped bring our membership together to help make a magnificent impact on the lives of our injured heroes through partnership with Building for America’s Bravest. Carpet One’s participation in the Building for America’s Bravest program has not only ensured that 36 of these smart homes have beautifully installed flooring, but also brought the membership of our cooperative together to work towards a common goal.

True to Theresa’s nature, it wasn’t good enough to just get Carpet One on board to install flooring; she was compelled to do more. She pushed further to pull in our industry partners. Today, Building for America’s Bravest receives support from Carpet One along with Mohawk, Masterbrand and Hunter Douglas. Still, Theresa felt we could do more. She now helps organize a large group of members to participate in the annual T2T 5K and encourages members to host additional fundraisers to help raise the funds needed to build smart homes.

Her desire to do good for our members and the world along with her keen eye and innovative spirit have made her an essential part of CCA Global Partners.

Howard Brodsky is co-founder and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners.

Jeff King: The Advocate

By Scott Humphrey

Of all the relationships I have developed in my tenure in this industry, Jeff King, legal counsel to the WFCA, is easily one of the most influential and fascinating individuals I have encountered. Though his education and background are in the legal arena, his knowledge of the flooring industry is second to none.

After graduating from Albany Law School of Union University, Jeff practiced law in Washington, D.C., for many years before moving to Delray Beach, Fla., where he resides with his wife and renowned interior designer Luba King and daughter Larissa. He has served the WFCA and our industry for over 20 years. In addition to authoring three publications for the WFCA: “Contracts—Cannot Live Without Them,” “The Independent Contractor Primer” and “Green Flooring Primer,” Jeff is one of the most requested speakers at industry events. If you have had the privilege of hearing Jeff, you are in no way surprised that he has been selected as one of the “10 people driving the industry.”

Jeff’s knowledge of all flooring related occupations and the issues impacting us is surpassed only by his passion for change and compassion for the people who make their living in our industry. He accurately predicts national trends by monitoring state activity and is respected in our nation’s capital to such a level that his opinion is often sought by those formulating their stances and/or considering legislation. He has proposed solutions and/or offered draft legislation to address issues including: The Marketplace Fairness Act, independent contractors, overtime regulations, government over regulation, the labor crisis, etc.

Though this industry and the WFCA comprises many strong leaders and advocates, there is none more positively driving our industry than my friend and the legal counsel to the WFCA—Mr. Jeff King.

Scott Humphrey is the president and CEO of the World Floor Covering Association.

Zack Zehner: The Heir Apparent

By Keith Campbell

Not many companies get to hold onto their old values as they reach for the new ones, but that’s exactly what is happening here at Mannington Mills as the fifth generation of the Campbell family emerges into company leadership.

Zack Zehner, my nephew, currently serves as our senior vice president of distribution network and has been a driving force in Mannington’s progress over the past few years. Zack’s efforts have kept us on the forefront of innovation while continuing to foster important relationships among our distributor partners.

He joined Mannington in 2003 after five years as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and has learned about Mannington by using that old-school work ethic and actually doing the hard work. He was a district sales manager, a product director for laminate and porcelain tile, and vice president of commercial hard surface before stepping into his current role.

Just as important, he’s leading the company’s culture into the next generation. Family values are the cornerstone of everything we do here at Mannington, and Zack understands that. Zack grew up in a family where those values were part of his everyday life. Mannington was all we talked about at family gatherings, and Zack really absorbed it all. His passion for this company and the people who work here is in his blood.

Zack’s dedication extends into the community as well. He is now president of Stand Up for Salem, a community revitalization organization founded by my father, Johnny, and where I served for many years. Our headquarters is in Salem, N.J., and although we do business all over the world—and may not live within the confines of the zip code—it will always be our home.

Keith Campbell is chairman of the board for Mannington Mills.

Diana Rosenberger: The Initiator

By Troy Virgo

Until recently, Shaw Industries’ sustainable sourcing efforts consisted of a standalone supplier guide that defined Shaw’s expectations of suppliers regarding environmental protection, social fairness, ethical behavior and identified desired disclosure around chemicals of concern.

However, Diana Rosenberger, sustainability manager-global sourcing, recognized an opportunity for Shaw to have an even bigger impact in its sustainability efforts by engaging with its supply chain differently. Doing so stood to ensure Shaw’s products met globally recognized principles and were aligned with Shaw’s sustainability commitments to impact those who source from this supplier base.

Diana helped the company create a legally enforceable, easy-to-read, sustainable sourcing policy that would be integrated into our Standard Terms and Conditions of Purchase. She brought the Ten Principles of UN Global Compact to Shaw to use as the backbone of our new sustainable sourcing policy. Diana’s efforts led to Shaw becoming an official signatory in late 2017. Being a signatory of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, brings external credibility to Shaw’s new sustainable sourcing policy.

In short order, Diana’s efforts are positively impacting Shaw products, Shaw’s supply chain, the flooring industry as a whole and manufacturers in myriad industries by advancing options for safer chemistry.

Diana’s collaborative approach shows what can happen when we work together toward a common goal.

Troy Virgo is director of sustainability and product stewardship for Shaw Industries.

Kurt Denman: The Brand Builder

By Chris O’Connor

His diverse work experience combined with his passion for branding that is underpinned by meaningful consumer insights are the things that have enabled Kurt to drive change in an industry that can be predictable.

Over the past five years, Kurt and his team have worked to revitalize the Congoleum portfolio, improve the consumer journey and ultimately set the stage for the next chapter in Congoleum’s storied history.

By allowing market and consumer needs to guide the journey, we created a new category of PVC-free, digitally printed flooring. Equally challenging was to create a connection between this break-through technology and a new generation of consumers. Kurt had the vision to create a style-driven brand that would live outside the umbrella of Congoleum. While known for making high-quality products within the industry, Congoleum is also known as a producer of vinyl flooring. Cleo is not just another vinyl product; it’s different in every way.

The process of bringing a revolutionary product to market has been the most challenging and exciting part of my career. To see Kurt’s vision for the brand unveiled at Surfaces earlier this year was an unbelievable experience.

Chris O’Connor is the president and CEO of Congoleum.

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Lessons learned: A business’ most renewable resource

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Tom Jennings

 

Today’s consumer is undoubtedly aware of the multitude of sustainable products available in virtually every product category. From cars to carpet, many of these new products are truly revolutionary. While it’s nearly impossible to have not heard about the upcoming car models, is the flooring industry getting its fair share of the attention? If not, then why not?

Recently I decided to spend a couple of weeks paying particular attention to all of the information I came across pertaining to renewably resourced products in general. My goal was to attempt to see what was new in the “green” world through our customers’ eyes. My observations were gleaned from both local and national sources. Simultaneously, I also paid special attention to all advertising that pertained to the retail flooring business. I would love to report my findings regarding flooring promotion to be new and refreshing, as exciting of many of the new more earth-friendly products our industry has to offer. Unfortunately, what I discovered could best be described as this week’s version of the same old song.

Here’s an example: While reading an article in a national magazine regarding the automakers’ progress on electric cars, a commercial came on the television for a flooring store promoting “the greatest sale in our history!” The only thing memorable to me was the tag line, “It all ends Saturday night!” I was left wondering if he meant the sale, the business or the world as we know it. Have you noticed that when advertising the new hybrid and electric cars the automakers don’t find it necessary to talk rapidly or scream? They emphasize the value, newness and uniqueness of their products. Price is rarely mentioned, but improved mileage and lower cost of operation is always promoted. They understand how to sell the difference between initial cost and long-term value. The flooring industry has its equivalents of the hybrid car, but do your customers know they exist?

As the sage philosopher Pogo famously stated, “I have seen the enemy and it is us.” It is no small wonder that our industry has a creditability problem. It seems as though we are always screaming at the customer. Must our industry always sink to the lowest common denominator, i.e., an unbelievable price? Are there not other options for a customer to consider? There is obviously a continually building interest within the marketplace for products with a more eco-friendly story. Our industry’s manufacturing and design communities are offering truly exciting and revolutionary products to sell. It is the retailers’ job to be the bridge between manufacturers and consumers.

Savvy dealers seeking to separate themselves from the pack are actively pursuing the goal of being the first choice in the flooring market for the smart shopper who has done her homework. It is important to remember there is a difference between a “value-driven” customer and a “values-driven” customer. If your company is walking the walk, then by all means convey that information to the customer. Remind them of steps our industry is taking to be a better steward of our resources. Incorporating compelling displays that convey this message will differentiate your store from all others. The result will be a company that more customers feel they can trust.

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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fcB2B to unveil new standards at 2017 meeting

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 10.34.32 AMDalton—fcB2B will hold its annual meeting at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Aug. 15-17, according to Scott Humphrey, CEO, WFCA. The event will coincide with the CFI Convention and other industry events.

“This year’s conference will include an unveiling and implemention of an all new set of floor covering B2B standards,” said Phil Zolan, executive director, fcB2B. These standards will address a laundry list of issues and “pain points” that currently exist, Zolan explained. “In many cases, outdated business-to-business transaction systems have been hindering trading partners across industries that have adopted more advanced B2B platforms. The new standards will move our whole industry from one based on 1997 technology to current, 2017 standards that are now fully compatible with standards used in all major industries around the world.”

In addition to the new standards, the meeting will include presentations on industry metrics, updates on the new web services being developed and implemented by association members and discussions on advancing the adoption of B2B by manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Members and non-members are welcome to attend the meeting. Cost of attendance is $650 per person, which covers all meeting events, including the welcome reception, breakfast, lunch and breaks throughout the meeting. Discounted room rates at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort are available Aug. 12-19, but only through the registration link on the fcB2B website.

To register or for more information visit, fcB2B.org.

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WFCA, Benchmarkinc team up on business insight survey

BOD_CircleGraphiCThingDalton—Having unfettered access to inside knowledge and financial information on specifically what sets you apart from your competition might sound like a pipe dream. However, through an arrangement with Benchmarkinc, the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) brings its members full and free access to the latest 2016 Benchmark Survey.

Now in its third year, the Benchmark Survey, with a new design and interface, will show users what differentiates the best performers in the flooring industry.

With hundreds of retailers at all levels participating in past surveys, the exclusive benchmarks revealed in this year’s report will gauge a dealer’s performance against the national average, top performers across the country, the best in your region, and market leaders in your segment—whether retail, commercial or builder. The report is only available through Aug. 22 and once the submission period closes the survey can no longer be accessed.

Registration and input for the survey can be found at flooringsurvey.bmarkinc.com

All shared information resides on a proprietary, exclusive server and no information other than the tallied results will be shared.

If you are not a WFCA member, survey participation costs $99. If you choose to join the WFCA, the survey participation fee will be waived and you will receive a $500 professional educational scholarship reimbursement.

Beginning Sept. 1 the complete Benchmark report will be available for download.

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WFCA announces new hire, promotion

WFCA-LogoDalton––The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), has expanded its staff in response to the accelerated growth of membership, according to Scott Humphrey, CEO. To that end, Kaye Whitener has joined the association as national manager, member relations. Meanwhile, Ashley Welch has been promoted to membership coordinator.

Whitener joins WFCA from Metro Carpets in Nashville, Tenn. In her previous role she oversaw the retail, builder, and commercial divisions of the company. In her new position with WFCA, Whitener will oversee membership recruitment, engagement and retention in all categories. As part of these responsibilities, Whitener will help drive utilization of benefits offered by the WFCA, CFI and fcB2B organizations with all member levels. Whitener will also be in charge of creating, implementing and supporting outreach strategies for WFCA affiliate and affinity partners.

In Welch’s new role within the organization she will be responsible for maintaining and ensuring accuracy of the WFCA member database, the processing of member applications and renewals, coordinating member mailings, developing and updating the association’s contact list, as well as building relationships with current and prospective members. Both Whitener and Welch will report to Freida Staten, vice president of sales and marketing.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our membership team at WFCA with the addition of Kaye Whitener,” Staten said. “Kaye is a highly seasoned professional who literally ‘grew up’ and has spent her entire career in the flooring business. She brings with her a wealth of experience and insight to help our members maximize all of the benefits that WFCA has to offer. We are thrilled to have her on our team.”

Whitener said she is looking forward to working with WFCA retail members “to help inspire and foster the growth of their businesses through WFCA membership.”

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WFCA acquires fcB2B

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.52.26 AMDalton—The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) has purchased the Floor Covering Business To Business Association (fcB2B) and all of its assets. The decision was made on June 3 at an off-site meeting of the WFCA Board of Directors. The Board’s vote was unanimous in favor of the acquisition.

“The WFCA has been a visionary supporter and a financial backer of fcB2B since conception” said Scott Humphrey, CEO, WFCA. He explained the association’s mission is to enhance the business landscape for the flooring retailer. “Placing ourselves 100% behind a next-generation initiative that will streamline business transactions—thereby increasing efficiencies and reducing costs—was a logical next step for us.

“Technology is one of the six pillars on which WFCA’s foundation stands,” Humphrey continued. He identified fcB2B as a key component of that pillar. “We recognize that our member constituents will not be able to compete and thrive in the 21st century business landscape without the proper tools to streamline transactions and keep pace with the market. FcB2B is poised to change how we do business and the WFCA stands squarely behind this initiative.”

Through fcB2B, the groundwork has already been laid to move the flooring industry into the digital age. The task at this point is industry-wide adoption of the system. Once wide acceptance is secured, business transactions and the pace of doing business will be streamlined and new efficiencies will become the norm. It has been calculated that the fcB2B model could save flooring companies over $20 million annually. Manufacturers could save about $12 million and independent dealers may save about $8 million.

“A standard of doing business already exists in today’s e-commerce world and our industry has not kept pace,” said Phil Zolan, executive director, fcB2B. “Through our new association with WFCA, fcB2B will receive a much-needed infusion of support and credibility to take it to the next level. WFCA gives us a much broader platform for directing operations as well as the exposure and horsepower to push fcB2B through to all levels of the industry.

“What might surprise some in our industry is that they are already using the very technology that comprises the fcB2B platform,” he continued. “Users are not utilizing and tapping into the full potential of the technology they already have in place.”

Zolan added that fcB2B offers the same efficiencies for the retailer that exist in the B2C (business-to-consumer) market today. “Could you imagine going on Amazon.com and going back and forth with their customer service department for days to order a book?” he asked. “That is essentially how our industry is conducting business right now.”

He explained fcB2B technology brings the efficiencies of B2C to B2B. “Right now we are on the ground floor rolling this technology out into our industry,” he said. “Our estimate is that within in the next 12 months we will have doubled the adoption rate.” Zolan said retailers getting on board with fcB2B right now are part of the solution and these early adopters are helping to shape how the system will work moving forward.

For more information on fcB2B please visit www.fcB2B.org.

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Labor, installation issues dominate WFCA agenda

June 6/13, 2016; Volume 30, Number 25

By Ken Ryan

Rarely do a few weeks pass without the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) making some significant news, whether it is partnering with another flooring association or funding entities such as fcB2B or CFI. So it was no surprise that the recent WFCA board of directors meeting in Colorado Springs was themed: What is our next move?

Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA, told FCNews that sometimes the next move is to “walk away from a deal; sometimes it is to double down and other times it is to consider something completely different than what you have been doing.”

Following are some highlights from the meeting.

In January, the WFCA announced a partnership with the Floor Covering Business to Business Association (fcB2B) through a financial commitment that included hiring a full-time executive director, Phillip Zolan. WFCA has taken the next step by folding fcB2B under the WFCA umbrella “as a way to secure its future viability,” Humphrey said.

Over the past 15 years the fcB2B team has worked to create a seamless digital program for the flooring industry, and studies show the program could save flooring retailers and manufacturers significant time and money. Humphrey encouraged flooring retailers to embrace this technology. “Not utilizing fcB2B is like using a rotary phone as opposed to a smartphone,” he quipped. Nine new members have joined fcB2B since January; dozens more are being recruited.

 

CFI

The WFCA, which absorbed CFI as a standalone division last year, has amended its bylaws so CFI will have at least two positions on the board. This is meant to give CFI a voice within the WFCA hierarchy. Tom Cartnell, who has two years remaining on the board, is currently the lone CFI member. However, CFI will create an advisory council to choose a second CFI member who will join the board during the next board rotation in January 2017.

 

Overtime law

In a move with implications for scores of flooring retail owners, the Department of Labor recently announced its biggest changes to overtime regulations in more than a decade, essentially doubling the salary threshold at which workers are eligible for time-and-a-half if they work more than 40 hours per week.

The final rule, as it is called, focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for executive, administrative and professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the final rule sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the south ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker). Additionally, the final rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10% of the new standard salary level. The effective date of the final rule is Dec. 1, 2016.

The WFCA, lobbying on behalf of independent dealers, urged the Labor Department to adopt the southern data, which in this case lowered the salary threshold by $3,000 to $4,000. According to Humphrey, more than 270,000 comments were submitted on this law, with the final rule included WFCA’s proposal to recalculate and lower the minimum salary requirement, to include bonuses in salary calculations and to make no changes to duty test.

The OT rule is one of several actions being addressed by the lobbying arm of the WFCA. There is the much-discussed employee/independent contractor issue, which puts flooring installers and retailers at the mercy of various government agencies and their specific benchmarks for what constitutes an IC vs. an employee; and the Marketplace Fairness Act, in which a state cannot require out-of-state online sellers to collect the sales tax owed from its customers who purchase flooring products. WFCA members, however, must collect the local sales tax, which ultimately affects the final price on their products.

Humphrey noted the WFCA’s lobbying efforts are gaining influence. “It’s because we represent the mom and pops. The lawmakers see the mom and pops on Main Street as having real votes—they matter. The legislators look at Walmart as one vote. I want our dealers to understand the power of their influence. We want to amplify their voices; we want to give them more clout in the marketplace.”

 

In other news…

Paul Pumphrey, now 90, is going to Washington, D.C., to visit the National World War II Memorial. The trip was made possible by the WFCA in recognition of Pumphrey’s contributions to the association as well as his military service. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marines from 1943 to 1945. He will be joined by Humphrey and others who will go to Washington to meet with lawmakers.

Pumphrey is the only individual to have served as president of both the Western Floor Covering Association and Retail Floorcovering Institute (later named the American Floorcovering Association), the predecessors of the World Floor Covering Association. Pumphrey, who regularly attends WFCA meetings, is a member of the association’s Hall of Fame.

 

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WFCA execs discuss installation during FCNews webinar

By Ken Ryan

What do you get when you have three leaders from the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) discussing arguably the most pressing issue in the flooring industry today—installation—during the monthly FCNews Marketing Mastery webinar series? A record turnout of flooring retailers with a 50% increase in attendees from the previous webinar.

Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA; Tom Jennings, vice president, member services, WFCA; and Robert Varden, vice president of WFCA’s CFI division, joined Jim Augustus Armstrong, FCNews Marketing Mastery columnist and marketing/customer service expert, in a full-throated discussion on “Conquering the Installation Crisis.”

Some highlights from the discussion:

  • There are three essential problems with installation today—an overall shortage of people, a paucity of truly skilled mechanics, and the challenge of how and where to recruit the next generation.
  • The shortage of installers today is not a flooring-specific problem, Humphrey pointed out; it is an issue that confounds the entire construction industry. The fact that today’s younger generations, in general, would prefer to use their minds rather than hands in the pursuit of work is another factor.
  • Humphrey and Jennings both agree the industry does not value the installation trade as much as it should and that out of desperation retailers will use installers who may lack the credentials to carry out a difficult job. “We ought to build this trade up and make it a differentiator,” Humphrey said. He wondered how many installers would proudly tell their neighbors they are installers, noting they should be proud of their craft.
  • The recession that started in 2006 produced a double whammy. Many journeyman left the field for good which also meant they were not around to train the next set of apprentices when the economy started turning around. “We lost one generation as well as a generation that would apprentice the next,” Humphrey explained.
  • Jennings noted just as “all politics are local, all problems are local” as well. “Most dealers, both large and small, have been in denial on the impending shortage of installers,” he said. “Many need to look themselves in the mirror. Inspect what you expect. Maybe you don’t expect much. For some reason installation has been a cost savings” rather than deemed a profit center.

Long-term solutions

Varden said there are young people out there who do want to work with their hands, but “we just haven’t done a good job finding them.” The International Certified Flooring Installers’ (CFI) first training school in Forney, Texas, has been a step in the right direction. Classes are offered in “bite-sized” pieces of one to two weeks for cfi adhardwood training and five weeks for carpet instruction. What’s unique about the five-week course is CFI trainers will take inexperienced, raw individuals and turn them into job-ready installers when they graduate.

How it works: A flooring retailer who wants to send an employee to the training school pays $5,000 for the five-week course, plus expenses (hotel, transportation, food, etc.). If a dealer thinks $5,000 to $8,000 is too big of an expense, Humphrey suggests an owner think of it this way: If you were looking to hire a senior-level person, you would pay an executive recruiting firm at least that much money—probably a lot more. Having a trained mechanic on staff gives a retailer the confidence to pursue jobs, knowing the end result will be completed correctly.

So far, the results have been positive. “It’s absolutely amazing to think of the impact this five-week training course had—and will continue to have—on the lives of the two students I sent to the school,” said Lonnie Presson, owner of Lonnie’s Carpet Max in Rockford, Ill. “I could not be more thrilled.”

Of note, the WFCA sponsors a trade scholarship of $500 that is available to its members. It can be applied toward CFI certification and new school installation classes.

Subcontractor vs. employee

Next to the great recession purge, in which upwards of 25% of independent flooring dealers went out of business, the installation issue threatens to wipe out another significant percentage of dealers if it plays out, Humphrey warned. The gravity of this Department of Labor reclassification is not to be taken lightly. Humphrey and WFCA lobbyists have met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on this issue and while some politicians are sympathetic to the plight of small business on this matter, many more believe there are “crooks” out there looking to take advantage of the subcontractor issue. Now, government agencies are going after the violators. As well, subcontractors are seeking remuneration through class-action lawsuits.

Humphrey said the states that are particularly aggressive on this issue are California, Washington, Oregon, Maryland and Illinois. The interpretations on this measure vary by state as well as agency. In other words, the IRS may view the independent contractor (IC) issue differently than the Department of Labor. To that end, Humphrey encourages dealers to join the WFCA, which works on behalf of flooring retailers.

In his book “Independent Contractor,” WFCA counsel Jeff King included an entrepreneurial test to help retailers ascertain whether their subcontractors are truly ICs or would he be considered employees.

King recently said the government is looking for ways to bring new revenue out of the hides of small businesses and plaintiff lawyers are sniffing around looking for examples where a corporation was guilty of misclassification. “The IC issue can be costly; it is spreading rapidly and it is not going away,” he noted.

Humphrey added, “You better be on the right side of this thing.”

For more information on this issue, visit wfca-pro.org.

A replay of the entire webinar can be found at http://marketingmasterywebinar.com/replay.

Editor’s note: Varden will be the guest expert on the next Marketing Mastery free webinar, “How to Generate Massive Profits with Your Installations,” on Thurs., June 16, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST. Visit fcnews.net to register.

 

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Wood: Latest training programs help installers bring their ‘A’ game

April 11/18, 2016; Volume 30, Number 21

By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 1.59.26 PMOne upside to the bevy of new hardwood flooring products hitting the market today is retailers have seemingly more choices than ever to satisfy ever-changing consumer demands. The challenge, however, is making sure installers stay up to speed on the new formats, construction types and innovative finishes that are available.

Spearheading the training efforts in this regard are some of the industry’s leading trade associations as well as many of the manufacturers responsible for these innovations. Take the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), for example. The organization offers a comprehensive array of technical sessions for wood flooring professionals at all skill levels ranging from basic to intermediate and advanced to master craftsmen.

“We’ve made quite a few changes in our training programs over the last couple of years,” said Brett Miller, vice president of training and education for the NWFA. “For example, in our progressive training schools—which start with the basic principles of wood flooring that cover installation and sand and finish—we’ve broken up [instruction] into two segments so we have the option of doing a four-day install school and a four-day sand and finish school.”

Similarly, at the intermediate and advanced levels, classes can be divided and expanded accordingly. Beyond that, the NWFA conducts what it calls “specialty training,” whereby craftsmen teach students custom, specialized skills. “There are different options on how we put that school together depending on where we are and what we’re doing,” Miller said.

Regional NWFA instructors who conduct training attest to the importance of the program. “NWFA not only gives the installer the opportunity to learn the proper techniques but also offers a chance for a better future,” said Jon Namba, owner of Namba Services in Salt Lake City. “Our workshops focus on real-world scenarios. We give installers the tools and share life experiences to help them further their skills and their businesses. They get to learn from the best of the best in the industry and work with instructors who are willing to share information.”

Students who have attended some of NWFA’s training sessions in the past have benefitted both personally and professionally. Case in point is Paul Young, an installer with Schumacher & Co., who first came to the basic NWFA training classes about a year ago before eventually moving on to the intermediate level. With the training he received, he was able to boost his production from one job a day to three per day. “NWFA sets the standard for installation in the wood flooring business,” he said. “All the things I’ve learned from the instructors and what they bring to the table are things that I can bring with me to my job. And when I walk into the customer’s home it’s good to be able to say, ‘I was trained by the NWFA.’ It makes the homeowner feel more comfortable.”

The benefits don’t end there. By attending the training sessions and workshops, installers often build long-lasting relationships with the instructors as well as other students. “The classes provide students with invaluable networking opportunities,” Namba said. “They can always call someone if they don’t have the answer to a problem they might face on the job site.”

The NWFA is not the only association working to help hardwood flooring installers improve their skills. The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), which absorbed the Certified Floor Covering Installers Association (CFI), recently expanded its training curriculum to include wood flooring instruction, including a comprehensive two-week hardwood course. And in the true spirit of collaboration, the NWFA is working in conjunction with the WFCA and CFI on a program that guarantees students get interviews with potential employers upon completion of their training.

“I think the WFCA really hit a home run with this program,” said Jeff Krekelberg, president of Gold River Flooring, Rancho Cordova, Calif. “We will definitely be using it for recruiting new installers as well as training existing installers in our stores.”

For more information on training dates, course registration fees, etc., visit nwfa.org.