The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) has seen wholesale change in the three years since Scott Humphrey became CEO of the association, expanding in a number of directions. We had an opportunity to sit down with Humphrey and talk about some of these changes—along with the membership—of this retail floor covering organization. You can watch this interview in its entirety on TalkFloor.com. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
TF: I’d like to review some of the things the association has become involved in over the last few years and get a feel as to how it has affected and will likely affect membership in the future. Let’s start with the most recent news involving the partnership the WFCA has struck with the North American Association of Flooring Distributors (NAFCD).
Humphrey: We have been talking with the NAFCD for about a year. This began with Bob Weiss, president of All Tile. He began the conversation by noting that we both serve the same customer. Both organizations are focused on helping the professional flooring dealer being better at what they do. And we rely on that.
As an association we are evaluated on how our membership is growing and its level of engagement. For the distributor, the retailer is their entire business. So this was really a common sense issue. When we came together we realized we have solutions and they have access.
TF: I understand one of the functions of the WFCA/NAFCD relationship involves distributor salespeople helping build awareness of WFCA training.
Humphrey: That is correct. We have regional camps taking place through Benchmark Inc. They are taking place all across America. Our intent is to go to each region of the country twice a year. In addition we will be launching 40 online training modules, such as back office management, leadership, sales training and even some sales-to-installation training. All of this will see a soft launch in August, and then a hard launch in January when we do the relaunch of WFCA.
TF: Here is a list of some of the programs and partnerships the WFCA has launched over the past three years: the acquisition of International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI), the launch of the trade magazine Premier Flooring, expanding the organization’s social media presence, the partnership with Floor Covering Business to Business Association (FCB2B) and reenergizing the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF). Talk about how these initiatives help the association’s primary goals and how they help build membership.
Humphrey: There are two ways the health of an association is typically evaluated. The first is growth in membership. So the first thing we have to do is continually grow our membership and the engagement of the membership. Many associations focus on signing new members, but they don’t focus on keeping members.
Our plan all along has been to spend the first three to five years ramping up our membership while focusing on engagement as well. We added a slew of new members when we acquired CFI. Over time CFI has certified more than 40,000 people. They are, however, not all active members today—but the active member base, according to a recent bylaws change, will become a subcategory under the umbrella of the WFCA. This could also potentially take place with FCB2B.
Secondly, associations are evaluated on the ways they help their members, which for us is the educational component. We’re very active from an advocacy standpoint, but from an educational standpoint we really lagged behind. We had some third-party relationships and they were available if members wanted to take advantage of them.
This really became an issue within the Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC), when the three primary issues that needed to be addressed within the industry and among all of these nonprofit industry associations were installation, communication and education—and sharing that education across industry segments.
We recently attended the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) convention where they announced they would be launching NWFA University. We want to make sure as we launch our online training and they launch theirs, if there are courses we offer that NWFA members would like to access then the FCLC can allow access across those lines. That would mean members of other associations could gain access with free or reduced rates, depending on the training, as a result of their FCLC relationship.
Visibility is also important to the WFCA. We have a small staff. We have added people and we will be adding more people. We are moving. We have made the decision that the association needs to make its base in Georgia. Years ago when Anaheim was the base of the Western Floor Covering Association, it made sense. But the industry is here in Georgia. The Anaheim facility is on the market—we will be looking for land to build a facility in the Dalton area.
TF: Building membership, as you mentioned, is one of the key factors in evaluating an association. Talk about the efforts to increase membership.
Humphrey: I would say the challenge for small associations is face-time. As a result, we determined we would be wherever our members might be. Part of the agreement when we sold Surfaces [now the International Surface Event, or TISE] was that we do not have a convention of our own that might in any way compete. We really don’t need one as the lead sponsor. We have great visibility at the TISE show.
What we lack, however, is the opportunity to bring our group together at one time, convey our message and talk about all the elements we offer that can help them. We are at every convention in the industry. If we’re invited we’ll have a presence there. If our members are there we have an opportunity to communicate with them. And it’s a great opportunity for us to recruit new membership. Surfaces is our largest single recruiting event. We will sign 40 to 50 new members there.
TF: So the WFCA limited from having its own convention?
Humphrey: We are limited from having a product-related convention. We are not limited from doing an educational event. Many conventions are financed by virtue of vendor partners and their ability to sell product there. Since we are not selling product, funding would have to come out of the association’s coffers and we have to determine if that would be a good investment for the organization.
TF: What are the association’s membership goals?
Humphrey: Our membership goal is to get to 15% of the available members of the industry. Our focus is professional floor covering retailers, both residential and commercial. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the association of associations, says if a group can achieve 10% of the available market in its membership then it is healthy.
We are at 13% currently. That sounds small, but there are many dealers that are members of other groups and some feel that in some way we conflict with these other groups. Many have come to realize we don’t conflict with any group. We are not involved with product. Our desire is to supplement what these other groups offer. We’re seeking ways to come together with other groups, saying maybe they don’t need an educational component and they could utilize ours. We’re looking at ways we can achieve this with other groups.
TF: The number of floor covering retailers is diminishing. The most recent number I have heard is there are between 8,000 and 9,000 retailers operating in the U.S.
Humphrey: Ten years ago when I was at Shaw, it was not uncommon for the company to have between 19,000 and 20,000 retail customers. But we have gone through the Great Recession and have seen so much going on in the meantime. What concerns me now are some issues that could cause that number to decrease even more. One is the installation crisis, which the industry acknowledges but really hasn’t done anything to address. The second is the independent contractor issue, where the government is coming in and saying there is really no such thing as an independent contractor.
TF: As you mentioned, there are many retailers who are members of a buying group, are aligned with a supplier or are a member of another group. Is there a home for these retailers in the WFCA?
Humphrey: There are four different levels of membership in the WFCA today, and we will be adding a fifth as a result of a recent bylaw change. We have direct members—people who join to take advantage of the benefits offered by the association. The key benefit is that they have an advocate that has their back when we go to Washington. We carry their voice with us. That alone to me is worth the $295 per year fee to be a part of the WFCA.
Over and above that, members get $500 back in trade scholarships. So if a member does industry-focused training, they have WFCA money which almost [doubles the value] of the membership fee.
The second membership level is an affiliate. We have about 18 affiliates across the U.S and Canada. These local groups take our message, channel it and amplify it locally.
We also have affinity partners, an option that permits an entire group to join. When an entire group elects to join they receive an additional discount.
Another category is associate members. In this category are distributors, manufacturers and other businesses. Members in this group receive a discount when they show at TISE.
TF: What will the WFCA be doing both short- and long-term to build membership?
Humphrey: We began this challenge with about 15 consecutive years of negative growth in membership. We are now in our third year of consecutive growth. So our focus moves now—and this comes from people in our executive committee who have said if the entire focus of the association is on building membership, the association sooner or later will peak. To me we will always be seen as healthy if we are growing.
Aside from that, when we go to Washington, the more people we represent, the louder [the politicians] hear our voice. The first question I usually get is, “How many members does the association have?” Membership allows us to have an impact at the local level, the state level and the federal level.
Where we are today is a healthy organization with a vibrant desire to make an impact on this industry. We will continue to grow and we will continue to be a voice of the industry. We want to be seen as a resource for research, advocacy, philanthropy and education. How will we get there? One day at a time. We have a phenomenal board, we also have an amazing group of past chairmen that meet with us at every board meeting and offer sage advice. And we will get there day by day, one step at a time.
Editor’s note: As mentioned, there is more to this conversation than space permits. Check out the entire interview, “Scott Humphrey, CEO, WFCA on Membership Building” by visiting www.floortrendsmag.com/videos and scrolling back through the Floor Trends Most Recent Videos section.
We’d also love to hear your feedback of this and other conversations you’ve watched or listened to on the site, as well as any ideas of people or companies you’d like to see interviewed. You can contact Dave Foster at email@example.com.