The challenges the industry faced last year, and the ones it now faces, are tied part and parcel to the two questions posed in this column’s headline. How each of us views and acts upon them could very well spell the difference between a great year and a year of stumbling — perhaps even defeat. The answers are found in two of the many management/business principles set forth by the world -renowned Peter Drucker.

Peter Drucker, still going strong at age 93, is universally respected as a management guru (and is often described as the gurus’ guru). He has authored 31 books, been a college professor and consulted to companies and nations. Some mistakenly think his principles apply only to huge international corporations. In fact, most of them apply to businesses large, small and everything in between.

Drucker’s management/business principles apply to every individual and company in floor coverings -- manufacturers, retailers, contractors, distributors, installers, and cleaners. They apply to owners/managers, salespeople and office personnel -- the entire organizations. Here, we’ll look at the two principles relative to the headline.

1. Employees aren’t a cost. That’s right, he says that the employees aren’t a cost. Rather, they are resources. Many floor covering company owners, managers, supervisors, and executives recognize this and act accordingly. Those who don’t make a big mistake.

Some in our industry did well last year and, in many cases, they chalked up record-breaking performances. It is obvious that they treated their people as important resources, who in return gave everything they could to help make positive things happen. Many companies that ignored this principle floundered. Some even failed.

2. Management is responsible for training. Simply stated, Drucker says that management is responsible for giving a company direction and making training available to its people. To me, this means that owners, managers, supervisors, etc. must insist on trained people in every position. It means requiring everyone to participate in and take full advantage of the training programs, seminars, informative meetings, educational material, etc. available through our industry.

It means that personnel willingly and enthusiastically attend such programs and do everything possible to put to use what they learn. It also means that management and the entire organization take advantage of both training and certification programs. We have training and certification programs at our beck and call for manufacturers, retailers, contractors, distributors, installers, and cleaners -- from owner/manager right through the entire chain. Sadly, we are not taking full advantage of them.

Those who ignore the two principles discussed here are candidates for failure. Companies that treat employees as important resources, and provide solid direction and training, will thrive and grow. Their personnel will thrive and grow right along with them.