Members of the San Diego Floor Covering Association (SDFCA) listen to a presentation detailing the new Master Credit Report. In this photo, taken from Western Floors (March 1960) magazine, are (from left): Frank Denny, SDFCA vp; Charles R. Runyon, SDFCA past president; Richard Vail, Vail-Smith Co.; Rollie Buckallew, SDFCA board member; and J. Bert Dalton, SDFCA president.

It’s sad to hear that many flooring stores have closed their doors; more may yet walk away. This is because they simply don’t know what to do when the climb becomes steeper and more arduous. One study claims nine out of 10 business failures are due to management’s ignorance of solutions that are readily available. Where are you? Are you looking for solutions? Look up -- the solutions you need may be closer than you think.

We all would remain the same from one day to the next, except for two indisputable items: friends and learning. Without access to people and information, we would experience little or no personal growth. We are who we are today largely because of the information we have access to, and the people with which we associate.

We succeed by association. We learn and grow by our association with others. I believe association is what has made America great. Consider that in 1831, French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville traveled in the United States on a mission of observation for the French government. He compiled his findings into a two-volume work titled Democracy in America. “These Americans are the most peculiar people in the world. You’ll not believe it when I tell you how they behave. In a local community in their country a citizen may conceive of some need, which is not being met. What does he do? He goes across the street and discusses it with his neighbor. Then what happens? A committee comes into being and then the committee begins to function on behalf of the need. You won’t believe this, but it’s true; all of this is done without reference to any bureaucrat. All of this is done by private citizens on their own initiative!”

de Tocqueville was right. Americans associate to solve problems and make things better. Many of the solutions we desire for our floor covering business can be found in our associations.

Attendees at Surfaces 2009 take advantage of networking, marketing and training programs at the World Floor Covering Association’s exhibit. Surfaces was launched in 1990 when the WFCA stepped boldly forward to fill the void from the elimination of floor covering markets in San Francisco, Chicago and Denver, along with the demise of other western regional markets. The WFCA remains the official show sponsor.

I believe in associations because they feed the power of synergy. Synergy optimizes results. It’s the fuel that increases horsepower. Two heads are better than one; none of us is as smart as all of us; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I learned a long time ago that I couldn’t go it alone. Yes, I made that fatal assumption: if I can sell flooring or install flooring, I can run a flooring store. And like many of you, I learned from the school of hard knocks. Sometimes I have succeeded in spite of myself… for a time. Eventually, I found there were some things if I tried on my own, they would be fatal. 

To make sure I did not fail, I joined an association to be with business owners smarter than me who could help or mentor me. One such association that has helped me get where I wanted to go in this industry is the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). 

The WFCA has provided me opportunities to learn and grow through conventions, seminars and trade shows. Through these events, I have been able to network and associate with some of the best industry minds and savvy businesspeople. In fact, that association has helped me become a Certified Flooring Executive and the plaque is featured prominently in my office.

Twenty-two years ago, the WFCA gave me my first opportunity to speak in this industry. I wanted to become a speaker, and the WFCA helped make that dream come true. It all came about by the power of association.

For 50 years, the World Floor Covering Association has played a major role in the advancement of the floor covering industry and all segments from retailer, distributor, cleaner, installer, architect, designer, contractor and manufacturer. It has helped people who were good with their hands become business executives through certification and business tools and resources. Its mission to provide its members and industry partners leadership and resources that will raise the level of professionalism, increase industry profitability and enhance consumer satisfaction has been well executed.

We need to honor and thank those who have been or are currently involved with the WFCA; those who work full-time and those who donate or spend many hours away from their own businesses to serve our flooring community. What I love most about our industry are the people. Flooring people are the essence of what America stands for: freedom, industry, ethical behavior and generosity.

With all the WFCA does, I can’t understand why more retailers and contractors have not become members. The industry has almost 10 times more retailers than it does members. Consider all it provides to its members: reference materials and how-to-guides; insurance programs; medical benefits; retirement plans; scholarship opportunities; proprietary profit surveys; credit unions; communications tools; installation training; membership directories for networking; and real-time access to critical information.

For a few hundred dollars a year, you can be a member of the WFCA and take advantage of all the resources. You then can take advantage of their scholarship program; they will pay you to get better. Where else can you get paid for getting better?  When you join, know that you are not in business alone. You need people in your life who see what you don’t see, hear what you don’t hear, and know what you don’t know. 

The choice is yours! You can never remain the same, and you are either ‘made’ or ‘unmade’ by your associations. Any association that is not adding to you is subtracting from you. The WFCA is always adding.

Business owners tend to be very independent people, and have a natural inclination to do their work alone. Of course, self-reliance is a very admirable trait, but not if you’ve tried everything you know and still fall short. Maybe you ought to associate with the WFCA. Who knows -- you might even get better.