As I looked around the room at the faces of the audience I was addressing, I was inspired. I recognized what I believe is the heart and soul of what makes the United States of America a great country: its people.

I was speaking to the dealer members of the Gilford Flooring Advantage Partners Program (GAP) at their “Pride in America Event” held at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind., March 7-8. The event was to remind us all of those who had served their country and even fallen for it. Gilford Flooring was to make a contribution on behalf of the attendees to the Wounded Warriors Project, a charity that is dedicated to taking care of our wounded veterans.

Gilford Flooring is a flooring wholesale distributor with four distribution centers servicing Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio. Their team of sales representatives is dedicated to both the residential and commercial market segments. Gilford provides significant resources and logistics support, from customer service, to thorough inventories, to a full fleet of delivery trucks.

The company began as a distributor of only commercial flooring products. With their specialized sales team, commercial remains an important part of their growing business, but Gilford Flooring also entered the residential flooring market in 1999. Their residential retailers (GAP Dealers) are supported with loyalty programs, display advice and maintenance, promotions, educational seminars, special purchase opportunities and more.

Though some in the audience had not served in the armed forces, many had served this great county in other ways. There were former firemen, policemen, city councilmen, city workers, etc. I was reminded of the book and movie “The Right Stuff” (by Tom Wolfe), about some of the first astronauts sent into space. Wolfe felt that his work captured the astronauts’ ethos — the “right stuff” that astronauts and test pilots of the 1940s and 1950s shared — the unspoken code of bravery and machismo that compelled these men to ride on top of dangerous rockets. Wolfe wrote that his “book grew out of some ordinary curiosity” about what “makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle… and wait for someone to light the fuse.”

Though no one in the audience had been an astronaut, I believe they were also made of the “right stuff.” Here were men and women of great diversity, who were willing to risk it all, put everything they have on the line to create a business enterprise. Small businesses are the heart and soul of what makes America great, providing more than 70 percent of the jobs in America. Like riding a flaming rocket into space, there is no guarantee of survival.

Let’s face it. Capitalism is mean. Anyone can start a company. Roughly, only one out of every seven can sustain it; only about 15% of businesses survive for ten years, according to U.S. Dept. of Commerce statistics. Being an entrepreneur is risky business, but the American spirit of free enterprise motivates people, like those in our industry, to risk it all and venture into the unknown.

This event caused me to be even more reflective, because at the close of the event I flew to Salt Lake City to be with family members and my 89 year-old mother, Carolyn, to celebrate the 90th birthday of my father, Samuel Allman, Jr. I have incredible parents. They were both made of the “right stuff.” My father is the only person I know who has been in the flooring business longer than me.

Dad grew up in mining country. My grandpa was a mining engineer at a copper mine in Mammoth, Utah (a city that no longer exists). My uncles were all miners. After WWII, dad moved the family to California. He started as a furniture salesman. I remember when he won a new car selling Simmons mattresses. One day, the store’s carpet layer didn’t show up, so dad got elected to do the installation.  He liked it and so went to Robert’s Carpet Laying School and became an installer. That’s when my three brothers and I got involved.

He liked working with his boys. We would complain, but he said he needed our help so he wouldn’t get lonely. Eventually he and mom opened Allman’s Carpet and Drapery. Together, mom and dad, sometimes with us boys, would sell and install carpet and drapery around Southern California. In the early 1970s the family moved back to Utah, purchased an old bakery in Bountiful, Utah, and opened a carpet store. (It was a chore to remove all the old ovens from the premises.)

Amazingly, he is still intimately involved in his business and can be found six days a week, six to eight hours a day, at Allman’s Carpets sharing his experiences from WWII with any customer, employee or vendor who will listen. He claims he has nine lives. At 90, most of the family is sure that he may really have had 10. If you stop by the store, he will be happy to share with you the stories of how he almost lost his life multiple times during the war.

The pride that comes from being the son of veteran is hard to explain. My father did not wait to be called up –he volunteered because it was the right thing to do. Doing the right thing sometimes has gone out of fashion, but it speaks volumes about dignity, honor and sacrifice. Those are the words that ring in my ears. It’s why I am inspired by our flag and those who exemplify those values.

I love this industry and the people in it. It’s been a difficult time to be in the flooring business, but those with the “right stuff,” though they may fail, get back up; they keep going. Failure is not fatal, nor is it final. We are Americans! We all have the “right stuff,” when we look for it. We get back up, dust ourselves off and get back to work. We seek to make a difference.

We make the homes and business of America beautiful. We improve the quality of life for our customers. We are Americans, we are business owners, and we are proud of what we do.