Business leadership and financial benchmarking were a focus of the 2013 North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) and North American Building Material Distribution Association (NBMDA) joint convention, held this past November in Chicago.

With two days of networking, tabletop exhibits and general sessions—plus the one-day Distribution Management University program for high-level managers—the organizations tailored their presentations for distributors to become better leaders both on a business and personal level.

George Roth, general manager of Lockwood Flooring in St. Louis and NAFCD’s immediate past president, spoke exclusively with Floor Trendsabout the association’s goals for the convention. “We wanted a real good push focusing on leadership skills. We wanted to get away from political punditry, and leave our attendees with good takeaways. We also want people to understand the importance of financial planning. When I benchmark my year, it gives me a set of goals of where I want to be.”

He also praised the still relatively new tabletop aspect of the show, allowing exhibitors and attendees to network while also getting a chance to look at new products. “The tabletop format has been a great change for us. The networking and the conversations you get to have are what this show is all about.”

Both the tabletop format, which debuted at the 2012 show, and the Chicago location seemed to strike a chord with attendees. “There are over 700 people here, and the floor is sold out,” commented Michelle Miller, NAFCD’s executive vice president. “Everyone weathered the storm, and now they want to be part of things again. They want to network with folks and show their support of the industry. They’re sharing ideas. The energy is back.”

She shared some of what she learned from economist Brian Beaulieu, one of the general session speakers, while sitting in at an exclusive breakfast for NAFCD benefactors and NBMDA donors. “The industry will never be the same, and relationships are key. It’s become more efficient, more creative, and people are focusing on their niches. This is probably the time to expand your product line. Prepare ahead. Everyone is much smarter going forward, using economic trend reports to make decisions more wisely and leveraging what’s out there.”

Along with Beaulieu, other presenters included former NBA athlete and motivational speaker Walter Bond, who told attendees “people want to buy from people they like” and warned attendees to “cut off the news” and ignore media-fed political squabbling when making business decisions; Bill Benjamin of the Institute for Health and Human Potential, who encouraged attendees to key in on their “emotional intelligence” when managing others; researcher Mark Herbek, who shared information on product supply chain trends, and sales speaker Sam Richter, who talked about growing sales by developing personal relationships.


Awards and New Board Members

During the event, NAFCD Lifetime Achievement Awards were bestowed on three industry veterans: Wayne Cassidy, owner of FlorStar Sales; former J.J. Haines CEO Bob Thompson, who retired in 2006, and Pierre Thabet, president of Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage hardwood flooring brand.

Upon receiving his award, Cassidy commented, “When good things happen it’s not just a reflection of one individual but the whole team.”

Thompson stated, “This is certainly a great honor, and it’s a lot of fun coming back and seeing so many people I used to work with all the time. This has grown into a very strong and powerful organization.”

Thabet said he was honored to accept the award, but “I’m not done yet; I still have more to achieve. What has not changed throughout our history is our commitment to be the best. To build a brand takes money and time.”

Also during the show, NAFCD announced its 2014 slate of executive officers and directors.

Craig Folven of Herrigan Distributors was named president, Chris O’Connor of CMH Space Flooring was named vice president, Torrey Jaeckle of Jaeckle Distributors was named secretary, and Rosana Chaidez of J.J. Haines was named treasurer.

Folven stated, “I look forward to continuing the momentum in 2014, providing members with additional tools and knowledge to help them continue to grow their businesses.”

Directors include Flavia Baggio of IndusParquet USA, David Ford of Stauf USA, Jeff Garber of Ohio Valley Flooring, Duane Goetze of Shaw Floors, Robert Hagood of William M. Bird & Co., Michael Halebian of Michael Halebian & Co., Heidi Cronin Mandell of The Cronin Co., Dave Powell of Erickson’s Flooring & Supply Co., Scott Rozmus of FlorStar Sales, Alex Shaoulpour of Horizon Floors and Geoffrey Work of The R.A. Siegel Co. Members at large are Sean Swanson of Kährs International and Dave Darche of Bona USA.

Miller told Floor Trendsthe board features “a nice representation of women and younger folks. It’s refreshing. The younger generation is starting to emerge, and the older generation is not afraid to pass the torch.”

Roth agreed. “We need youth and energy on the board. Now we have a very deep bench, and we wanted to have more female directors because women are the ones who drive most of the flooring decisions.”

Mandell, who is president of The Cronin Co., added, “It offers a fresh perspective. There are not many of us women in the industry, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”


Installation Issues

Floor Trendswas given an exclusive meeting with several of the board members and, during the discussion the question of how to ensure quality installations came up.

Rozmus said, “Unfortunately, retailers seem to care more about installation when there’s a claim. Many times people learn about quality the hard way. Consumers often don’t care how the flooring goes in and they’re afraid to ask questions. However, the more the retailer knows, the better he can sell.”

Work stated, “Consumers are just buying a beautiful floor—they don’t know about how it’s going to be installed. The installation is usually built into the sale.”

Mandell added, “Manufacturers sell you the goods, the distributor educates the retailer, and the retailer needs to educate the consumer on expectations. Retailers are much more successful, and the partnerships work all the way up and down the chain, when they inform their customers about what to expect.”


Tabletop Exhibits

The 2013 event boasted more than 150 exhibitors and 40 first-time attendees. Shane Calloway, Unilin’s vice president of North American independent distribution, said the show was indispensible to diamond-level sponsors Columbia and Quick•Step, both Unilin brands. “During the convention we hold our Quick•Step and Columbia Distributor Advisory Council meetings. We rely on this time with our distributors to solidify the direction we are going in, and to gather important insights to tweak our direction, ensuring future products and programs are homeruns with consumers.”

Jean-Guy Richard, American Biltrite’s vice president of sales and marketing, showcased the manufacturer’s AB Pure rubber flooring, Stonescape PVC-free line and a new LVT product. He thought the show was valuable for one simple reason: “All of our customers are here.”

Joe Hostler, director of sales for Dependable and Keene Building Products, used the event to exhibit the company’s VaporSeal DB moisture mitigation system among other products. He loves the show because “it’s not a huge investment, and you can make some great contacts here and establish a level of interest.”

David Clarkson, DriTac’s vice president of marketing and business development, said he was glad to be at NAFCD because he was not just talking to existing customers but potential customers as well, noting, “There’s a great lineup of distributors.” He talked to attendees about the glue maker’s pressure-sensitive and eco-friendly lineup of adhesives.

Sergio Fernandez-Reyes, FN Neuhofer Holz’ area sales manager, displayed the company’s multifunctional aluminum transitions for laminate and LVT floors. “LVT is becoming more and more important. We also offer a wood veneer application made out of HDF.”

MP Global Products’ Kelly Kennedy, vice president of sales, discussed the company’s flagship QuietWalk underlayment brand as well as a new interlocking rubber floor tile line. “It’s an SKU-heavy line, with thicknesses from 2mm to 15mm, in a variety of colors and sizes. Once we got into rubber underlayments, we saw a nice opportunity to expand.”

Jean-Michel Carter of Seasons hardwood floors, said he was happy with the Chicago location. “We’re located in Quebec, and this event was ideal for us,” he said while showing the mill’s line of 8-inch planks in the Winery collection.

USG had several products on display, including its Durock self-leveling underlayment and floor patch line, and the new Durock Shower System. Raymond Wade Jr., east region sales manager, noted, “We are becoming a bigger player in the tile and flooring industry, and wanted to create a bigger breadth of product. We now have shower kits, waterproofing and underlayments, with more lines in our tile-setting materials in the future.”

Barry Wright, W.F. Taylor’s executive vice president, discussed the features of the company’s MS-Plus adhesives line, including the new MS-Plus Acous-Tec MBA for resilient floors. This 100% solids, single-component adhesive acts as a moisture and sound barrier, he explained. “The adhesive also self-levels itself, so there are no trowel ridges, and no chance of trowel ridges telegraphing through the floor.”

NAFCD/NBMDA will hold its next convention Nov. 18 to 20, in Dallas. For more information, visit