While the title might seem obvious, in real life, unfortunately it isn’t. Most people think they’re being proactive when in reality they’re simply being reactive.

Merriam-Webster defines reactive as “done in response to a problem or situation” While proactive is defined as “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs or changes.”

There’s nothing wrong with being reactive as situations come up out of nowhere all the time. Take for example the “60 Minutes” story on Lumber Liquidators. That caused a tidal wave of activity around the industry with everyone scrambling to find out if or make sure their customers knew the products they were selling met all regulations and were safe. It got so bad even wood companies jumped in announcing their products were compliant.

To the industry’s credit, it has by and large acted in a very professional manner. In general, within 48 hours after the show aired the majority of laminate producers had sent their third-party certified documents to retailers informing them their products were compliant.

And to the credit of retailers, as our story on page 22 shows, they immediately held meetings to bring their staff up to speed on the story and how it relates to their products. They either emailed the manufacturers’ letters directly to their employees or put them in a central location for staff to retrieve on their electronic devices in case consumers inquired—and they did. Many even tagged their products to help reassure customers the products in their store were safe.

This is all good stuff and those who acted in this fashion deserve to be commended. That’s being “reactive” to a situation in a professional manner.

An example of being proactive took place near the turn of the millennium when there were strong hints of local and state governments beginning to form legislations to force the carpet industry, specifically the mills, to keep post-consumer carpet (PCC) from going to their landfills, otherwise they would pay a steep price.

Before this could happen, the carpet industry partnered with government and non-government agencies to form the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), with the object creating a voluntary based system to divert and recycle PCC. By and large this effort has succeeded—creating an industry that didn’t exist prior to 2002, diverting 3.6 billion pounds of PCC from landfills, helping to find ways to create new products and jobs.

Unfortunately, that’s where it stalls, because the specialty retailer is not being proactive. Since the recession, the rise of polyester (PET) has created a glut in the recycling system, one that is threatening to tear it apart in terms of it being totally voluntary. At the recent CARE meeting, except for a couple of individual specialty dealers, no one from this segment attended. There were representatives from the industry’s two main commercial buying groups, but not a single one from the residential groups, or the boxes, which outnumber their commercial counterparts at least 10:1.

It’s time for the residential retailer to be proactive. Your input is needed. Without it, the end result could be higher prices—something no one wants.