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 last 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, NAFCD immediate past president, spoke with FCI about NAFCD’s goals for the convention during an exclusive meeting. “We wanted a real good push focusing on leadership skills,” he said. “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 still getting a chance to look at new products. “The tabletop format has been a great change for us. The networking, the conversation you get to have, is 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 executive vice president. “Everyone weathered the storm, and now everyone wants 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 again, 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 people 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. 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.

Upon receiving his award, Cassidy commented, “Thank you. 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 for me, 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, and so I say thank you to all our customers here.”

Also during the show, NAFCD announced its 2014 slate of executive officers and directors. Craig Folven, Herrigan Distributors, was named president; Chris O’Connor, CMH Space Flooring, was named vice president; Torrey Jaeckle, Jaeckle Distributors, was named secretary; and Rosana Chaidez, 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 are: Flavia Baggio, IndusParquet USA; David Ford, Stauf USA; Jeff Garber, Ohio Valley Flooring; Duane Goetze, Shaw Floors; Robert Hagood, William M. Bird & Co.; Michael Halebian, Michael Halebian & Co.; Heidi Cronin Mandell, The Cronin Co.; Dave Powell, Erickson’s Flooring & Supply Co.; Scott Rozmus, FlorStar Sales; Alex Shaoulpour, Horizon Floors; and Geoffrey Work, The R.A. Siegel Co. Members at large are: Sean Swanson, Kahrs International; and Dave Darche, Bona USA. Retiring members include Shane Calloway, Unilin, and NAFCD Past President David Williams, Horizon Forest Products.

Miller told FCI that the 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 active 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.”

Heidi Cronin Mandell, 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. During FCI’s exclusive meeting with several of the board members, we posed the question of how to ensure quality installations in this industry. 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 or she 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 usually goes into the pricepoint.”

Cronin Mandell added, “Manufacturers sell you the good, 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 show boasted more than 150 exhibitors and 40 first-time attendees. Primatech, which displayed its 250 and 550 Series of hardwood flooring nailers and staplers, was among the first-timers. “We were becoming disconnected from the larger distributors and wanted to reconnect,” noted Curtis Richard, account manager. “We’re out for new business, and this show is the perfect initial contact.”

AAT (Advanced Adhesive Technologies), a diamond-level sponsor of the event, showed off its line of Problem Solver adhesives, including those for the installation of LVT and other resilient flooring. Chris Wood, director of operations, said the show was an essential event for his company. “This group here is the cream of the crop, and this year’s show is the best one in a while.”

Another diamond-level sponsor, Bioformix, agreed. “We want to get our product into as many hands as possible, and this is the show to do it in,” said Fred Caputo, associate director of technical services. Bioformix’s products include Nexabond 2500 Instant Wood Adhesives, a range of wood glues for bonding woods to metal, ceramic, glass, plastic, foam and hardwood.

Bona’s booth featured its wood flooring adhesives line, available in both pails and sausage containers. According to Dave Darche, Bona territory manager, the show gives him a chance to see people he doesn’t see at other industry events. “It affords me the opportunity to widen that circle.”

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

David Clarkson, DriTac vice president of marketing and business development, said he was glad to be at NAFCD. “We’re talking to customers and potential customers at the show, and there’s a great lineup of distributors.” He talked to attendees about his company’s pressure-sensitive and eco-friendly lineup of adhesives.

Fabricushion showed off its full line of cushion and underlayment, including products for use under carpet, LVT and floating floors. “We cover a pretty wide scope,” said Andrew Muir, account manager for North America.

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

MP Global Products’ Kelly Kennedy, vice president of sales, talked about his company’s flagship QuietWalk underlayment brand as well as a new interlocking rubber floor tile line. “It’s a 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.”

USG displayed several products at the show, including its Durock self-leveling underlayment and floor patch line, and the new Durock Shower System. According to Raymond Wade, Jr., east region sales manager, “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 executive vice president, discussed the features of his company’s line of MS-Plus adhesives, including the new MS-Plus Acous-Tec MBA for resilient floors. This 100 percent solids, single-component adhesive acts as a moisture and sound barrier, he said. “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. 18-20, 2014, in Dallas. For more information, visit www.distributorconvention.org.