NAFCD/NBMDA Show Focuses on Flooring Distributor Leadership, Business-Building
Sal Giunta, the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War, spoke during the opening general session not only about his courageous actions fighting his way out of a Taliban ambush to save a fallen comrade, but also the importance of being a leader. “You can’t teach until you first learn,” he told a rapt audience. “A leader by definition has to stand in the front. This is why you train and why you prepare—so you never second-guess your actions.”
Richard Honack, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management adjunct professor, stated leadership is a prized quality in today’s business climate where “thanks to the Internet, things are starting to change faster than we have the ability to learn them. We all need to change faster than ever before, both professionally and personally.”
He added the Internet can be viewed as both a challenge and an opportunity for those willing to engage. “The majority of your customers have electronic devices they can use to find out about you, your company and your competitors.”
Prioritizing what is important over what can be delegated to others is a primary quality of good leadership, according to Steve McClatchy, Alleer Training and Consulting president. “Every decision comes down to two forms of human motivation—either moving toward gain or trying to prevent pain.”
He said a sense of urgency influences the decisions we make, but this can also be a trap. “Don’t base your decisions on deadlines but results. When you prioritize everything by a deadline, all you have to do is wait and suddenly everything becomes a top priority. Looking for results is the difference between management, which likes to keep things where they are, and leadership.”
Distributor workshops. We spoke with distributor attendees during a special NAFCD workshop focusing on social media, marketing and technology. John Troendle, Crescent Hardwood Supply president, said social media is useful for helping customers “get comfortable with a brand.” However, he added, it’s not really a tool for making a sale but more to help get potential customers in the door.
Michael Ratliff, Adleta’s Armstrong residential sales and product manager, noted one of the challenges in distribution is “styles seem to change a lot quicker. We might be stuck with reds and oranges in our inventory and the industry is already on to taupe and grays. It helps when a manufacturer has a display, some type of vehicle to promote the product.”
Troendle said illegally dumped flooring from overseas is another problem in the industry. Ratliff noted “the guys bringing in that stuff are ruining the market,” but also sees it as an opportunity for the savvy distributor. “This is why education is so important. Sure, people can buy junk, but who are they going to turn if there’s a problem? They will get support and experience if they buy from us.”
Tom Zagula, Loba-Wakol regional technical sales representative, said as a supplier he also sees these types of relationships as key. “We create a relationship with contractors and distributors, to help them out if they get stuck somewhere.”
Discussing the role of technology in his business, Ratliff said “all distributors these days have to have their own website where customers can place an order, check its status and look at pricing. However, in some of the more rural areas there are still people who don’t want to use computers” so it’s still very important to have a personal element.
Troendle said he uses a customer relationship management (CRM) system that helps him keep track of what his sales representatives are doing. “It helps us as a business because if I’m tracking their progress I can notice trends and help guide them if there are any areas where I see an opportunity.”
Exhibitors weigh in. Loxcreen Flooring Group showcased its ProVa line of products. According to Steven LaGrou, Loxcreen vice president of pro sales and marketing, “Our company is here to support our distributors and show off our ProVa line, including our new ProVa Board Plus+ tile backer and ProVa Seal.” The company also displayed a new 12 ft. LVT molding.
Thomas Trissl, principal of HPS North America/Schonox, explained the uses of his company’s subfloor preparation products, including AP synthetic gypsum self-leveler. “With the market transitioning from soft to hard surface, you need a better subfloor. This material does not shrink, it has flexural strength and it can go over wood, gypsum or concrete.”
He added, “Installers these days are required to have better systems and better subfloors. Nine years ago no architect was interested in moisture mitigation. Things have changed.”
Schonox also introduced the company’s new executive vice president, Doug Young, at the show. Young said he was impressed with the turnout and the people he met.
Gekko Industries’ Jamie Peebles, sales representative, discussed his company’s Gekko G2 Gun, a battery-powered adhesive applicator that is designed to reduce job time by as much as 60%. “It speeds up engineered wood flooring installations considerably. We also have a spray adhesive that can be used for carpet tile and LVT.”
Jack Hudgins, NorthStar Chemicals vice president of sales and marketing, showcased a spray adhesive system for VCT, LVT and carpet tile. “It represents a significant cost savings, and the other advantage is it can allow for a tremendous amount of public traffic almost immediately.”
He added, “These adhesives are predominantly water-based and feature relatively little clean up. You can start laying tiles in 15 to 20 minutes, and you have an hour of working time. You can make some real headway, especially if one is spraying and then one or two are laying tile.”
Kevin McGirl, president of sales analytics and CRM software provider sales-i, said his company’s software can be used by anybody in the supply chain. “We work with lots of companies, from small mom-and-pops to large enterprises, and flooring is a very good fit. I hear people say the flooring industry is slow to adapt to new technology, but to be honest, that is the same in every industry at the supply chain level. They are often very conservative when it comes to technology.”
McGirl said now is the perfect time for distributors to invest in products to improve their business. “People are more optimistic about the market, and they are prepared to make improvements to help sales be in the right place at the right time. It helps lead to more intelligent conversations.”