Personal Reflections on a Changing Flooring Installation Industry
The year 2015 has been one of upheaval, changes and evolution—for the industry and also personally. Industry-wide, there have been big-name mergers, big-time reorganizations and questions about how to stop a projected shortfall in qualified installers as the experts retire and not enough bright, young, hungry installers are attracted to the field to succeed them.
Personally, this year has also been a massive upheaval because my father—a brilliant, hardworking, generous and hilarious hardware engineer with several patents to his name that I would never be able to explain—passed away at 68 after a three-year battle with a rare and aggressive cancer. My wife and I were basically living out of my parents’ (now parent’s) house for the final week of his life, trying to usher him out of confusion and pain and into a deserved peace. The finality of it pretty much exploded everything I thought I understood about my own life, but his strength and willpower all the way to the end was also deeply inspiring.
I say this not to garner sympathy or to exclusively share personal stories in a professional space. Just, it’s something that has been on my mind constantly, and as a writer doing his best to communicate the truth of what’s going on out there, I couldn’t leave this unannounced in the forum I use to chat with you all each issue. It might also help explain why this year of industry upheavals, changes and evolution feels particularly significant to me.
Just to show you how absolutely surreal this year has been, consider this. My dad died a week after the close of the National Wood Flooring Association’s 30th anniversary celebration, which ran in late April until May 1. While industry professionals were out networking, catching a Cardinals game and learning about the newest hardwood flooring products, I was listening to a hospice nurse explaining which medicine to give my dad at which time, and how to operate his morphine pump. It’s a sense of dislocation and detachment that really has no language to explain it.
Because of the timing of everything, I haven’t been on the road at all since mid-April. It’s been good to have the time to grieve and reflect, but I also miss bumping into everyone on the show floors. I never get tired of the energy at these events. There’s always something new to see, and plenty of people willing to offer their perspectives and experience even when the news isn’t rosy. Even during tough times, the industry is resilient.
And so am I.