The 2015 joint North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD)/North American Building Distribution Association (NBDMA) convention showed continued signs of growth, indicative of the strength of the flooring trade and a fruitful collaboration between the two associations that stretches back six years. The annual event welcomed more than 700 industry professionals and 168 exhibitors, including 50 first-time exhibitors.

The three-day show opened with a keynote from Mike Rayburn, a business speaker and guitarist presenting “What If? Inspiring Innovation and Performance.” During his presentation, Rayburn explored the importance of positive thinking and persistence to drive change and create new opportunities, offering examples via expertly played guitar solos that he said were learned through a desire to push past his comfort level and dream big.

“Ask the question ‘what if?’ in a positive way,” he stated. “Bring levity to a problem—don’t set it on a pedestal and worship it. Take a problem and look at it like an opportunity. What’s your dream-case scenario? Write it down and commit to it, and take physical action on it immediately. You can only coast when you’re going downhill.”

Both Mark Herbek, Cleveland Research senior analyst, and Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, looked at the upcoming year through the lens of economics. Beaulieu, in what has become a trademark of his presentations at each NAFCD/NMBDA show, discussed economic forecasts while explaining how local and global politics can influence the health of the market—as well as when to pay attention and when to shut the 24-7 news cycle off and concentrate on business at hand.

Herbek stuck mostly to charts and figures in his presentation. He shared a viewpoint that people not versed in economics and research might consider counterintuitive, explaining that when an economic indicator keeps trending up and up past its previous peak, it’s actually not a good sign. Rather, it means it’s only a matter of time before it’s going to fall again. However, when an indicator is still a long way from its peak, “it means the market is not overextended, and there is still plenty of runway left. It means there’s not a bubble.”

Based on his interpretation, “Business might get a little softer before there’s an upturn again in 2016. The good news is housing expenditures are still a long way from their peak. The not-great news is consumer sentiment reached an all-time high in the middle of 2015, and now it’s rolled over. The bad news is we’re heading into a global industrial recession.”

He said weak industrial production can have effects on the economy for up to two years. “Industrial production is driven by the oil and gas boom. Oil prices right now keep dropping, and weakness is spreading. It’s a cycle. Industrial activity feeds employment, which feeds consumer spending, which feeds industrial activity. When these things turn, they usually don’t come back for a while.”

One additional presentation, focused on hiring, training and retaining top talent, was led by Claudia St. John, president of Affinity HR Group. She said one of the biggest mistakes in working with job seekers is not following up. “As recruiters, you need to treat all applicants—especially the least qualified—well, or they will go out and talk about you.”

She also said it is a mistake to trust your “gut” when hiring someone. “We all rely on our gut when we hire, but your intestinal tract isn’t so great at finding good talent. We have to be mindful of our gut but put it in its place. You need to test applicants, and make sure that test is EEOC-compliant.”

St. John noted when you do hire someone, make them feel welcome. “Twenty-two percent of all turnover happens in the first 45 days. That means nearly a quarter of people hired leave in that timeframe. Take them to lunch, make them feel welcome. Make sure their office is ready and they’re not hunting for a chair. Give them learning objectives, and make sure someone is responsible to sit down with them, answer questions and provide them with feedback on a week-to-week basis.”

Trade show highlights

Hollis Henderson Jr., president of Flooring Pro Fastening, was not only a first-time exhibitor but a diamond sponsor of the event. “This trade show has already been the biggest boost for us,” he said. “We sell quality fastening products for laminate, hardwood and strand bamboo.”

Another first-time exhibitor, Foam Products Corp., showcased the company’s range of The Silencer acoustical underlayment products. Jim Wink, vice president of sales and marketing, also gave a sneak peak of a new product for 2016.

“We’re coming out with Silencer CPS, which is a crack isolation membrane and acoustical underlayment for ceramic, porcelain and stone flooring,” Wink said. The self-adhesive underlayment features Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial protection in a 100% recyclable product, he added.

First-time exhibitor Norton showcased multiple products and accessories from its range. These included ProSand Multi-Air Cyclonic hook-and-loop vacuum discs for random orbital sanding machines, Neon premium grain blend floor sanding belts and rolls, Norton Premium Wood Filler, and PolyWhey wood floor finishes in partnership with Vermont Natural Coatings.

Dave Mansfield, Norton marketing manager—DIY/contractor, said he was interested in attending the show because of the collaboration between NAFCD and NBMDA. “We are really strong on the flooring side, but there is common ground with the building material people that is often ignored. So when we saw some cabinet shop listings for this show we were definitely interested.”

Bill Carroll, sales manager for Old Wood, described his company as “the only manufacturer of wood in New Mexico. We create wide-plank and end-grain products from wood reclaimed from forests in the Southwest. We don’t believe there’s anyone else out there doing what we’re doing.”

Charles Martin, director of Ontario Plywood, showed his range of tack strip, seam tape and plywood underlayment. “The Multiply underlayment is still our biggest seller. We took something of a commodity, and made it into a specialty.”

Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson Premium Hardwood Floors, displayed his company’s Rowlock Wood Panels for walls, which are available in four species: hickory, acacia, walnut and oak. “Rowlock can be installed by a professional or a DIYer,” he said. “It’s a fun and unique product, and also gives us some differentiation.”

Advanced Adhesive Technologies’ president, Greg Wood, showed the new Go2 Adhesive AAT-295 Ultra Premium adhesive for high-performance broadloom carpet backings and AAT-595, a single-coat moisture control membrane for broadloom and modular carpet, VCT, VET and LVT.

He said the joint NAFCD/NBMDA show is one of his favorite industry events of the year. “I love this show. It’s targeted, and the flooring distributor membership sharing this space with the building material folks was a stroke of genius. They pool their resources, people show up, and there’s an engaged audience. These are the decision-makers for these companies.”

The 2016 annual NAFCD/NBMDA convention is set for Nov. 1-3 in Chicago. For more information, visit