Let’s Talk About the New Normal

Hopefully, after nearly six months of pandemic shutdowns and new rules, your business is entering into a new “normal” period.

Depending on who you ask in our industry, you’ll get a different response to what this “new normal” looks like. For the last five months, the NWFA has held weekly “Thought Leader” forums with each of our four major member types through our steering committees and board leadership: contractors, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers. Each came together to learn from each other and help each other move our industry’s future-forward, one week at a time.

As the calls throughout the spring of 2020 continued, you could follow the return of business going up the supply chain from the street level back to manufacturing. First, existing projects that had been halted in some areas began to start up again. Then, consumers sequestered in their homes for weeks staring at outdated floors decided to improve their surroundings with new flooring. Orders started ticking back up for distributors, and finally, markets improved for manufacturers. The solid wood flooring market, in particular, saw pricing lows hit in a matter of a few weeks, to levels that had taken months to reach in the last big downturn.

At the heart of it, this desire to come together to move our industry forward is NWFA’s purpose.

Yes, NWFA provides installation training. Yes, we put on a great tradeshow each year (and even reformatted it to be digital in a matter of weeks this year). Yes, our online university training has provided the industry with a great opportunity to train during isolation. Yes, we provide coupons and discounts worth 10 times the cost of a membership to contractors and inspectors.

Above all of those things, NWFA provides a forum for the entire wood flooring supply chain to come together in one place to shape our collective future. Through our Thought Leaders series, we learned how to innovate and change our businesses to match the current times.

Contractors and retailers figured out how to implement technology to remotely bid on projects. Distributors and retailers launched virtual showrooms, set up curbside pick-up, and prioritized protecting customers and employees with new social distancing plexiglass and floor markers at 6-foot intervals. Distributors and manufacturers learned how to split into smaller teams of essential workers to keep products moving in the pipeline.

All of the member groups learned from each other when it came to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and loan forgiveness.

As we head into late summer, just think about all of the problems we’ve faced and figured out in such a short timeframe. While some of the isolated days seemed to go by slowly, the months now seem to have gone by quickly, but with much change, driving us toward a new normal.

These accumulated experiences have given us two crucial gifts for the future: a new understanding that we are all in this together, and that given enough time and effort, we can overcome any challenge.

We will continue hosting our Thought Leader Series, moving to a monthly format for the foreseeable future. If you’d like to join, contact me directly at michael.martin@nwfa.org for details.

I look forward to NWFA’s opportunities to help you build your future, and not only face the new normal, but also help to create it.

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