As I write my final column, I find myself reflecting on my years as Chairman and all that our industry has experienced. This chairmanship was not at all what I had expected. COVID-19 hit eight months into my first year, and the NWFA team and I spent several months managing through uncharted waters. But like you, we learned how to survive (and thrive) through the conservation of resources and technology adoption. This organization and its leadership have kept the NWFA solvent through all the ups and downs of the pandemic.
One of the bright spots for me was our 2021 Expo in Orlando. Our industry finally was able to reunite in person after so many starts and stops, shows and trips being canceled, and not being able to see many vendors and colleagues for quite some time. With all that we’ve experienced, it seems fitting that our 2022 NWFA Wood Flooring Expo carries the theme “Navigate Your Future.”
Now you may be thinking, “How am I supposed to navigate my future when everything still feels so uncertain?” The goals you had before – expand your business, improve your skills, build your network – seem distant, especially considering all we’ve been through. But the way I see it, in life, you have two options: sit around and wait for good things to happen, or take action to make good things happen for you. If you are not planning what’s next, you will be unprepared when the next disruption comes. Spending time considering possible challenges and responses is always good business.
So, as you pack your bags to head to Tampa, here are my parting thoughts on navigating your future, and how the NWFA is here to support you.
Cultivate Your Skills
No matter how far along you get in your career, you always must be willing to be a student if you want to keep moving forward. Stay current on industry advances with Expo, Hardwood Floors magazine, and NWFA’s industry reports and resources. Increase your profitability with NWFA’s wide variety of business services designed to improve efficiency and save money. Advance your skills as a wood flooring professional with NWFA’s toolbox of educational resources, including training, certifications, industry-standard guidelines, and technical support.
Build Genuine Connections
It can be easy to focus on building relationships with colleagues on the same level as you, but don’t limit yourself. Seek out relationships with individuals in different roles, at other companies, and even in other industries who inspire you. When done the right way, these relationships can impact the trajectory of your business dramatically. My business mentor is a distributor in the food business, and much of what I do is similar to what he does. We share contacts in banking, legal, and transportation. This relationship has been invaluable to me.
Advocate for Your Industry
When the industry succeeds, you succeed. Help impact the next generation of wood flooring professionals by supporting one of the NWFA programs or scholarships designed to introduce young adults to different career paths. Promote the benefits of wood floors with your customers using some of NWFA’s “Real Wood. Real Life.” campaign materials. Get involved with one of the numerous industry organizations designed to strengthen our industry voice, such as the Hardwood Federation, the North American Forest Foundation, or the Real American Hardwood Coalition. Forces are working against the best interests of our industry all the time, but these groups work tirelessly to keep our industry strong and vital.
Give Back to Your Community
Giving back is one of the best things you can do. While the rewards sometimes are subtle and don’t always reveal themselves right away, in the end, it may end up being the most significant thing you do in this life. The NWFA has established multiple relationships with charitable organizations like the Gary Sinise Foundation R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program. These collaborations provide NWFA and its members with additional opportunities to serve their communities, helping those in need while promoting the benefits and uses of wood flooring and their businesses.
Life is full of curveballs. But, if you’re willing to cultivate your skills, build genuine connections, advocate for your industry, and give back to your community, you always will be able to bounce back and move forward no matter what comes your way.
In closing, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Chairman. It truly has been an honor. Farewell, and all the best to Julie Russell as she steps into this role.