With an impressive career spanning more than four decades, Rick Holden officially retired from Derr Flooring Co. at the end of 2023. He was CEO of the flooring distribution company, which is headquartered in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and operates seven warehouses across four states. Chet Derr III is continuing to run the family-owned business, along with his two brothers and the executive management team.
Holden has long been a significant figure in the wood flooring industry, having been involved with the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) from its early days as an instructor at regional schools and sitting on the distributor steering committee. He served on the NWFA Board of Directors for 15 years, two of those as chairman, and represented the organization as a member and chairman of the Hardwood Federation. He was recognized for his innovation, service, and leadership by being named to the NWFA Hall of Fame last year.
How did your career in the wood flooring industry begin? I started at Derr Flooring in June of 1980, two weeks after I graduated from the University of Virginia, and was the first member of the fourth generation of the Derr family to join the company.
Tell us about your career trajectory since that time. When I started, we were a small company, so we performed many functions. My day started by loading delivery trucks, and then I would wait on customers at the counter, answer telephone calls, type invoices (we did not have a computer yet), and assist Chet Derr, Sr. with purchasing wood flooring from our suppliers. Over time, I became more focused on purchasing wood flooring and eventually oversaw all flooring purchases and the management of that inventory. I assisted the sales manager in working with our sales team and was part of the senior management that developed and implemented our growth strategy. Finally, I represented the company at conventions, trade associations, vendor events, and manufacturing plant visits.
To what do you attribute Derr Flooring Co.’s ability to remain a thriving family business for more than 100 years? Our longevity can be attributed to several factors, including developing long-term partnerships with quality manufacturers and our customers. Our goal is to create and maintain relationships with both groups extending into decades. We believe that the continuity of products and service is integral to our success. Our most important asset is our people. Almost 25 percent of our staff have been with us for more than 20 years and are committed to the Derr philosophy of serving our suppliers and customers.
Is there advice you would offer to wood flooring professionals that you wish you had known in the early days of your career? I received advice early in my career that I have tried to adhere to, which I believe was instrumental in my growth and success. It was to never stop learning! If you are a doctor or a realtor, you are required to continue your education throughout your career. Our industry deserves no less. I have enjoyed staying up to date on new installation and sanding techniques, new methods of moisture mitigation, improvements in wood flooring manufacturing, and the ever-changing government regulations.
How will you spend your time in retirement? It will be a learning process to fill 11-12 hours in my day. Some of the time will be spent fishing, golfing, and learning to play pickleball. Some will be volunteering, and some time will be spent traveling the U.S. and, hopefully, some countries I have not seen.
What will you miss about working in the wood flooring industry? I definitely will miss the people of the wood flooring industry. It truly is a family, and from that family, I have formed lifelong friendships. The amount of professional and personal support you can receive from this group is amazing.