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Consultant and Professional Speaker Jim Pancero Helps NAFCD Bridge the Generation Gap

Posted By NAFCD, Friday, October 12, 2018

Professional trainer and speaker Jim Pancero has been a long-time friend to the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD). Not only has he served as a faculty member the organization, he has presented at the 2012 and 2017 annual conventions. His latest accomplishment is the creation and release of a new webinar service (Voice over Power Point slides) titled "You Can Always Sell More, By Increasing Your Competitive Selling Advantage." The series has been specifically researched and recorded to address the latest distribution sales challenges being faced by NAFCD members.

One of the biggest challenges is replacing aging and retiring baby boomers with millennials and, to a lesser extent, younger Generation Xers. "There is a very clear generational change," he stated, during a recent interview. "The majority of sales organizations over the last 10 to 20 years have been made up of baby boomer salespeople. The owners and managers have been effective managers of those people, providing them with the culture in which they would be most motivated. That culture for the baby boomer has been, 'Leave me alone! Just be there when I need you, when I have a special problem, or when I need a manager to hang in front of the customer to show them they're important to our business.' Customer relationship management [CRM] software systems are being installed around the country, and companies are having to fight to get the older sales reps to enter the data because they don't want to give it up. It's part of their power."

Millennials, though, are a different generation altogether. The easy observation would be that they've come of age in the cellphone and Internet era. But Pancero says the differences are even deeper. "Millennials' philosophy is 'I'm one of a team,'" said Pancero. "They assume they are going to be coached. 'Tell me what to do. I want to be trained.' Well, many companies are still running as an independent, baby boomer philosophy. 'We're going to leave you alone. Each salesperson does it his or her own way, and we support that.' So, the millennials wonder why they should even work at such places because it doesn't seem they are giving their sales employees much attention."

Pancero believes that the differences in the generations come down to one simple question: "What games did you play growing up between 10 and 14?" When he tells audiences this, they generally chuckle. But then Pancero hits them with this: "If you were a baby boomer, it was mostly independent play, right? Somebody had a bat, somebody had a ball, you have a game. They spent a third of their time lining up against a wall and picking sides. You saw where you ranked in the neighborhood every day that you played. Another third of the time you spent playing the game, and the other third was spent arguing whether the ball was 'in' or 'out' because there were no rules and no referees. It was all independent play, and it constantly changed."

He continued, "Switch it to millennials. What did they mostly play from 10 to 14? Mostly organized sports that they were driven to by their parents. There were uniforms and coaches. There were referees, there were rules, and there were juice boxes. It was this very organized thing. They didn't go to play. They went to practice."

Consequently, when the baby boomers joined businesses like floor covering firms and building materials companies, they didn't want to be ranked. Their thinking was: "If I do that differently than you do it, it will be difficult for the boss to rank us." Pancero further illustrated, "In one business with five salespeople, there would be five different selling messages being delivered to the customers. Now, if you can attract them, the millennials comes into the company and immediately ask, 'What works? Show me what do. I don't want to re-invent anything.' The boomer managers then say, 'Wow, this is an unmotivated group. They're not independent, they're not motivated, and they just sit there unless we tell them what to do.' They're applying baby boomer values to a millennial team, and that's a mistake. It's really tough to hire 30-year-old baby boomers!"

"There are no negatives to this. It just is," is a common phrase Pancero tells audiences and business owners he consults with. This changeover of generations is one that is indeed happening right now among NAFCD members. "Unfortunately," Pancero lamented, "there are too many members sitting around and saying, 'The millennials are just not excited about the flooring industry!' or 'We can't get them excited about selling flooring.' They blame it on the industry that they can't attract the people that they want. My premise is, it's not your industry that's the problem. It's that when the millennial goes in for a job interview, he or she sees that it's a baby boomer culture, and nobody wants that anymore unless they're a baby boomer. They want coaches. They want to be managed. They want to be motivated and given affirmations."

As a consultant, Pancero says he watches owners of businesses go through three distinct phases. The first phase is they blame the industry (or "those damn kids") on why they can't attract younger salespeople, drivers, and so forth. The second phase is they start to realize they are an essential reason why the business is not as attractive as it needs to be to the people they want to hire. It's not just the products and the job. It's the motivational and coaching environment. The third phase is the owner/managers realize that, for the time being, they're going to have to be managing two distinct teams.

Pancero acknowledges that this is "very broad-brushed painting" and there are always exceptions. All the more reason to check out his webinar series. "This evolution of change is covered in detail in this program of mine that NAFCD has published and made available to members on their respective websites," he concluded. "It's a total of ten approximately 15-minute modules. You can download a .PDF of the workbook that we use, and they're great to listen to as podcasts while you are driving around. It's a terrific way to be able to consume the information. Eight of the modules are on selling and two of the modules are for the managers of the people going through the course that offer ideas for them as coaches to help their people get the maximum value in the implementation of the ideas covered."

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NAFCD Releases 2018 Cross-Industry Compensation and Benefits Report

Posted By NAFCD, Monday, October 1, 2018

The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) is pleased to announce the release of the 2018 NAFCD Cross-Industry Compensation and Benefits Report. The 2018 Report provides a detailed analysis of key compensation and benefits related statistics for the distribution industry. The results are based on confidential surveys from 1,037 distribution companies, representing nearly 9,500 locations.

The survey was compiled, tabulated and analyzed by Industry Insights, Inc., an independent professional research and analytics firm that specializes in conducting compensation studies for associations.

The 2018 NAFCD Cross-Industry Compensation and Benefits Report represents the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date compensation and benefits data available. This Report is designed to allow users to easily compare compensation levels and benefits policies with companies involved in wholesale distribution.

In addition to data on recruiting and retention; health care costs/trends; retirement benefits; vacations/PTO and holidays; sick and other leave; and sales practices, this Report contains compensation-related statistics for common job titles in the industry, including:

  • Executive Level Positions
  • General & Administrative
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Operations/Warehouse
  • Information Technology

"The 2018 NAFCD Cross-Industry Compensation and Benefits Report provides enhanced value for distributors by comparing compensation levels and benefits policies with over 1,000 distribution companies," says Kevin Gammonley, NAFCD Executive Director. "The detailed analysis helps our members identify compensation levels and the strength of their benefit packages."

Nonparticipating companies may purchase the Report from the association. For more information about the 2018 NAFCD Cross-Industry Compensation and Benefits Report, visit

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NAFCD Releases 2018 Financial Benchmarking Report

Posted By NAFCD, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) is pleased to announce the release of the 2018 NAFCD Financial Benchmarking Report, a profitability analysis of NAFCD members designed to analyze and understand "best practices" of floor covering distributor companies. This financial benchmarking tool addresses critical business questions with unprecedented ease, speed and accuracy.

The Report is organized into a number of sections, each designed to assist management in a specific area of inquiry. These sections include an executive summary, sales volume analysis, product focus analysis, imported product analysis, market size analysis, trend analysis and more.

Some of the questions this tool helps to answer includes:

  • What is the "profitability gap" between high profit distributors and other distributors?
  • What is a competitive gross margin in the floor covering distribution industry?
  • What type of productivity should a distributor expect out of their employees?
  • Are operating expenses in line with industry benchmarks?

All distributor survey participants received:

  • 2018 NAFCD Industry Benchmarking Dashboard - Based on actual distributor data, this customizable report provides industry averages across a variety of metrics and includes text that explains what the results mean.
  • How Financial Benchmarking Works - This document tells distributors exactly what to do next with this data.
  • NAFCD Individual Company Benchmarking Dashboard - Distributors who submitted data received an Individual Report featuring their exact data to make benchmarking even easier, as well as a visual view of strengths and weaknesses compared to other distributors.

The Report is made available at no cost to participating NAFCD distributors, and is available for purchase in the NAFCD online store. The 2019 NAFCD Financial Benchmarking Survey will open in April. Learn more about this exciting new business tool and all NAFCD products and services at

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Tri-West President Provides a Gage on the Flooring Industry Today

Posted By NAFCD, Thursday, September 13, 2018

Allen Gage started in the flooring business right out of college in 1979, selling carpet for the William Volker Company. Three years later, he took a job at Tri-West Ltd. and began selling Armstrong products in Southern California. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that he moved into management at the company, placed in charge of all Armstrong residential products.

As time went on, he was asked to play a central role in diversifying Tri-West, a campaign that centered on building wood, luxury vinyl tile (or LVT), and laminate lines. As the company became more successful, he became more successful. He was eventually elevated to Vice President of Sales, which gave him a clear pathway to becoming President of Tri-West four years ago.

"It is an honor and a blessing for me to be part of the Tri-West team," he beamed, during a recent interview. "The passion still runs deep." NAFCD looked to mine some of that passion during a Q&A interview in which Gage was asked about everything from industry challenges and opportunities to what was the best advice ever given to him in this business. What follows is our chat:

NAFCD: What do you think will be one or two of the biggest challenges our industry will face in the second half of 2018?

ALLEN GAGE: The second half of 2018 will present several challenges. There is the ongoing challenge of managing overall growth while maintaining the excellent service levels that our customers deserve and expect. As part of that overall challenge, I believe two areas will be particularly challenging. First, finding and keeping good people will continue to be difficult as the labor market tightens. The saying, "You win with people" is absolutely true. Secondly, pricing and cost pressures as a result of rising material costs, fuel increases, a shortage of truckers, and tariffs will also make for a challenging second half of 2018.

NAFCD: Where will the opportunities lie?

AG: This answer sounds simple, but I believe it to be true. Market share will be taken by the company that has the right products, the inventory, and the organization behind it all to deliver it on time. Our customers are extremely busy, and they are looking for a partner they can depend on day in and day out. On the West Coast, we have been competing against the Asian factories for a long time. You are not going to win the price game, but quality products at good prices with consistent service levels can keep you in the game.

NAFCD: What makes your company stand out in the marketplace? What makes it unique?

AG: Distribution is definitely a team sport. We use the three P's (People, Product, and Passion) as our foundation. If we have better people, better products, and more passion, we will win. We are a very competitive group. We hate to lose!

NAFCD: What do you consider to be the favorite part of your job?

AG: We believe people are by far our most important asset. So, watching people grow in the organization is one of the things I find most rewarding. Whether it is a young person new to the industry or a veteran taking on a new challenge, seeing people take pride and enjoy their work is very satisfying. I also enjoy the process of developing new products very much. When we match up good people with good products, great things happen.

NAFCD: What do you still find hard or challenging?

AG: Dealing with regulations on the national, state, or local level can be very frustrating. That is the part of the job I like least.

NAFCD: Was there some advice given to you earlier in your career that has really stuck with you?

AG: I have been blessed to be mentored by the best in the industry, Mr. Dan Proctor. Dan is one of the founders of Tri-West and has mentored a number of the current management team. As any great leader, Dan has always led by example. He was very good at reminding us the basics of distribution. Some of those basics are: one, people are our most important asset; two, we can only be as good as our suppliers, because we don’t make anything; three, distribution is a pennies business; and, four, margin pays the bills

NAFCD: What advice would you give to someone young and just entering our industry today?

AG: The floorcovering business can be a fun and rewarding career. It is amazing how many people stay in the industry for the long term. There is tremendous opportunity, but there is no short cut for hard work.

NAFCD: Finally, how has NAFCD been of value to you personally and to your company?

AG: We have supported the NAFCD, because it has worked hard to support us. The sharing of ideas and best practices has been great for both me and Tri-West. We generally face the same issues as other NAFCD members. So, it's great to have other organizations to bounce ideas off of. The networking has been very fruitful. The training programs and industry reports are really good, and we use them to stay on top of our game!

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Greg Vale Joins Fishman Flooring Solutions as Vice President of Sales

Posted By NAFCD, Friday, September 7, 2018

Fishman Flooring Solutions, a leading distributor of flooring and flooring installation products, has announced that Greg Vale has joined the company as Vice President of Sales, effective today. Vale was previously Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for J.J. Haines, which he joined in 2000 as an architectural design specialist.

“Greg Vale brings impeccable credentials, an untarnished reputation and broad sales experience in the flooring marketplace to Fishman’s management team,” said Executive Vice President Bill Mabeus, who heads the Fishman sales function. “Our growth curve over the past several years has been steep and the addition of Greg to our team will strengthen our ability to grow and manage our sales today, as well as into the future.”

Fishman’s recent growth has been organic, according to Mabeus. This is reflected in the relocation of its branch and expansion of its warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina in August 2018; the expansion of its Baltimore headquarters in March 2018; and the expansion of its Columbus, Ohio branch and warehouse in September 2017. In addition, Fishman opened new branches in Nashville, Tennessee in March 2018 and Knoxville, Tennessee in March 2017.

Vale will initially be responsible for leading the Fishman sales team, acquisition of solutions-based products and management of some brands. He will also work with Fishman senior managers to develop future leaders for the business.

Vale received a degree in business management from the University of Central Florida in 1995 and recently completed an executive education program at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. He and his wife Jackie reside with their two sons near Raleigh, North Carolina.

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NAFCD Partners with fcB2B to Lower Costs for Flooring Distributors

Posted By NAFCD, Friday, September 7, 2018

The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) announced that it is partnering with the Floor Covering Business to Business Association (fcB2B) in an effort to increase the number of flooring distributors sending and receiving electronic purchase orders, invoices and product catalogs from their suppliers as well as their retail customer base. The use of such technology is making the whole supply chain more efficient and will ultimately lower costs for those flooring distributors who take advantage of the tools.

"Distributors large and small can take advantage of the cost benefits B2B technology offers", commented fcB2B Executive Director, Phil Zolan. He added that "it saves distributors money as research has found that on average it costs over $12 to process a manual flooring purchase order, but the same order costs less than $4 done B2B".

NAFCD will leverage its various communication mediums to inform flooring distributors about the many benefits of adopting B2B within their operations. In addition to a series of articles shared with NAFCD distributor members in its newsletter, Phil Zolan will be a guest at the 2018 NAFCD Convention in November to help educate the entire floor covering distributor community on why it's in their best interest to join the trend in communicating electronically with customers and suppliers. "NAFCD is committed to enhancing the productivity and profitability of the flooring distributor" commented NAFCD Executive Vice President, Kevin Gammonley. "Facilitating the greater utilization of available technology by distributors is in-line with NAFCD's mission" added Gammonley.

The Floor Covering Business to Business Association (fcB2B) is the primary advocate for the continual development and adoption of a standard language that allows software management systems being widely utilized by the flooring supply chain to communicate seamlessly with one another. fcB2B technology enables software users to automatically send and receive the documents that are exchanged everyday between manufacturers, distributors, and flooring retailers in a fraction of the time it takes when completed manually. fcB2B and NAFCD are committed to working together to bring the cost benefits of B2B technologies to the distributor community. As fcB2B members, distributors gain access to an extensive resource where they can find implementation advice, share best practices and review the current B2B standard with peers and industry experts.

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FCLC Releases First Phase of Installation Research Findings

Posted By NAFCD, Thursday, September 6, 2018

In August 2017, the Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC) commissioned an independent research firm to conduct a multi-phase study to quantify the scope and severity of the lack of installation professionals on the flooring industry's sustainability and growth. Chicago-based research firm, Blackstone Group, was contracted to conduct the research which focused on businesses that purchased workers' services by engaging floor covering installers as direct employees and/or subcontractors in 2017. Over three hundred responses were received covering subcontractors, installers, retailers and suppliers from forty five of the fifty states.

Executive summary highlights of the research findings include:

  • Businesses that perform floor covering installation use diversification as a core business strategy to manage risk. Almost all of respondents had sold floor covering products in addition to installation services and earned revenue from more than one construction sector while two thirds used both direct employees and subcontractors to perform installation services.
  • While diversification was widespread, respondents did rely more on subcontractors than on direct employees. One in four used subcontractors exclusively. The benefits of subcontracting to lower risk remain compelling enough that no greater shift to direct employees was being planned for in 2018.
  • Respondents were somewhat likely to recommend floor covering installation as a career. Financial advantages drive career recommendations while tough working conditions are the primary barrier to making a recommendation.
  • Perceptions that the industry was experiencing workforce shortages were widespread and were high relative to both the shortage of direct employees as well as subcontractors. Serious shortage perceptions were driven by labor market characteristics including higher perceptions in non-union versus union markets as well as revenue mix where perceptions were higher for those generating residential revenue versus non-residential.
  • Despite perceptions of labor shortages, most of the respondents do not plan on raising wages for direct employees in 2018 even though costs of subcontracted services are expected to rise by an average of 3.9% in 2018.
  • The research identified gaps in the workforce including the challenge of recruiting young floor covering installation workers and the fact that retailers had the lowest percentage of directly employed installation workers who received formal training compared to contractors and installation businesses.
  • The shortage of installation workers is having a measurable financial impact on the industry. The combined cost of the labor shortages impacts on the businesses was 3.8% of their total 2017 floor covering product sales and/or installation revenues.

The study concluded that not only is the labor shortage real, but its financial impact up the flooring supply chain is significantly more than previously understood.

Additional details on the findings will be released in the coming months featuring in-depth highlights on the following categories of the research:

  1. Characteristics of the businesses that rely on floor covering installation workers
  2. Business' use and perceptions of the installation workforce
  3. Installation as a Career including motivations, barriers and recruitment
  4. Gaps in the installation workforce including perceptions and market indicators
  5. Financial impacts of installer shortages

FCLC's primary objectives of the research project included:

  1. Estimating the current size of the gaps between supply and demand of floor covering installers as well as the projection of these gaps in 5-10 years
  2. Quantifying the financial impact of the installer shortage up the supply chain
  3. Identifying the key drivers behind the installer shortage as well as potential solutions

Member associations of FCLC donated funds necessary to kick-off the initial phase of the research project. Ongoing industry fundraising will be coordinated to generate the funding needed for additional stages of the project.

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What Is B2B and Why Must I Have It?

Posted By NAFCD, Friday, August 3, 2018

The flooring industry is catching up to the rest of the world when it comes to technology and automation. The cost savings potential to every participant in the supply chain is staggering. So, why haven’t flooring distributors jumped in with both feet? We discussed that with Phil Zolan, Executive Director of the nonprofit Floor Covering Business to Business (fcB2B) Association, which is part of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA).

He noted that fcB2B maintains the electronic communication standards that all flooring distributors use to do business B2B. He noted many things during our interview. What follows is our chat:

NAFCD: When you say B2B in flooring, what exactly are you talking about?

PHIL ZOLAN: B2B, or Business to Business, means "electronic commerce between businesses," as opposed to between a business and a consumer -- FYI, that's B2C. The keyword in that definition is electronic. That means no paper, no phone calls, no e-mails, and no faxes. It’s strictly one computer system talking directly to another computer system.

NAFCD: Exactly what electronic business are we talking about?

PZ: For flooring, there are three major categories. One, Product Catalogs are the electronic files sent by manufacturers to distributors, or from distributors to their dealers, showing all the specific information about every product they sell, including style names, style numbers, colors, prices, and units of measure. The Product Catalog serves as the starting point for all transactions.

Two, Purchase Orders are electronic files sent from the purchaser to the distributor, or from the distributor to the manufacturer, listing the exact products, colors, and quantities being ordered. Because these are submitted electronically, you also get the benefit of a Purchase Order Acknowledgement, which quickly tells you your order has been received and accepted. Some suppliers are able to send these automatically in a matter of seconds, while some still manually look at each one before a response is sent.

And, three, Invoices are then sent electronically to the buyer, where most use industry specific software to match the invoice to their purchase order and receipt inspection. This is often referred to as a three-way match.

NAFCD: Distributors have been doing business for years. Why should they adopt B2B now?

PZ: First and foremost, it saves you money! WFCA research found that, on average, it costs over $12 to process a manual flooring purchase order, but the same order costs less than $4 done B2B. Also, it's the year 2018. People expect it. Look at the Amazon Prime Day earlier this month, for example, where over 100 million items were purchased in a 36-hour period. Imagine how many people they would need to field all those phone calls in 36 hours! They do it all electronically because it’s cheaper, faster, and more reliable.

Nobody should be surprised by that. But, surprisingly, with all the technology available to us today, most flooring transactions today are still being done the old-fashioned and very expensive way. It's no surprise then that more and more flooring manufacturers, distributors, and dealers are realizing that in order to stay competitive, they need to do less things manually and more things electronically. Those businesses are eliminating the paper, avoiding having to staff the phone lines to answer calls and take orders, and are conducting business completely electronically.

NAFCD: Is it difficult to start doing business B2B?

PZ: It's not that difficult to do. You probably don't need to have a computer specialist on staff, and you may have the software already in use right now to get started! There are only a handful of software packages currently in use at distributors, and most have a plug-in module to get it to start working in very short order.

NAFCD: How exactly does fcB2B fit into all of this?

PZ: The fcB2B group maintains the language that everyone in the flooring supply chain uses to talk with each other electronically. Computer system language is a lot like speaking Chinese – there are hundreds of different dialects. fcB2B worked with everyone in the supply chain to settle on one dialect, so that every computer in the chain can clearly communicate with every other one seamlessly, with no misunderstandings or special coding needed.

NAFCD: So B2B saves money and makes distributor businesses run more efficiently. How can a distributor get started?

PZ: The WFCA is here to help shorten that learning curve. The experience this industry has gained over the past 17-plus years of fcB2B is available to help you avoid the pitfalls. Drop me an e-mail at, and we’ll set a time to talk through the process and get you started!

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As VP of Sales, Mark Johnson Is Keeping TRAXX

Posted By NAFCD, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Flooring executive Mark Johnson is very much like the company he has served for the past eight years: flexible, professional, and dedicated to serving a diverse clientele. "Traxx Corporation is continually listening to the industry and markets to determine what is changing," Johnson said during a recent interview. "As a result, we have the ability to make changes that will align with the industry and provide installation solutions for today’s distributors and installers."

Johnson has held the position of TRAXX's Vice President of Sales since June 2016 after serving as the California-based company's National Sales Manager for the previous six years. In his current position, he is responsible for overseeing all business development and sales organization for this leading manufacturer of specialty engineered flooring installation products.

"I started with Traxx eight years ago, but I have been in the industry for 29 years working for flooring installation supply manufacturers," he stated. "I enjoy working for a company that manufactures the highest quality products in the industry. We are highly committed to the training and education of installers, and we invest in and value the relationships with the distributors in this industry. Relationships, training, and installation solutions are equal to providing the highest quality of products available."

TRAXX's products are rigorously tested to ensure long-term performance for even the most demanding of carpet and vinyl installations. Whether the customer is looking for carpet installation tack strip, carpet seam tape, flooring nails, flooring staples, or other carpet installation tools and accessories, TRAXX offers a wide array of flooring installation products that professional installers rely on for performance and value.

The company, though, would not be the success that it is without a highly skilled and dedicated work force. For Johnson, there are few things more important or rewarding than building a team that is in alignment with the core values of the organization. "One strategy I have implemented for over 20 years in hiring is an acronym: CASH," he remarked. "C equals character, A equals attitude, S equals skills, and H equals habits. Character and attitude are most important. Skills and habits can be trained. Without high character and a good attitude, the skill level and habits don’t matter."

When asked what he considers to be the favorite part of his job, Johnson's mind was very much on the human equation. "It's the interaction with the people within this industry," he answered. "I love working with our sales team on a daily basis [and coming up with] strategies of exploring and developing diversification as the industry is continually transforming. It’s never boring!"

Johnson is a University of North Dakota graduate with a degree in Marketing and Business Management. Over the years, he has developed a philosophy of service and leadership that he likes to impart on men and women new to the industry. "Great follow-up will set you apart from many others in this business," he said. "Return phone calls and respond with information quickly. And, of course, have high character with a good attitude."

Looking ahead, Johnson sees several trends that he believes will affect the business. "Acquisitions and expansions are certainly a continuing trend, [and] the landscape is continuing to change as a result," he commented. In terms of product, "the overall trend within both new home construction and remodels continues to be toward hard flooring surfaces. As a result of this shrinking market segment, TRAXX diversified and entered the commercial markets segment by developing four moisture suppression products that are another cost-effective solution for protecting today's floor coverings."

Fortunately, Johnson, TRAXX, and executives and their firms in the business have the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) to rely on and assist them in recognizing the latest trends and keeping them on the path to success. Johnson concluded that NAFCD has provided him and his colleagues with "a connection to industry leaders who are willing to share ideas and strategies. Another key value of NAFCD is the training and information they provide. We all benefit as a result."

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Developing a Company Culture of Innovation

Posted By NAFCD, Monday, June 18, 2018

Technological advances have forced businesses to adapt and reinvent on the fly in recent years. Continuous innovation is not an option; it’s a necessity.

Being adaptable and open to change are essential aspects of any successful organization’s culture nowadays. However, that’s not enough. Business leaders must foster a culture of innovation to drive real success. In other words, you need to lead change instead of chasing it.

But how do you get there? Anyone can say, “We’re innovative,” but those are empty words if you don’t have the people on your team to realize the promise of innovation and creativity. The answer is performance competencies, which compare an individual’s intrinsic motivations to the behaviors that equate to strong job performance. By exploring the competencies of your existing team members, you can both identify hidden potential and uncover the talent gaps holding your organization back.

These are the key performance competencies that point to leadership in innovation:

  • Analytical Thinking – The capability to identify and synthesize information from diverse sources by looking for patterns in data, making connections between seemingly unrelated events, and understanding how different parts of a system are interdependent
  • Creativity and Innovation – Showing divergent thinking and the propensity to question existing practices; challenge commonly held assumptions; originate new or radical alternatives to traditional methods, processes, and products; and build on others’ ideas
  • Information Seeking – Displaying an underlying curiosity and desire to know more about things, people, or issues; people strong in this competency go beyond routine questions and dig for exact information, to understand the dynamics at play in a business situation
  • Initiating Action – This competency suggests the drive to take a leading role in improving or enhancing a product or service while developing entrepreneurial opportunities and avoiding problems. Those who initiate action often demonstrate a positive attitude toward getting things done and seek additional responsibilities beyond the scope of their formal job description
  • Learning Agility – The capacity to discern patterns in data, recognize relationships between concepts, and apply learning from one context to solve analogous problems in other contexts
  • Strategic Thinking – The capability to develop and help drive a shared understanding of a long-term vision that describes how the organization needs to operate now and in the future

These scientifically validated competencies are based upon years of research into – and data analysis of – intrinsic personality traits as they relate to job performance. Ultimately, people who demonstrate these competencies are much more likely to be innovators than those who do not show them. If you truly want your company to be a creative leader in your industry, you have to examine your organizational “bench strength” and start filling in the gaps with those capable of innovating.

Changing a company culture is not something you can accomplish with words alone. It takes time and effort to move the needle, and the best place to start is by measuring people’s performance competencies.

To learn more about enhancing company culture, and how to develop your leaders to embrace innovation, visit or email

To learn more about Caliper and special discounts to NAFCD members, visit

Caliper is a human capital analytics company leveraging decades of data and validated assessment results to predict and select high-quality candidates. Caliper partners with all types of organizations, industries, and sectors – from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses and from government agencies to non-profits. We help companies reduce the risk of bad hiring decisions; build high-performing teams; and engage, develop, and retain their employees. Contact us to learn more.

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