Strategic Exchange - May 2011

By Kemp Harr

 

It’s hard for consumers to be optimistic enough to loosen their purse strings with the media continuing to hammer the rising price of fuel, the nation’s debt and the rising cost of groceries. All of these issues are real and need to be dealt with in a responsible manner, but there’s also some good news that we need to take into consideration. On the bright side, the national average for unemployment has dropped below 9%, car sales are up 17%, and the housing market is starting to show signs of life. In addition, corporations are making money and are starting to hire and invest in growth initiatives. 

Granted, the first quarter has been soft for the flooring industry overall, but it looks as if we could still be on track for the housing market to improve in the second half of this year. Based on mortgage rates, property values and the median U.S. income, houses are more affordable now than they’ve been in four decades. The issue today for prospective homebuyers is whether or not owning a home is a sound investment. According to Zillow, a Seattle-based real estate tracking company, the median U.S. home price has fallen 32% since its peak in 2006. This is more than home prices fell during the first five years of the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Taken at face value, this is a startling statistic, but most people realize that the home prices of 2006 were over-inflated and therefore the decline appears more severe than the true reality. Many economists still predict that home sales will rise 4.1% to a 5.1 million unit annual pace. 

When weighing one’s options between renting and owning a home, there’s no denying the fact that once your home is paid for, your annual expenses are drastically reduced. So, when thinking about eventual retirement, the benefits of ownership far outweigh the flexibility of renting.

Doing the right thing
This logic assumes that the average consumer can still think strategically. Are Americans still capable of reasoning through the options and making the right choice based on the long-term benefit and all encompassing ramifications? The more I travel and observe the rapid social shift we’re going through here in the U.S., the more I wonder if thoughtful people are quickly becoming a minority. 

In early April, I sat down to watch the opening coverage of the Masters golf tournament and listened to the motivation behind Bobby Jones when he created Augusta National Golf Club in 1932. He sought to build a tradition that was focused on etiquette and decorum. In his mission statement, he addressed how fans should act and how people should be treated. Today, at the Masters, the tradition continues. Cell phones are banned and players “who are invited guests” are treated with courtesy and respect. And despite all the discipline and rules associated with this event, the Masters lanyard is a coveted ticket that fans will spend a small fortune to obtain.

There was a time when Americans recognized their place in the global society and acted responsibly for the rest of the world to take notice. Our ancestors came here to create a new world and as these daring people carved out their own traditions based on freedom and justice, prosperity blessed us and we thrived. Our currency became the global standard and since the 1870s we’ve had the world’s largest national economy. Today, our GDP at $14 trillion represents about a quarter of the world’s total output. 

The question we must ask is: Are we being good stewards of these hard earned blessings? Does the rest of the world see us as the ambassadorial role model that they should follow? I’m reminded of the Chicago album that came out in the late ’60s with the cut called “Prologue” where you can hear protestors chanting, “the whole world is watching,” supposedly recorded outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. 

It all goes back to four words: tradition, decorum, protocol and etiquette. It boils down to doing the right thing at the right place. If you get a cell phone call during a dinner engagement, either disregard it or get up and leave the room. If someone has gone out of their way to do something nice for you, sit down and write them a handwritten thank-you note. If you are going out in public, dress appropriately. And yes, this new mobile grid does allow us to stay connected to all our friends at anytime, but there’s no excuse for thumb typing when someone in the room has engaged us in conversation. As Bobby Jones knew all too well, the key to it all is courtesy and respect, a good strategy for life.

Starnet’s annual meeting
The Starnet group of commercial flooring contractors held its annual meeting in Phoenix in the middle of April and it was good to see that most of the co-op’s members were optimistic about business conditions. For many of them, business started to improve last November and has been steady through the first quarter of 2011. Granted, it’s still way down versus a few years ago, but at least it has stabilized. Several of the members have put more focus on the maintenance side of the business, which is less cyclical than the PI (product and installation) business, and helps build relationships with their client base.

New for this year was the Next Generation program, where members were encouraged to invite the future leadership of their individual companies for a unique workshop designed to build on their leadership skills. By adding this new group of 61 future leaders, the meeting attendance rose to a new high of well over 400 people (including the vendor partners). Rob Hailey with Howard’s Rug Company in San Diego is credited with suggesting that Starnet initiate the development program.

The keynote speaker selected a subject that by its very nature communicated optimistic recovery. For the past several years—during the lean parts of this recession—the speakers have been less entertaining and more tactical in nature, giving talks about the economy and other business facets. This year, however, Alison Levine, who led the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, was invited to speak as a purely motivational/entertaining speaker. 

In her talk, she artfully wove lessons of leadership into her story of climbing Mt. Everest in her quest to achieve the Adventure Grand Slam by the age of 44. (The Adventure Grand Slam is reaching both poles and the seven highest summits on the seven continents.)

Toward the end of the meeting, the membership passed a new by-law that rewards each individual member company for growing their business with Starnet’s core group of vendor partners. These rewards are generated by penalties (fines) that are accumulated from members who fail to grow their business with their vendors. 

Other highlights of the meeting included the 13th annual Starnet awards and the addition of Tandus as a new vendor partner. See more details on the design awards starting on page 68. 

If you have any comments about this month’s column, you can email me at kemp@floorfocus.com.

 

Copyright 2011 Floor Focus 



Other Archived Articles

Floors and More Wins Chamber Award   Full Article
Benton, AR, Feb. 16, 2015 -- Floors and More recently won a 2014 Small Business Award from the Bryant chamber of commerce.

Patent Board Rules for Tandus in Dispute with Interface   Full Article
New York, NY, Feb. 16, 2015 -- The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has ruled in favor of Tandus Flooring in a dispute with Interface regarding a patent on an installation system, according to Law 360.

IICRC Moves Headquarters to Las Vegas   Full Article
Las Vegas, NV, Feb. 16, 2015 -- The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification said it is moving its headquarters to its Global Resource Center in Las Vegas.

Kährs Acquires Minority Stake in Pozgaj Flooring   Full Article
Stockholm, Sweden, Feb. 16, 2015 -- Wood and resilient maker Kährs Group said it has acquired a minority stake in recently formed Croatian Pozgaj Flooring.

Consumer Sentiment Falls from January Peak   Full Article
Ann Arbor, MI, Feb. 13, 2015 -- Consumer sentiment declined in February after reaching an 11-year high in January, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index.

Mohawk Group Sponsors HPD Collaborative   Full Article
Calhoun, GA, Feb. 13, 2015 -- Mohawk Group said it has become part of a growing list of “Visionary” sponsors of the Health Product Declaration Collaborative.

Earthwerks Signs Distributor Longust   Full Article
Houston, TX, Feb. 13, 2015 -- EarthWerks said it has signed a distribution agreement with Longust Distributing, Inc. to cover the southwestern U.S.

NAHB Analyzes Data on Boomerang Millennials   Full Article
Washington, DC, Feb. 13, 2015 -- A recent study of “Boomerang Millennials” may have important implications for this key demographic and what it means for the housing market, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Metroflor Names Langstaff Design Director   Full Article
Norwalk, CT, Feb. 13, 2015 – Metroflor Corp. said that Robert Langstaff has been named the company's first director of design.

More Designers, Architects Attend Surfaces   Full Article
Dallas, TX, Feb. 12, 2015 -- Informa Exhibitions U.S. said that attendance at this year's International Surface Event was comparable to the 2014 show.

Retail Sales Decline in January   Full Article
Washington, DC, Feb. 12, 2015 -- Retail sales fell 0.8% last month, according to the Commerce Department.

Jobless Claims Edge Up Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Feb. 12, 2015 -- Initial applications for unemployment benefits last week rose 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000, the Labor Department said.

Milton Warman, Coloramic Tile Founder, Dies   Full Article
Chicago, IL, Feb. 12, 2015 -- Milton Warman, 92, founder of Coloramic Tile and Carpet Fair, died Feb. 7.

House Price Growth Steady in Most Markets   Full Article
Washington, DC, Feb. 12, 2015 -- The majority of metropolitan areas experienced steady but slightly stronger price growth in the fourth quarter, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors.

Stonewood Floors Names Martin Senior Vice President   Full Article
Everett, WA, Feb. 11, 2015 -- Daniel Martin been named senior vice president for Stonewood Floors.

Mortgage Application Volume Declines Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Feb. 11, 2015 -- Mortgage applications last week decreased 9% from one week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

December Foreclosures Lowest Since 2007   Full Article
Irvine, CA, Feb. 11, 2015 -- There were 39,000 completed foreclosures nationwide in December, according to real estate information firm CoreLogic.

Nydree Expands Distribution Agreement With Spartan   Full Article
Forest, VA, Feb. 11, 2015 -- Engineered wood flooring maker Nydree Flooring has chosen Spartan Surfaces to distribute its products in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

Mohawk, Shaw, Tandus/Centiva Again on Training 125 List   Full Article
New York, NY, Feb. 11, 2015 -- Training magazine has ranked Mohawk Industries 14th, Shaw Industries 54th, and Tandus/Centiva 66th on its annual list of top training organizations.

NeoCon East Moving to Philadelphia   Full Article
Chicago, IL, Feb. 11, 2015 -- The 13th edition of NeoCon East will be held Oct. 28-29 in Philadelphia.