Starnet: A 20-Year Retrospective - October 2012

By Kemp Harr


As you will learn by reading the details of Starnet’s 20-year history, the organization has been blessed with intelligent leadership throughout its existence. For most of the years, credit goes to the membership for electing a strong board of directors. This board, in turn, sought out and hired talented leaders who have kept a steady hand on the helm and guided the organization through some extremely tumultuous waters. In the early days, a good deal of credit should go to Phil Wexler, Ron Lee and Bill Bebee—and, even prior to that, to the Comspec group that conceived of the concept in the first place.

A fundamental premise for forming the group was clearly collective buying strength. What separates Starnet from other buying groups is the essence of its strength. While each of the members is an entrepreneurial leader in his or her own market—and has rightfully earned a commanding presence—when they come together as a group their demeanor is one of fraternal friendship where everyone is equal. They are more interested in learning from each other and even sharing business than they are about getting a discount based on their collective buying power. Refreshingly, the driving question among the members when they come together is not about what’s in it for them. Rather, it’s about how they can join forces and be the best-in-class group of commercial flooring contractors.

This everyone-is-equal and we’re-all in-this-together mindset extents beyond the membership and even into the relationships with the preferred vendors. Whereas some buying groups always seem to have their hand out, Starnet sincerely strives to dance with the partner that drove them to the party. 

If someone were hoping to bottle the essence of this collaborative spirit for use somewhere else, it would be hard to duplicate. The secret behind it is two-fold. First, Starnet’s decision-making structure is reflective of our own democracy here in the U.S. Most key decisions are made by the board, which is simply an elected group of individuals from the membership. As a result, any mandate from the board is not a top-down (autocratic) decision but more of a decision by peers. But it is the second half of the equation that provides the alchemy: these members have been through hell together and have survived as close friends. You’ve heard the saying that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. This core group of Starnet members has fought for its rightful place in the commercial flooring sector against some of the most powerful and resourceful forces in the industry and has emerged as a winning force.

For the complete Starnet Anniversary story, see the October 2012 issue of Floor Focus Magazine. 

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus 

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