When we bought our floor-coverings magazine 11 years ago, we thought there would be synergies, and there are, but not the ones we envisioned. The crossover readers
and advertisers are virtually nonexistent. However, the complementary effects are large.
For example, the flooring readership comprises retailers, designers and installers, unlike the wood industry audience, which is largely manufacturers. This places the flooring magazine a full step closer to the consumer and brings some much larger advertising entities – folks much more familiar with the consumer market. These include such household names and publicly traded companies as Armstrong, Mohawk, and Ardex. And, as you know, we try to share their marketing insights with you.
This time, it’s not marketing; it’s organization. From time to time we note that an industry without communication is not an industry. It is just a bunch of people doing the same thing across different regions, making the same mistakes and subject to political manipulation by outside interests. There are three modes of communication within an industry, those being media, associations and shows. This time, let’s talk associations.
The B.C.-based National Floor Covering Association (NFCA) has launched an initiative that appears to have a great deal of promise. In the first place, they make it clear they have no interest in taking over or interfering with existing regional or sectoral associations, such as the Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Association of Canada (TTMAC) or any of the design associations. They are trying to be an oversight association to help installers, particularly, as well as suppliers, to harmonize requirements and provide standards.
Without diving too deeply, flooring installers (hence retailers) are often pressured by general contractors and owners to not only accept responsibility for proper installation, but also proper inspection, proper guaranteeing and accountability. This is tough, since the same contractor or owner may demand an installation before a slab is properly cured, for example, and in that industry, “cured” and “dried” are not the same. So the contractor sees a dried slab and the specifications on an adhesive will see a wet one and the retailer is caught in the middle.
By specifying the standard in the contract, and by requiring a third-party, independent inspection (much as with AWMAC), the retailer/installer can off-load the responsibility of denying the contractor, as well as the accountability of a failed adhesive because specifications were not followed. This is very simplistic, but it catches the idea.
Enter Chris Maskell. Maskell is the c.e.o. of the NFCA and the ramrod of the NFCA installation manual. Maskell is also a Certified Association Executive, certified by the Canadian Society of Association Executives. Being an association executive is much like being a business owner or artist. You may make it look easy, and others may think they can do it better for less, but when the rubber meets the road, driving at 180 kph can be more dangerous than fun, and you must have a pro at the wheel or somebody else will have to clean up the mess, sooner or later.
The NFCA has taken the idea of professionally run associations one step further. Maskell did not start out looking to be an association executive. He is from the hardwood flooring industry. It was Maskell and the NFCA that decided to invest in the training to get both Maskell and the association up-and-running. To put energy into the industry and provide measurable, definable services that would help the members improve perceived quality, decrease compliance risks and expedite work through a sometimes boggy system.
I often speak with suppliers to the wood industry that openly wish for better performance from our own industry associations. Maybe it would help for us to take a look at what works.