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Rather than remind you that times are tough, I’ll remind you that tough times also bring opportunities. You know, it’s the "is the glass half-full or half-empty?" thing. In order to get through this you have to pay attention to the market outside of your business.

Consider the history of the automobile industry. Somehow the US automobile industry never saw the trends coming. An odd-looking car built in Germany in the 40’s began to appear on European streets and eventually made its way to the US. It was an inexpensive, good riding car that was to become  the signature of the hippy generation. Before you knew it, a whole generation converted to foreign cars—the results of global competition. Next was the 70’s. There was a crisis in the availability of oil and a steep rise in the price of gasoline. What followed was the need for more fuel-efficient, smaller cars.

Unfortunately, Detroit left the small car market to foreign producers—most of them Japanese.

So what does this mean to you in the flooring industry?

  • Be aware of the trends, if hard surface is selling, make sure your retail store says more than just "Carpet" in the title.

  • Keep your employees up-to-date on product and consumer trends. The primary buyers are female. Know how this affects your business.

  • Green is more than a color. If your not liking Al Gore is what keeps you from watching "An Inconvenient Truth"—get over it. Go rent the movie. In 1959 my mother said "No more aerosol hairspray — we’re messing with the ozone layer." I thought she was nuts, what was she reading? Turns out she was on the money. Find out about what green means in our industry and start doing something good for the planet. It’s not a fad. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s Fourth Assessment Report says that evidence for global warming is unequivocal, that negative effects of warming have already been observed, and that emissions control programs must be implemented. A good book is "Go Green, Live Rich," by David Bach.

  • Still think “the Web” has something to do with spider web? I  read a recent report that said LinkedIn, a social networking site designed to help professionals make business connections, had over 9 million users by February 2007.

  • You keep saying you need a Web site. Well, get to it. In our industry, try John Simonson at john@webstreamdynamics.com; he has been doing this forever and knows the industry.

  • Start reading industry blogs, one of the absolute best is written by Christine Whitmore, Director, In-Store Innovation for Solutia's Wear-Dated carpet fiber, at Flooring the Consumer.

  • Follow industry news. There's lots of it on talkfloor.com.

  • Go to the industry trade shows. The biggest one right now is Stone Expo, October 15-18 at Mandalay Bay Conference Center in Vegas.

  • Take advantage of the Web sites offered by your suppliers; there are plenty of interactive sites that will help you sell to your consumer.

In Vegas this week? Hope you had a chance to join me at Stone Expo yesterday for my seminar, "Over Promise, Over Deliver: Building Your Competitive Advantage."

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