“Whose Job Is It Anyway?”

The semi-annual meeting of the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) Board of Directors was held on the last day of June. And while it was a very productive meeting, there was a consistent theme that ran through all our conversations — the immediate need for everyone in every corner of the industry to financially support this initiative.

Over the last two years, we’ve already achieved some historic “firsts” for the industry and the FCEF has a solid plan for achieving sizable results in the future. The plan involves a “twin track” approach, long term implementation through technical and community college partnerships and short-term collaboration with retailers for local training opportunities. But none of this work can be achieved without the industry coming together to adequately fund this initiative. Frankly, it’s our biggest challenge, our greatest need and the largest threat to our success — the FCEF will not survive without increased short-term and significant and sustained long-term funding. It’s that simple.

Many manufacturers feel as if it’s the retailer’s responsibility to fund and solve the installation crisis issue; after all, “They are on the front lines and the ones most impacted.” Yet many retailers feel it’s the responsibility of the manufacturers and distributors; after all, “Their product has no value to the consumer until its properly installed.”

We do have the support of some of the largest manufacturers in the industry and we are very grateful, but it’s simply not enough. In fact, proportionately, the manufacturers are supporting the foundation to a much greater degree than the retail or distribution community. As of today, we have less than 100 retailers that are recurring monthly donors (of $100 per month per location) to the FCEF. With estimates of 10,000 flooring retailers in North America, that represents less than 1 percent.

It reminds me of an old story titled “Whose Job Is It, Anyway?” It’s a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody — and it goes like this: There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

Here’s part of the challenge — FCEF is a 501c3 private charitable foundation. We have given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in training scholarships. However, our foundation doesn’t have the “feel good” effect donors get when they give to other passion-based charities that create communities around walks and runs, for example. Instead, donations to FCEF aren’t typically thought of as donations by the ones giving them; they’re thought of as investments. Where is the passion for the livelihood we all enjoy?

The FCEF is a private industry foundation created to address the industry’s most pressing current issue, the overwhelming shortage of installation labor. We are the only organization in the industry solely focused on this issue. The FCEF is not a self-serving organization. It has nothing to sell, no agenda and it doesn’t play favorites. It’s only mission is to mitigate the issue that represents the largest threat to the future of this industry — the lack of installation labor. FCEF can’t do it alone. We need partners that are willing to support these efforts financially and help to do the work in their communities with assistance in setting up local training opportunities.

My study of and involvement in this issue for the last two years has led me to a striking conclusion, the storm that’s on the horizon regarding installation labor is much worse than most people realize. It is indeed an “all hands-on deck” situation. Remember: It’s Everybody’s job, and if Everybody is waiting on Somebody to do something that Anybody can do, then Nobody is going to do it.

If you are a flooring retailer, I’m asking for your support of the FCEF with an ongoing $100 per location per month donation. Sign up is easy and your donation can be automated at fcef.org/product/monthly-custom-donation.

If you are a manufacturer or distributor new to supporting FCEF, I’m asking for your financial support for the second half of 2023 — as well as your commitment to add ongoing support for the FCEF in 2024 as you are building out next year’s budgets. Contact me at jaaron@fcef.org. Come on Everybody!