"Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress."    - Charles Kettering

Happy New Year all! Time for a fresh start, so may I start this year with a request that we all make a resolution together? In 2014, I propose we stop trying to tear each other down, and instead, look to build the industry up together. We are competitors of course, but can't we be friendly competitors?  

"Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country."     - Molly Ivins

In my last real post of 2013, I made a suggestion that people consider "hiring some kids." For some reason, that post ended up receiving more comments than any other post I made last year, perhaps more comments than all my other posts combined. (The discussion veered off into choices for site finishes and what defines "green" for different people, which are interesting topics which I'll try to look at more later this year.) But the very first comment suggested that the industry was potentially crippled by some "old guard" holding back some of the new blood.  

"The Problem is never how to get new innovative ideas into your mind, but how to get the old ideas out."    - Dee Hock

I don't know if there's really a major "old guard" holding others back, but I do know we're badly polarized these days. I think for all of us, we have to recognize that we need to keep an open mind about new market trends and new products, but even more importantly we have to constantly reconsider our ideas about what we think we know. Unfortunately, there is often a lot of hostility in posts (I'm not talking specifically about my blog, but in general, on the forums, or regarding news stories) and what looks to be an attempt to polarize the industry into categories."Stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning."    - Unknown

But really, aren't the lines that divide us increasingly blurry? We overlap in so many areas. A distributor can be a retailer while a manufacturer can distribute. A retailer might import. A contractor could be a manufacturer or a retailer or an importer-we overlap regularly in how we might define our roles. So many companies are touching in every industry segment-a company that once did only solid now does engineered-and maybe laminate, LVT and tile too, and hey, is that carpet over there?  

"Attempting to get at truth means rejecting stereotypes and clichés."    - Harold Evans

If we applied stereotypes to race or gender we'd be appropriately criticized. So let's not apply stereotypes to other groups in our industry-be it the "old guard" or all "importers" or "domestics" or "Chinese" or "laminates" or "site-finished" or "greenies" or whatever it is that you have a fixed image about. Not all who wear the same label are created equal. Nor do any of us wear just one label.  "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."    - Henry Ford

So here are my hopes for the New Year. I hope that in 2014 this industry will start working together and stop pulling ourselves apart. I hope for more dialogues about issues. I hope people will participate more in our associations, as well as in our political and regulatory processes.  "Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn't take any brains to complain."    - Robert A. Cook

I hope we'll choose to go positive together. I hope we'll celebrate our differences and acknowledge they can add a richness to our industry. I hope we recognize that we don't have to tear someone else down to build ourselves up.  "I view my strongest competition as myself. You're always trying to top yourself, rather than worrying about what other people are doing."    - John C. Reilly

It can be a challenge to be positive. But it is definitely a change worth working towards.

"What doesn't challenge you, doesn't change you."    - billboard for a new gym

Who is up for the challenge?

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")