For decades now, the floor covering industry’s demographic has skewed generally towards a mostly male and middle-aged or older audience. CCA Global Partners has been a big advocate for reshaping that industry and we provide abundant opportunities for everyone regardless of their age or background. Through groups like the Women of CCA and Nex40, CCA has redefined the flooring landscape and pushed forth a more diverse generation of entrepreneurs.
Founded in 2016, Nex40 is a group composed of young professionals under the age of 40. Nex40’s mission is to build peer relationships through networking opportunities. By engaging with other business people, sharing best practices and strategies, members use their newfound knowledge to execute personal, professional and cooperative growth.
“Recognizing there’s a future and planning for it is crucial to ensure a company has a future,” Regional Business Consultant at the Floor Trader and Flooring America Tristan Herrick said. “Involving a group of young entrepreneurs like this keeps the company on a path to a positive future.”
What began as a group of Carpet One Floor & Home members has quickly expanded to other divisions across CCA including Flooring America, International Design Guild, Floor Trader and ProSource. This transition has been successful in connecting store owners and managers across the nation, according to Digital Content Manager Giselle Odum.
"We started Nex40 as a program for Carpet One members, and now we have welcomed people from all of our retail divisions," Giselle said. "It’s very apparent during some of our meetings that these people crave knowledge and want to challenge one another. It also gives the team access to resources that they otherwise wouldn’t have thought of- each other. All of our stores are unique, but many face the same changes and challenges."
Through initiatives such as “Becoming Your Own Boss” which features guest speakers across the industry, Nex40 helps to prepare the next generation of professionals carry forward best business practices and company values.
“Our current Members made this company into what it has become today and in order to honor all of their commitments to making this a great company, it is the perfect time to get the next generation ready to carry the torch when the current generation moves on,” Vice President of Member Services and Operations Frank Santaniello said.
CCA Global Partner’s Senior Management has been a strong proponent of the Nex40 group since its inception, continuously offering up advice and pursuing new connections in order for the committee to expand.
“We are beyond lucky that our leadership is not just on board with the committee, but they actively participate and seek out opportunities for this group,” Communications Manager for ProSource Amanda Little said. “This shows that they are forward-thinking and excited for what the future may bring.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March of 2020, the group shifted their focus online and began hosting more virtual programming. Encouraging members to join the Facebook group and attend networking sessions, Nex40 has maintained a strong presence throughout work-from-home times. In fact, according to Business Consultant Sarah Fitzgerald, Nex40 members actually saw each other more during the pandemic virtually than they did prior.
“We went from seeing our NEX40 members twice a year at convention, with mill tours sprinkled in between to now seeing them once a month,” Sarah explained. “I’d say we’re benefiting greatly in that regard!”
Previously, the Nex40 internal staff spent a lot of time planning networking events and group trips to places like floor manufacturing facilities, however since the pandemic, a majority of their time is now spent planning virtual meet-ups and booking guest speakers for virtual presentations.
“Since travel and in-person events have stopped we’ve put a lot of emphasis on extending our reach and increasing engagement online,” Training and Project Manager at CCA University Tim James said.
Having a space where young business leaders could come together to bond and discuss important issues was more crucial than ever during the pandemic as many were navigating scary and uncharted territory.
“It was extremely helpful to hear how others were dealing with the newfound issues and share ideas and creativity in how we might all get through the challenging times,” Council member Sean Strauss said.
Not only was it helpful in the business-sense, but according to council member Drew Barber, it was nice to have a support system to help balance the personal and professional aspects of this career.
“I think most of us can easily get lost in the hustle and bustle of our busy days and careers,” Drew said. “We tend to forget we are not on an island on our own. Through the more regular conversations and interactions with NEX40 members you begin to see there are other individuals who are juggling being a young parent, transitioning business ownerships, managing employees etc...”
Technology was a blessing during these times, and many within the Nex40 group were savvy enough to have mastered Zoom hangouts, social media platforms and business communication software to continue their monthly meetings and daily conversations.
“The younger generation is very resilient and are able to adapt to anything thrown their way…” Frank said. “To me, we were perfectly positioned to be able to adapt to the demands of the pandemic on everyone and still maintain a level of networking, rapport and of course fun!”
As part of the team’s internal staff, Sarah Fitzgerald is a strong advocate for the Nex40 program, even suggesting that its existence is pertinent to keep a business successful and progressive.
“I think it’s important for other companies to adopt a similar program to ours, because in order to succeed and grow it’s a lot easier to do so when you join forces with other like-minded entrepreneurs,” Sarah said. “NEX40 is the future face of our cooperatives and we give the tools and networking capabilities to really push themselves into ‘becoming their own boss.’”
Nex40 council member Ashley McDaniel agrees, saying that there is an ultimately priceless exchange of information and industry knowledge between Nex40 members across the nation.
“I see a great value in this council and group,” council member Ashley McDaniel said. “There is so much to learn and share between us all and feel others could gain from this resource as well. Examples [include] ownership, management, operations, marketing, customer service as well as the strength our cooperative offers in support.”
Looking forward, this group of young entrepreneurs will soon become the next generation of business leaders in the floor covering industry.
“In the long term this group is going to evolve into the future leaders of CCA,” Tim said. “Our council members will continue to interface in meetings and in networking groups for many years to come, it’s just that those meetings will change from ‘Nex40 council meetings’ to ‘Advisory Council Meetings’ and the like.”
The Nex40 group will be reunited once again at this summer’s convention in Denver, Colorado, but until then they will continue to meet virtually and have fun hosting the occasional trivia night.
“The energy in this group is palpable,” Tristan noted. “Everyone is hyper-focused and eager to make independent flooring retail attractive and viable for the decades to come.”