E-letter: Thanks at Christmas

Wow! Where did it go?

In a few short weeks, Coverings magazine will once again be presenting Canada Night at The International Surfaces Event (TISE), making this the fourth year running. Canada Night started off, and remains, a chance for Canadians to gather in one spot and show the colours. Frankly, most suppliers cannot tell a Canadian from a run-of-the-mill American unless we try to talk with a drawl. Then it shows.

Kerry Knudsen

But a drawl is called for at The Border Grill, just outside the entrance to TISE at the Mandalay Bay. Between Coverings magazine, TISE and with the direct sponsorship of Custom Building Products and Tarkett, so far, we will provide free beer (yup, y’all) canapes and, we hope, music. We have been diligent in supplying home-grown Canadian music each year, but the folks at The Grill prefer to offer such American standard fodder as Shania Twain, Neil Young, Jesse Cook, Celine Dione, Steppenwolf, Loverboy, Rush, The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Patricia O’Callaghan, Alanis Morissette, Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Band, Leonard Cohen, Sarah McLachlan, Cowboy Junkies, Ocean, Jan Arden…. You know the drill, so we’ll try, but we may be stuck with American Woman and other hits by, Guess Who?

Canada Night has been super popular — so much so that we have run afoul of the fire regulations, so, while the event is free for Canadian attendees, you have to register and be on the list. We feel this is counterproductive, since the idea is to present Critical Mass to the show, but you try arguing with a Las Vegas fire marshal. There isn’t enough money in Ottawa to accomplish that. Or, maybe. But there certainly is not enough anywhere else. Please. Register.

Overall, 2018 has been a banner year for Canada and Canada’s “occupied space” supply sector, for those of us that design, install, create and sell products to enhance the spaces where people live and work: our homes, schools, offices and institutions. As a benchmark, our lowest value of building permits in 2018 was higher than the highest value posted in 2014. It is time to make hay while the sun shines.

Speaking of making hay, December is an anniversary for Coverings magazine. Ten years ago on Dec. 1, I spent half the day signing away on incorporation documents and bought the outstanding shares of the company.

Hindsight is 20-20, and I doubt I would have done what I did then, had I known that the housing market was about to crumble and that virtually every trade magazine in North America would crash. We were up to the challenge, but there were nights when that week’s payroll was not secure. In fact, it didn’t exist.

As we have reported, those days were made harder by the decision of a group of suppliers to pull their ads from your attention because they couldn’t control us with threats and bribes. As I said, we reported that before, but we didn’t report the whole story, and it is one worth telling. Maybe one day we will, as it bears heavily on teaching wanna-be marketers and big-deal guys that the value in the market is in your reputation, not how low you can force weak, so-called publishers to kneel. As a hint, it’s called “branding” in current vernacular, but it means how much your customers trust you, not how many times before noon you can stuff your logo up their noses “on digital.”

Customers trust suppliers that win the confidence of trusted agents. Google is facing a confidence crisis, Facebook is facing a confidence crisis, and every pawnbroker, bail bondsman and fly-by-night “for-cash” installer is facing a confidence crisis. They are not trusted agents. Coverings is, and we can’t sell Canadian products and services if we have third-world reputations.

We at W.I. Media have paid a high cost in lost revenues for our reputation, and we are proud of it. However, it is critical that you understand that this is not something that we did. It was you. Your responses were proof-positive that you exist and you read. Without the unfaltering support of our readers, all our verbal posturing would be Google blog-o-spam, flying off into the void for nobody. It was you that called and wished us well, and it was you that filled out our surveys, and it was you who wrote to us that you understood and cared.

I am not knocking suppliers. We need them and they need us. We are a team. However, the floorcovering industry has known since time began that loyalty and strength of relationships beat price in the long run, and it’s those suppliers that will sell out your interests for a buck and that barter hurt for harm that you don’t need. Not everybody on a team is a team player. You can look around and see the suppliers that have been loyal to you in this magazine, in this market and in this country, and you can see the ones that have not. It goes without saying that the more the industry works together, the more the industry can accomplish in terms of events, original magazine content and technical, legal and marketing information.

Not everybody can afford to advertise. But many used to, then quit because they wanted to run the magazine and we won’t do as we’re told. This is the cost of supporting the readers over the advertisers, and it is our inalienable policy. Shnier even called to give me orders on what to include in our July issue one year. As with anybody that tries to subordinate the rights of the readers to their own demands, they got fired. The loyal advertisers you see each issue in Coverings “get it,” and they benefit from the credibility and value we have created. You have created. Shnier is welcome to chart its own course playing “publisher” with spam machines. If you can’t make it in mass marketing, you may as well try in social media.

 

Loyalty counts. Nicholl Spence of NS Graphic Design has been our designer since before the buyout 10 years back. What a champion! She can take a request for an ad change on the fly at 10:00 p.m. and turn it around the same day. She has always been there and has always been positive and energized. It is a privilege to work with her, and to watch her and Scott’s boys, Kyle and Ben, grow from industrious children to drivers’ licences and pilot school.

Stephen King came on as our associate publisher nearly nine years ago, under the most unhappy of circumstances. One of our sales staff, David Smith, died unexpectedly and suddenly in his 30s, leaving everybody stunned and lost. Steve came in, and in his high-energy, all-business, never-quit manner, kept the boat afloat as we continually took the torpedoes of random fortune and premeditated attack. His wife Patti, and kids Matthew and Zoë, have graced our annual Christmas parties and events, as well as Patti representing the company at conferences and shows.

I have worked with Mike Edwards for over 20 years on the editorial side and Lee Ann and I spent time with Mike and Luanne as their girls, Laura and Alice, were born and grew up, now in college and chasing careers. When Mike started his own company three years ago, it was a no-brainer to bring him on as a major organizer and contributor to our editorial content, as he is a wealth of knowledge on manufacturing, engineering and writing — a rare mix.

Adrian Holland is the force behind Omni Data Services. We have known Adrian and Manyee for over 20 years, and have watched their children, Jasmine and Min, grow as they moved from home in Markham to Hong Kong, where Omni manages our circulation and IT.

And then there’s Lee Ann. The love of my life and my guardian angel. She was there every night when the bombs were falling, and stood like a rock when everything said, “run.” She is one of the toughest people you will ever meet, except when it comes to the grandkids. A publisher in her own right, Lee Ann and will celebrate our Silver (25 years) Wedding Anniversary this Friday on the 21st. (No, Nicholl, it’s not the Diamond Anniversary, as you attempted to coach her at the party.)

So I am grateful this Christmas, for all the value in my life. The company, the staff, the suppliers — everybody. In fact, I am grateful for the detractors, assassins and wanna-be promoters. Without them, nobody would know what goes into Coverings, and what comes out. We may be just a little trade magazine in the white spot above the States on a map, but we have a personality, a family, a goal and an identity that seems to be good for what we do.

But most of all, we are grateful for you. You are the men and women that read all the way to the very end of every article and e-mail. You give us your attention and your loyalty, and you sustained us through the dull days.

So thank you.

And Merry Christmas from Coverings.

You matter. See you in Las Vegas

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