FEI Group Holds National Conference

CHESAPEAKE BAY, MD — More than 460 members, including some 150 kitchen and bath, and decorative hardware professionals, were on hand for the recent FEI National Conference, held in Chesapeake Bay, MD, in September.

According to FEI officials, the National Conference provided members the opportunity to network, check out new products, attend a host of high-quality educational sessions and drill down on issues of relevance to each of the four groups, with separate joint sessions allowing attendees to share common concerns and provide each other with business advice and inspiration.

FEI Group, the Atlanta, GA-based group of leading interior finish contractors and showrooms, is comprised of four organizations: the K&B Alliance (K&BA), a select alliance of decorative plumbing and hardware, and kitchen and bath showrooms; KBx, a national organization comprised of entrepreneurs operating kitchen and bath dealer/distributor companies offering products such as cabinets, countertops, lighting; Home Solutions by FloorExpo, and MultiFamily Solutions by FloorExpo.

According to CEO David Gheesling, “Our National Conferences offer like-minded entrepreneurs the opportunity to share best practices and learn from one another.”

And this year’s event offered all that and more, according to Edward S. Schukar, FEI Group v.p.-Kitchen & Bath, who noted, “This year’s conference was an over-the-top event that brought our four groups together, each group focused on its specialized area of expertise. We had a great turn out, great networking, a consistently high level of energy throughout, and great weather, sitting on the Chesapeake Bay.”

While the All American Chesapeake Bay Cookout and Crab Fest added a festive note to the gathering, Schukar cited the educational sessions as one of the biggest highlights of the conference. “The special breakout sessions for the kitchen and bath, and decorative plumbing and hardware professionals were impactful and generated a huge amount of take away,” he noted, citing a panel discussion, “Culture Wars: How a Distinctive Company Culture Drives Success,” that “resonated extremely well with attendees.” The discussion “drove home the importance of members going back to their businesses and looking at their showrooms, and then putting into practice what they learned about the importance of company culture” to help drive increased growth and success, he noted.

A topic such as this “might not be something you typically dwell on,” on a day-to-day basis, but for Schukar, “that’s one of the benefits of attending an annual conference – to hear about and address topics that may not always be top of mind, but that are, nonetheless, important to your growth and your future.”

Another popular session was the “Multiple Location Disorder” discussion, “where we discussed the challenges of managing multiple locations – something that is applicable to most KBx and K&BA members,” Schukar stated. “Each of the panelists spoke from their own perspective, but on topics common to every kitchen and bath, and plumbing and hardware business,” he said, noting that the key take away from this session was the need to find the balance “between creating and maintaining a level of consistency throughout your showrooms and recognizing the importance of providing enough of a level of autonomy to enable each showroom to focus on their unique customer needs.”

Currently, K&BA and KBx represent over a hundred showrooms. “And that number just continues to grow,” according to Schukar, who noted that plans are already underway for next year’s conference, which will take place Oct. 18-20 in San Antonio, TX.

FEI Group President Jay Smith sums it up this way, “FEI Group is one of the largest cooperatives in the U.S. construction and remodel space. We are excited about the fresh faces and new ideas we have in our vibrant kitchen and bath groups. We have a great and growing membership, and we are all about helping those entrepreneurs thrive.”

For information about the FEI group, membership and/or affiliating as a preferred supplier, contact Eddie Schukar at [email protected]

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