March 27, 2014

Werner Braun: Saying goodbye to CRI

It’s time to say farewell.

For the past 14 years, I have had the honor of serving as the president of the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), and what an honor it’s been.

But now it’s time to pass the torch to the “new guy,” whom I’m pleased to say is not all that “new.” In fact, he’s experienced, knowledgeable and extremely competent. We’re lucky to have Joe Yarbrough in our midst, and very fortunate to have him at the helm of this important organization.

When I think back on my tenure here at the carpet industry’s trade association, I think of a group of people and companies that have consistently banded together for the good of the industry as a whole.

One quality I’ve always appreciated about the talented and capable members of the CRI board is how each of these very diverse individuals, often representing competing interests, always manage to “take one for the team,” so to speak.

There have been numerous occasions when a company could have taken a position that would have been self-serving, but they decided for the good of the industry to pull on the same side of the rope. They were, in effect, willing and able to take off their corporate hats and put on CRI’s.

That is rare in industry, and it’s a real tribute to them.

When I recall all of the past CRI board of director members whom I’ve had the privilege of serving, I am grateful for the many and varied opportunities they have given me and CRI. I thank these men for the support they’ve given me personally, and for the support they’ve given to the industry, in general.

I also thank them for allowing me to have a voice in the organization. I’ve always felt free to speak my mind, and I’ve always felt like it was OK to voice a difference of opinion. I expect that the ability to be candid, that same opportunity for free expression on all sides, will be accorded to my successor, and I am grateful for that.

I have valued the relationships I have been able to establish over the years not only in the carpet and rug industry, but also in the numerous related businesses. You’ve been great to work with, and I’m delighted to have known every one of you.

I’m also incredibly grateful to my competent and talented staff. They haven’t just served CRI and its members; they’ve served the larger community in so very many ways. And they aren’t “just a staff” to me nor are they “just a staff” to each other. They’re a very close-knit group that has become, in essence, a “family.” I’m proud to include them in mine.

As staff members they’ve always been supportive of me and of CRI’s vision, and they have stepped up to meet the challenges of the job as they have arisen. In an industry that has been deeply affected by the recent recession, those challenges have often been quite daunting.

Our industry has changed quite a bit since I’ve been here, and so has the political landscape. And as the industry has changed, so has CRI. Like the “canary in the coal mine,” CRI reflects the health of the carpet industry. We metaphorically “live and die” with our members in both good times and in bad.

Accordingly, it’s not always been an easy job for our staff. They’ve often had to respond to complex challenges, adapt to new regulations and meet the needs of our industry partners swiftly and professionally. And they usually succeed in doing just that.

While I look forward to retirement, spending more time with my wife and family and pursuing a myriad of interests and hobbies, I have to confess that I will miss my staff, my CRI board chairmen and board members, and the hundreds of wonderful industry folks that I’ve been privileged to know and work with over the past decade, and then some.

Sooner than I ever imagined possible, it is, indeed, time to say farewell. And it’s also time to say thank you. Thank you, one and all, and God bless.

Werner Braun is president of the Carpet and Rug Institute.

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