For the first time in the 14-year history of organized closet and storage conferences, I was totally speechless. Usually, if given an opportunity to preach the good news of the closet industry before a few hundred, they have to yank me off the stage with a hook or cut off my mike!
I was dead tired after getting just 3 hours sleep the night of Tuesday, April 8th. After Tuesday’s long ACSP Board meeting in the afternoon and networking that evening with associates arriving for the 2014 Cabinet & Closets Conference/Expo, I was numb.
Wednesday morning, as the conference began, I gave my ‘Using the ACSP Planning Guide to Grow your Business’ presentation at 10:30 am for a group of 60 closeteers and made it through the remainder of the jam-packed afternoon of quality closet sessions and round tables. I was looking forward to more networking at the evening gathering of Top Shelf awards and industry party.
I was nursing my second Merlot when our ACSP President, Dave Skinner, took the stage. I figured it was going to be another fantastic pep-talk and rally that Dave has perfected over the years. He started out with vague language, referring to “this person” and “this individual”. It sounded as if he was leading up to announcing a Pioneer Award. That was impossible, because I have been on the ACSP Board for 9 years and have always been on the committee that selects the recipient. Besides, we hadn’t had a Pioneer Award ceremony since the 2011 Charlotte conference, and that was only the fourth award given.
As he built up momentum, he mentioned how “this individual” was number two in a family of three generations of professional closet cabinet makers. He next stated that “this person” has served on the NCG (National Closet Group) Board for 6 years and on the ACSP Board, including the Presidency, for 9 years. At that point I lost it. For some reason, the New Jersey pollen count or air pollution got to my eyes and they started to moisten. By the time Dave got to my name, I was melted butter. I went up to receive the Pioneer Award, hugged Dave, posed for the photo shoot . . . . and returned to my table. I am sure the buzz in the room was something like, ‘What’s wrong with Jeff?’ I was absolutely speechless and humbled. Individuals came up to congratulate me and look at the beautiful award trophy.
We continued to network, went out for dinner, and I got into bed around 11 pm. As I pondered the events of the evening, I wondered if I should have given an acceptance speech and thanked all the wonderful closet and storage professionals that have helped me all along my 30 year journey. I thought about the others who I have been able to bounce ideas off for the past three decades - those who have advised me on pitfalls based on their closet experiences. I have gleaned tremendous knowledge from the experiences of both the giants and the newcomers of the industry, including the Board members of NCG and ACSP who are my business brothers and sisters in this wonderful closet family.
There have been people that I have helped along the way who have come back to help me, and those I have helped have then gone on to help other fledgling closet owners grow into mature closet companies. That is what this industry is all about. I know executives in the woodworking industry who have mentioned that they have been members and served on Boards in other trade associations but have never experienced the cohesiveness and sharing of the closet and storage industry. I could go on and on and on. I could have gone on and on with an acceptance speech Wednesday night . . . . but they probably would have hooked me off the stage.
So to all who have helped me along the way, a heartfelt thank you. I would not be where I am today without you all being there for me.