Last month, I was writing an editorial before IFAI Expo to be read after the show—a form of journalistic time travel. Today I am writing after doing my civic duty, but before the United States chooses a new president. I made some predictions about Expo, but I won’t venture into political prognostication. (Much.) After more than a year of “vote for me or the terrorists win,” “vote for me or the bankers win” and “vote for my opponent and the demons will dance” (either a dichotomy is false, or it isn’t), as I drove into work I was thinking nostalgically about the 1968 election and the candidacy of Pat Paulsen (a regular on the “Smothers Brothers” show), who made a campaign promise that if elected, he would find a way to make shoes out of the skins of chocolate puddings.
I wasn’t old enough to vote at the time, and in any case I was entirely devoted to Eugene McCarthy, but I admit I’ve never looked at chocolate pudding the same way since.
At IFAI Expo in Charlotte, however, it was all about “making the workmanship surpass the materials” (Ovid) and a focus on the entire package: quality materials, quality workmanship, economical and ecological products and practices, a dedicated (and appreciated) workforce, thoughtful marketing, efficient customer service and good corporate citizenship—all with a certain indefinable flair that makes a company stand out as a good place to do business.
After 16 years of attending IFAI Expo, none of this was unexpected; but I have noticed great advances in the acceptance of “good corporate citizenship” as a basic business tenet. In my “Miss Management” blog about ten years ago, I paraphrased Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:
First Law: a business may not injure a society, or through inaction, allow a society to come to harm.
Second Law: a business must obey all the laws of a society, except where such obedience would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law: a business must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
In our January 2017 issue, in an article on eco-friendly fabrics, Vince Hankins, Glen Raven’s industrial business manager, talks about the company’s commitment to environmental issues. In a meeting with him and design manager Tracy Greene at the show, he also told me that Glen Raven strives to serve the community as well as the individual: “We’re solid citizens in every community we touch.”
It’s that kind of message that makes 2017 look promising for the specialty fabrics industry, whatever the election results.
But I’m thinking about chocolate pudding for lunch.