October 26/November 2; Volume 30/Number 10
By Ken Ryan
“Back then, everybody knew everybody,” reflected Reid, owner of Trinity Hardwood Distributors. Building relationships was important then but it may be even more important today as new players enter the field.
Reid said he formed a relationship with Mullican Flooring’s two top executives—Neil Poland, president; and Brian Greenwell, vice president of marketing and sales—when they worked for Tarkett in the early 1990s.
When Greenwell joined Mullican, he called Reid at Trinity and soon the distributor was carrying Mullican products. “It all goes back to relationships,” Reid said. “I can trust them and they can trust me. These guys are good suppliers and they are my friends.” Today, Trinity carries virtually every Mullican line.
Hoy Lanning, senior vice president, CMH marketing and Haines purchasing, forged a similar long-term relationship with Poland. They met shortly after Poland graduated from the University of Florida and took his first job as a marketing rep for Armstrong. Lanning was a sales manager at Peerless, which was one of Poland’s accounts. “That was more than 30 years ago, so we go way back,” Lanning said.
The relationship continued when Lanning went to CMH Space Flooring and Poland joined Mullican. Around 2001 CMH started a private label line with Mullican called Carolina Hardwood. Over time CMH got more involved in the builder business and decided it needed a branded Mullican product.
When asked what makes Mullican stand out as a supplier, Lanning said, “It’s the people. They have special people in that business—Neil Poland, Brian Greenwell, Pat Oakley [national sales manager], Mike Knight [regional sales manager], Neil Wenger [national field sales manager]. Those guys are all passionate about the business and they are very customer-focused. It makes it nice to do business with them.”
Mullican was initially known for its stellar collection of ¾-inch solid hardwood products; today its expertise has expanded to engineered. “They are always looking for new products,” Lanning said. “As engineered picked up they got into it overseas and eventually built a plant in the U.S. [near the company’s headquarters in Johnson City, Tenn.]. Then they got into handscraped, hand sculpted. They have always been quick to market, quick to change.”
Derr Flooring is yet another distributor with a long and binding relationship with Mullican. When Mullican opened for business 30 years ago, Derr was one of its first distributors. “It was not a lot of product back then,” said Rick Holden, COO, Derr Flooring. “We really started our relationship with them when Neil and Brian joined.”
Holden called Mullican a distributor’s dream, a company with exceptional products supported by an experienced and responsive staff that can answer questions and solve problems quickly. “The vast majority of their products are made in Johnson City, and that allows us to receive products much faster than if we sourced them from oversees. It also allows us to keep a smaller inventory. Their offerings cover what I would call the standard constructions and styles, as well as unique styles, designs and constructions that attract consumers looking for more contemporary visuals. They are a company that is dedicated to making quality products and serving their customers.”