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The ‘Young’ guns

Twin grand-children of industry legend Bob Shaw describe daily life at Engineered Floors

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Ken Ryan

Engineered Floors (EF) is one of the flooring industry’s great success stories in the last 10 years. The company was born during the worst recession since the Great Depression and yet has steadily outperformed the market—first in carpet and now it has entered the hard surface arena. Two of the bright, young stars at this dynamic company are identical twins Joe and Will Young, millennials who also happen to be the grandsons of the legendary Bob Shaw, founder and CEO of EF.

FCNews senior editor Ken Ryan recently sat down with Will and Joe Young to discuss what it’s like working with an industry legend as well as their roles at a fast-growing company.

What’s it like working for the same company where your grandfather is an industry legend?
Will Young: Who, Papa? Just kidding. It’s probably not too different for us than it is for most of the folks who work at EF. We all have a great respect for his past and present accomplishments, and most of us have never worked for him before.

Joe Young: There is nothing more fun than watching someone who has mastered his trade—sports, arts or business, you name it. It’s been pretty incredible to watch his vision come to life over the last 10 years.

Do you get treated any differently because you are family? Do you talk about EF business during family gatherings?
Will Young: Do I get treated any differently by [Bob Shaw]? No. I believe it was last week that he told me I needed to learn how to “walk and chew gum at the same time.” I hope to get there eventually.

Joe Young: We have dinner every Monday night at Papa’s house. We call it “The Ordeal.” We usually have 12-18 family members on a given Monday with up to half of the group coming directly from the office. Work tends to weave its way in and out of conversations, but everyone does a pretty good job removing their work hats and putting their family hats back on.

What made you decide to work for Engineered Floors?
Joe Young: During our sophomore year at Georgia we received a call from our grandad saying he wanted to see us in Dalton. If I remember correctly, we made the trip the next day and met at one of the finest breakfast establishments on Walnut Avenue.

Will Young: While at Cracker Barrel, he began talking about pre-dyed yarns and their benefits to the residential carpet industry. With little to no knowledge about fiber extrusion at the time, the conversation entailed a lot of head nods. I believe his quote that day was, “We are either headed in the right direction or we are on the wrong side of the I-75 about to see headlights.”

Joe Young: We started “interning” with the manufacturing group that summer and have been working at EF in one role or another ever since. Although, if you asked him this same question, he would likely tell you no one else would hire us.

What would you describe as your role?
Joe Young: I am currently soft surfaces category manager. My role serves as a spoke connecting sales, R&D, manufacturing and marketing. My job is to drive our residential carpet business from product to merchandising. That being said, I have learned over the years that this is a manufacturing-driven company, and everything I do is aimed at making us as efficient as possible. This helps us maintain our advantage in the field, whether it’s service, quality or price.

Will Young: I am director of national accounts—a role created toward the end of 2017 as we put together national programs for several of the industry’s largest buying groups. I can say this has been one of the best learning experiences of my career thus far, because you literally get to work every single aspect of selling our customer base. One day you’re putting together a national program with the vice president of merchandising; the next you are helping to expedite a 29-inch cut to make sure a member’s first experience with EF is a positive one.

EF enters its 10th year in 2019. Are you in awe of the company’s growth to this point, or was this something you may have envisioned?
Joe Young: I think it would be a lie if anyone told you they saw this coming. I would say this, though: Customers tend to appreciate it when their suppliers bring them solutions to their problems. In our case, we set out to solve the No. 1 claim in the residential carpet industry: side match. What we didn’t know in 2009 is solving dye-lot issues was only the tip of the iceberg. We were able to bring real, tangible savings to our customers by eliminating roll ends. We brought styling in multicolor that is incredibly hard (and costly) to achieve with conventional dyeing methods. We created a product that was easier to install due to color consistency. The list goes on and on. The beauty of our solution is it actually cuts costs out of the manufacturing process while delivering a superior product. That’s a true step change in technology and has been the driving force for our growth.

What is the best thing about coming to work every day?
Will Young: There is nothing more fun than being a part of building something you’re proud of. In most cases, we are in uncharted territory on a daily basis—entering new businesses, forming new relationships, etc. Our business is not affected by decisions made decades ago, it’s being molded by the decisions we make every day.

What are the greatest challenges?
Joe Young: Our greatest challenge is our ability to continue to do things differently. In almost all cases, we are compared to a short list of our competitors. We always try to remind ourselves that we wouldn’t be where we are today if we did it like everyone else. If we can continue to reinvent ourselves using the strengths that brought us to this point, we will be in good shape.

What’s the big story heading into Surfaces?
Will Young: This year is all about focus. In many ways, 2018 was a bit noisy—tariffs, price increases, new business, acquisitions, etc. This year is all about bringing exceptional value to our customer in every segment of our business. That starts with understanding their business so we can provide them with profitable solutions.

Look into your crystal ball; where do you see this company in 10 years?
Joe Young: It’s safe to say the landscape of this industry is changing faster than ever. Companies built to take advantage of growth segments will continue to take share in all categories. We believe we have been positioned to do exactly that. To answer your question, we hope to turn in our bronze and silver medals for a gold one between now and then.