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Ten people making a difference

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

 

Success in business or life can be measured in a multitude of ways. However, leaving a positive impression on others may be one of the most rewarding measurements. Whether this is done through overcoming obstacles, strong leadership, incredible talent or endearing persistence, the individuals celebrated in this year’s Ten People Making a Difference list have all left their mark on the flooring industry.

FCNews’ Ten People Making a Difference is a combination of leaders, dreamers and brand builders who have achieved success in a variety of ways.


John Rietveldt:
TRUE GRIT
BY EDDY BOUCKÉ

I have encountered many managers during my long career in flooring, but one thing is for sure: John is by far the most interesting and charismatic.

John encompasses everything you look for in a strong leader. He is highly motivated, strategic, intelligent, commercially minded, fiercely loyal, very positive and hard working. If you work closely with John, as I have since the very start of I4F, it is impossible not to evolve a working relationship into a personal friendship.

John contacted me six years ago to analyze his idea of a new mechanical locking system. His vision was to introduce a solution that was easy to use and produce. He was absolutely convinced the best system would be a vertical installation with a locking profile made from one piece that didn’t require any inserts.

I must admit I was a little hesitant at first because of other long-standing patents in the market. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop him from changing my mind and ultimately convincing me to work for only one company.

When John walks into the room, the fun really starts. Whomever or whatever awaits is immediately met with his spirit and drive. His natural ability to paint a picture in people’s minds through compelling story telling is one of his best and most powerful talents.

John’s true grit, perseverance and determination is disrupting and evolving the floating flooring industry’s norm. His vision to develop an installation system that is so easy anyone can do it has not only been realized but has also become the new industry “standard.” I consider it an honor to work with him.

Eddy Boucké is I4F’s chief technical officer.

 


Terry Marchetta:
QUEEN OF STYLE & DESIGN
BY ZACK ZEHNER

When Terry Marchetta assumed the position of senior director, residential styling, upon the retirement of Joe Amato last year, it wasn’t just about filling Joe’s shoes. Having been with Mannington for more than 20 years, working closely with Joe during that time, Terry was a big part of those shoes. Surfaces 2019 was the first Surfaces where she took the lead, and she has done a great job working with the Mannington design team.

Terry has developed her skills as an artist and a designer over time and she has been a huge part of Mannington’s success over the last 20 years in achieving our reputation. She has an incredible skill and talent for understanding the emerging trends in home interior design. She works extremely hard in doing her due diligence and research to see what’s happening with trends. Terry has the innate ability and true skill in translating what she’s seeing in home and design trends into flooring, and then using the capabilities that Mannington has at our manufacturing plant as well as understanding the technical capabilities of our vendors. It’s about translating those leading trends in interior designs and then pushing them forward in flooring. It’s an art, talent and a skill—it’s something she has refined over the last 20 years.

Hers is truly a multifaceted role. It’s one thing to be able to craft a beautiful, cutting-edge design; it’s quite another to then execute and manufacture those designs from a technical standpoint. It’s understanding how the machines can execute a visual. It’s not pure art—it crosses over into the engineering side. And Terry has an incredible skill to do that.

But it’s more than being just an incredible designer. Over the last several years, Terry has really emerged as a leader and a manager, showing incredible leadership in working with a talented team of designers. She recognizes their skills and lets the design team members express their vision and showcase their talents. You don’t find that very easily or often.

Zack Zehner is president, Mannington Residential.

 

Katie Ford: BRAND BUILDER
BY CARRIE EDWARDS ISAAC

There is something special about Katie Ford from the moment you meet her. Her excitement for what she does and those she works with is evident in every interaction. As director of brand strategy for Anderson Tuftex, Katie has been an instrumental member of the team bringing this premium brand to market and creating demand.

Playing a key role in taking design-thinking to the next level and putting it into practice at Shaw, Katie challenges assumptions, thinks creatively and solves problems. Time and time again, Katie utilizes these skills to bring our design vision to life and transforming Anderson Tuftex into a relevant brand.

As a frequent traveler and explorer, Katie’s strong appetite for learning and discovery directly translates into her work. She is frequently asked to join stretch projects, as fellow associates see her passion and self-motivation. People want Katie on their team. This natural curiosity and enthusiasm for her work, combined with her ability to think creatively, means that Katie is able to address customer needs in a frequently shifting industry.

Understanding our customers is key to our success, and Katie not only recognizes this but excels in this aspect of her role. She is thoughtful and inclusive, and she willingly spends time with customers to better understand their business and what Anderson Tuftex means to them. We’re able to foster more meaningful relationships and deliver more effective resources and products for our customer—ultimately creating a better brand experience—thanks to Katie’s talents. Congratulations, Katie, on this recognition. It is a joy to work alongside you every day, to tackle the big and small and to be creative and curious.

Carrie Edwards Isaac is vice president of marketing and consumer strategy for Shaw Industries’ residential division.

 

Andrea Blackbourn: A CONSTRUCTIVE FORCE
BY SCOTT HUMPHREY

It is rare when an individual can step into a well-established organization and, in a brief period of time, radically impact its purpose and influence. Andrea Blackbourn is that kind of leader. Blessed with an amazing combination of boundless energy, focused intent and limitless passion, she has taken the reins of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF) and made a dramatic difference. She has elevated its relevance, grown its resources and increased its recognition. In doing so, she has allowed the FCIF to expand its reach and impact to a larger number of individuals and their families. Since she became executive director, the number of grants awarded has nearly tripled from 36 grants in 2016 to 96 in 2018.

With a background in philanthropy from her years working with United Way, Andrea was prepared for this opportunity and knew the importance of relying on the expertise of existing FCIF leadership. “Andrea has been a positive and constructive force since she arrived, helping the FCIF be more successful,” said Larry Nagle, FCIF vice chairman and industry veteran. “The FCIF is much better in the long run due to her involvement.”

Howard Brodsky, FCIF board chair and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners, concurred. “Andrea has been an instrumental part of the FCIF’s role of serving those less fortunate. She combines a wonderful balance of pragmatism and vision that has established a strong base for the future of FCIF.”

Current FCIF chairman Charlie Dilks added, “Within months of becoming the director of the FCIF, she began the task of increasing the industry’s knowledge of the foundation and its purpose. She takes a high level of interest in every grant request, manages the finances in a detailed manner and influences donations on a daily basis. She has taken the foundation to a new level of organization and management, all while demonstrating a deep level of care for those in need in the flooring industry.”

Scott Humphrey is president and CEO of the WFCA.

 

Thomas Baert: THE VISIONARY
BY PERRY COKER

In my mind, there is no one more passionate in our industry than Thomas Baert. He wants those around him to succeed, and he wants our industry to continue to grow through innovation.

Originally from Belgium, Thomas started out his flooring career in Dalton, working in the carpet business. In the mid ’90s he moved to China, which, at that time, was importing flooring mostly from Europe.

Back then, China had virtually no flooring industry production. But soon thereafter, it began producing flooring, which was focused mostly on entry-level products. Thomas saw a clear gap in the offering here and began to focus on working with mills to produce value-added products for export. With the help of a Taiwanese partner, he began his own manufacturing operation in Shanghai in 2004.

This is where CFL grew its roots, using a dynamic and flexible environment to focus on developing and producing higher-end, value-added products. Over time, CFL has grown into one of the largest flooring exporters in China. It currently has five global offices, exports to more than 50 countries and operates production facilities in China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

In addition to starting CFL manufacturing, Thomas also had the vision to foresee the opportunity for a flooring industry show in China. So in 1999 he co-founded the Chinafloor Flooring Exhibition in Shanghai, whose small roots evolved into the now massive Domotex Asia/Chinafloor. Today the event is the fastest growing flooring trade exhibition worldwide, drawing more than 55,000 industry professionals.

Perry Coker is CEO, CFL North America.

 


John Weller:
THE DIGITAL DREAMER
BY JENNIE LOTTIMER

When we talk about digital marketing in the floor covering industry, John Weller is easily one of the most recognizable and insightful innovators in the business. He is known for his passion, energy and aversion to the status quo.

John started his career at WundaWeve (World Carpet), where he leveraged a beeper and a cellphone to grow his territory from $1 million to $6 million in sales in just two years. He also worked at Mohawk, where he helped launch the Portico Builder Program. He was also the co-founder of FloorForce, where he worked with Mohawk to design and launch Omnify, the first turnkey digital marketing program in the industry.

Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing, Mohawk Industries, defined John as “someone whose vision has never been confined by reality.”

Having grown up in the flooring industry and working with leaders such as his father, John Weller Sr., and David Holt, he had a unique perspective of the industry. This became invaluable when his focus shifted to building digital marketing solutions aimed at connecting the pillars of the industry to improve the sale of flooring.

Since launching FloorForce with Mark Lorberbaum in 2011, John has transformed himself into a digital marketing thought leader. He has spent the last eight years relentlessly educating, coaching and empowering flooring retailers with the confidence, knowledge and tools they need to succeed online. John is now creating a library of content that will be available on YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and as a podcast.

John’s mission of building best-in-class digital solutions for the industry led him to forge a strategic partnership with AdHawk, a leader in machine learning and digital marketing technology founded by two ex-Googlers, Todd Saunders, CEO; and Dan Pratt, COO.

In January 2019, FloorForce was acquired by AdHawk and John was named chief innovation officer. The new team, comprising over 100 data scientists, software engineers, website designers, digital marketing experts and flooring professionals, works together to cement John’s vision of FloorForce being the leader in providing the absolute best solutions possible to help our industry move successfully into the digital-first world.

Jennie Lottimer is the director of innovation at FloorForce.

 

Karen Mendelsohn: THE OVERACHIEVER
BY TOM LAPE

Karen Mendelsohn has been one of the unique transformational leaders who thrives within the Mohawk culture. She has brought a wide range of international business experience to Mohawk, but more importantly a strategic viewpoint for Mohawk to win in the marketplace.

After more than 30 years in the building products industry working across a wide range of product lines, channels and capacities, Karen offers valuable insight and experience in a multitude of areas—all of which helps Mohawk become a better flooring company.

Karen is the consummate team builder and leader of Mohawk‘s residential and commercial marketing groups. She has brought fresh thinking in the form of highly innovative, consumer-oriented brands such as RevWood, SolidTech, Air.o and SmartStrand. She is also to be applauded for her efforts in refining and strengthening established, industry-leading brands such as Mohawk, Pergo and Karastan.

Karen brings wisdom and conviction to her viewpoints that make us all better within the Mohawk organization. She understands today’s consumer and connects with our various customer channels. It has really been amazing to see how quickly she has been able to understand the complexities of both product and distribution channels within our business. We are so glad to have her on our team.

Tom Lape is president of Mohawk Flooring’s residential division.


Amie Gonzalez:
A FRIEND OF THE INDUSTRY
BY DANA TEAGUE

Amie Gonzalez has worked on Surfaces since April 2000 and has worn many hats—sales, marketing, customer service, and operations. This vast experience serves her well in her position as director for the 39th largest trade show in the United States, The International Surface Event (TISE).

Amie oversees a seasoned team of professionals but makes the effort to become intimately involved in the details. She takes the time to dig deeper and figure out what exhibitors and attendees want and what’s important to them. Amie works tirelessly and uses her years of knowledge and experience to keep the show relevant and a good value proposition for her customers.

Amie has always made it a point to become acquainted with the people in the flooring industry and over her 19 years of working on Surfaces has formed many meaningful friendships and relationships. Amie values the conversations she has with industry professionals—whether it be a retailer, distributor, manufacturer, designer or installer—and uses that information to make TISE a better show, one that truly meets the needs and answers the challenges of the industry. She is truly a friend of the industry.

Amie is also an innovator. She is currently working on two launches—one in Shanghai this December (co-located with World of Concrete Asia) and another in Mexico in October. She is always looking for new opportunities to meet the needs of the industry. That’s what a friend does.

Dana Teague is vice president, Design Group, at Informa Markets.

 

Hoy Lanning: NATURAL BORN LEADER
BY ART LAYTON

I’ve known Hoy for almost 40 years. We’ve been colleagues, competitors and now—as a supplier to Haines—I’m one of his customers. Hoy has held numerous executive positions with Haines since January 2014 and was recently elevated to president and CEO. He joined CMH in 1991 as general manager and later became the company’s president and CEO. He is also a past NAFCD president.

Anyone who knows Hoy can appreciate his wealth of experience and commitment to the flooring distribution business. But it doesn’t end there. Hoy is a great delegator and he has the ability to surround himself with good people. The same can be said of most great leaders, but the difference is the way he goes about it. Hoy has the ability to make suppliers, employees, colleagues, customers and even competitors want to be a part of the process of building a better business together. He simply brings out the best in others. He emphasizes the importance of getting everyone on the team to buy in, and then give them the freedom to identify problems, solve them and take ownership.

Best of all, Hoy is a selfless individual. When he received the 2018 NAFCD Lifetime Achievement Award at convention last year, he asked me to join him at the table. He didn’t focus so much on himself and his accomplishments, but he gave praise to so many people who helped him and inspired him throughout his career.

Hoy is also very humble. When he speaks in front of a group, he will typically start with a joke or funny story that puts people at ease. Then he usually follows up with a message that will provoke thought or a course of action.

At a recent Haines Loyalty Council meeting, Hoy admitted that Haines has a lot of work to do to regain its position as a great supplier and partner. To say that in front of a group says a lot about his character.

Art Layton is director of specialty products, AXISCOR Performance Flooring.

 

Richard Abramowicz: A PRO’S PRO
BY BRET PERKINS

Passionate. Caring. Fair. Those are the words that come to mind when describing Richard Abramowicz, the executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Southwind. Richard’s career has spanned over four decades, working his way from the ground up to a top executive position.

From the days working on the distributor side, to box stores, to owning a Chicago-based tile company, to an executive and now owner in the carpet industry, there has always been one constant—his passion for the business.

His colleagues describe him as a true professional in every way. “Richard is dedicated to his employees and the industry he represents,” said Ron Scarbro, Northeast regional vice president for Southwind. “He’s a good man.”

Tim Gilmore, Southeast regional vice president, added: “He loves this industry. He has a passion for our customers and employees, and he wants to see everyone succeed and do well.”

While Gilmore has only known Richard for a few years, it didn’t take long for him to be impressed. “When he came to Southwind, he instantly recognized the need to develop new yarn systems,” Gilmore said. “He has been successful at building and leading the direction of our sales team to help make Southwind what it is today.”

Bret Perkins is vice president hard surface, Southwind.