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Award of Excellence: Mohawk returns to winner’s circle as Best Overall

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan

 

Garden City, N.Y.—For the third year in a row, Mohawk Industries was voted Best Overall Manufacturer—one of four Mohawk-branded honors, and six in all for Mohawk Group—in FCNews’ 22nd annual Award of Excellence competition.

Mohawk won for Best Carpet Manufacturer (Group A), Best Commercial Carpet Manufacturer and Best Laminate Manufacturer (Group A), as well as Best Overall. Further, two Mohawk companies took home top honors, including Dal-Tile, which was named Best Ceramic Manufacturer (Group A) for an unprecedented 20th consecutive year. Karastan won top honors for Area Rugs.

“At Mohawk, we continue to invest heavily in the future,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential, who attended the annual affair at the Garden City Hotel with several members of the Mohawk team. “We are honored that retailers recognize our products, such as the industry’s first hypoallergenic soft flooring—Air.o; our SmartStrand franchise and our revolutionary wood flooring—RevWood, as innovations that contribute to their business success and consumer satisfaction. Mohawk is not only thankful for their resounding endorsement of our products but also of our hardworking employees whose talent and dedication earned our company these prestigious awards.”

Dal-Tile has done what no other company or brand has done—won the award for two decades running. According to John Turner, president, the victory laps never get old. “Winning the Award of Excellence is meaningful to Dal-Tile because it reinforces how our customers feel about their relationship with our business and how they value our Daltile, American Olean and Marazzi brands,” he said. “Each team member plays a critical role in ensuring that we forge relationships with our customers through superior service and products that lead the industry in style, innovation and quality. Our long history of success in this awards program illustrates our commitment to excellence and the significant partnerships we enjoy with our customers.”

Mohawk wasn’t the only dominant company. It was a big night for Shaw Industries and its divisions as well, with five awards. Shaw won Best Manufacturer for LVT (Group A) and Best Manufacturer for Hardwood (Group A); Anderson Tuftex took home top honors for Carpet (Group B) and Hardwood (Group B), while USFloors took first place in the inaugural WPC/Rigid Core category.

“The Award of Excellence is a coveted and respected industry award and receiving this award for both LVT and hardwood is an immense honor for Shaw Floors,” said Herb Upton, vice president, hard surface. “We’re thrilled to see our latest hard surface products have been well received, and these awards confirm Shaw Floors leads the way in hard surface innovation.”

Drew Hash, vice president, Shaw hard surface products, added, “To be chosen for these prestigious awards by our retail partners speaks to the success of Shaw’s efforts to put customers at the forefront of all we do. We thank our dealers and Shaw associates who make our shared achievements possible.”

For the first time a separate category for WPC/Rigid Core was established, a nod to the explosiveness of the waterproof vinyl flooring segment. USFloors, marketer of the highly successful COREtec brand of WPC, won the award for WPC/Rigid Core after taking top honors for LVT the previous two years. “To achieve an Award of Excellence from your customers is the most meaningful and valuable recognition any company can wish for,” said Piet Dossche, president of USFloors. “I am very proud and honored to receive this trophy on behalf of our entire team of dedicated people who are working hard to provide the best product and service to our retail partners. The revolution our COREtec product has created in the WPC product category has been great for our customers who have embraced this exciting new product wholeheartedly. Thank you, FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, for organizing this yearly contest and event.”

Being part of the Shaw family, Dossche added, has given USFloors more opportunities to grow the COREtec business. “We are committed to remain the leader in this category and building COREtec into a strong consumer brand.”

Among the repeat winners, Emser Tile won for the second year in a row in Ceramic (Group B), and Inhaus took top honors for Laminate (Group B), marking its second consecutive year in the winner’s circle. “Emser Tile is proud to be recognized by our customers and receive the FCNews Award of Excellence,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer. “As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, this recognition validates our service promise commitment to our customers and inspires us to continue to find new ways to innovate and enhance the overall customer experience.”

Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus, commented: “We feel extremely fortunate and are honored that our customers voted for us. We have a passion for our product offerings and strive to create products that people are excited about both in terms of innovative design and quality. In our eyes, this award is a recognition of our efforts, and we are very appreciative of that.”

A new classification (Group C) was established for the first time to recognize quality, smaller-scale companies. In carpet, Southwind won for Group C while HomerWood was honored in hardwood.

“Southwind and all of our employees are honored to have won this Award of Excellence,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president. “It is a team effort—not one individual. Southwind strives to bring to market the most innovative and forward-thinking products that provide solutions to the marketplace. We would like to thank our valued customers for recognizing our efforts for this award.”

Methodology

Sponsored by FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, proprietors of The International Surface Event (TISE), the Award of Excellence is a way for manufacturers’ customers—retailers, distributors, designers, installers and specifiers—to honor the companies they feel consistently provide the best service, professionalism of sales force, management responsiveness, value, design, B2B, handling of claims and ease of doing business.

“The Awards of Excellence are honors bestowed to manufacturers by the heart and soul of the flooring industry—the retailers,” said Dana Teague, vice president, Design Group, Informa Global Exhibitions. “It is a pleasure and an honor for Informa/Surfaces to co-sponsor this year’s awards with Floor Covering News. We are delighted to share our enthusiasm for innovation with brands that continually strive for excellence. Surfaces is the platform that manufacturers use to launch or highlight many of the winning products to the delight of the thousands of retailers, distributors, designers and installers that come to Las Vegas every January. Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s awards.”

Readers of FCNews, as well as other industry personnel visiting trade shows such as Surfaces (and not employed by a manufacturer), voted between October 2017 and the end of March 2018 for the companies they felt best met established criteria in the following floor covering categories—Carpet, Commercial Carpet, Area Rugs, Resilient, Resilient Sheet, Resilient Commercial, Hardwood, Tile, Laminate, Cushion/Underlayment, WPC—as well as the Best Overall mill. Ballots were featured in FCNews and readers could mail or fax them back, as well as vote online and at industry events such as Surfaces.

While the category awards were done on a simple, one-vote-per-category/company format, the Best Overall award required voters to fill in their choice for first, second and third place. Votes were weighted so that first place was worth five points, second place worth three points and third place one point. Point totals were tabulated and the company with the most in each was named the winner.

As has been done for the previous nine years, individual category winners were selected in two or three groups based on their volume. Also, manufacturers did not have to pay a fee to be eligible to receive a vote, which has been customary since the first Award of Excellence competition. Any and all manufacturers of floor covering products in the above-referenced categories were allowed to receive votes.

More than 2,200 votes—representing flooring retailers, distributors, designers and installers—were cast, with more industry professionals voting online than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Executive interviews: Brand Building

How Piet Dossche and Thomas Trissl created the most recognized names in their categories

 

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 16

By Ken Ryan

 

It has been said that a company’s brand is its lifeblood, its reason for existing, its greatest success and, potentially, its biggest failure. Few flooring industry executives understand that principle better than Piet Dossche, president and CEO, USFloors, and Thomas Trissl, president, Schönox–HPS North America.

This year’s Surfaces marks five years since COREtec was introduced to the flooring industry, albeit with a mere 13 SKUs. Since then, USFloors’ WPC has become the most talked-about product in flooring. There are now 650 COREtec SKUs blanketing the market. This is just the beginning, according to Dossche, as he now pivots his marketing approach straight to consumers to elevate COREtec as the consumer brand of choice for waterproof vinyl flooring.

Trissl’s quest to build Schönox began shortly after he sold Centiva. Admittedly not one who can sit still for very long, Trissl learned from previous experience he had with Schönox in Germany through his family business to launch the brand in North America. Leveraging his hands-on knowledge of Schönox products and his business acumen for building companies, he has led Schönox to its position today as a leading subfloor prep company in North America.

USFloors
Speed to market, ‘plactivation’ and exposure  helped build COREtec into an epic flooring brand
First we wanted the recognition that we were participating in the LVT category. We had a desire to find a unique product instead of a “me-too” product. We discovered the WPC core in China and made the [decision] to use this as a waterproof core instead of an MDF core. We perfected the product to 95%; for us, speed to market was more important [than completing it 100%]. Get it out of the gate, the starting blocks, was our goal. We knew we had a winner, a beautiful product bringing a solution to an existing category. Then it was about putting the resources together from a small organization that we were to get it launched. We then applied for a patent, which put our competition on notice. All of a sudden people were like, “Whoa!”

Next, we wanted to give it a catchy name. With COREtec, the technology and the uniqueness is in the core. Then we went all out in hiring salespeople to take the product to market as fast as possible and capture real estate at retail. We knew we had to go fast. We were flexible with the cost of the displays, but we insisted on activation or what we called “plactivation” (place and activation). We set lofty goals and aimed high.

We engaged the trade press to talk about it, create awareness, informing the market and competition about the strength of the patent. We advertised heavily to expose the product, plastering it all over the trade press.

Our goal was to be a disruptor. We said “yes” to interviews, “yes” to all opportunities to present and tell the story. We made our sales team drink the Kool-Aid and turn customers into raving fans.

I became a spokesperson for the product/category—the source customers trust for authenticity, quality and knowledge. All along we wanted to stay ahead of the competition through product innovation. We accelerated product innovation to create second-, third- and fourth-category products while the competition was scrambling to get to the first stage.

We protected the margins for all and made sure all channels were profitable. The worst thing you can do is create a brand and see its margins eaten up like we have seen with other categories. With COREtec, we breathed, ate, drank and lived for the product and brand. We wanted to be a fanatic, passionate believer.

If you look at the competition behind us, it is a relentless pursuit for creativity. We need to be first, and we will be first again in Vegas [this year].

How would you advise flooring dealers to build their own brands?
You have to advertise, you have to recognize what’s important in your market, know your market and your customers. If you are in, say, the Houston market, where they had all these floods, you need to go online and talk about it—not talk about your products—but about the problem at hand and how you can help people out. Be in tune with the local community, be seen as a community leader. It’s important to be a spokesperson for what’s important in your market. Show and take leadership. Be the expert and, most importantly, be authentic.

 

HPS Schönox
Innovation and differentiation, coupled with passion, experience and resources, helped expand the Schönox brand in North America
I began to research those companies in North America that might be competitors, many of whom I already knew from Germany. Seeing the opportunity to innovate and differentiate in the subflooring business, I put together a business plan to present to Schönox. It didn’t take long to pique their interest, and shortly thereafter we partnered. The fact that we had the resources, the passion and 15-plus years of American flooring industry knowledge gave Schönox [investors] a comfort as it didn’t have U.S. experience. Once we agreed to move forward, we formed HPS North America (known as HPS Schönox) and began to execute the plan.

By combining outstanding products with expertise in sales and marketing we were able to transform a new, unrecognized brand into an industry leader. That is especially underlined with our new 2018 campaign “Ön It,” which sums all aspects of our daily business. We build trust, not just through fantastic products but also through some unique services. We keep our promises. We act with honesty, integrity and transparency in everything we do. We believe serving our customers builds long-lasting relationships. We are folks who are not driven by a quarterly P&L or EBITDA. We drive innovation to transform flooring. We use science and technology to drive solutions that move flooring forward through innovation. We never rest. We ensure sustainability by using products that are environmentally responsible and promote sustainable construction practices.

You must have a vision for what you want to do that is driven by a passion for it. You must assess the opportunity for success honestly and then develop a plan for your success. You must build a culture of people who share your passion and commitment to excellence. You must continue to innovate to become better. You must cultivate an environment of shared knowledge and shared success. You must differentiate by standing out because you are outstanding.

By growing up in my family’s business I was taught one of my father’s basic principles: You either do it right or you don’t do it at all. That requires a sense and passion for high-performance products that exemplify excellence and enduring value. Success is nothing other than never making the same mistake twice.

How would you advise flooring dealers to build their own brands?
Many flooring retailers truly neglect to build their own brand. Instead they bow to large manufacturers who dictate products, styles, practices and price. I can only advise that no matter what size of company one is running, as an entrepreneur you should always create value in your own brand instead of relying on the manufacturer. Once you diligently work to become best in class or best in town, your value will emerge eventually to be appreciated by customers, vendors and employees. That creates the platform necessary to build a long-term, sustainable brand.

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Interview: Piet Dossche, the ‘father of WPC,’ mulls the evolving composite core landscape

FCNews Ultimate Guide to WPC: July 17/24, 2017

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.42.32 AMIn the mid-1990s, Pergo paved the way for a brand new category—laminate flooring—in the U.S. market. Initially, the category generated a lot of buzz and excitement (and perhaps some overzealous product claims) before experiencing a fairly rapid shakeout of players. During that same decade, other innovators such as Anderson and Mannington introduced the industry to rustic and hand-scraped floors. Not too long after that, virtually every hardwood flooring manufacturer had some variation of scraped or distressed product in their offerings.

Fast-forward to 2013, when USFloors broke new ground with the creation of an entirely new category of flooring, WPC, which is based on composite core technology. In the few years since the launch, the WPC category has caught the attention of retailers and distributors alike. More importantly, it has seized a greater share of dealers’ showrooms, nipping sales from competing hard surface categories. At the same time, recent iterations within the WPC category have spawned the creation of exciting new products that stand to impact the overall composite core sector in many ways.

FCNews managing editor Reginald Tucker recently sat down with Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors, to hear his assessment on how WPC has evolved since the initial launch and where the market is headed.

What are some of the main advantages of WPC vs. other composite core products such as rigid core?
There’s a lot of confusion in the market regarding where WPC and rigid core boards (RCB) fit. In my mind it is very clear, one category is not better than the other; they both complement each other. The analogy I use when I try to explain the differences between WPC and RCB is carpet. Most people know what carpet is all about, and most people know the difference between level loop commercial carpet vs. cut pile/saxony/plush type of carpet. I take a piece of 10-gauge level loop in one hand and a 40-ounce saxony carpet in the other hand. The 10-gauge level loop is my RCB product, and the 40-ounce saxony is my WPC product. Both products are made for certain purposes. Carpet 10-gauge level loop is not made for comfort; it is designed for performance. It’s a tight, dense construction that provides durability. The 40-ounce saxony, on the other hand, is a cut pile and has a more open construction. It’s plush, warm, soft and comfortable—you can really lie down and live on that floor. You wouldn’t really lie down on a 10-gauge level loop product.

You can make exactly the same comparison between WPC and RCB. With a rigid core construction, you have a very dense, tightly packed core with a high percentage of minerals and calcium carbonate in the formulation. It’s made more for performance as opposed to comfort. It’s designed for applications where indentation resistance is the most important factor.

With WPC, on the other hand, there is a foaming agent in the formulation, which creates air pockets within the core during the extrusion process. Inherently, these air pockets act as insulators for both sound and temperature, providing a higher level of comfort for the consumer. For example, if you have a customer who operates a hair salon, she needs a product designed to withstand heavy foot traffic—most likely high heels. That floor also has to be waterproof and resistant to chemicals. From a performance point of view, the RCB product will best fulfill the requirements in this situation.

But for the homeowner/housewife with an active lifestyle—kids, pets, etc.—she will want something that’s more comfortable, warmer and sound dampening like WPC. It will perform very well under these conditions, be waterproof in case of a spill and provide the level of comfort she is looking for.

Both products are perfect examples of how this composite core category has evolved since USFloors launched its COREtec collection about four years ago. WPC started and basically took hold of the market, then RCB came into the picture. I look at RCB as an extension of the solid LVT 3.2mm/4mm click LVT. In the end, I see these products complementing each other and helping to build the overall composite core category. WPC was just the start and RCB followed. Without a doubt you are going to see many products that follow on that path.

Do the various construction methods involved in WPC and RCB production factor into the final cost of the respective products?
Yes. For example, WPC with an LVT top layer is a more complicated product to make. It requires more capital investment. First you have to extrude the WPC coreboard. Then you have to create your LVT top layer (usually 1.5mm) through a calendaring process. A print film and wear layer are consequently pressed onto this LVT base. This slab then goes through an annealing process, which “shocks” the product to create the stability required. This top layer and WPC extruded core are pressed together and depending on the product, an attached underlayment is glued on the back (cork or another material) before the board is cut into planks or tiles and profiled with a click system. Several processes, steps and various pieces of equipment are required to make a WPC product.

By comparison, RCB, for the most part, entails a one-step process. The core, which is extruded with a high-density format, is fused with a print film (decorative layer) and wear layer before again being cut into planks or tiles and profiled with a click locking system. It’s a much less capital-intensive process.

So it sounds like there is a lower barrier to entry with respect to RCB-type products.
Yes, the RCB manufacturing method has resulted in many companies in China jumping on that wagon. Due to the issues with formaldehyde in some Chinese laminate products over the past few years, many Chinese laminate manufacturers were left standing with all this manufacturing profiling equipment. They saw their business dwindle because of the reduction in orders from the U.S. Making WPC was too expensive a process for some of these manufacturers. But when rigid core products were introduced into the composite core segment, it provided a very simple process for manufacturers who did not want to make the capital investment required to produce WPC. For many of those former laminate manufacturers in China, it made for a very easy entry into the RCB category. And because it’s a cheaper product to make, it usually sells for less money than WPC at the retail level.

Does this lower cost structure give some companies advantages over others?
Sure, in an effort to get some traction in the market, many of these newcomers revert to lowering their prices to sell their products. It’s one thing to price it lower, but it’s quite another to import the product and distribute it. Only the professional companies who can properly bring the product to the market and service the channels efficiently will be successful.

Looking through your crystal ball, how do you see rigid core’s market share growing as a piece of the overall composite core pie?
Right now RCB is still in its infancy, although it is being introduced into the market at a fast and furious pace. However, WPC has had a four- or five-year head start and it’s still growing strong. There’s no doubt about the popularity of the RCB category. Here at USFloors we are also coming out with a COREtec rigid core construction, because we don’t see it as a cannibalization of WPC. Rather, we view RCB as a complementary item that’s needed in our lineup. My sincere hope is the rigid core market becomes as big as it can, which can help to grow the category overall. Could it become as large as 50% of the total composite core category? Who knows. But even in that case, I don’t necessarily see it as WPC giving up half its market share to the rigid core category. As the market continues to grow, and when the dust eventually settles, it will transition to a more normal growth track compared to the high, double-digit growth curve we’re seeing today. Over the next three to five years, when all this stabilizes, I predict the composite core market will probably be three to four times as big as it is today. By then I expect rigid core will have taken a sizable market share next to WPC. With RCB construction more focused on commercial applications and WPC more residential, the residential share will be larger than the commercial volumes. Who knows—in three years’ time there could be three or four different composite core constructions on the market.

Speaking of the ongoing evolution of the composite core category, what are your thoughts about some of the early iterations we’re seeing?
It just confirms what I’ve been saying. We’re only on the cusp of innovation. These products are brand new in the market, and I believe they will be successful if they bring a solution that previous versions did not provide. But if we begin to see new products that are merely a gimmick, or a change in the core or construction just for the sake of change, then they’ll face an uphill battle. But if these new products are bringing certain advantages over existing constructions, then they will be successful.

What’s the next step for USFloors?
We are in the midst of commissioning our first WPC/COREtec plant at the state-of-the-art Shaw facility in Ringgold, Ga. We started up production in the last two weeks and we’re already making product. We are the innovator and leader in this category and are committed to remain in this position. We’re very excited about the future; the best is yet to come. Stay tuned!

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Domotex Asia 2016 attendance up 9.3%; 2017 show 63% booked

DOMOTEX asia / CHINAFLOOR ist die größte Teppich- und Bodenbelags-Messe in der Region Asien-Pazifik, und die zweitgrößte Fachmesse ihrer Art in der Welt. Sie findet jährlich im März auf dem Shanghai New International Expo Centre statt und zieht mehr als 40.000 Besucher aus der ganzen Welt an.

Shanghai–The 18th edition of Domotex asia/ChinaFloor, held here March 23-26, featured 1,303 exhibitors from 39 countries and attracted 50,398 trade visitors from more than 110 nations, resulting in a 9.3% increase compared to last year.

Martin Folkerts, director of Global Fairs at Deutsche Messe, one of the organizers of the show, said the increased number of exhibitors and visitors “were a clear indication of the confidence that the flooring industry players have on the show as the best platform to do business in the region.”

Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors, which was a first-time exhibitor at the show, said, “The exhibition keeps attracting the most prominent buyers from all over the world.”

One highlight of Domotex Asia 2016 was the visit of the first North American distributor delegation who visited some of the biggest domestic exhibitors’ manufacturing sites.

The next Domotex asia/ChinaFloor will be held March 21-23, 2017. To date, 63% of the available exhibition space is already booked, show organizers reported.

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Ten people who are making a difference

May 12/19, 2014; Volume 27/Number 27

The growth and success of any industry is strongly incumbent upon the leadership of the people within it. Their contributions may often fly under the radar or be taken for granted. The floor covering industry is no exception. There are countless people who are directly or indirectly working to increase retailer profitability and/or professionalism, whether it be through product development, training or internal processes.

In this issue, FCNews highlights some of the people who are making a difference in the flooring industry today. While some names you may not recognize, they’re stars in the eyes of many people. This is by no means a Top 10 list; next year we will look to feature 10 more individuals who deserve recognition for their efforts. Also, the order in which these people appear should in no way be construed as a ranking. We do not consider any one of these people more significant than the next. Rather, it is simply a grouping of people from various sectors of the industry who are making a positive impact on the industry.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.21.22 AMLisa Buice, corporate diversity manager, Shaw Industries

When Shaw Industries launched its diversity initiative in 2005, the company embarked on an educational journey with action plans to help fully integrate the program in all account management activities. Lisa Buice, corporate diversity manager at Shaw, joined the team in 2009 and started the true “action phase” with an established diversity council, according to Paul Richard, vice president, human resources.

“Since Lisa has come in we’ve really put a stronger emphasis on having local diversity councils,” Richard explained. “We’ve done a lot of education and training to help emphasize the need for diversity as a local activity. Lisa’s early focus was achieving this goal through the corporate diversity council.”

In 2011, Buice led the first corporate-wide forum for diversity champions and the local diversity councils. “It was one day of sharing best practices for different facilities,” Richard said. “A milestone event.”

While diversity has a general definition of integrating people of all races, religions, gender, etc., Shaw also sees diversity as the process in which associates at all levels of the company work together.

“The diversity council itself is a cross-functional team of business leaders throughout the company,” said Steve Sieracki, vice president of residential sales for Shaw Floors, who formerly served as the corporate diversity council chair. “Part of their duty is to take the diversity initiative and spread it throughout the organization. It’s one thing to have a meeting to talk about diversity and inclusion, but it’s another thing to leave the meeting and go spread it throughout the organization. That’s really what Lisa is driving. She’s giving the guidance, the leadership and the direction in providing the platform for everyone to learn.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.31.07 AMTom Jennings, vice president, member services, World Floor Covering Association (WFCA)

When it comes to people making a difference in the flooring industry, Scott Humphrey, CEO of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), said few deserve that distinction more than Tom Jennings. “Tom is one of the true trainers in the industry. Sam Allman was one. Tom is another. Tom has a unique blend of experience and the ability to convey that experience to others to make their lives easier.”

Even though Jennings is a retailer at heart—he owned one of the first Carpet One stores and was literally born into the industry decades ago—Humphrey said he is as passionate about installation as he is retailing. In his WFCA position, he works closely with CFI in helping train the next generation of installers.

“He loves the installation side of the business,” Humphrey said. “He is one of those people who does not see a classification of people—white collar, blue collar; it doesn’t matter to him. He can speak to all of them.”

Humphrey is not the only flooring professional enamored of Jennings and his accomplishments. Harold Chapman, president and CEO of Bonitz Inc., Greenville, S.C., said Jennings has “done everything in the form of training to sales, installation, customer service, customer relations and marketing, even store planning and layout. He has always been willing to share his experiences and expertise.”

Janice Clifton, president and owner of Abbey Carpets Unlimited, Napa, Calif., said Jennings “has been a huge motivating factor in trying to get the ANSI standards done for carpet installation for the last five years. He has a passion to see better installation in our industry.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.31.45 AMMike Zoellner, vice president, marketing services, Mohawk Industries

Mohawk University is currently celebrating 20 years of retail training leadership in the flooring industry. During that span, it has consistently ranked as one of the best training programs in any industry, ranking 5th overall in Training magazine’s most recent Top 125.

Over two decades, Mohawk University has made a name for itself by partnering with

industry leaders to provide retailers with the best and most innovative training available. There is one flooring industry veteran who has dedicated his career to the development and success of Mohawk’s retailer support programs—Mike Zoellner.

A Mohawk associate for over 30 years, Zoellner, vice president of marketing services, has a keen understanding of the demands and evolving business climate of today’s flooring retailer. “We take the time to listen to our retail customers’ needs and make adjustments to our training,” Zoellner said. “For example, we are aware that sometimes it is difficult for retailers to physically leave their stores to attend courses, so we now offer live and on-demand online training options.”

Zoellner said Mohawk has also focused new course content on digital marketing, lead generation and management, “which is the new frontier for flooring retailers.”

David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations, said Mohawk is “incredibly fortunate” to have Zoellner leading its marketing services efforts. “In addition to his contributions to the success of Mohawk U, Mike and his team are consistently focused on bringing the most value to our retailer base. He is a strong leader, mentor and friend.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.37.27 AMBruce Zwicker, president and CEO, Haines

When the floor covering industry was mired in the deepest recession since the Great Depression, Haines CEO Bruce Zwicker could have taken the cautious route and steered the industry’s largest distributor to safe harbor.

Instead, he challenged the organization to continue to execute on its long-range strategy to grow and expand far beyond what others believed plausible.

Because of Zwicker’s leadership, Haines not only survived the 40% industry drop that capsized many companies, it increased its business through acquisitions, investments in inventory and services, managing costs, and expanding into new territories like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

“There’s no question that what Bruce has done within the last eight years as CEO is pretty astounding,” said Scott Roy, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service. “The recent CMH acquisition was a game-changer and should provide significant benefits to customers, suppliers and employees.”

According to those close to the chief executive, Zwicker lives by a simple rule that follows a clear strategy: doing the right things will result in peace of mind, good relationships with all constituents and an effective workforce.

“Bruce’s passion for growth and expansion at Haines is arguably the clearest definition of his entrepreneurial spirit,” Roy said.

Zwicker has created a culture at Haines that has resulted in high morale and low turnover. “In our last survey, 90% of our employees described Haines as a great place to work,” Roy added.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.38.07 AMEd Duncan, senior vice president, marketing and new business development, Mannington Residential

A company veteran of more than 26 years, Ed Duncan is responsible for integrating and overseeing marketing and product line management for all residential product categories at Mannington. Ten years ago, Duncan pushed the company to get into LVT, and “it has been a major part of our success ever since,” said Kim Holm, president, residential business.

In recent years Duncan has been instrumental in launching Mannington’s newest product line, luxury vinyl sheet (LVS). “We wondered why there weren’t the negative feelings toward LVT as there was to sheet,” Holm recalled. “Ed came up with a couple concepts, both of which focused on LVT’s look.”

Mannington then invested in state-of-the-art printing, texturing and finishing technology to create more realistic visuals. And because “sheet vinyl” has a bit of a negative connotation, Holm noted, the company renamed it “LVS.”

The other half of Duncan’s program, according to Holm, was a selling system that was a step up to a good/better/best system, a staple in the carpet category but not in vinyl.

During Duncan’s time with Mannington, he’s also helped launch NatureForm sheet vinyl, and has led the company’s charge into laminate, which started as an import partnership with Witex. “Ed led our launch into another revolutionary look for laminate with the Historic collection,” Holm said. “With it, we became the first mill to offer rustic looks in the hardwood and laminate categories.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.38.31 AMAl Collison, founder and president, MP Global Products

Al Collison founded Midwest Padding in 1997. In order to better suit its expanding diversity of product offerings, the company later underwent a name change to MP Global Products. Under Collison’s leadership, MP Global has been an innovator in the production of specialty padding for cushioning, insulating and acoustical applications.

Besides its traditional underlayment products—including the well-known QuietWalk—the company also offers a radiant heating line, as well as an imported vinyl flooring collection, as it continues to innovate and diversify its product offerings.

In 2000, Collison was awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the University of Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship. In addition, the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) has twice honored MP Global with its Associate Member Company of the Year award.

In March of 2005, MP Global’s manufacturing facility in Norfolk, Neb., burned to the ground. Within a week, Collison relocated several key members of his manufacturing team to a sister plant. The strategic alliance with another manufacturer allowed MP Global to barely skip a beat and, in under seven months, a new plant was built and operational adjacent to the spot of the former factory.

“From the start, Al has believed what is good for the flooring industry is good for America,” said Jack Boesch, MP Global’s director of marketing. “Not only is MP Global manufacturing fiber acoustic underlayment in America, but the manufacturing process Al developed includes using post-industrial/pre-consumer fibers diverted from landfill. Al has set a high environmental standard for MP Global’s underlayment products, and his leadership exemplifies the highest standards in American entrepreneurship.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.38.57 AMDana Teague, vice president, Hanley Wood

With more than 20 years in trade show management—the last 14 at Hanley Wood—Dana Teague has been instrumental in the growth and development of both the company itself and the shows it runs and organizes. In illustration, she helped Surfaces | StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas become the second largest revenue-product property in its division and the 54th-ranked trade show in the country, according to Trade Show News magazine.

After being promoted to vice president of Hanley Wood just over a year ago, Teague in her new role has helped reposition Surfaces, now called The International Surface Event to represent the integration of TileExpo, Surfaces and StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas. The 2014 edition showed a 7% increase in attendance from 2013 with more than 700 companies exhibiting at the show. In addition, 80% of exhibitors re-signed at the event for the 2015 show, which will be held during Design and Construction Week, co-dated with the International Builders’ Show (IBS), the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the Las Vegas Market. This will allow industry professionals from all sides of the consumer housing spectrum to meet, interact and collaborate in one place for the first time ever.

“Dana is working directly with the NAHB and KBIS groups on Design and Construction week,” said Amie Gilmore, director of The International Surface Event at Hanley Wood. “Her leadership of the team really helped influence and implement our plans for last January’s show and next year’s event. She gives us the tools we need so we can carry out plans and different ideas.”

The International Surface Event continues to increase its value to attendees each year. The education program is among the strongest in the industry, and show floor enhancements such as the social media lounge and dedicated spaces for product demonstrations have been a big hit.

Teague also helped develop the upcoming International Surface Event East, launched to help expose retailers and members of the A&D community on the East Coast to the mega show. “She and I haven been working closely together for some time on planning the East show,” Gilmore said. “As a forward thinker and someone who is very strategic and knowledgeable, the city choice [Miami] and the timing can be attributed to her.”

 Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.39.21 AMPiet Dossche, president and CEO, USFloors

An innovative leader with a passion for flooring, Piet Dossche is a true go-getter in the flooring industry. With USFloors, he pioneered bamboo flooring in the U.S., exposing it to dealers and consumers nationwide. The company was an early adopter of oil-finished hardwood floors in the U.S.

Dossche is committed to the philosophy of providing unique and sustainable floors (the “U” and “S” in USFloors) that provide innovative flooring solutions to both dealers and consumers. Not content manufacturing cork and bamboo only, he established the only U.S. manufacturing facility for cork, bamboo and oil-finished hardwood at a time when most manufacturers were closing facilities or moving production offshore.

On the sustainability front, USFloors is one of Georgia’s largest solar power suppliers with two rooftop photovoltaic arrays rated at over 1⁄2 megawatt. The company also received the patent for Corboo flooring that infuses seams of cork into strand woven bamboo, creating the signature product marking USFloors’ commitment to unique and sustainable flooring products.

In his latest—and perhaps most innovative—initiative, Dossche developed the patent-pending COREtec Plus product line which created a new category of LVT—engineered luxury vinyl floors—that is currently being widely embraced by dealers nationwide.

A true visionary for the industry, Dossche saw the opportunity for retailers to make additional profit margins with COREtec Plus as an added value product, followed through successfully, and established the multi-product manufacturer as a major player in the industry.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.39.57 AMPeter Spielman, president, Zamma Corp.

Over the past 10 years, Zamma has become the largest producer of floor transitions in North America. If you’re not familiar with the company, it’s because Zamma manufactures moldings for companies like Shaw, Mannington, Metroflor, Earthwerks and Home Depot with several more in the pipeline, according to president Peter Spielman, whose vision is driving the company.

Moldings are an important part of a retailer’s business because they represent an additional profit center with nice margins. And while Zamma offers wood and laminate moldings, it is currently rewriting the book on LVT moldings.

“As LVT evolves, moldings are going to become a big part of it, and Peter is bringing LVT moldings to the [forefront],” said Kim Holm, Mannington’s president of residential business. “He may not be the only one, but he’s doing it in the biggest way that is going to continue to fuel the growth of LVT.”

Consumers were once forced to use metal, black or gray moldings as transitions with their LVT floors, but now retailers have the ability to offer a better solution: moldings that exactly match LVT.

“If a manufacturer has 100 colors, we will have 100 LVT moldings to match each one,” Spielman said. “We run decorative vinyl profiles exactly as you run it on your LVT.”

This is the result of Zamma’s isobaric press, which allows the company to take the exact décor layer that’s printed for the LVT, then firmly fuse it with a commercial grade top layer, thereby using the same top layer and decorative layer as the floor. “We have not embraced digital printing technology that use UV inks,” Spielman said. “We believe when you use hot melt glue to coat the paper, you are putting sand and glue together. You may pass the Tabor test but you don’t have a very good product. We figured out a better way to build a mousetrap.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.40.02 AMKeith Spano, president, Flooring America

Since he became president of Flooring America in 2011, Keith Spano has created a “go for it” attitude amongst the group, leading the way in marketing and valuable investments. Spano’s experience from years in the flooring industry ranges from sales and marketing to product management and supplier relations, thanks to previous positions that include director of national accounts for franchises at Beaulieu and executive vice president of marketing and merchandising for Abbey Carpet.

Spano’s “partner in crime,” Frank Chiera, vice president of marketing for Flooring America, fondly remembers when the pair first met. “I could tell from that dinner—which lasted four hours—that he was not like anyone else in the floor covering business. He has a way of making you believe in his vision.”

His open-minded attitude has helped facilitate the reinvention of Flooring America’s marketing efforts, helping put a face behind the brand. Membership has increased significantly—and quickly—in recent years, in part because of Spano’s new methods in recruiting members, which takes the process to a personal level. According to Chiera, Spano has also brought in the “right team, people who can get things done and share his vision.

“It was a leap of faith for [Spano] to say, ‘Let’s reposition the brand, let’s change everything, let’s invest in digital marketing and social media,’ when everyone else in the industry was doubting that path,” Chiera continued. “He has the ability to recognize where things are going. It really sets him apart.”

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USFloors launches West Coast distribution service

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 4.51.27 PMDalton — USFloors now offers west coast distribution out of Anaheim, Calif., to provide faster service for customers in the region. Right now,  USFloors’ Castle Combe Originals oil finished hardwood collection is fully  stocked in California, with the company’s popular and patent-pending COREtec Plus Engineered Luxury Vinyl Floors to be added in April.

Piet Dossche, USFloors president and CEO, said it is an ongoing focus to improve the retail customer experience when buying collections and products from USFloors. “We opened our office in Shanghai in October to address quality and service in order to reduce lead-times at point of purchase. Our commitment to West coast inventory allows us to further build on this and provide stronger support to our sales team and our customers by significantly reducing transit times to deliver their orders,” he said.

Chanel Clifford, who manages the USFloors’ Western sales region, said dealers are excited to have faster access to USFloors products. “Our customers have been asking for this and our management team has been responsive to their needs. Having local stock is a big deal in the west and it shows dealers that we are committed to growing our business and improving customer satisfaction from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains.”

In addition, USFloors has expanded the sales force in California and the Mountain West to allow more attentive representation to USFloors customers in the region.

Dossche continued, “Our business is growing, our latest  introductions are being very well received by our retail partners. We have the capacity, the means and the commitment  to do whatever is necessary to improve customer satisfaction and maintain and enhance our role as the leading supplier of oiled hardwoods, cork, bamboo, and innovative, cutting edge products like COREtec Plus. We are very optimistic about the prospects of continued growth out West and throughout the U.S. in 2014 and beyond.”