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My take: Catching up with a true entrepreneur

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

 

You have to hand it to Thomas Trissl. Time never stands still with this man as he is always looking for the next big thing, always thinking about being innovative. So many people talk the talk; Trissl walks the walk. The consummate entrepreneur.

“Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety, you could end up as the only one.” That line is from Sting’s Englishman in New York, but it is also this industry’s German in Florence, Ala.

I first met Trissl many moons ago—in 1996, actually—when he started Centiva, an LVT manufacturer/importer before the entire world was onto his game. Centiva was always different. Trissl designed the line; colors were vibrant and designs inspirational and unique. Focused exclusively on the commercial market, he sold to Tarkett in 2010.

Trissl resurfaced a few years ago with a different company, TMT America, which is billed as a company that provides capital and consulting for developing companies. Under that umbrella came HPS North America, the continent’s sales and marketing arm for German installation company Schönox. The company offers a number of products, but the flagship is something that can turn decrepit subfloors into something smooth and level, and ready for brand new flooring (see page 10).

Trissl is at it again with a couple of new ventures. I found myself in Florence last month and paid a visit to my friend, primarily to tour his Porsche museum (more on that later). Like a mad scientist showing an unsuspecting visitor his laboratory, Trissl gave me a glimpse into what’s next.

The ink was still not dry on a newly signed agreement with German ceramic manufacturer Buchtal and its American affiliate, DryTile North America, which introduced to the American market a loose-lay, non-adhesive ceramic tile. DryTile does not require thin-set materials and the agonizing task of finding good craftsmanship in a world where it is not only harder to find, but installation requires a flat, smooth subfloor. See the synergy with Schönox?

Another interesting concept on which TMT America is working is a heated floor system not for ambient heat, but for luxury foot comfort in residential settings. In residential settings, it will be a luxury item for barefoot walking, especially in bathrooms. The product can be easily installed under Schönox synthetic products. The synthetic product does not just transfer the heat, it actually boosts and retains the heat.

Finally, in the TMT sandbox, I was shown a 20 x 30 demo area that contained vibrant, colorful and enriched looking polished concrete. This is something in which Trissl engaged outside the Schönox involvement. He said he has invested a lot of time in this in his spare moments. Of course, Schönox will contribute by providing a world-new, two-binding-system technology which enables and supersedes a simple concrete topping.

HPS Schönox’s focus remains on providing subfloor solutions for all critical substrates. Now he is venturing into products that can capitalize on these solutions.

Eventually I made my way into what has to be one of this country’s greatest collections of Porsches, new and old. Some can best be described as collector’s items: 911s, Carreras, etc. Others could probably feed some Third World countries for a year. Colors are vibrant, each car with its own personality. Not surprisingly, Trissl has turned this into a business, too. Through Trissl Sports cars (trisslsportscars.com), he will find any Porsche model, any year, any color, for the Porsche enthusiast.

Finally, a business that doesn’t require a level subfloor.

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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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Ten people making a difference

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

Some adjectives used to describe the leaders who made the cut in this year’s list include “visionary, bold, enthusiastic and innovative.” Then there are those who just seem to have a natural proclivity for developing creative ideas that generate results. In another camp you have those talented leaders who inspire others day in and day out, challenging them to continue raising their game to a higher level.

FCNews’ 10 people making a difference features puts the spotlight on those individuals who consistently bring out the best in others.

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HPS Schönox contest looks for worst subfloors in North America

tories is underwayFlorence, Ala. – Is your company working on a project that has what might be the worst subfloor in North America? That’s the starting point for a contest that HPS Schönox has put together to shine a light on tough subfloor conditions, detail the best ways to renovate them, and provide some recognition and publicity for the companies who handle these challenging projects.  “Too often the stability and condition of subfloors is overlooked in the flooring installation industry resulting in failed installations,” said Thomas Trissl, HPS Schönox principal.  “With that thought in mind, Schönox has kicked off a subfloor competition for flooring companies where they can enter projects that began with damaged, unsound subfloors and were renovated using Schönox products.”

The Schönox Worst Subfloor in North America Contest is an opportunity for any company charged with making a damaged subfloor smooth and sound to show the tough subfloor conditions that they encountered and how they renovated them using Schönox products.  Entries will be independently judged with first, second, and third place winners being awarded Schönox products based on the severity of the original subfloor’s condition, the skill and attention to detail taken in executing the project, and the quality of the finished subfloor.  The judges for the contest will be announced on May 26th.

Those entering the contest are asked to photograph the subfloor conditions before and after the subfloor renovation project and submit the photos, along with some project information, at hpsubfloors.com/worstsubfloor where all of the contest details can be found.  The contest runs through Dec. 15 with winners to be announced at Surfaces in 2015.

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HPS Schönox brings speed to installation

Schonox rollerLas Vegas — HPS Schönox has assembled a product system focused on the quick turnarounds required for flooring installations in the retail sector.  From priming to subfloor leveling and on to flooring installation, Schönox now has a product group designed for speed. 

Schönox KH Fix primer, ZM Rapid self-leveling compound, and Roll and Go LVT adhesive make up the retail-focused product lineup.  “Our retail customers often need to do flooring installations overnight,” said Brandon Hagen, HPS Schönox territory business manager.  “Our comprehensive product system will allow them to do so with speed that they have not seen before.”

KH Fix primer dries quickly allowing floor leveling compounds to be applied in roughly 10 to 60 minutes.  ZM Rapid is suitable for leveling cement and gypsum based substrates, drying in 1.5 to 2 hours after application.  Schönox Roll and Go is applied with a roller from a standing position and is ready to accept LVT tiles in 10 minutes.  After flooring installation using Roll and Go, the floor space can immediately accept foot traffic and be loaded with store fixtures.  “Any retailer that has upcoming flooring installation and renovation projects should take a close look at what we have assembled with them specifically in mind,” said Thomas Trissl, HPS Schönox principal.  “Retail has been a focus for our company for some time as we know their time constraints as well as renovation budgets are important.”

 

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HPS Schönox to demonstrate subfloor products at Surfaces

ide variety of existing flooring materials and critical substratesLas Vegas – HPS Schönox will demonstrate a wide range of innovative subfloor products on the Main Stage at Surfaces on Tuesday and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Primers, self leveling compounds, and adhesives will be presented that facilitate smoother, faster, and safer flooring projects.

“We consistently see that first-time users of Schönox subfloor products don’t return to the old ways of preparing subfloors, leveling them, and installing floor coverings,” said Thomas Trissl, HPS Schönox principal.  “Our objective for the demonstrations is to show how projects can be completed faster addressing tough subfloor issues with a smarter use of installation labor.”

In addition to the formal demonstrations at the Main Stage, HPS Schönox will be doing demonstrations throughout the Surfaces trade show event at its booth (B3837.)  The company will welcome flooring installers, specifiers, designers, architects, facility managers, and anyone interested in a better way to accomplish subfloor projects.  The new approach of having live product demonstrations in the booth will allow attendees to see the product benefits first hand.

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Centiva website: a window inside the company

Florence, Ala. — Centiva has taken a defining step in its goal to have rich and transparent customer dialogs with the launch of its new website that communicates with stakeholders like never before. The site incorporates a host of new features including a platform called C•Media that serves up video posts all about the company, its customers, and products. This user-friendly site provides a wealth of information on the company’s environmental efforts, customer experiences, and technical data. These and other sections of the site are built to steadily grow and expand over time. Continue reading Centiva website: a window inside the company