LAS VEGAS—Ralph Boe, president and CEO of Beaulieu of America, the world’s third-largest carpet mill, was honored Jan. 25 with the Floor Covering News Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented to Boe during Surfaces’ general session here before more than 700 people.
Floor Covering News established the Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize and celebrate those people who have not only made significant contributions to the floor covering industry, but more important, worked toward its betterment and made a difference over a sustained period of time. Simply stated, it is intended to recognize service and leadership that is of a scope and duration to be considered a lifetime achievement.
“We wanted to honor those people who have dedicated their life to improving the floor covering industry,” said Mike Blick, co-owner and publisher of FCNews. “We felt it was about time for us to have our own award annually honoring an individual who has made significant contributions. Ralph exemplifies that person.”
Boe is a most-deserving recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, dedicating his life to an industry in which he broke into in 1969. With a Doctorate in Physical Chemistry from the University of Maryland, Boe worked at DuPont for 15 years, where he had risen to vice president of the polyester business.
In 1984, Boe left DuPont to become COO of Horizon Industries, where he began his task of returning the firm to profitability. He introduced a new organizational structure and updated systems that enhanced the company’s hallmarks of creative vitality and styling leadership.
Peter Spirer, president and CEO of Horizon, knew Boe could take Horizon to the next level. “After we took the company public, it became apparent to me I lacked the organizational skills that would be required for a CEO of a public company. I thought we could be a lot more profitable if we had a CEO who understood the way large companies operate.”
Spirer said Boe immediately brought operational disciplines to planning, logistics, moving a product through the system and inventory control. “And, what may be his greatest achievement, he set standards that could be lived within.”
Boe is also credited with leading the charge to backward verticalize. “We did our own spinning, heatsetting, high-speed tufting and dying—all the key manufacturing operations,” Spirer said. “That allowed us to squeeze money out of cost.”
Under Boe’s leadership, Horizon’s sales grew from $85 million to $300 million over the course of seven years, making it an attractive target for purchase. The company was transformed from high style to more commodity-oriented products. “They were still fashionably colored, but we went from a niche mill to a meat-and-potatoes mill,” Spirer said. In 1992, the company was purchased by Mohawk Industries for $105 million.
When Horizon was sold to Mohawk Industries in 1992, Boe joined Diamond Rug and Carpet Mills as president, orchestrating a turnaround that made it another attractive target for Mohawk. From there, he joined Shaw Industries and undertook an assessment of its UK business, leading to a turn-around and management buy- out in 1998. Boe served as CEO and managing director of Carpets International, the largest carpet manufacturer in the UK.
Then at Beaulieu of America, Boe turned the company around by determining the real assets that were needed for the long term and turned unattractive assets into cash via selloffs. Also, inventory SKUs were cut 60% and efficiencies were realized. He also reduced the work force 30% and job descriptions were changed to reward the “Multi-Task Talented Employees.”
“Ralph has brought tremendous professionalism to Beaulieu while staying very open minded to the entrepreneurship that made us into the company we are,” said Carl Bouckaert, chairman, Beaulieu of America. “He is highly respected by all our constituents, customers, employees, bankers and suppliers alike and has been instrumental in establishing Beaulieu of America as the ‘Employer of Choice’ and the ‘Supplier of Choice.’ Nobody in the industry deserves Floor Covering News’ Lifetime Achievement Award more than Ralph.”
Beyond leading carpet mills, Boe was also the founder and first chairman of FLEX, the industry’s consumer credit program. He has also been chairman of the Carpet Foundation/British Carpet Manufacturers, president of the European Carpet Association and chairman of the Carpet & Rug Institute.
But Boe’s career is about much more than business. He has also been instrumental in improving everyone’s health at Beaulieu. In 2009 he kicked off the “Ralph Boe Million Mile Walking Challenge” encouraging everyone to enjoy a healthier body and better quality of life. He started the walking program two years ago and personally leads this walk most every week where any member of the Beaulieu team can walk with him.
Boe was honored, humbled and surprised to receive the prestigious award and, in typical fashion, attributed it to those he has worked with. “No one person does it all, and it is the ability to get your whole team working together that leads to success,” he said. “That happens by utilizing their creative talents and giving them the freedom to apply themselves tenaciously to achieve the goals.
“Your success in life is so dependent on all the opportunities you are presented with and the associates you have working with you and supporting you.”