New product investments, international business are among the initiatives
The new year brought a change at the top of Mannington Mills. Longtime CEO Tom Davis announced his retirement some time ago, and his hand-picked replacement, Russell Grizzle, took the reins Jan. 2. Grizzle, the former president of Milliken’s global flooring business, had been groomed for the position for two years, so suffice to say he is more than ready to take Mannington to new heights. Grizzle recently sat down with FCNews editorial director Steven Feldman to discuss his views and goals for the future.
You’ve been with Mannington for two years now. What are your impressions of the company?
Before I came here I was with a competitor of Mannington. I knew a lot of people here, and what you see in the marketplace is real. Mannington is a terrific company with terrific people.
I find the values of the company to be very inspiring. Our core values of Care, Do The Right Thing, Work Hard/Play Hard and Control Our Own Destiny are more of a vision of how to do business. The mission is simple: Be the best people in the industry to do business with. There’s nothing in there about product. We hear so much about the many problems of corporate America. I find it very inspiring that these are the values of this company.
Finally, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Keith [Campbell], his family and the 97-year legacy of this company. Learning the history of Mannington can help us as we think about our future.
How do Mannington’s values align with your personal values?
Strong family values were instilled in my upbringing. We were a close-knit family. Now I have two children, and my life revolves around them outside of work.
How does your professional background fit with Mannington?
I’ve worked for two privately held companies, so there is a lot of alignment there. I’ve worked for a lot of great people that had strong integrity and a strong belief in doing things the right way. For example, I learned a tremendous amount from Roger Milliken. I would classify him as a mentor. He had an unbelievable attention to detail. His view of business and its longevity is certainly a common trait here with Keith.
What have you learned over the past two years?
My background is in carpet, so I’ve had to learn about all the other surfaces from wood to resilient to laminate to ceramic. But I have learned the process is very similar: new product adoption, inspiration, field testing, customer testing. But I am constantly amazed at how our design teams create such realism in the hard surface categories and with the utmost quality. Add that to the product durability and high performance, and it’s the complete package.
How do you view the company’s strengths?
For starters, we don’t have the pressures of the Wall Street quarterly reports so you can take a long-term view of the business. Second, we have strong relationships with our distributor and retail partners. Third, we have a great reputation for fantastic products in terms of design and functionality. Fourth, internally, there is great teamwork to make everything happen. There are not a lot of corporate politics. The people here want to see each other and the company succeed.
Where do you see opportunities?
We are implementing lean manufacturing across the company–eliminating the waste that is inherent in any process. That means faster changeovers, faster turnover of equipment, less idle capital, less idle inventory, and do all this while maintaining world class service. We’ve had our share of problems, but I’m convinced of our ultimate success.
We will continue to invest in products. As an example, we are having one of the largest product launches at Surfaces we’ve had in a long time. We are also going back to the show floor. It’s all because we don’t think it will be much longer until this market turns around and we want to be able take advantage if it.
As this market starts to recover, I’d like to see Mannington address international expansion. We do a small amount of international business now, but I’d like to see us expand. That’s where a lot of the growth has been and will continue to be in the future.
Talk a little about the decision to return to the Surfaces show floor.
Our early feedback from our customers is that Surfaces attendance will be better this year. We want to show off our new products, and being on the show floor is the best place to do that. Also, Surfaces is the industry’s premiere trade show, and we want to support the industry’s main event. Being in the middle of the show floor is the best show of support.
What exactly have you been charged with over the last two years?
My primary goal was to learn the business and get to know the people of Mannington. Mannington, like any company, has its unique culture. I’ve worked hard to become part of this culture while bringing my own perspective based on my strengths.
Thanks to the hard work of a tremendous number of associates, we had a very good year and have a lot of momentum for the future. We saw good growth in all areas of the business and showed sound financial performance considering the state of the economy. We also worked up a solid strategic plan before Tom retired, so our path forward is in excellent shape.
Give me your highest priority in the next six months. What will you be doing differently than the past year?
I’m going to travel a whole lot more over the first few months, spend a lot more time in the marketplace. Other than that, I don’t plan on doing anything that I hadn’t been doing.
What do you bring to Mannington that may differ from Tom Davis?
I’ve worked for Tom several different times. I worked with him in 1980 as well as in the early ‘90s. And I also worked for him here at Mannington for the last 21 months. We see things very similarly. I have had to get very involved in many details of the business to help me learn. Tom and I both believe very strongly in benchmarking and continuous improvement. We have to get better every day if we want to succeed in the future. The economy is global. Things are constantly changing, and not just in manufacturing.
What are your short- and long-term visions for Mannington?
Short term we are going to stay diligent through the continued challenges in this marketplace. We put a lot of thought and preparation into our product investments. Long term, I would like this company to expand into new areas–places where we don’t do business today. That entails dramatically growing our business in North America as well as international expansion.
Do you foresee making any management changes?
I don’t plan on making any major management changes other than Tom’s departure. However, Tom will continue to be involved in Mannington as he will stay on our board of directors.
What type of marketing and advertising presence can we expect from Mannington under your auspices?
The more people know about Mannington, the more they will want to do business with us. People have to know our story, our commitment to what we do. We have so many products out there, it can be very overwhelming to the salesperson and the consumer. We want them to know about Mannington and to ask for our products by name.
I plan a strong focus on marketing to both consumer and trade audiences, because to succeed we will need everyone’s support.