Mercerville, N.J.—Last month Congoleum gained new leadership for the first time in nearly 20 years when its board of directors named Bob Moran president and CEO, succeeding Roger Marcus. Moran has a proven track record in growing building products companies through focused business strategy, passionate service and superior value-added products. He comes to Congoleum after stints with Nautic Global, Omega Cabinetry Group and Newell-Rubbermaid. Moran recently sat down with FCNews publisher and editorial director Steven Feldman, to offer his views on Congoleum—past, present and future.
Passion. Energy. Team orientation. Focusing on the value of products. Empowering people to make the decisions. I believe in pushing decisions down; you don’t want to keep decisions at the CEO level otherwise you don’t get individuals to become leaders themselves.
Give me the one career accomplishment of which you are most proud.
The creation of the Omega Group. We combined three separate cabinet companies—Omega, Kitchen Crafts and Home Crest— into a powerhouse that Fortune Brands, a $5 billion company at the time, purchased for $538 million. We created synergies, had a lot of fun. We took a $50 million company and turned it into a $400 million business in five years.
You’ve been at Congoleum now for a month. First impressions?
I see a huge amount of opportunity here. There is a great foundation in place for success. We have a wonderful team, great products and incredible distribution. Much of the credit goes to Roger Marcus. He created a fantastic company that I am humbled to be part of today. His leadership has put us in a position to be successful. It is truly an honor to succeed him here.
What has been your focus in your first month here, and what will be your focus over the next nine months?
My initial focus has been getting out and meeting our distributors. In fact, I have visited 70% of the distribution chain to date. I want to work with them to set the agenda for the business. Going forward, it’s all about new products, fashion, design, and looking at traditional and non-traditional markets. I want to create an environment for change, for fun, for profitable growth of our business. The next nine months will be product development focused on both the residential and commercial sides. We have been relatively light on commercial, and we are taking the blinders off on that segment of the market. Aside from our traditional flooring business, the manufactured housing segment has been important to Congoleum for a number of years and will remain a focus going forward.
In what areas do you feel you can align your strengths with the areas where Congoleum can improve?
It’s the pace and speed of how we go to market. We want to energize the business to take advantage of the market. We will be quick to market, quick to change, quick to grow, quick to take advantage of opportunties. We will be high risk takers with high reward.
What about Congoleum’s strengths?
Our strengths are our manufacturing facilities, quality, value and distribution network. But our greatest strength is the Congoleum name that generations have known. We need to reach a younger generation and get them to understand the great products their parents and grandparents have used and how they fit their needs. It’s exciting that Congoleum has a brand name. Some of the businesses I’ve worked with have been unknowns. The Congoleum name is what brought me to the business—to be associated with a name of Congoleum’s stature.
How do you plan on growing this business?
We are creating new product introductions with designs, features, benefits and sex appeal. We have a great R&D group that will be instrumental in developing the new products that we will build upon. New products and designs mean nothing if you can’t get them to market. We are upgrading our merchandising and website as we seek ways to reach the younger consumer.
Any plans to expand beyond resilient flooring?
At this point, we are focused on maximizing the return on the resilient category. There are enough dollars being captured in resilient flooring and we must take advantage of that. Our distributors are well represented in the other categories, so our main focus is to supply them with improved resilient products. We have no plans to focus on other flooring categories, however, we are looking at products outside flooring that may be a focus for us in the future.
What do you think Congoleum’s identity will be going forward?
Fashion and design at a value price point. You’re proud to have a Congoleum floor but you didn’t spend a fortune to get it.
Congoleum through the years has run the gamut from aggressive marketing and merchandising to passive. What is your philosophy in terms of marketing?
Extremely aggressive. Congoleum has been allowing others to take market share. When the market went south, the strategy was simply to survive. The company could have been more aggressive than just trying to survive. Now we will be more aggressive in website development and merchandising, and the sales force will be more aggressive in adding retailers. We have a great story to tell, and we need to tell it. That story is what will bring retailers and consumers back to Congoleum.
Congoleum is more closely aligned with one distributor, Mohawk, than any other major resilient manufacturer. Do you lose any leverage in that relationship?
We are proud to be aligned with Mohawk. It has helped our company grow and be stable in an unstable market. We have many distributors and each provides value to the business. They are all critical to our success.