August 31/September 7; Volume 30/Number 6
By Ken Ryan
Shaw Industries has won numerous industry awards for its superior products, exemplary service and environmental stewardship. It has also earned a reputation among its customers as a first-class company with people who will do whatever it takes to exceed expectations.
FCNews spoke to nearly a dozen Shaw customers—many of whom go back several decades—about what makes Shaw special. Yes, the company manufactures reliable products and has winning marketing and merchandising programs, but there is almost an X factor that distinguishes Shaw in the eyes of its customers. In their own words, the following dealers illustrated Shaw’s uniqueness, many with personal stories—and not all of them were about flooring.
Crest Flooring, Allentown, Pa.
Years with Shaw: 25+
Steve Weisberg, president
In his 40 years as a flooring dealer, Weisberg said the claims percentage from Shaw is by far lower than any mill from which he has purchased. “This is a great testament to their quality. And while their quality is generally better than most, their reaction to claims is definitely better than most.”
Crest Flooring takes full advantage of the benefits of being aligned with Shaw. Weisberg said the company’s “Awesome” marketing campaign introduced in January 2015 “is the most well thought out campaign I’ve seen.”
He noted that his marketing team is looking for ways to incorporate Shaw’s digital tools into Crest’s business. “My Shaw carpet rep and his district manager are like my business partners. They truly understand how my company operates and they have been extremely instrumental in our growth over the past decade.”
We had a large job with a new construction account that had a specific installation date that had to be met. We had the carpet ordered ahead of time and the estimated time to ship was well within time to get the carpet here. I had been away from the office for a couple of days only to be told the order was sitting at the mill. I called Mark Barilka, our regional VP, and told him how badly we needed the material. Within an hour Mark had our order loaded on a special carrier. We got the order the next day. The cost to Shaw was at least four times a normal LTL shipment.
Johnston Paint and Decorating, Columbia, Mo.
Years with Shaw: 15+
Melissa Murphy, Design Center manager
Murphy was reminded of what makes Shaw special during a conversation with a fellow retailer who was considering adopting the Shaw Design Concept for his four locations. “He kept calling with questions like, ‘How many manufacturing claims do you have out at a time and how are they handled?’ I stopped to say, ‘Well, I cannot remember the last time I had a manufacturing claim and they are handled with efficiency.’ He then asked, ‘What about backordered material and extension of production dates? How long do you have to wait from corporate to get a decision you’ve posed to your rep?’ I realized the questions he posed wasn’t my norm with Shaw.”
From the person in the corner office to the territory manager, Murphy said Shaw’s staff is there to make a dealer’s business better. “They just get it. They are doing everything right about the basic stuff, making sure carpet is in stock for immediate shipment, that the colors and styles are on trend and at the right price. Their IT team is beyond incredible; the online ordering/stock checking and order status portal is hands down the best in the industry. They are making a household name of their brand while recognizing that the dealer needs to have the autonomy to make it my own. So we never really have conversations about basic business [topics] because they already have thought of it.”
My Shaw carpet territory manager, Steve Kruse, has set up shop with his crushed ice machine and snow cone sugars to celebrate the last day of school for my children’s classes many times. It may seem odd for a rep to do such a thing, but this is just one of many stories about how our Shaw reps have become so intertwined with our personal lives. Just as he attended my grandfather’s funeral, he remembers my kids’ birthdays and attended our contractor BBQ.
Carpetland USA, Davenport, Iowa
Years with Shaw: 25+
Eric Langan, president/owner
From its field reps through senior management, Shaw genuinely cares about its customers, according to Langan. “Shaw asks how your business is, how they can help grow your business, and assists in implementing strategies to help do so,” he said. “I have never come across a Shaw associate that hasn’t thanked me/us for our business. I believe that the appreciation is sincere. For the most part, carpet is carpet, hardwood is hardwood, tile is tile—sure you can get it from a lot of different sources, but what differentiates it is who you get it from. In the end, it is Shaw’s people and approach to business that set them apart.”
Langan said the things he values most about his relationship with Shaw are the professionalism and the relationships in general. “When we work with and negotiate our programs with Shaw, we know what we agree on will be what is carried out. There is no reneging; there are no ‘buts.’ Shaw follows through on what is agreed upon and I value that.
I remember something Vance [Bell, CEO] and Randy [Merritt, president] shared when meeting with them in the midst of the Great Recession. Vance said, ‘We are not going to share our pain or challenges with our customers.’ That comment really stuck with me. First, it was accurate. Shaw was an excellent partner and followed through on everything during some difficult years. We didn’t feel a difference in product or service. Secondly, it was an example of Shaw’s commitment to their customers and their success. Lastly, it was great advice to implement during difficult times.
Great Floors, Brantford, Ontario
Years with Shaw: 30+
Chad Simpson, owner
Simpson said what sets Shaw apart is its commitment to helping dealers be successful in a very competitive industry. “They have invested a lot their resources and expertise into our company. We recently participated in a Total Business Transformation (TBT) with Shaw. This process involved a mentorship program with some of Shaw’s most talented employees and executives.”
Shaw reps also helped train Great Floors’ key managers on hiring the right employees and ways to motivate existing personnel. In addition, the manufacturer also mystery shopped Great Floors and made recommendations on every aspect of the business, from the parking lot to the warehouse.
“Shaw clearly has a company mantra of building true partnerships,” Simpson said. “Through the whole process of helping transform our business Shaw never tried to sell us more displays, programs or inventory. They know our future success will be theirs.”
As a small company we don’t have the employees, resources or money to be able to put our company under a microscope. Shaw not only had its CFO Ken Jackson analyze and benchmark our financial statements, it also invested in a full market analysis of our trading area and marketing program. Ken made recommendations on areas for cost savings, and suggested lowering our inventory levels because we weren’t getting the turns. That says to me Shaw cares more about my success than selling me more product.
Mike’s Flooring Companies, Chantilly, Va.
Years with Shaw: 25+
Mike Schreiber, owner
For a partnership to be successful it has to be mutually beneficial for both sides, according to Schreiber. In that case, Shaw and Mike’s Flooring Companies’ relationship has been a win-win from the get-go.
“We’ve tried not to overburden them with marginal or excessive claims,” Schreiber said. “As a result, when we have a claim it is always taken care of completely. When it comes to an order we try not to yell ‘Fire!’ unless there really is a fire, and then they put it out.”
Partnerships and people are what it boils down to, and from our beginning Shaw has been the best. It is hard for me to condense almost 30 years with Shaw into one or two stories. We have known and worked with the same people for over 25 years with little turnover. That is a credit to the strong partnership we have. Through it all, communication has always been there.
McSwain Carpets & Floors, Cincinnati
Years with Shaw: 40+
Jason McSwain, president
For 20 years Jason McSwain observed the close partnership his dad Ron enjoyed with Shaw’s leadership. It is a relationship that is as strong today as it was back then, Jason McSwain said. “[Shaw president] Randy Merritt has been personally supportive to McSwains as the generational transition occurred. Randy has mentored our growth and fostered a strong friendship. It was Randy’s counsel I sought when evaluating joining the [National Flooring Alliance]; I knew he understood our company fully and how the NFA would complement our future.”
Among the most lasting remembrances I have is when SALT (Shaw Academy for Leadership Training) in July 2006 provided a ‘common language’ for executive management to push goals forward over the long-term. CFO Ken Jackson’s financial benchmarking concepts have created the practical backbone through all business cycles. Randy also offered insights on the future changes he sees within the market. Sharing his vision is incredibly helpful for a private, regional business to receive.
Kemp’s Flooring, Huntsville, Ala.
Years with Shaw: 35+
Greg Kemp, owner
If Kemp were to use one word to describe Kemp’s Flooring’s 35- year relationship with Shaw, he said it would be “trust.” He added, “The quality of Shaw products, the company’s willingness to deal with problems when they arise, and the stable sales force and leadership from the top down sets them apart. I trust the Shaw leadership and I feel they trust me.”
Several years ago, we needed a pallet of laminate quickly. Jerry Springfield, the regional hard surface manager who lived in Birmingham, Ala., borrowed a pickup truck, drove to Dalton, delivered it to us in Huntsville, Ala., and saved the day. That’s the kind of partner Shaw is.
Sterling Carpet Shops, Sterling, Va.
Years with Shaw: 35+
Winston Whitehead, owner
Since the day he opened his business in 1976, Whitehead has worked with Shaw. The sales reps and territory managers have graduated from business associates to true friends. “They look after my business. I love that about them. They give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. When things screw up—and that is going to happen—they are phenomenal. It’s, ‘Let’s [identify] the problem, and let’s solve it.’ That’s what I value the most. They’ve got your back.”
It wasn’t a big job in terms of money but it was important for two people—a mother and a handicapped child who did not like change or disruption. The installation was supposed to be done on a Friday but for some reason the carpet never arrived. The distribution center in Glen Burnie, Md., is normally closed on Saturdays. Meanwhile, the house had been prepped; to wait until Monday would have been upsetting for the child. However, Shaw arranged to open the distribution center early on Saturday; the carpet was delivered to the house by 8:30 a.m. and installed that day. Every customer matters to Shaw.