By Steven Feldman
Rocky Face, Ga.—USFloors and COREtec founder, Piet Dossche, has been honored with Floor Covering News’ 2020 Al Wahnon Lifetime Achievement Award. In doing so, Dossche becomes the first WFCA Hall of Fame member to receive this award.
“When FCNews launched this award back in 2010, the idea was to honor individuals who had not yet received industry-wide recognition,” said Steven Feldman, publisher. “We felt we needed to make an exception here due to Piet’s incredible achievements, namely pioneering a category that has reshaped the floor covering landscape.”
A little background on the award
In 2010, 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 importantly, worked toward its betterment and made a difference over a sustained period of time. It is intended to recognize service and leadership that is of a scope and duration to be considered a lifetime achievement.
“What we really wanted to do was to honor those people who have dedicated their life to improving the floor covering industry,” Feldman said. “At the same time, we wanted to pay homage to this publication’s founder, Al Wahnon, who was a co-founder of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation and an original member of the WFCA Hall of Fame.”
Past winners of this Lifetime Achievement Award have been:
• Sandy Mishkin, co-founder and president of CCA Global Partners
• Ralph Boe, carpet industry mainstay
• Don Miller, owner of Roppe
• Jeff Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO of Mohawk Industries
• Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM and former CEO of Anderson Hardwood
• Pierre Thabet, founder and CEO of Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage brand
• Michael Goldberg, president and CEO of Rite Rug, largest independent flooring dealer in U.S.
A most worthy recipient
Dossche, who recently announced a transition from executive vice president of Shaw Hard Surface, is a most worthy recipient. His 39-year career in flooring began in Europe with the Beaulieu Group, which eventually led to him coming to America in 1989 to work for Beaulieu of America and Carl Bouckaert, where he started up Murray Fabrics—the company’s needle-punch operation. Within a few years, Dossche created one of the largest and most modern needle-punch carpet production units in the United States. He worked his way up to president, consolidating a litany of residential acquisitions that saw the company grow from $200 million in 1988 to $1.6 billion by the time he left in 2001. He played a huge role in successfully creating the third-largest floor covering company in the world—and the largest privately held floor covering company in the world.
After leaving Beaulieu of America, Dossche launched USFloors from his guest bedroom, where he put a spotlight on sustainable products like cork and bamboo. Three years later, he purchased Natural Cork from his friend Philippe Erramuzpe. He also marketed natural oiled wood floors. While USFloors was a niche player, it was also the dominant supplier of those products, growing to $90 million in 11 years.
But the gamechanger came in 2013. Dossche and his team at USFloors altered the flooring landscape by bringing what is now referred to as the waterproof category–first WPC, then rigid core—to the U.S. market, paving the way for the numerous iterations we’re seeing today. Essentially, he disrupted the status quo.
How successful was COREtec? This waterproof category wasn’t even on the map in 2013. In 2019 it was a $2.2 billion category. In fact, COREtec was so successful that it attracted the attention of none other than Warren Buffett and Shaw Industries. About four years ago Shaw bought USFloors for a king’s ransom.
“There are some folks who make a difference in this industry, and then there are some folks who take it to the next level—the innovators and transformational geniuses,” said Pami Bhullar, director of retail development, Invista.
That is what Piet Dossche is.
Dossche is driven by two things: passion and commitment. No one has more passion—passion for success, passion for innovation, passion for moving this industry forward. He believes failure is never an option and every bump in the road is an opportunity to readjust the strategy.
“Piet doesn’t just build a company, he builds a culture,” said Sam Ruble, former vice president of sales at USFloors and now vice president of sales at Foss Floors. “He gets everyone who works for him to buy in and give 200%.”
Dossche has spearheaded the importance of protecting the WPC/SPC category from overcapacity and commoditization. Overcapacity creates constant downward spiraling and pricing pressure. He believes it is imperative to make his customers successful. “If you make them successful, we will all be successful,” he has said. “And that will make the industry better.”
He created the category from which many retailers feed their families. But it’s not just floor covering retailers. To date, there are seven WPC and/or rigid core facilities currently being built in Northwest Georgia. Think about all the jobs being created indirectly from COREtec.
FCNews also looks at benevolence when selecting a Lifetime Achievement recipient. Dossche answers the call here, too. He chairs the Northwest Georgia chapter of the Alexis de Teoqueville Society, a division of the United Way.
He also competed in the 2018 Dancing Stars of Dalton, raising about $250,000 for Alzheimer’s. He also supports the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society.
A humble acceptance
Dossche was humbled by his Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was quick to give credit to his team at USFloors. “I am honored to achieve and accept this. But I want to share it with an incredible group that was as passionate as I was. A goal without a plan is merely a dream. We had a goal, but we had a plan as well. And there was a tremendous amount of people who helped me execute that plan. So, I accept this on behalf of my entire team and my customers.”
He is also one to never rest on his laurels. “I take this as a challenge,” Dossche said. “I take this as a mandate to continue to do what we set out to do, which is try to make a difference, both financially and from a humanitarian point of view. I take this as a mandate to continue to be an ambassador of the category. This award comes with a responsibility. It’s one thing to start but it’s another to see it all the way through. How can we give our industry and the people that are part of this industry a bigger opportunity and long-lasting profitability in business?”
Dossche also took the opportunity to look back on the last 40 years. “I came to this country in 1978, and this can-do attitude made me want to come back. This is the land of hope and glory. I am proud to have built my entire career in the one industry that I truly love. I am thankful for having the opportunity to make a difference.”