FCNews’ annual “People Making a Difference” special section is an annual tribute to those going above and beyond the call of duty. The list includes household names familiar to flooring industry observers as well as names you may never have heard of—until now. No matter their affiliation or title, however, these honorees are making a meaningful difference for their companies and/or the industry each and every day.
Danny Crutchfield: Committed to the customers
By Jennifer Homeyer
Danny Crutchfield is a team player who wants to make the customer happy. Danny has a heart of gold and leads with humility. Above all, he wants to get things right for the retailer. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard him say it a hundred times: “Let’s ask the customers; it’s why we’re here.” And it’s true. The specialty flooring retailer—you and me—is why Danny and the entire SFN team show up every day.
Danny creates fair and equitable solutions for Shaw and the dealer. He asks for opinions from the Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) Dealer Council—a team of talented and diverse business minds I’m honored to be a part of—because he doesn’t want to waste time on things the retailer doesn’t benefit from. He listens first and then acts, leveraging the strength of Shaw in service of the customer. The impact my own voice has on business deci- sions is something typically unheard of from a company as large as Shaw.
I’ve been a flooring retailer for 14 years, a member of SFN for 12 years and I engage with 45-plus vendors on a regular basis. I’ve never met anyone who approaches business like Danny Crutchfield. When Shaw asked me why I think Danny is making a difference, it reaffirmed why I chose to partner with SFN more than a decade ago: Because Shaw values its customers’ opinions. Congratulations, Danny, on this much-deserved honor.
Jennifer Homeyer is owner of The Design House in Denton, Texas
Kerry Cree: A critical pillar to the success of TISE
By Dana Hicks
The International Surfaces Event (TISE) has a rich history for 30 years, and the last decade has been led with Kerry Cree at the helm of booth sales—including booth, sponsorship and digital. Kerry began her event career with Handley Wood, currently Informa Markets, learning everything there is to know about flooring. Kerry took the challenge one company at a time, listening to each customer and developing meaningful opportunities to drive their business. More than 10 years later, it is easy to notice how customers have confidence and trust in their working relationship. She is a trusted source for the brand and people seek her out for guidance.
As TISE is one of the top 50 largest trade shows in the U.S., expectations and business demands are high. Kerry is fiercely competitive, driven and productive, allowing her to lead this responsibility with grace. The last two years have been challenging for everyone and even greater for the events business. Pivoting became essential to managing the business and Kerry was a key to executing multiple new directions. Through it all, Kerry stayed the course and championed TISE to lead the industry back to business. A common thread with many event professionals is to touch all facets of event planning and Kerry is certainly no different. Kerry is involved in many aspects of the annual planning and execution of TISE—operations, marketing, fulfillment and logistics. Kerry is intellectually curious, so eager to be involved and learn.
A decade of knowledge and dedication makes Kerry a critical pillar to the continued market relevance and success of TISE.
Dana Hicks is the TISE show director
Jamann Stepp: Leader, Innovator
By T.M. Nuckols
Change is difficult—avoiding change is fatal. The Dixie Group is no stranger to this, which is exactly how we reached our 100- year milestone. Evolving from a cotton mercerizing operation in 1920, TDG entered natural and synthetic yarn processing and eventually carpet manufacturing in the 1990s.
But after years of watching soft surface decline, we knew what we needed to do—enter the hard surface segment. We took that step in mid-2017 and quickly learned that to reach our goals we needed to add strong talent. We needed someone with experience who understood the market, who knew the suppliers, had a handle on costs and pricing and with a good eye for product. And, most importantly, someone who was a good fit for our culture at TDG.
After a few months of searching, it was my good fortune to cross paths with Jamann Stepp. After 28 years in flooring, Jamann joined TDG in mid-2018.
Jamann immediately went to work on redeveloping our hard surface strategy. He created the Trucor brand and designed best-in-class merchandising and sample fixtures. He entered the SPC segment and refocused our WPC segment on higher-end and larger-sized planks. He developed tile visuals that were quickly recognized as the best in the industry and developed innovative programs, including Trucor XXL, IGT and 3DP. Jamann overhauled our high-end Fabrica Wood program and display system and trained our sales force many times over. Through all of this, he gained the confidence of our entire organization.
Now, almost four years into Jamann’s tenure with TDG, the results speak for themselves. Our hard surface segment has nearly doubled three years in a row and has become a meaningful part of our retail business. Under Jamann’s leadership, we have invested heavily in product innovation and our hard surface offering has grown to 270 SKUs.
Jamann has done exactly what we needed him to do—get us on track in the hard surface segment. This has made us a stronger company and a more meaningful supplier to our customers. And I look forward to a bright future with Jamann over the coming years.
T.M. Nuckols is president of the residential division of The Dixie Group
David Sheehan: Multi-faceted, multi-talented
By Zack Zehner
David Sheehan’s keen intuition, motivation to succeed and commitment to Mannington’s values have been key to the success of the Mannington residential business over the past 20 years.
He joined Mannington in 2003 as director of laminate and resilient, then moved into the role of vice president, resilient business. There, he led the introduction of the Adura product line, which changed the course of Mannington’s resilient business and was one of the very first LVT lines offered by a U.S. manufacturer.
In 2013, he joined Mannington Commercial, where he was vice president of commercial hard surface. Since 2020, he has been vice president of residential hard surface. In this role, Dave leads multiple teams across multiple product lines and locations, overseeing the product development trajectory of all Mannington and Phenix hard surface product lines.
Those of us who know Dave well know he is a multi-faceted, multi-talented individual. His passion for his work and curiosity about what makes people “tick” is only part of what makes him successful. His sly comments and jokes elicit groans of laughter and his calm—yet driven—demeanor inspire those around him to always be at the top of their game.
“Thanks to Dave’s leadership and dedication to Mannington and our values, we have continued to be successful in the residential hard surface business during some challenging times,” said Keith Campbell, chairman of the board. “He truly is one of the people who make a difference in our company and across the flooring industry.”
Zack Zehner is president of Mannington Residential
Chuck Fowke: Champion for the home building industry
As chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the owner of the Valrico, Fla.-based home builder business that bears his name, Chuck Fowke has a vested interest in the health of the U.S. construction market. Regarded for his ongoing advocacy efforts within the building community as well as behind the scenes with key decision makers in Washington, D.C., Fowke has become increasingly more visible in the past two years especially as inflationary pressures have taken their toll of lumber supplies—the primary structural component of most new homes in the United States.
But his advocacy efforts have not been relegated to the new home construction industry.
During the 2021 National Wood Flooring Association convention, Fowke delivered a riveting keynote to attendees, explaining his efforts in working with the Biden Administration on advancing the causes and objectives of the various industries that are dependent upon raw lumber. This included engaging with members of Congress to enact policies to reign in runaway prices.
“We are out there fighting for homebuilding and housing affordability,” Fowke said. “As chairman of the board, I’ve had discussions with members of Congress and cabinet members, including HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge; the Chief of Staff for Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. We are trying to help them understand how these lumber prices can very quickly bring the economy to a standstill.”
NAHB’s advocacy efforts are bearing fruit. In 2021, the NAHB—along with a diverse group of stakeholders—participated in a discussion hosted by the White House regarding current challenges across the home building supply chain, its implications for the broader housing market and possible solutions.
“NAHB is thankful that the White House heeded our concerns to hold this urgent and timely building material supply chain meeting,” Fowke recalled. “It was encouraging to see so many groups involved in this discussion, and the meeting was an important step forward to seek solutions to end production bottlenecks that have harmed housing affordability. NAHB commends the White House for making this issue a top priority.”
Christina Haack: Celebrated designer
By Michael Bejack
Christina Haack has seen and done it all—and is now a staple in the floor- ing industry. Christina rose to fame after the premier of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” capturing the attention of millions across the world.
She went from flipping and designing houses for the general population to landing her own HGTV show, “Christina on the Coast,” where she now designs and renovates homes for her clients.
But she didn’t stop there.
Christina has continued to hustle and dip her toes into different industries within the home improvement world. It was no surprise that she ended up creating her own flooring line because it was something she was always passionate about.
With three children and multiple
pets running around the house every day, Christina can attest to the importance of a quality floor. Her objective was to give people a durable and affordable flooring. To that end, she spent months partnering with Flooringlines to create the most durable luxury vinyl and wood flooring on the market.
Along with creating a durable floor, she also made a commitment to partner with independent flooring dealers because supporting local businesses was important to her.
Michael Bejach is president of Flooringlines
Alan and Brian Beaulieu: Guiding industry through uncertain economic waters
The twin-brother tandem of Alan and Brian Beaulieu—the respective president and CEO of ITR Economics—has, collectively, consulted dozens of industries and market sectors over the course of the past 40 years.
Boasting a 94.7% forecast accuracy rate, the company’s mission statement is to provide
the best economic intelligence to reduce risk and drive practical and profitable business decisions. Indeed, the company has a long history of helping businesses make informed decisions—oftentimes in the midst of turbulent economic times. This experience and foresight has helped so many organizations and industry leaders identify new markets of opportunity; make critical decisions when opportunities arise to expand through acquisition; plan more strategically when exploring hiring and investment opportunities; and increase their competitive advantage through better understanding of historic business cycle trends and benchmarking.
Economics’ skills to the advantage of their members is the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD). “ITR Economics has been a strategic partner of NAFCD’s for the past 12 years,” said Kevin Gammonley, NAFCD executive vice president. “In addition to producing a customized and very popular NAFCD Quarterly Economic Trend Report, they are a consistent presence at the NAFCD annual convention each fall where they have been providing valuable economic insights and analysis to help the decision makers within the flooring distribution community make important decisions within their firms. The fact that they are entertaining presenters is a bonus to the fact that their content and opinions have proven to be timely and accurate year over year. These gentlemen are trusted by the leading flooring distributors and manufacturers based on their track record and unique ability to turn complex economic data into actionable content that business owners and executives have grown to rely upon.”
Jim Aaron: Stepping up to find solutions
By Kaye Whitener
When you’ve talked about one of the industry’s biggest challenges—the shortage of flooring installers—for many years without any movement, it’s hard to see through the frustration to the potential solutions. Jim Aaron did just that. In just a little over a year since Jim joined the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) as executive director, we’re finally seeing some positive movement and some industry wins.
Jim is tirelessly determined to help the entire industry succeed by tackling one of our
most significant obstacles head-on. It’s been no easy task, but Jim keeps moving forward, keeps looking for opportunities and keeps his eye on the prize.
Because of his determination and leadership, we have made great strides in the past year. FCEF has moved from conversations and dreams to real action. Our technical college pilot program was recently accredited. We’ve provided more than $100,000 in scholarships to individuals wanting to learn the flooring installation craft. We’re partnering with other trade organizations and spreading awareness of the flooring installation craft and the career opportunities available for these craftsmen and craftswomen.
All this has been made possible by Jim’s determination to bring the industry together. Jim believes that everyone who profits from the flooring industry should be part of the solution and he’s making sure that he leaves no stone unturned in getting the support FCEF needs to succeed.
We’ve got a long way to go to make sure the industry has enough installers to support the demand for flooring but, with Jim leading the way, we’re going to get there.
From high school students to those looking for a career change, we will make sure that flooring installation is a well-known and highly sought-after career choice. Through the combined efforts of the industry’s training partners such as CFI (Certified Flooring Installers), CTEF (Certified Tile Education Foundation) and NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association), we’ll ensure that quality and affordable training is available for anyone who wants to become a flooring craftsman.
Kaye Whitener is direct of operations, FCIF
Marquis Wright: Wire to succeed
By Scott Humphrey
I first met Marquis at the CFI Convention in Orlando several years ago, learning that he was certified in wood from NWFA and LVT from CFI. His professionalism and inquisitive nature drew me to him, and we developed a friendship that has since blossomed into a professional mentoring relationship.
His passion for the trade was apparent from the start, and his story is nothing short of amazing. Marquis could easily have followed the path of least resistance and wound up making his living in less-than-reputable means, but Marquis is wired to succeed.
From the first conversation, when I learned that Marquis had not only chosen the right path but had managed to get several members of his extended family to join him, I began to admire his wisdom and his potential to positively influence his trade and our industry for years to come.
When the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) was launched in 2019, I asked Marquis to join us. He now works with Jim Aaron and Kaye Whitener and is literally a poster child for the FCEF and the possibilities of his trade.
He is visible at trade shows throughout our industry, seeking a way to give back. What many don’t know is that not only does Marquis seek out mentors, but he is a mentor himself to all who work with and for him. Keep an eye on Marquis. He is destined to change his trade, our industry and just maybe the world.
Scott Humphrey is CEO of the World Floor Covering Association
Michelle Winters: Tireless advocate for women
By Lisbeth Calandrino
Michelle Winters has worked long and hard to grow Women of the Flooring Business (WOFB) from a bunch of women in a Facebook group to an organization that is revolutionizing the flooring industry. The group is making a difference for young women just coming into the industry as well as veterans who have set standards.
I think it’s important to note that Michelle has young children who require her constant attention. Many times, I’ve asked Michelle, “How can you do all of this?” She answers with a humorous line and continues to juggle her career and caring for her children. When she’s had a particularly stressful week, she turns her phone off and naps for a few hours. When she wakes up, she starts all over again with the same energy and enthusiasm.
Michelle is filled with creative ideas, is always learning and is kind to everyone. She is always available to share her knowledge with whomever is in need. She makes everyone feel like they matter and is interested in what you have to say. Her positivity is contagious; I feel so energized after working with Michelle.
When Michelle first called me about building WOFB, I realized it was a great idea but never realized how amazing it could be. The camaraderie and friendships continue to grow with Michelle’s determination. The progress the group continues to make is so exciting. The magnitude of WOFB is yet to be realized.
Lisbeth Calandrino is an industry veteran, speaker, author and founding member of WOFB
Dan Martin: Quintessential team builder
By Derek Bartley
When Dan Martin first joined Xpress Global Systems (XGS) in April 2021, he was unequivocal on his vision for the company’s future—focus on our people and our customers, and growth will follow.
Under his leadership, our company has reduced employee turnover by half, increased customer satisfaction and hit new records in sales. His unique perspective on our position in the industry has taken our strategic partnerships with our customers to new heights.
As a quintessential team builder, Dan has an innate ability to see the big picture while making impactful decisions with immediate results. In his short time with the company, he has selectively assisted in identifying and filling critical roles with top-tier talent from both inside and outside the industry to round out his executive staff and their supporting team members.
More importantly, Dan leads by example, using innovation and data-driven decision making to challenge his team to improve the internal and external customer experience. His recent focus on creating a more employee-centric company culture resulted in the recognition of XGS by Edge Magazine as one of the “Best Places to Work.”
It has been amazing to see how quickly Dan has embraced the team at XGS and its customers in order to drive growth and success. We are lucky to have him leading our company, and I can confidently say the future is bright at XGS.
Derek Bartley is vice president—process improvement for Xpress Global Systems
Karen Kraft: The visual storyteller
By Greg Kerns
All in—that’s the easiest way to describe Karen Kraft, senior manager of photo and video studios for Mohawk. While I have not been at Mohawk for long, it was immediately evident to me that Karen is a talented and dedicated member of the Mohawk creative team.
From her early days covering the NFL’s Tennessee Titans from the sidelines as a photographer/videographer for The Tennessean to directing international photoshoots for Mohawk, Karen brings the same level of professionalism and eagerness to any task—large or small.
She is a passionate creative that takes visual storytelling to the next level, and her creative spirit and contagious enthusiasm make her an integral part of any planning team. From initial concept to final product, Karen and her team produce top-notch work that is often the highlight of our marketing department.
Furthermore, she is a great unifier with a genuine desire to collaborate. Under her leadership, Karen has transformed and elevated her team by motivating and inspiring them. Karen’s vision for photography and videography unleashes courage and creativity throughout Mohawk. Her passion extends well outside of her professional endeavors— spending her down time with family and friends as well as spoiling her dog, Luna.
Greg Kerns is senior director, creative services for Mohawk
Jason Surratt: A born leader
By Mollie Surratt
While most college-aged students were hiking the Appalachian or bar hopping with buddies, Jason Surratt chose to get a head start on his career with a co-op at Honeywell. There, he started to build invaluable connections in the flooring industry that would serve him for years to come. Jason’s beginnings were humble and upon graduation from Dalton State, he opted to take a coveted spot in Shaw’s Management Trainee program followed by the role of Team Manager at Plant X working third shift. While those long nights seem like a distant, fuzzy dream, this bottom-up mentality propelled Jason into a career in the flooring industry that included over five years in manufacturing for Shaw.
Soon, Jason realized he desired to move into the corporate side of the industry. After working 10-plus hour days in the plant, he drove his beat-up Celica to Atlanta every evening to attend night MBA classes at Georgia Tech. Upon graduation from the program with honors, his hard work paid off and he eventually joined the corporate ranks at Mohawk, and years later as senior vice president of product and design at Phenix Flooring. Here, others started to take notice of his impact in the industry.
In 2021, at age 38, Jason was named the president of Tarkett North America’s residential division. This accomplishment demonstrates his consistency, work ethic and dedication to leaving each company better than he found it. Now nine months into the role, Jason is forging positive new relationships and business channels both internally and externally. Here are a few ways Jason is making a positive difference at Tarkett:
- Developing a world-class team of experienced, dynamic leaders to propel Tarkett Home forward.
- Fostering a product-centric approach to delivering stylish and differentiated flooring options faster to the customers.
- Most importantly, focusing on the business needs and requests of Tarkett Home customers with a service-first commitment.
Today, Jason is impacting the industry by giving a fresh, honest approach to processes, systems and products.
Mollie Surratt is co-founder of White Label Studio, a PR and marketing firm
Neil Daley: The real deal
By Jeff Bieber
Neil is the real deal. Neil Daley joined Broadlume almost a year and a half ago and the company has never been the same. After acquiring FloorForce, Creating Your Space, Freetail, RLM and (eventually) RollMaster to build an all-in-one platform, Broadlume was looking to connect the customer’s online experience to their in-store experience.
Enter Neil Daley, a modern-day flooring visionary with over 25 years of merchandising and training experience. Since joining Broadlume, he’s developed an innovative Retail Selling System for flooring—one that radically simplifies both the customer shopping experience and the retailer’s selling process. Once Neil had perfected his showroom strategy, he worked with the Broadlume website team to connect his cutting-edge selling system to the FloorForce website platform. Neil is a self-admitted merchandising nerd who is never satisfied with the status quo and, luckily for retailers, is equally passionate about retailer education. This has led him to develop a curriculum that teaches retailers how to rethink their retail strategy to sell more products at higher margins by simplifying their businesses.
All of Neil’s past experience has prepared him for this moment. His time as a U.S. Marine provided him the mindset to successfully improvise, adapt and overcome the challenges of transitioning from working for traditional flooring companies to a technology company. He went from learning a litany of new communication and task management tools, switching to a Mac (and Neil loved his PC) and navigating Zoom rooms full of techies and engineers to develop one of the most impactful selling systems in the industry. The Retail Selling System is just getting started, and so is Neil—retailers who have adopted his selling system are reporting results like they’ve never seen before. Neil is the archetype of a difference maker. I’m honored to call him a colleague and a friend, and the industry is better because of Neil.
Jeff Bieber is Broadlume’s vice president of marketing.