February Member Spotlight – Interface
What is your business industry category or specialty?
Interface is the largest manufacturer of Modular Carpet (carpet tiles) in the world.
How do you describe your job to people outside the industry?
As the President and General Manager of an Operating Company, I do a little bit of everything: Sales as well as Finance, HR and Operations, just depending on the day.
Who are your main competitors and what differentiates you from the competition?
What makes you unique?
Shaw and Mohawk are our two main competitors, both very large companies. What differentiates us is our singular focus on the business (B to B) user, we have no consumer or residential focus. But I think what makes us unique is our obsession with the Customer Experience, which is why we operate a separate integrated services company to support our product platform.
How was the business started?
Carpet Tile was actually invented in the Netherlands in the mid 1950’s by the van Heugten Family (Heuga Carpets). In the late 1980’s Heuga was acquired by its largest competitor, Interface. Interface was, and is, Atlanta-based and was founded in 1974 by a unique entrepreneur – Ray Anderson – for whom I loved working.
How many employees does the business have?
Worldwide the company has approximately 4000 employees. The operating company I’m responsible for has 43.
How did you end up in Atlanta?
I started my career in the carpet industry with this Dutch company Heuga; they were looking for someone to run their relatively small (at the time) US business, and I had just completed my MBA at the University of South Carolina. My original location was Greenville, SC, but, after we were acquired by Interface, we moved our offices to Atlanta. That was in 1988, and I never quite made it back to the Netherlands. So, I’ve been Atlanta based from 1988 to 1996, and again from 2009 to now. The time in between was spent with Interface in Chicago.
What is your number one business goal over the next year?
My goal is to redefine roles and responsibilities in my business; we grew so fast in 2018 (35% growth, a good thing), that organizational lines got blurred, and that ambiguity is not good for a business. My number two goal would be to create better work-life balance for my team, as this too got ‘out of whack’ because of a high performance year.
What is the best advice you have received regarding doing business with Americans/Dutch?
Get the best out of the two very different business cultures: appreciate the directness of the Dutch, and embrace the ease with which Americans network and build business relationships.
One of the great things of working for an American company with a significant presence in the Netherlands, is that I have kept my feet on both continents pretty much my entire career.
Any other personal information you would like to share, e.g. hobbies, special interests, family etc…
I’m happiest around water, so you can find me sailing or messing around on my boat most weekends. My wife Deborah and I met during grad school in South Carolina, and we have now been married for 32 years. Our daughter Megan lives in Los Angeles, and our son Nick is in Chicago, which means we don’t get to see them nearly as often as we would like, but they still come back one week every summer to hang with us at our lake house in South Carolina.
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