Q&A with Mark Oliver of Mohawk Industries
Mark Oliver, a product development professional with more than 25 years’ experience, was appointed vice president, workplace and retail segments at Mohawk Industries in February. With more than seven years’ experience at the company leading various lines, Oliver’s blend of analytical and creative skills helps connect products and end users in a variety of markets, shifting customer perceptions and spring boarding growth.
FT: Tell us about your new position.
Oliver: It’s been seven years with Mohawk and for the past six and a half I was managing different product lines. I managed broadloom, hospitality, carpet tile, aviation, and different points. Most recently, I had carpet tile, woven and aviation. And then in February we opened up some segment roles, so I am responsible for workplace and retail and the role is to focus less on specific platforms and more on those segments and their needs. So, whether it’s product, service, solutions, design trends. We will, hopefully, get on some boards and help them with what we’re seeing in the industry and spend some time with key end users, tell them what’s going on. Interesting, a lot of venues are trying to have their own internal design groups do design for them, but they don’t know what’s happening trend wise across the nation. So, we are providing solution to them, explaining what’s happening, and if Mohawk is the right flooring solution for them, we can be the solution, but if not, we are a trusted partner in design trends, etcetera.
FT: Tell us about your background.
Oliver: My background is wildly varied in terms of product expertise. I had nothing to do with flooring before coming here. I was a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, did product development with Coach and handbags, and then went to work for Greg Norman and his clothing line at Reebok. And then from there to Home Depot where I did product development for hardware, and then here. I’ve always been in a weird left brain, right brain balance of product development. This role allows me to continue to do that. I can stay on the product development side for flooring, and I have a background in retail, so we are having some fun with it.
FT: What’s your goal for year one in this new role?
Oliver: We have done a great job over the past five to seven years of improving our products. What we haven’t done a good job of connecting that product back to the end users or designer needs. The biggest thing to me is to grow Mohawk’s recognition and to help connect all the pieces and all the things we have to offer for a flooring solution. If we pull that off it would be a great way to kick off year two.
FT: How will you go about doing this?
Oliver: I am targeting specific markets, perhaps the top 10 or top 25 markets, and I will be hitting those markets pretty heavily, traveling with reps and our strategic account teams and going to key end users and key design users in those cities. The closer we can get to the end user, the person making the decision, the better.
FT: What’s the key message you want to get out to these markets?
Oliver: The Believe in Better Story has truly worked for us. It is what is going to get us to the next level. We are never done; we are never satisfied. And we will continue to improve everything, whether its design, innovation, operational excellence, obviously, sustainability and the products we came out with at Neocon. We will come out with more.
FT: What inspires you to keep working on that message?
Oliver: We are the industry’s best kept secret. The number one thing we need to do is get that awareness out there—all the solutions we have, how our products and services connect and how they can create the solution they need. For a long time, we were thought of as a provider for quick-ship product. Clearly, we are a lot more than that. We are never done.