Q&A with Mark Bischoff, VP Vendor Relations, Starnet
This spring, Starnet appointed Mark Bischoff to the position of vice president-vendor relations, where he will manage all activities related to the Starnet Preferred Vendor network including vendor acquisition, contract negotiation, business development and training. Bischoff brings 22 years of experience in commercial flooring, most recently as senior vice president of healthcare and living for Mohawk Industries. For the balance of 2018, he will work closely with Fred Williamson, executive vice president of Starnet, who is retiring at the end of 2018 after 50 years in the industry. We spoke with Bischoff at Starnet’s annual meeting to learn about his vision for the organization.
Q: What are the key projects you’re working on this year?
A: There’s always something we have to deal with on the consolidation or merger acquisition side, and it’s not just the vendor manufacturers, but it’s also the movement in the segments—what’s hot, what’s not, and also how end users are looking to procure material and labor and construction. So, there’s been a lot of changes in how projects are delivered. They used to be design, bid, build, and now there’s five or six project delivery models that are used on a regular basis that is impacted by segmentation. So, we have to help the members with a lot of that. And on the vendor side I’ve seen these trends and the impact it has had on us as manufacturers, but I’m not sure if the vendors have done a great job carrying the message through the channel to make sure that everyone understands what’s happening, how they can adjust to it and respond.
Q: How will your multi-dimensional experience in flooring help Starnet?
A: One of the major changes that has to occur on the member side is we need to be viewed as a demand generation organization—all of the individual members in the organization as a whole. I think for many years manufacturers have been running downhill on if we don’t generate the demand, it won’t occur. So, big build-out, salesforces, lots of touches and outreaches through marketing and direct communication (not necessarily direct sales) and direct marketing in the channel, which requires a significant infrastructure. Not only do they have the manufacturing capacity build-out and all the capital investments, but they’ve also been spending on the front end trying to reach all the end-user customers. With all the money that’s been spent, none of them have really moved the needle to create a brand in the marketplace that an end-user would respond to.
Q: What does the industry need to do to prepare for the future?
A: Our industry on the demand side has to position itself differently in order to look to the future. The membership has to put itself in the position to be able to tell the story of the value—deliver product and the service together—to give the end-user great outcomes. In the end, a user doesn’t pay to get the floor covered. They pay for outcomes: it’s easier to hire people or the people are happier, they stay five minutes a day longer, the acoustics are better; therefore they’re more productive. They’re paying for all of that, and the industry hasn’t done a great job of quantifying it. I think the architectural and design communities had some really good initiatives along that way, but the flooring people—talking about manufacturers in the channel—have not done a good job. Therefore, you have no brands. It has to come from one unified voice, which I think we can provide for the members, based around outcomes and the role we play along with the manufacturers.