Starnet Looks to the Future
They say with change comes opportunity, and as Starnet’s Mark Bischoff begins his tenure as president and CEO, he is transitioning into the role with his eyes set on opportunities to strengthen the partnership from the inside out.
Bischoff replaces Jeanne Matson, who after 13 years officially stepped down as president and CEO of Starnet at the partnership’s spring meeting in May.
“I’m not calling it a retirement,” Matson stressed. “It was a very tough decision. I love this job. I love these people. It’s been a really fantastic experience and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. So it’s hard to move on.”
Though Matson says she’s been fortunate to enjoy every role she’s had in her career, for her, moving on from Starnet means moving on from what she considers the most rewarding role of her career.
“It was the people here; the members and the vendors,” she said. “I just love them. I love our members and I love being part of this organization. I leave with nothing but gratitude for having had a great opportunity that I really enjoyed.”
But Matson isn’t saying farewell to Starnet, the membership or the industry just yet. She will stay on board through the reminder of the year to assist Bischoff with fully settling into the role. “Mark is going to be in charge, but I’m going to do things behind the scenes to help, including planning the fall meeting.”
This leadership change will come as somewhat of a refresh for the 27-year-old organization, as Bischoff and Matson admittedly differ stylistically.
“We are quite different, and we talk about that,” Matson said. “But I think when you look at an organization and you have a leadership change, you want that new leader to bring a new approach.”
No stranger to the partnership, Bischoff, who joined Starnet in 2018 as vice president of vendor relations, has been focused on strengthening Starnet vendor connections and ensuring strong continuity of leadership for both the members and the Preferred Vendors, something that he plans to continue in his presidency.
“We want to make sure that the marketplace sees Starnet as a team that works on behalf of influential membership in the marketplace, whoever joins our organization—whether it’s on a vendor side or on the member side—gets tremendous value out of what they’re doing, beyond what’s directly related to floor covering,” Bischoff said.
Though floor covering is the obvious common thread, Bischoff says Starnet’s members also share common concerns regarding things like the war for talent, installation issues as well as marketing and brand scaling needs. That’s where Bischoff sees opportunity to maximize Starnet’s network strength and expertise.
“We’d like to have more of the staff members focus on different things for the membership,” he said. “My plan is not to allow the staff to continue to be as behind the scenes. Because the business is so complex, the members are looking for more value in a lot of different areas, and it doesn’t matter if it’s operations, or installation training, or even just basic business marketing, the staff needs to be much more active with the members and I think broadly, the staff needs to be more visible to the Starnet Preferred Vendors.”
Since joining Starnet 13 years ago, Matson has witnessed many changes within the industry and Starnet’s vendor companies that have made it somewhat of a challenge to maintain strong relationships with Starnet’s Vendor Partners.
“There’s certainly been a lot of consolidation,” she said. “The people that were running the vendor companies back when I joined Starnet were people that had been in the industry a long time and they all had grown up together. Now, that many years later, people have retired and companies have consolidated, and it’s a bigger challenge for us to create relationships and create that connection with the vendor companies.”
With these changes, executives from outside of the flooring industry are coming in, joining Starnet Vendor Partner companies, and Bischoff says it’s a priority and responsibility of the organization to make sure that they are brought up to speed and made aware of the value the partnership offers.
“There are a lot of executives coming into the industry from outside, not necessarily in leadership roles, though that is happening, but we see a lot in operations and sales coming from other industries, and the Starnet membership and Starnet organization views it as part of our role in the marketplace to make sure these people that are entering from outside the industry get up to speed as fast as possible,” said Bischoff. “We welcome them, but also make sure that they understand clearly the value that our network provides. And so they can be successful. We really want them, the new executives coming into Starnet Preferred Vendor Partner companies, to be successful as fast as possible.”
Externally, Bischoff plans to lead Starnet in spearheading collaboration among what he refers to as a siloed industry. “We are looking for ways to create the conditions in the marketplace where we have more collaboration across the different functional areas that are involved in making an outstanding building and making interior space great.”
With the help of Starnet’s Preferred Vendor Partners, members are already leading the way in executing successful commercial spaces by aggressively adding products and services. Bischoff says these additions have allowed Starnet to handle the complexities of the end user, and ensure that spaces remain flexible in the way they were designed, all while executing the vision of the architect and designer.
“We’ve seen the long shift from broadloom soft surface to modular soft surface dominating the commercial market,” Bischoff said. “Now almost every project has multiple surfaces and it’s a mix, sometimes in the same space, which is different from the past. It’s not necessarily accelerating. It’s just a change in how people are using space. It used to be one room for a designated task, and now the way architecture is moving, every room needs to be flexible and be able to change at high speed, which requires different kinds of surfaces. The mix is incredible. Some of the members are showing specifications and finish schedules that have 20, 25, different kinds of products in a building, and that that really is different from the past.”
With the speed of construction today, collaboration amongst the industry is necessary, and even with the Building Information Model (BIM) digital revolution positively impacting efficiency within the construction industry, Bischoff says an update is still needed to the human interaction and way companies work together in general on a project.
“So for me, I would like our membership to be able to lead that into the industry” said Bischoff. “It would make the industry more profitable and I think the end users would have much better buildings as a result.”
While change can bring opportunity, it can also bring uncertainty. With Matson stepping down just months after the retirement of Fred Williamson, former executive vice president, who retired last year after 13 years with the organization and 50 years in the flooring industry, Bischoff is well aware of, and sensitive to, Starnet members’ concerns about continuity.
“There are lots of changes happening in the organization,” Bischoff said. “I’m new; we’ve had Fred Williamson retire; Jeanne is going to be with us through the end of this year. Both of them had long, stable careers at Starnet, and Fred is well known throughout the industry. So I think there’s some concern with the membership about continuity. The board has managed the succession, and obviously it’s my role to make sure that there’s continuity in the organization, and that we maintain our intensity around improving the industry.”
As Starnet forges ahead under new leadership, Matson is certain she’s leaving the organization and members she’s come to know and love in good and capable hands. “Mark’s a very smart guy. He has really interesting ideas that I think will bring some new dimension.”