Industry Q&A: Mike Gallman, President, Mohawk Group
Mohawk Group named Mike Gallman president earlier this year, overseeing commercial sales, operations, product management and planning. Gallman previously served as senior vice president, commercial product, a role he entered in 2012. Gallman began his career in the flooring industry with Shaw Industries where he served in a variety of executive positions for more than 20 years. After leading the team that developed Shaw Contract, Gallman went on to serve as president and CEO of Blueridge Commercial Carpets before retiring in 2011. Floor Trends recently caught up with Gallman to get insight into his perspective on the flooring industry.
FT: How did you get into the industry?
Gallman: I grew up in Dalton and went to the University of Georgia. Every Christmas when I came home, there was a big Christmas party with a bunch of local Dalton people. My senior year, I was at that annual Christmas party and Bob Shaw asked me, “Mike, what are you going to do when you graduate?”
And I said, “Anything but go to work for our carpet company and move to Dalton.”
Fast-forward about four days and I found myself beginning my career with an offer at Shaw Industries.
FT: What did Mr. Shaw say to persuade you to work for him?
Gallman: He’s very dynamic, particularly one-on-one. He just laid out the opportunities, the background of the company, and how I can be part of that. Twenty-one years later, I was still there.
FT: What job potential do you see for young people entering the flooring market?
Gallman: I’ve always told people that a true sign of your belief in your career is whether you would want your children to do the same thing you did. I’ll tell you how unequivocally I’d love to have my children involved in the flooring industry. It’s dynamic. It’s exciting. It has great marketing. It has great innovation. It has great levels of competition. It provides a good career. The industry pays well and has good benefits. It’s one of the few American industries that is still an American industry and it is not at risk of going away tomorrow.
FT: After 21 years at Shaw you worked as president and CEO of Blueridge Commercial Carpets and then retired. Tell us about those transitions.
Gallman: And I did that for 13 years as CEO and president of Blueridge Commercial Carpets and I thought, man, I can’t wait to retire. That was in September. In about February, I figured I’d made the biggest mistake in my life because all my friends were still working. While I like to play golf, I’m not good enough to play golf every day, and to travel a lot, you need a lot of money. So, Tom Lape, who’s a good friend of mine, told me I don’t need to retire. Come back to work. I came back to work in May of 2012, and that taught me a lesson that as long as I’m healthy and enjoying what I’m doing, I’ll work.
FT: What is it about flooring that you are passionate about?
Gallman: From the commercial standpoint, flooring has an emotional attachment. One of the ways you win in our segment, the commercial segment, is you build emotional stories around your product. Our customers are very in tune with humanity and trying to do the right things. Also, if I go to Atlanta and see a gorgeous architectural masterpiece, in some small way, our product is part of that masterpiece. It’s part of the built environment.
FT: How is Mohawk Group leading the way in the marketplace?
Gallman: Here in north Georgia, we all pay the same for our electricity. We all pay the same for our water. We buy all of our raw materials basically from the same two or three sources. All of our machinery comes from one or two guys in Chattanooga. Our cost of freight is the same because we’re all shipping from the same cities. The only thing that defines the difference between us and any of our competitors is our people.