Meridian Adhesives Group recently announced the appointment of Ralph Grogan as the commercial president of the organization’s flooring division. In a recent Floor Talk podcast, we spoke with Grogan about his goals for 2024, how his past roles at Bentley and Parterre will help him grow connections and market share within the architecture and design community, and what he anticipates for the adhesives and commercial flooring markets for the next year. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can hear the interview in its entirety here

FLOOR Trends & Installation: Why did you take this role?

Ralph Grogan: In my previous roles, I was with Bentley and I was with Parterre and both of those companies used Taylor products. When I got the call about the potential for this job, I already knew the company. Dan Pelton, who's the CEO of Meridian, and Bob Ddamulira, who's over research and development for MeridianI knew both of those guys when they were just with Taylor and I was a customer of theirs and they were calling on me. I knew the products. I knew it had some interesting technology that maybe some of our other competitors do not have, so when I got the call from Dan, it was like, gosh, to have the opportunity to work with you again and to work with Taylor would be exciting.

FLOOR Trends & Installation: What are the advantages to being part of Meridian? 

Grogan: There are several advantages to being part of Meridian. One is the technology factor. They make adhesives, obviously, for flooring. They make adhesives for life-saving devices that like pacemakers, adhesives that go into your electronics—your iPhone has Meridian adhesives in it. The R&D transfer between those three divisions is fantastic, to be involved with a company that can share technology.

When you go back to last year when there were supply chain issues throughout the whole flooring industry, Taylor came through those supply chain issues probably better than most of our competitors. We had resources with these other divisions that we could work with one another to help with those supply chain issues.

FLOOR Trends & Installation: What are your goals for the first six months? 

Grogan: The goal for the first 180 days is to get out and meet as many customers as I can possibly meet so that I can find out: What do they like about Taylor? What don't they like about Taylor? Are there things that we can improve on to get more wallet share of their business? We have a pretty big sales force, many of whom I did not previously know, so I am meeting the salespeople and meeting customers as quickly as I possibly can.

FLOOR Trends & Installation: How would you describe current market conditions?

Grogan: Residential has had a really tough year. Commercial flooring, which held up the first half of the year pretty good, has slowed down for almost everyone in the marketplace. Residential started out with renovations, and now housing starts with interest rates are high, housing starts will slow down. On the commercial side, they're still slow getting back to the office space. So, it’s a tough market right now. We have a lot of great competitors in the marketplace and they're hungry for business just like we are.

But again, one of the reasons I took the job: I think there's a lot of opportunities for Taylor to reach customers we aren't touching today. We just need to go out educate those customers on what we're what we're doing to help these guys be successful.

FLOOR Trends & Installation: Despite challenging market conditions, Taylor has experienced growth of market share.

Grogan: Yeah, knock on wood, we're having a good 2023. We had a really good 2022. We’ve introduced some new products in the marketplace to fit some the needs of our customers, and that has helped with growth. Being part of a large company like Meridian, we’ve been able to increase our capacity and our plants to where we can absorb more business.

We’re in the process of doing budgets now, and it's a tough time to do budgets because you don’t know if we're going to have a recession or we're going to have a soft landing. But again, we think there's enough opportunities that we can grow in 2024 and we're still bullish about the about the marketplace.

FLOOR Trends & Installation: Tell us more about your growth strategy.

Grogan: We are very fortunate to have some nice OEM business. That’s how, when I was with Bentley, I was first exposed to Taylor. We work with our customers to formulate an adhesive that works the best with their product, whether it's carpet, whether it's LVT, whether it's wood. But the neat thing is we can test our products and show the customers and potential customers how well they work with their products.

We can show them how well our adhesive works with their flooring substrate. They can go and offer very aggressive warranties to their customers by using a Taylor Adhesives. It’s great package for OEMs because it allows them to make money on the adhesive sale. But probably more important to them than even the money they make off the adhesive sale is the peace of mind. They're not going to have callbacks because the product is going to work. 

FLOOR Trends & Installation: What are you hearing from A&D and distributors about 2024?

Grogan: They are concerned about the same concerns that we all have. They’ll tell you they've had a recession this year because housing starts are down, new home prices with mortgage rates I heard this week are now up to 8%. Residential has really slowed down. The positive in that is that the market is going to turn, interest rates will come down. I don't have a crystal ball, so I don't know when they're going to come down, but they'll come down and most of our customers will be in a position to take advantage of that.

Same thing with the commercial market. The two big things I hear from our customers in the marketplace, those that are in the commercial office space, is that companies now need less office space than they had in the past, but we're trying to get people back to work. Today, there's a lot of underutilized office space out there and then the interest rates are very, very expensive now to where if someone wants to build new commercial construction it's just much more expensive today than it was a year ago. All that's on our customer's mind, which unfortunately for us, slows up flooring decisions and it slows up adhesive decisions.