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Russell Rogg Raises the Roof at Metroflor

Posted By NAFCD, Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back in March, Russell Rogg celebrated his sixth year as president and CEO of Metroflor Corporation. Before joining Metroflor, he spent more than a decade with Wilsonart International, holding a variety of decision-making positions in both their decorative surfaces and flooring divisions. Throughout his career, Rogg has focused on key tenants from a manufacturers' perspective, delivering exceptional product quality, creating differentiation and uniqueness, and selling through independent distribution with integrity and trust.

We sat down with the married father of two recently to discuss the industry's challenges of the moment, where he thinks the business is headed, and how he plans to impact that business as an NAFCD board member. What follows is our chat:

NAFCD: What do you see are our industry’s one or two biggest challenges of the moment?

RUSSELL ROGG: Much has been said and discussed surrounding the shortage of qualified, trained installers that our industry is facing. But I believe that organizations such as INSTALL, the FCICA, the WFCA, and perhaps others will creatively develop programs that will entice younger generations to consider floor covering installation as a career. It's even being discussed amongst the leadership at NAFCD how our group can play a role in this effort, whether independently or in conjunction with another association that is leading a particular effort. To be successful, it may have to begin at the high school level, where programs can be offered that promote technical trades as viable career paths. With that said, this issue is on the radar of so many that I believe, over time, we as an industry will tackle the challenge and will address this need.

Aside from this, what I'm troubled by most is our industry’s tendency to devalue the valuable. Meaning, manufacturers continually strive to innovate, make products more authentic, solve problems, and perform longer. And yet when this occurs, the channel defaults to "price" as being the differentiator. Consumers are not always interested in the lowest price. They are interested in value for their money, and that's different than a "low price." It seems that many retail sales associates "presume" their customer is looking for a "lower-price." So, they ask their distributor for a "lower price," who in turn asks their manufacturer for a "lower price." And so the downward spiral begins. So, while the installer shortage is real and must be addressed, I also believe that "sales training" at all levels -- manufacturer, distributor, retailer -- is required to stem this unfortunate scenario that seems to occur time and time again. I might also add that while I provided an example that begins with the "retailer," it also occurs in the opposite direction . . . where a manufacturer can start the downward price-spiral.

NAFCD: Looking ahead to the second half of 2017 and beyond, where do you see opportunity?

RR: For Metroflor Corporation, we are focusing on opportunities in the commercial segment with our Aspecta branded LVT portfolio. We now offer three collections: Aspecta One, Five & Ten, with One & Five being dryback, glue-down LVT and Ten being a rigid-floating LVT built on our Isocore Technology platform. We endeavored to build this portfolio in 2014 with the launch of Aspecta Five. Now, we believe we have a very powerful program to attack all key commercial segments such as Healthcare, Education, Corporate, Hospitality, and Retail. All three of these collections, which encompass over 200 skus, are inventoried in the USA at our distribution center in Savannah, Ga, so as to provide nationwide service in a matter of days.

In addition to our commercial efforts, in 2016, Metroflor launched a new merchandising system called the Metroflor Selection Center, which was offered in conjunction with an Aligned Dealer Program for select retailers throughout the country. Our goal is to continue driving customers to and through this retail network, while simultaneously providing them with new products, sales collaterals, and training -- in essence, creating a network of highly trained and educated retailers to whom we can drive consumers who are interested in our products.

NAFCD: What makes your company stand out from the competition?

RR: We try to stand out through our “Specialist” mentality. Unlike many other brands in the industry, we focus on one category: LVT. We think this focus results in greater credibility for our people, our products, and our company when we promote Metroflor-branded goods. We believe ourselves to be experts in how we manufacture LVT, and this expertise is evident in what we publish and communicate related to our products through materials such as Tech-Data Sheets, Environmental Data Sheets, Installation Manuals, HPDs, and so forth.

NAFCD: Have you implemented any innovative strategies or approaches when it comes to your distributor partnerships that you would be willing to share with the readership?

RR: Over the years, we have done a few things to work with our distributors in what I would call a "collaborative manner." To address inventory challenges with our distributor network, we have created "Master Distributor" programs whereby we work collaboratively with a particular distributor to underwrite their ability to sell to "other" distributors in our network at a price that is not cost prohibitive. Currently, we have two such programs in place, with Ohio Valley Flooring acting as our Konecto master distributor and Triwest, acting as our Engage Genesis master distributor. These programs allow us to offer a broad assortment of skus which might otherwise be impossible for smaller-market distributors. The Master Distributor enjoys "margin" on these transactions and it helps them with inventory turns. For the purchasing distributor, it allows them to enhance their service posture without the corresponding inventory demands.

NAFCD: What is your assessment of the current state of distributor-manufacturer relations in the flooring industry?

I cannot speak to other distributor-manufacturer relations. But, in our case, I feel very good about our current situation. We are blessed to be supported by some of the best distributors in North America, and I think that they would echo that they’re happy with the support that we provide in kind.

For Metroflor, we believe in and recognize the value that our distributors add in the sales and service process. They carry deep inventories, they offer credit, they offer sales and product training, many offer spec-sales support and ultimately, they have local relationships that win business. We know that to best penetrate a marketplace, we need great distribution. Fortunately for us, we are aligned quite nicely.

NAFCD: What do you consider to be the favorite part of your job?

RR: Building relationships! My fondest memories and deepest pride derive from the relationships that I’ve built with colleagues with whom I’ve worked with in the past and work with now. And, of course, from the relationships that I’ve formed with our distributors and our factories. It’s said all the time: "It’s a relationship business." That's definitely true!

NAFCD: What is still challenging for you?

RR: E-mail! I have to find a way to be less inundated by a barrage of non-productive and non-critical e-mails that hamper my ability to do what I need to do. This is my biggest challenge!

NAFCD: How has NAFCD been of value to you personally and to your company, in general?

RR: Whether with Wilsonart or now with Metroflor, the organizations for which I've worked have always been strong supporters of the NAFCD. I think it's a great opportunity for me, as a manufacturer, to see and hear about the challenges that distribution faces and think about ways that we can help distribution be more effective in the future. Manufacturers always have strategies that we'd like to employ. But unless we can have an unbiased perspective -- i.e., looking at things from the eyes of a distributor -- we will never be able to implement those strategies successfully.

NAFCD: You are a new member of NAFCD's board, yes? What drew you to board service, and what impact would you like to have?

RR: I was drawn to the board for two primary reasons. First, current President Heidi Cronin is a long-time friend and industry colleague for whom I have a great deal of respect. To be part of the NAFCD board along with Heidi was an easy decision. Second, I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in my career, and much of that I owe to my experiences with independent distribution. This is a small way to give back!

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