Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Meet David Wootton, Strategic Flooring Support Services Expert

David WoottonHello, my name is David Wootton and I am the Principal of The Wootton Group LLC, a flooring consultancy based in Atlanta, Georgia with offices in the US and UK. I specialize in strategic support services for the flooring industry.

The Wootton Group is also affiliated with The Floor Covering Institute which comprises a group of consultants with a wealth of experience in the floor covering and related industries.

As I will be starting to post on the Institute’s blog site I think it is a good idea that my first contribution tells you a little bit about myself and my experience in the floor covering industry.

In the 1980s I was living in the UK and working as Managing Director of Dinol UK, a subsidiary of a large Swedish company manufacturing chemical products for the worldwide automotive industry. The products were manufactured in Sweden and during my tenure we built a manufacturing plant in the UK to service, amongst others, Japanese car manufacturers who were also building plants to supply vehicles in the UK.

In 1989 the President of the Dinol group left to become President of Tarkett AB, one of the largest manufacturers of floor covering products in the world. They were in the process of building a hardwood flooring manufacturing plant in Johnson City, Tennessee. In 1990 he invited me to become President and CEO of Harris-Tarkett to oversee completion of the plant and develop and implement a strategic plan to grow the company’s US market share. Together with my family I relocated to Johnson City. During my time with the company we built a strong enthusiastic management team, strengthened our distribution network and introduced US manufactured floating longstrip flooring into the market to complement our solid products offering. Harris-Tarkett was also one of the first manufacturers to introduce prefinished hardwood flooring. Our sales grew substantially and by the late 90s we were ranked number two behind Armstrong in hardwood flooring market share. In 1997 I also assumed responsibility for Tarkett’s vinyl operations and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1999 Columbia Forest Products, the largest US manufacturer of hardwood plywood, was embarking on a program of diversification and I was approached to become President of Columbia Flooring, a division created with the objective of establishing the company as a leading player in the laminate and hardwood flooring segment.

The plan was to achieve rapid profitable sales growth. After establishing an experienced and very capable management team we built an engineered flooring plant in Virginia and by acquisition a further engineered flooring plant in Malaysia. Also by acquisition we purchased solid manufacturing operations in Arkansas, West Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee. As well as supplying the US market we were through our Malaysian facility selling products throughout Europe and the Far East. In addition we developed strategic alliances with several Chinese manufacturers to take advantage of the benefits they offered.

In 2003 we sold our laminate manufacturing operations to Unilin and had them manufacture products which were sold under the Columbia name. This arrangement proved very beneficial and we were one of the first companies to offer “clic” flooring.

By 2007 our sales had grown significantly and we were the number two player in the hardwood flooring category. It was during this year that we made a strategic decision to sell our flooring operations to Mohawk Industries Inc. Mohawk was a large customer and keen to have control of their own manufacturing operations and so the deal made sense for both parties.

So after almost 20 years in the US, traveling many millions of miles and spending too much time away from home I decided, at 64, that the time was right to slow down and enjoy more time with my wife and family.

To stay involved in the floor covering industry I formed The Wootton Group LLC and have completed several projects for US, European and Far East companies. These have included strategic development plans, acquisitions and divestitures, product sourcing, trouble shooting, business turnarounds and recruitment. My time is split between the US and UK.

I am also very excited to be part of The Floor Covering Institute. I have always believed in the team concept and The Floor Covering Institute has attracted the best team of hands-on industry professionals with a collective experience in excess of 100 years capable of addressing and resolving any challenges its clients have.

So that’s the end of my first blog post. To find out more about The Wootton Group please visit http://thewhoottongroup.com/ or email me at david@thewoottongroup.com.

You can find out more about The Floor Covering Institute by visiting our website.

Finally, if you have, thanks for reading.

David


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