Focus on Leadership - February 2012
Interview by Kemp Harr
Dan Haycook loves a new challenge. Last year he moved to Kennesaw, Georgia to become executive vice president of Invista’s newly formed Surfaces organization, now home of the Stainmaster and Antron carpet fiber brands. He had spent the previous six years in Shanghai, China, managing other Invista divisions.
One project in China included getting Invista’s first nylon 6,6 airbag manufacturing facility off the ground. He also led the Pacific Asia apparel fiber business. Haycook was no stranger to international work, having set up fiber businesses in Turkey for his previous employer, Hoechst Celanese Corp. Haycook initially came to Invista in 1998 when parent company Koch Industries purchased the polyester, intermediates and fiber business from Hoechst AG and later merged it with the nylon fiber business it purchased from DuPont. This first venture into the flooring side of the fiber business for Haycook comes at a time of transition in the industry, as carpet is slowly losing marketshare to hard surface flooring and consumer preferences are changing.
Q: It’s an interesting time to be in the carpet fiber business. Invista is the marketshare leader in nylon 6,6—long known for its durability and styling superiority. Yet, on one side you’ve been flanked with the re-polymerization recycling story of nylon 6 and on the other side polyester and triexta have been taking share in the solution dyed sector and in the ultra-soft sectors. How do you maintain your edge through all of this?
A: Invista continues to invest in driving differentiation and innovation in our brands, products and people. We believe that retailers, end-users and specifiers are seeing faster and more value-creating innovations from us, which helps us to maintain our edge, as you phrased it.
We’re increasing our momentum with product introductions, which is especially critical in a soft market environment. In 2011, we brought the greatest number of all new product introductions to market (in residential) and hope to achieve or exceed that in 2012. We will continue to build on the ‘softness’ category with Invista’s new Stainmaster with TruSoft fiber, which is the softest Stainmaster fiber yet. We are also offering new Stainmaster carpet with SolarMax fiber, which delivers stain resistance, exceptional fade resistance and impressive color fastness, along with a soft touch. These are good examples of Invista driving innovations to market faster in our residential business. An example in our commercial business is our introduction of a fine denier Antron Lumena product line with a newly developed color palette.
We will continue to make sure we have the right people working on the right priorities to drive our strategies—focused on our customers and creating real value, which is consistent with the Market Based Management (MBM) principles that drive our company.
Q: As they teach you in business school, every product has a lifecycle, the stages of which are: development, introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Where do you think branded nylon is in its lifecycle?
A: As you note, product lifecycle analysis is a common tool in business analysis, and can be applied to nylon. While branded nylon has entered the mature phase, given its long-lasting importance in the soft flooring category, constant innovation allows us the ability to create new opportunities to extend the current curve and develop new ones within the category. For example, Stainmaster with TruSoft fiber technology allows us to create a new growth component in the soft category, just as Tactesse and Luxerell fibers did in 2000 and 2009. We continuously look for ways to create value and extend the lifecycle for our products and services.
Q: Do you plan to use Koch’s MBM philosophy—whereby employees are incentivized to act like entrepreneurs within the corporate structure—in your role as executive vice president of Invista’s Surfaces business?
A: MBM is the basis of the culture at Invista by which our company is managed. All Koch companies and all of its leaders strive to advance a culture consistent with the MBM principles to create a competitive advantage for our company.
Making sure we have the right people working on the right priorities is one of them, and continually focusing on our customers and creating value. Doing all of that, with integrity and compliance, is a prerequisite. It is a priority for me to enhance the MBM capabilities in Surfaces. A recent example of when MBM principles helped to guide our thinking was when we recognized, based on continued marketplace change, that we needed to make some adjustments to our business organization to better align, focus and grow longer-term. Last year we did so, and I think that now we are in a better position to help maximize growth and profitability for our business, and continue to deliver value to our customers.
Q: Do you think nylon 6,6 will always be the king of carpet fiber from a performance perspective?
A: We continue to believe that nylon 6,6 has the best long-term performance in soft flooring. Innovation will continue to bring new polymers and products to this marketplace, and as we always do, we will continue to evaluate which opportunities to pursue that will create the most value for our customers and for our business.
Q: While the equation may be a little different in the commercial market, where carpet still commands a 70% share and the end-user/facility manager better know their business, why is it that consumers can never remember what carpet they own?
A: You know, when we look at many of the consumer goods we purchase, there’s almost always a logo or label that stays with the product—for instance, on cars, appliances, and on a lot of apparel—so that reminds us of which brand we purchased. Unfortunately, carpet labels are underneath and not seen again after a carpet is installed, so recall becomes a bit more difficult. That being said, we invest a lot of resources into building awareness to the consumer and end-users of the Stainmaster and Antron brands, respectively, and we believe that the awareness levels, recognition and trust of these brands have a powerful impact on the purchaser or specifier.
Q: What does it take to keep your brand name in the consumer’s mind long-term?
A: For over 25 years, we’ve worked with our aligned network of retailers to leverage the strength of the Stainmaster brand with the changing consumer, reaching her with effective, integrated marketing strategies and by continuing to deliver innovation, outstanding performance and beautiful designs that meet the demands of the ever-changing marketplace. We believe that we’ve kept that strong consumer confidence, trust and recognition because we’ve delivered a consistent Stainmaster brand promise along the way. Right now, the consumer commitment is strong and awareness of the Stainmaster brand is at 94%—the highest it has been in the last five years. In addition, the Antron brand continues to exhibit strength in the commercial business with an increasing number of specifications by end-users and the A&D communities who are seeking attractive, long-lasting high performing products.
Q: Will there ever be a system for recycling nylon 6,6 that eliminates the color sorting and limited percentage of recycled content issues that exist with the current system?
A: We currently employ nylon 6,6 recycled technologies in our growing product line with products like TruBlend fiber, and we continue to improve our route to market with all of our products, technologies and services. I’m confident that research will continue to yield new technologies in the future; however, the economic viabilities of these technologies will determine whether or not we pursue them.
Q: What is your vision for Invista’s Surfaces business five years from now?
A: We will continue to challenge ourselves to be the leader in the soft flooring category with our branded Stainmaster and Antron brand offerings as the core of our program. We will gain growth by leveraging our capabilities to expand into other products and market spaces. We will also tap our unique global footprint to better serve and grow in South America, Europe and Asia. We will continue to invest in people, assets, marketing, planning, R&D and other resources that are required to accelerate the pace of innovation and to create value for our customers. Differentiation in products and services will remain a core mission in our vision of growth. As a privately held enterprise with access to capital, we are very fortunate to have the ability to nimbly and quickly react to evolving market demands, while also investing in innovation that customers will demand.
Q: What are the key character traits that it takes to be a successful leader?
A: I think it’s critical to create a clear vision for the future, prioritize the initiatives needed to achieve this vision, effectively communicate to employees and customers, and drive effective execution. It also takes an understanding that at the core of any strategy or transformation is the group of people who work tirelessly to execute. I am fortunate to have an unparalleled team that will keep the Invista Surfaces business in a leadership position well into the future.
Copyright 2012 Floor Focus