Focus On Leadership: Shaw veteran Carrie Edwards takes the helm of residential marketing - Mar 2019

Interview by Kemp Harr

Carrie Edwards Isaac, vice president of residential marketing and consumer strategy for Shaw Industries, grew up in Georgia and attended Mercer University with the intent to become a doctor. She had a change of heart about her course of study and, after discussing her interests with a guidance counselor, decided to pursue a career in marketing. Following a transition to Kennesaw State, Isaac came across Shaw Industries and applied for a customer service internship. The partnership stuck; she has now been with Shaw for 26 years, serving the organization in a variety of roles. Isaac, her husband and their young daughter live in Cartersville, Georgia.

Q: What was your dream job as a child, and how does it relate to your current career?
A:
Growing up, I used to dream of working for Coca Cola. It’s such an iconic, globally loved brand. More than that, Coca Cola is synonymous with happiness-“Have a Coke and a smile.” The brand touches people’s lives, and, as marketers, I think we all strive to make that kind of emotional impact. Shaw is design-forward in its products and brands, which appeals to my creative side, but, more importantly, its vision to create a level of contentment in the consumer’s home environment resonates with me-not a short-term sugar drink smile but a long-lasting satisfaction smile every time the consumer walks into their home. We provide the foundation upon which life’s memories are made.

Q: Tell us about your new role at Shaw and what it encompasses.
A: As vice president of residential marketing and consumer strategy, I oversee marketing for Shaw Floors, Coretec, Anderson Tuftex and Philadelphia Commercial, ensuring the brands have distinct identities and, more importantly, know who their customers and end users are so they can develop the marketing strategies and products that meet their needs.

Our residential marketing team is comprised of diverse talent and is keenly focused on providing not only the best possible flooring but also the best possible experience with our brands. The individuals on my team inspire me, and it’s powerful to be part of that kind of group.

Q: How has 26 years at Shaw prepared you to lead the firm’s residential marketing strategy?
A:
I benefit from having served the enterprise in various ways throughout my career, dating back to my first role in customer service. That internship was foundational to my understanding of the customer and the company. For many years, I was part of Shaw’s commercial business, working in custom design, sales and marketing.

I distinctly remember meeting with Tim Baucom about a role I was considering within Shaw’s commercial business. I expressed to him I’d always had a passion for the consumer. Armed with my knowledge of all facets of broadloom and carpet tile, coupled with relationships with colleagues in different areas of the company, I decided to join the residential business and helped our team bring modular soft surface flooring to life.

I’m also fortunate to have had a front row seat to learn from and participate in the acquisition of US Floors, yielding a deep understanding of and appreciation for Piet Dossche and his team’s unique story and powerful, pioneering products.

I began to notice an untapped synergy between our high-end brands, Anderson Hardwood and Tuftex Carpets of California, and how we use the two together in our homes. I presented a vision and asked leadership for an opportunity to see how the two brands might work in tandem. They took a chance, and we created Anderson-Tuftex, our premium flooring brand.

I have been fortunate to experience so many phases of Shaw’s evolution into the company it is now, learning and growing-personally and professionally-at every turn. With each role and opportunity, I dedicated myself to learning how to lead a team, how to leverage innovative ideas and how to lead change. But most of all, it has been the people I’ve learned from and worked alongside who have prepared me for what lies ahead in my new role.

Q: Tell me who Shaw’s customer is, and why this is important to understand.
A:
Our business spans various channels and product categories, giving us the chance to serve a diverse group of customers and end users. The foundation of our residential business has been and continues to be the retailer. Together, we serve the consumer.

Within Shaw’s residential division, we are deeply committed to research. I’m proud of the deep-diving, intensive studies my team has undertaken to understand who their customers and consumers are, how they sell, how they buy, what each needs, and how they merchandise or shop. With that deep-rooted understanding, we develop innovative products that shape and transform spaces we live and work in every day.

Q: What is Shaw’s unique selling proposition in the residential sector?
A:
At Shaw, we intently focus our design on providing innovative solutions to our customers and the consumer’s real life needs and desires. We are flooring experts, and we are passionate about what we do. This deep understanding coupled with our extensive customer/consumer research allows us to design and innovate within each category of soft and hard surface to bring new products to the market. We also seek to provide the consumer with real value for their investment-products that are built to last without issues. One of Shaw’s core principles is performance. From Bellera with LifeGuard to Unleashed, Floorigami to Strataworx and Floorté Pro to Coretec Stone, each fulfills a differentiated need.

Q: What are a few of the most interesting findings from Shaw’s focus on studying the consumer?
A:
Both our retailer and consumer research has been rewarding, and it will continue. We’ve identified distinctive consumer personas to follow through the buying journey. Somewhat surprisingly, our findings have revealed that shopping for flooring has a social component, more so than we initially thought. We’re interested in how these personas might influence each other over the course of the buying journey.

Q: How do you balance work with family?
A: Being a mother is my most important role. I want my daughter to understand the importance of what I do every day and how it impacts our lives. My husband and I love shaping our home to enjoy with family and friends, and I feel the experiences I have in that aspect of my life directly translate into my work. I make a conscious effort to create and seize moments of togetherness with my family, both big and small, to share what’s important, what makes us laugh and what makes us grow.

Q: Who are your mentors, and what have they taught you?
A:
I am fortunate to have a diverse group of mentors who have shaped me professionally and personally. Each plays a different role and provides a different perspective to draw on in unique situations. Mike Fromm, Shaw’s first-ever chief human resources officer, is my leadership coach, and he teaches me to ask questions of myself and of others to gain deep empathy and understanding. John Stephens, Shaw Contract’s vice president of marketing, was my manager for many years, and he taught me how to put the customer first, to seek to understand their business and use this knowledge to create and differentiate. Brenda Knowles, vice president of marketing and product design of Shaw’s commercial business, has always demonstrated to me it is up to you to create your own path and to push yourself. Jeff West, Patcraft’s vice president of marketing, was one of my first mentors and showed me the importance of a team and goal setting. Susan Farris, vice president of corporate communications and sustainability, listens to me, offering perspective and calm. Tim Baucom, executive vice president of Shaw’s residential business, has always inspired me to have a passion for learning and to leverage our people and resources. I have deep respect and admiration for each of them.

Q: Do you have a philosophy that you live by?
A:
Be curious, be competitive, be compassionate, be creative, be current, be me.

Q: As one of the highest ranking women at both Shaw and in the flooring business, what advice would you have for other women who aspire to reach that level?
A:
Have a passion for what you do; if you love your work, you will grow. Cultivate a strong network of people who believe in you and challenge you to do your best. Make time to learn every day because this is an investment in yourself; don’t put off listening to a podcast, reading an article or attending a conference. Place your core focus on your team and customers, and make time to laugh with and listen to them.

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