Focus on Leadership: Tim Baucom shares his thoughts on how Shaw will stay relevant - May 2019

Interview by Kemp Harr

It may seem like fate that the man once nicknamed “Tim Shaw-com” was recently named president of Shaw Industries, but Tim Baucom doesn’t take his appointment for granted. Not long after college, Baucom was hired as an engineer at DuPont, where he was assigned the Shaw account. He did such a good job that Shaw eventually hired him, and he’s been with the firm for nearly three decades. Baucom has worked in numerous roles in his time at Shaw; he was instrumental in developing Shaw Contract, then transitioned to the residential side of the business, where he spent the last three years.

Q: Tell us about your pathway from graduating from the University of South Carolina with an engineering degree to the c-suite at Shaw Industries.
A:
I am the product of the great cultures in which I have had the opportunity to work and the great people with whom I have worked. I am grateful for the lessons from fantastic role models, beginning at Atlanta Pepsi-Cola Bottling and culminating in the past quarter century at Shaw.

I entered the University of South Carolina majoring in chemical engineering with the aspiration to attend medical school. Marion Chaplin, who is now my father-in-law, was the CFO of Atlanta Pepsi-Cola Bottling and offered me a summer job while in high school that introduced me to business and manufacturing. I worked there for six formative years in a wide range of jobs and developed a passion for manufacturing. During my senior year of college, I switched my major to mechanical engineering and graduated with a BS in engineering.

That combination of education and job experience enabled me to become a process engineer at DuPont. I started at the Cape Fear, North Carolina site that manufactured a wide range of PET fibers, including those used in carpet manufacturing. DuPont was a “discovery company,” with a long history of teaching “business to scientists.” Through a series of diverse assignments in engineering manufacturing, production planning, marketing and sales, my confidence and passion for business grew. I benefited from working for and alongside fantastic, smart people who stretched and challenged me. Tom McAndrews was one of those outstanding leaders who inspired me and gave me opportunity. While selling DuPont carpet fibers to Shaw Industries and Aladdin Mills, I earned an MBA from Emory University. However, I believe I learned more from “professors” R.E. Shaw and Alan Lorberbaum, who taught me real-world lessons on entrepreneurial leadership during a period of dynamic industry change.

Over the first ten years of marriage, my wife, Cheryl, and I had lived in five cities. We came to Dalton from Charlotte, North Carolina with a one-year-old daughter. We wanted to find a special place to raise and expand our family. We discovered Shaw and Northwest Georgia was that special place. We formed strong friendships and fell in love with our church and our community. Nearly 30 years later, our love for Shaw and Dalton still grows.

In my new role, I’m humbled and honored to serve Shaw’s sales and marketing associates across our residential, commercial, specialty, and turf businesses. I look forward to maintaining and enhancing the distinctive culture and strong customer relationships our company is so well known for.

Q: Shaw’s growth in 2018 was impressive, especially when you factor in Shaw’s share of the carpet market, which was flat. To what do you attribute this success?
A:
Shaw’s people created the growth our company experienced last year. Our success came from aligning our associates’ daily work to our business goals. Every area of Shaw made positive contribution to our success. During 2018, we worked with our customers to effectively manage dramatic product shifts, raw material inflation and the unprecedented Section 301 tariffs.

A well-executed and strategically segmented branding strategy gets part of the credit. In our residential business, we refined our product mix and branding architecture. We focused the Coretec, Anderson Tuftex and Shaw Floors brands to resonate with segmented direct and indirect customers. Our innovation and disruptive leadership in LVT drew most of the headlines and earned the most growth. Both Shaw Floors and Coretec expanded our wide range of design-forward waterproof flooring.

In addition to LVT, we innovated in every brand and every product grouping. Shaw Floors introduced Bellera High-Performance Carpet with the exclusive LifeGuard Blue Spill-proof Backing. We made major investments to enhance the styling of our engineered hardwood offerings. Retailers and consumers both embraced the merger of our legacy Anderson and Tuftex brands into our premium floorcovering brand, Anderson Tuftex. We leveraged our world-class carpet tile infrastructure to expand our range of modular soft surface flooring for both the residential and commercial markets. We worked with our Dealer Council to bring all of our customer-facing innovations together during our Shaw Flooring Network Convention, Commit 2019.

In commercial, we continue to earn marketshare growth through our two specified brands, Shaw Contract and Patcraft, and our mainstreet brand, Philadelphia Commercial. Last year, these brands earned a combined total of 20 product and design awards. Our increased focus on soft surface and hard surface modular flooring proved successful. In order to stimulate innovation beyond 2018, our commercial sales and marketing associates completed their first full year in the Create Centre, our state-of-the-art facility in Cartersville. The 67,000-square-foot space unifies our customer-centric approach. It was intentionally designed to enable innovation, foster collaboration and host clients and partners.

It’s important to add that our turf business grew as well, thanks to installations with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, as well as the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks.

Q: Shaw used to manufacture almost everything it sold, but, over the past couple of years, it has chosen to withdraw from the production end of several products-namely laminate and solid hardwood-in favor of sourcing. How did you make these decisions?
A:
By looking at the market and recognizing that we always value strength, but today’s market is changing so fast that we are having to add flexibility and agility to that strength. Our commitment to domestic manufacturing is something we’re proud of, but we also realize that the pace of change means we’re going to have to keep more lines in the water, so to speak, and merge both make and buy strategies to stay ahead of a rapidly changing landscape of products and the ways you get those products to market.

Q: How do you plan to keep Shaw on track for future growth?
A:
Shaw has always been strong and customer-focused. We have a conservative balance sheet, state-of-the-art facilities and a talented, dedicated team of associates. The pace of change today requires that we combine strength with agility. Agility enables us to look around the corner to make adjustments before the future is upon us. Agility links us to our direct customers in order to move together and execute the next big thing. Our commitment to provide industry-leading customer service by blending a make-and-source strategy is an example of strength and agility.

I believe servant leadership delivers superior results through passionately serving others. We have formalized this practice through “the Shaw Way,” which aligns our associates and their functions to the customers we serve in order to deliver expected business outcomes. The Shaw Way empowers every level of the organization to take appropriate strategic risks, speak up with innovative ideas and hold each other accountable. This culture elevates our individual and collective performance.

I’ve observed many commonalities between the experiences I’ve had working in Shaw’s residential and commercial divisions. In both areas, success results from probing deeply to glean insights into consumer and end-user needs and then leveraging “design thinking” to convert these insights into action. Design thinking is a disciplined, iterative process that guides our product development journey for the benefit of both Shaw and our direct customers.

Q: What is the right branding strategy for a $6 billion company when it comes to the house brand: monolithic or endorsed?
A:
Brands have to be more meaningful today because, with so much to choose from, we know that brands are the short-circuit way for the consumer to gain confidence.

Our immediate emphasis is to develop a stable family of customer- and end-user-facing brands that our direct customers can embrace and sell profitably. Our mantra is to be “dealer-driven and powered by consumer and end-user insights.” Each brand has a specific, complementary customer target and is backed by the resources of Shaw. For commercial, Shaw Contract focuses on design leadership, Patcraft focuses on performance leadership and Philadelphia Commercial focuses on industry-leading solutions for mainstreet commercial. For residential markets, Coretec pioneered the MLF category and continues to set the pace for innovation and style; Anderson Tuftex is ”designed with intention and crafted with care” for targeted homeowners; Shaw Floors has broad appeal as the dependable, achievable mainstay in the industry.

In addition to our family of brands, we work directly with our customers in every channel to help them maximize their brands.

Q: Who are your mentors, and what did you learn from them?
A:
One of my favorite riddles is, “Is it more important for the teacher to teach or for the student to learn?” My answer to that is it’s more important for the student to learn because if you want to learn, a teacher will appear. It is hard for me to fully express my gratitude for the many great teachers who have appeared and shown interest in my education. I aspire to be a curious, lifetime learner.

Growing up as a fourth-generation preacher’s kid, Christian lessons became foundational values. My faith was introduced at birth by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and reinforced throughout my life. I am grateful for this foundation.

Over the course of my career, countless managers, direct reports and respected peers became my teachers, helping me learn valuable lessons and skills. While at Shaw, I have directly reported to Vance Bell, Hal Long and Randy Merritt. Each leveraged their individual personalities and passions to teach me the Shaw Way. I am grateful to each of these awesome teachers. I sincerely believe I could fill an entire issue of Floor Focus with additional names and testaments to their impact. However, in an effort to make use of the space you’ve graciously given me, and so I don’t leave anyone out, I will only reflect on four additional-and key-influencers.

My father-in-law, Marion Chaplin, has had an important, positive impact on me for most of my life. My wife, Cheryl, and I began dating in our mid-teens. He sparked my interest in business and has been a consistent role model of values-based leadership since. He demonstrates that “business is a personal mission.”

My daughter, Bergen, is a significant influence on me and expands my perspectives. Her resilience, grace and grit is truly impressive and motivating to me. I am so proud of her.

My 16-year-old niece, Carson, is my latest teacher, who is exposing me to the exciting possibilities of the next generation.

My wife, Cheryl, is my ultimate partner and role model. She’s shaped the person I am since my teenage years and continues to inspire me daily. She was a driving force in my decision to accept the opportunity at Shaw. Cheryl makes me laugh, keeps me grounded and encourages me to focus on relationships.

Q: People talk about the Shaw culture. Tell us what that is and how you plan to sustain it as the firm’s president.
A:
As already referenced, we call it “the Shaw Way.” Our culture is something to be proud of and is one of our greatest achievements. We must constantly nurture this asset and never take it for granted. We are unified through adopting a set of shared values and commitment to create a better future through delivering sustainable business results. We prioritize “enterprise above self,” while adapting to diverse individual perspectives and preferences. By both adopting a shared mission and adapting to individuals, we create an inclusive environment where people are excited about where they work and what they do.

Our culture combines a respect for the individual with a unified, customer-centric approach. Our best asset is our people, and the closer you get to the customer, the more our competitive advantage shines. Our field leadership, first-line salespeople, customer service representatives and truck drivers all stand about 18 inches taller than the rest because they’re proud of what they do and are excited to serve our customers. We’ve achieved this through aligning our people and their functions to our overall business goals, so they see the importance of their role and how they can move the company and the customer forward. We are known for our excellent standard of service. I am committed to the Shaw Way.

Q: Retaining employees is very important to maintaining a strong culture. In this age of job hopping, how do you keep the 22,000 employees you’ve trained and invested in?
A:
Part of what attracted me to North Georgia, generally, and Shaw, particularly, is this sort of self-sufficient, self-reliant culture that tries to figure things out-tries to identify problems and solve them. I think that’s true for our community and our company. It’s sort of an old-school value.

As [Shaw] recruits at college level and introduces people to its training program, we kind of have to reprogram them. They come through college expecting to work for 14 different companies over the course of their careers, and, while some people certainly start with Shaw and go on to other places, we want to tell them that they have every option to continue and have 14 different experiences under the same umbrella.

Q: What larger changes do you see as a result of the market’s transition to hard surface?
A:
As the market moves to a different balance between soft surface and hard surface, the hard lines of division between residential and commercial have started to blur. In fact, in our own lives, we’re seeing how we work and how we live start to blur.

You know, Kemp, we really made a bad deal years ago. We didn’t realize it, but in exchange for casual Friday and giving up our neck ties, we said we’d be available 24/7/365, so how we work and how we live are coming together.

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