Focus on Leadership: Tom Pendley looks forward to his new role as president and CEO of Mannington – December 2022
Interview by Kemp Harr
Tom Pendley was named chief operating officer of Mannington in September and will assume the role of president and CEO upon Russell Grizzle’s retirement from the post on December 31.
Pendley joined the flooring industry at age 29 after starting his career in finance, working at J+J, Engineered Floors and, now, Mannington. Since his initial pivot in 1998, he has served in a wide variety of operations within the flooring business, a factor that should serve him well in his new role.
Tom and his wife, Cami, live in Dalton, Georgia. They have three children.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background.
A: I grew up in Dalton, Georgia and graduated from Dalton High School. From there, I went to Auburn to play baseball. After my freshman year, I transferred to Vanderbilt for school and to continue playing baseball. I decided to major in economics by a process of elimination. Vanderbilt did not have an undergraduate degree directly related to my area of interest-finance. Economics was the closest option in a liberal arts school. It turned out to be a wonderful degree that has been the basis of a lot of my business perspective and understanding.
After graduating, I entered the banking world and got married. I was living and working in Nashville when I decided to go back to graduate school. Vanderbilt was a logical fit, especially with its very strong finance program. In graduate school, I received an MBA with a dual concentration in finance and accounting.
Q: How did you end up focusing your career in the flooring business?
A: After working for a short time with Chase Securities in Texas, I decided my chosen career path was not the right fit for me. I didn’t enjoy the transactional nature of the mergers and acquisitions advisory business. I realized I was much more interested in the operational side of business.
I was really intrigued by what makes a business successful. My father-in-law, Ray Moss, was the head of manufacturing at J+J, so I reached out to him to discuss opportunities. A couple of months later, my wife and I were packing up and moving back to Dalton to work in the “carpet industry,” the two things we both said we would never do.<
Q: How did your tenure at J+J, Engineered Floors and as the leader of Mannington’s commercial business prepare you for your new role as president and CEO of Mannington?
A: Each career progression has taught me more. At J+J, I learned the business literally from the ground up. I started in manufacturing, working in each job within operations. This gave me first-hand exposure to the manufacturing processes, but more importantly, put me side by side with the associates that show up every day wanting to be a part of a winning organization. It helped me to see and understand how important organizations like J+J are to the families that make them up.
Ultimately, I was able to have direct responsibility for most areas within the organization, which gave me an acute understanding of the interconnected nature of the business. Nothing operates in silos. Each area is connected to the next, and decisions in one area will directly impact others.
At Engineered Floors, I continued that learning, as I was more exposed to the residential business. It also exposed me to a formula for success that was very different from the formula I had been operating in.
Mannington has expanded my knowledge even further. Once again, I have been exposed to a very successful business made up of smart, dedicated people who have yet another formula for success. Each step has validated my learnings from early in my career at J+J. It’s really all about the people and their focus and understanding of purpose.
Q: What are a few of your noteworthy achievements in your career thus far?
A: This is not really a question I can answer. All my career achievements were pieces of a much larger puzzle. Pull out any of the other pieces, and it probably all falls apart.
I guess the one thing I could identify is that each of the leaders whom I have worked for over the years have supported my progression within the organizations I have worked.
Q: Why do you think you are the right person for this new role?
A: I think this question will be better to ask as I move to retirement at some point way down the road. I hope those who follow me can say I was the right person for this role. I can check the box of very broad business exposure, from manufacturing to sales. I can check the box of multiple leadership roles within multiple business types. I can check the unique box of a quarter century of experience leading within privately held family businesses. And lastly, I check the box of significant exposure to the inner workings of Mannington and the current strategy and game plan. These items make it work on paper.
Q: Why has Mannington survived as the oldest company on our top ten list of suppliers?
A: Care, do the right thing, work hard play hard, control your own destiny-these principles drive the decision-making process. We have a family that is willing to take risks and change the business dramatically as the market dictates. Mannington has been the beneficiary of a strategic approach that consciously and consistently plans generational transitions. The bottom line is a lot of hard work by the Campbell family.
Q: What is your philosophy in terms of domestic production versus sourcing overseas, and what actions do you intend to take to achieve your goals?
A: We are very proud of our domestic manufacturing capabilities. We proudly say “Made in America.” With that as a backdrop, we will always strive to be a domestic manufacturer. But we also know the world is changing rapidly, and predicting tomorrow is a challenge. We will continue to invest heavily into our domestic manufacturing assets while building out and adding resiliency to our sourcing supply chains. We will have a portfolio approach to our supply chain and will be able to adjust as the market demands.
Q: Who are your mentors, and what did they teach you?
A: I have had the opportunity to work around so many great people over the years, and each has been an example in their own unique way, but I would have to credit my mom with being my single most important mentor. She has consistently demonstrated what I attempt to live each day: take care of your faith, take care of your family, and the rest will fall into place. She is a tireless servant that never seeks credit or accolades. She has been dealt some tough challenges in her life but never lets the challenges of the day hinder her positive, thankful attitude.
Q: What do you think your biggest challenge will be as you step into this role?
A: There will always be challenges. The list seems rather daunting as we all try to figure out the near-term path of the economy, energy costs, supply chains, inflation/deflation, global conflicts, labor-the list goes on. Our leadership team’s challenge will be to try and understand all these dynamics while being hyper-focused on those things we can control. It is easy to get distracted by all the noise and things that are out of our control.
Q: Why do you think most of the professionals who enter this flooring business never leave it?
A: I am biased. It is a great industry that has been very good to me and my family. It offers a professional the opportunity to pursue any chosen path: design, manufacturing, engineering, finance, sales, marketing, human resources, etc. Many talented people have moved through multiple areas of focus. It also gives someone the opportunity to work for companies of vastly different sizes and ownership structures. Combine the breadth of scale and the breadth of opportunity, and once you are in, it is very difficult to get out.
Q: Tell us a little about your family and the role they play in your life.
A: I have a great family that has been very supportive of the path I have chosen. I have been married to my high school sweetheart, Cami, for 28 years. We have three great children who consume most of our free time. Our oldest, Carter, is a senior at Clemson University, where he plays golf. Our middle child, Brady, is a freshman at Georgia Southern University, playing baseball. Our youngest, Callie, is in the eighth grade and enjoys dancing. We have been blessed to have very active kids who keep us busy.
Q: What advice have you given your children about finding happiness and success in their lives?
A: Keep faith and family one and two on the priority list. After that, show up, work hard and don’t worry about who gets the credit; good things will happen.
Q: What do you do for fun or as an escape from your professional role at Mannington?
A: It will typically be something related to my kids and their activities. I also really enjoy all types of exercise.
Q: What would you say is the secret to your success?
A: I surround myself with talented people who focus on the success of the organization as opposed to individual success, then I get out of their way.
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