One of Central Pennsylvania’s newest public-company leaders is poised to become one of the region’s newest residents.
Don Maier is president and CEO of Armstrong Flooring Inc., which separated over the last week from Armstrong World Industries Inc. Although Maier has been an executive atArmstrong World since 2010, he has been living outside Cincinnati with his wife, Susan, and two daughters.
“That’s a long commute,” said Maier.
The Ohio native stayed put because he had accepted what was then a three-year assignment. And because of his role in company operations, he was often traveling anyway.
Six years later, after his younger daughter graduates high school, Maier and his wife will be moving to a home they bought in Manheim Township, he said. His older daughter attends the University of Cincinnati, where she is studying graphic design.
“My career obviously has changed now and I’m much less of a road warrior,” Maier said. “I look forward to being able to have dinner with my family and being home.”
He’s also looking forward to sampling what Lancaster County has to offer. “It’s been exciting to see the Lancaster area evolve over the last six years,” he said. “I think the downtown area and all of the improvements that have been made down there, it’s a real exciting place.”
Maier spoke to the Business Journal on April, the day he rang the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares in Armstrong Flooring began trading April 4.
Based in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, Armstrong Flooring has 3,700 employees and annual revenue of about $1.2 billion. Competitors include Georgia-based Shaw Industries Group Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, which reportedly has more than $4 billion in annual sales, and Georgia-based Mohawk Industries, which has roughly $8 billion in annual sales.
Hit the floor running
Before the separation, Maier was CEO of Armstrong’s flooring division. He’s excited to lead it as a standalone company.
“This is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “It’s just such an honor to be in this position, to be in a brand-new startup company that has a 150-year legacy behind it.”
It’s not an easy position. Like many companies in the business of construction and building products, Armstrong took a hit during the downturn and is looking for more solid footing.
Maier’s goal is to spur revenue growth through product innovation and improved service to the people and companies that sell Armstrong products.
“When I went into this role a little over a year ago as the CEO before we separated, what I really found was a business that had great assets, great brands, great products but was not really driving the top line like it needed to,” he said.
Recent innovations include new vinyl flooring products with cultured diamonds incorporated in the surface coating. The diamonds increase durability and resistance to scratching. Marketed as Diamond10, the coating also is designed to repel liquids.
“Were very excited about that,” Maier said, noting that the coating is likely to be applied to other kinds of flooring. “You’ll see Diamond10 on wood products, tile products, sheet products.”
Big-box retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot remain important distribution channels for Armstrong, Maier said. Big chains represent about 40 percent of flooring sales overall.
But Armstrong also is focused on shoring up relations with independent retailers and distributors. They represent the remaining 60 percent of sales for the industry.
“We see a lot of opportunities by serving that channel much better than we have,” Maier said, noting in particular the value of relationships between distributors and retailers.
“That’s a real, I think, competitive advantage,” he said. “The Shaws and Mohawks of the world are primarily direct-sales model. We like the penetration and the relationships that the distributors bring.”
The structure costs a bit more, flooring experts have told me in the past.
But independent retailers can take time to explain to customers the value of Armstrong products, Maier said. “It’s difficult to do in a big-box environment where there’s a fairly low touch with sales.”
The long commute and responsibilities related to the corporate separation have kept Maier from community involvement. But he expects to do more as time goes on.
In the meantime, he said, the new company is creating a foundation, similar to the existingArmstrong World Industries Foundation established in 1985. The Armstrong Flooring Foundation will start with funding of $750,000, Maier said.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to give back more of my personal time to the community down the road,” he said.