New Armstrong CEO Sets Course For Change


Lancaster, Pa.] Last month, Armstrong named Don Maier the new EVP, CEO of Armstrong Flooring Products replacing Tom Mangas effective Sept. 26. Just days before he took helm of the $1.5 billion division, Maier spoke with FCW outlining his aggressive plan for the company, which includes changing the company’s culture from being internally focused to more externally focused and strategy execution.


At the same time, he said, he will spend the next six to nine months “to connect, listen and learn from our customers and hopefully be able to translate what I learn back into our organization. I think it’s an important piece of our business strategy. It’s that type of customer focus that has made this 150 plus year company a success. We have a huge obligation towards the Armstrong founder’s intent for the company, and to bring it back to life in a meaningful way.” 


Maier comes to the position with some 21 years of professional experience that included time spent on the operations side of Armstrong’s business. He most recently served as senior vice president, global operations excellence. 


“I’m excited for this new position,” he said, adding that over the past nine months he has also had the opportunity to be an integral part of Mangas’ extended staff, helping him and his team develop Armstrong’s long term strategy. And, while he noted that structural changes do tend to bring on speculation, there are a few things initiated by Mangas that will not change. 


“We’ve reviewed our long term strategic plan with our board of directors at our last board meeting in July, and have concurrence around that strategy so none of that will change,” he said, adding that what will change as he takes the helm is how the company will execute its long term strategy. 


Maier noted that as CEO, there are three ideas, specifically, he will keep top of mind. “Number one: That I reflect on Armstrong. I think we’re too internally focused and I want to flip that 180 degrees, and really drive everything we do from the customer to the consumer, the retailer, the distributor back through our organization. In lean terms, we want pull from the market instead of only pushing out into the market,” he said.


Secondly, he said, now that he and his team have clarity around Armstrong’s long term strategy, he’s assessing structural changes that may be necessary to facilitate the execution of the company’s long term plan. 


“I’m working with my team to understand what those changes will be. It’s a work in progress. I believe strategy comes first and then you need to make sure you’re structured correctly in order to execute that strategy,” Maier said.


Thirdly, Maier will focus on Armstrong’s ongoing commitment to organizational vitality and developing the company internally. 


“It’s important to grow and expand folks here as well as going outside to bring in new talent and new perspectives to fill those structural gaps we may have as we go through the process. My plans aren’t dramatically different from where Tom was headed but I think I have a sense of urgency around those three items,” he said. 



Company mandate


At Surfaces earlier this year, Mangas told FCW that Armstrong had set strong targets on its wood business as well as investments in Chinese manufacturing to better serve the Asian market. According to Maier, there has been good progress on both fronts. 


“We had a fairly disappointing year in wood in 2013 as we were ill prepared to respond to the demands that hit us. There was radical inflation on raw materials that we were unable to obtain price realization. The economic performance of that business was well below where we had planned to be but we’re dedicated to our wood business and for us it’s a long term play. While we were disappointed with 2013, we put together a long term plan that would return us back to an acceptable performance and a platform to be able to grow from in 2014, and we are ahead of that plan through the first half of the year,” he said. 


In regards to Armstrong’s investments in China to support the Asian market, Maier noted that the company is pleased with its performance and is well ahead of plans, from both a growth and profitability standpoint. 


“We’re excited about the investments we made in go-to-market capabilities in India and most recently in Southeast Asia,” he said. 


Along with its changes in management, Armstrong is currently going through a transformational period, noted Maier. 


“Going back to 2010, if you look at what we have done to get our house in order in regards to aligning our SG&A with new market realities of the post 2008 meltdown as well as rationalization of our plant footprints and manufacturing, juxtaposed with radical investments, over $350 million invested in new plants and facilities, we’ve worked hard to align ourselves with market changes. And while that work is never done, we’ve made meaningful progress,” he said.


The next phase for Armstrong, Maier explained, will be from a cultural standpoint.


“How do we return back to our founder’s intent of instilling faith in our buyers, where we drive everything we do from the customer back up through the company. All of the great ideas are out with our retailers who work with the consumers every day and we have to connect into that pipeline. We need to connect in a more meaningful way with our distributors to understand their needs and drive things back into our systems, processes and offerings,” he said.