Floor Covering Weekly — October 14, 2013
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Roger Farabee balances form & function
Janet Herlihy

Roger Farabee said he got his first job in the flooring industry by accident. That first position might have been serendipitous, but the next 21 years have been guided by hard work, concentration and the ability to juggle multiple products and tasks.

Currently, Farabee is senior vice president, marketing for Mohawk Hard Surfaces and Unilin Flooring. He is responsible for residential hardwood, laminate, ceramic tile and resilient products. He oversees Unilin brands, including Quick-Step, Pergo, Columbia and Century, which are distributed through specialty retail, builder, home centers and other national accounts.

It all started in 1985, when, after completing an MBA in marketing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Farabee went to work in advertising. He recalled, “In 1992, a co-worker, who had left to work for Mannington, called to talk about a candidate for a job. The job description piqued my interest and I said, ‘It’s a better fit for me.’ ”

Farabee soon left advertising and joined Mannington as a marketing analyst and became its first product manager for residential resilient.

Moving to Dal-Tile in 1995, Farabee invented a dual role of product management and marketing that continues to bring him satisfaction through a constant evolution of fashion and product.

“I like my job,” Farabee stressed. “There’s a new challenge every day. We are always trying to come up with something new, different and meaningful. It’s very satisfying to understand what the needs are, develop products that will meet those needs and then, get them to the consumer through communication and merchandising,” he reported.

Balancing form and function
Being a product manager consists of understanding what the consumer is looking for in a product, what price they will be willing to pay for it, and then creating it. Farabee explained, “It’s a bundle of functional and decorative attributes that are then turned into a product. I remind my team daily that we are in a fashion business. How our floors make people ‘feel’ in their homes, determines how satisfied they are.”

Marketing connects consumers to products
After a product is developed, consumers must learn about it. “A big part of what we do is to educate consumers on all of the choices available to them across all of the flooring categories and then help them choose the right floor for them,” he said. “Marketing is getting the message through to the consumer that you have the product that meets their needs. This is accomplished through the combination of effective communication and effective merchandising. It is presenting all of the benefits and attributes of a product in a clear, attractive, and compelling way.”

Marketing for flooring must be grounded in reality. “Flooring is less about marketing hype and more about substance,” he stressed.

Products and fashion evolve
Since Farabee joined the flooring business, there has been a shiftin residential flooring from mostly carpet to more of a balance of hard and softsurface floorings. “When I started, laminate and luxury vinyl tile (in today’s form) did not even exist,” he pointed out.

The consumer is the final, essential piece. “One of the greatest satisfactions of my job is seeing a consumer delighted with a product that we have created and the difference that product can make in how they feel about their home,” Farabee said.

Over 21 years, there have been a lot of great products. Farabee recalls French Quarter, a tile product developed for the builder market that moved the fashion bar. “Technology was growing and we were able to give French Quarter a more realistic multi-color slate look. It had a 12-year run and really changed the perception of what ceramic could look like.”

Unilin’s Quick-Step is an ongoing success. “When Mohawk bought Unilin, the Quick-Step line had very European, middle-of-the-road look. It was the first glueless laminate and is still the best, most widely used locking system in the world. Our goal was to make Quick-Step the style, design, and innovation leader in the laminate industry and we believe we have succeeded in doing so,” Farabee said. Quick-Step’s Reclaimé Collection is a winner of FCW’s Dealers Choice Award for two years.

Personal and professional goals align
Acknowledging that the work can be demanding, Farabee stressed that he enjoys it thoroughly. “One of the greatest things about my position is that the interests and abilities needed to be good in my job are actually the things that I personally get excited about,” he said. “I like creating beautiful things and enriching people’s lives. I get to do both of these in my job.”

With a 35-member staff based in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, and frequent travel around the world, over the years, Farabee has become an effective manager. “I hope that I have grown to be a good leader who sets clear objectives, then mentors, guides and directs, but does not micro-manage,” he noted.

Farabee also finds time to serve on the board of directors for NALFA (North American Laminate Flooring Association) and is a chair holder in the Color Marketing Group.