When we claim we’re better than others at something, does it necessarily mean we have higher or better value? or values that others appreciate? What is “better” in the eyes of businesses might be different from the perspective of clients.
In this edition of Converge, we talk to Buddy Wang, Sales Director and representative of Mohawk Flooring. She explains in detail how businesses can get better with the help of their clients and customers, and also gives insights into Mohawk’s carpet business.
Sales Director, X-WORK
Background: Studied at Qihuaer University with a major in Japanese
Director of Inkmason International
Background: Previously studied and/or worked in Canada, Malaysia and Hong Kong
Kin: Let’s talk about your brand first. Mohawk is an American brand, and there are other carpet brands from America as well. So what makes Mohawk different from them?
Buddy: I have been in the carpet industry for almost 10 years. Just as you know, I worked in other foreign companies before. So why did I choose to work with Mohawk? I think the most attractive thing that Mohawk knows its values. Mohawk is like Superman, or China’s “Sixty Million Dollar Man”. Although Mohawk has just started its operations in China, elsewhere in the United States and European countries, you can see it in malls, hospitals, schools, office spaces, and other different corporate places. Thus, in terms of Mohawk’s product lines, they are more diversified and capable for many different project types.
The life motto of China’s “Sixty Million Dollar Man,” “Believe in better,” fairly means we believe we will be better. Everyday, you may hear a lot of people exclaim “We are better than our competitors,” “Our team is better, our products are better,” or “Our services are better,” and even “We do more efficient things better.” But from the points of view of designers or clients, does “better” actually mean better? Is the “better” we say the same as what others want? Mohawk thinks about the problems from an objective point of view. Yes, we have a large number of products and series, and we also have a strong after-sales support and product development team. But that doesn’t mean that we just throw everything to clients and designers and say, “Hey, we are excellent, just choose our products.” On the contrary, we look at things from their points of view, and then provide suitable ideas for the specific projects based on different corporate cultures, and all other aspects. Then we recommend them the most suitable solutions. I think that can be called “better.”
In each project, we go through the process step by step with the clients and designers – from planning to budget, space requirements and all other necessities, to project completion. For us, “better” is what we can do working together with our clients and designers.
Kin: You explained it very well! You mentioned Mohawk’s products can be seen in malls, hospitals, schools, and office spaces in the US and European countries, so what makes them so popular? I know Mohawk has a history of 136 years, and that may be one of the reasons. Did Mohawk start its business with producing carpets?
Buddy: Mohawk has marketed its carpet business since the company was built. And now, Mohawk almost covers all flooring materials and is still constantly updating its product line. We have typical carpet tiles and LVT, which is also available in a sheet and roll. We also have PVC flooring, rug and wall to wall carpet, with nylon or wool. Mohawk also includes ceramic tiles and timber flooring, like the Italian Malachi tiles.
Kin: You just said there are a lot of products under Mohawk’s product line including special ones needed for different technical requirements. How does the Mohawk group research these products? On their own or cooperating with professional factories?
Buddy: All product lines of Mohawk are well-researched and developed by the Mohawk group itself. We know that there are some imported brands produce the yarns through cooperation or outsourcing. But thanks to our good product line, economic strengths and annual turnover, Mohawk can easily establish its independent product research and development. Last year, our global turnover is valued at USD 8.6 billion. That gives us the power to control the quality of our products from its raw material sourcing. We manufacture the yarns by ourselves to ensure the quality right from the sources. But the benefit of doing so is not only controlling the quality but also reducing cost.
There are four imported brands in the market, but only Mohawk has its all products imported from the United States. Given our market positioning and pricing, although we import from the United States, which requires shipping or air transport costs, our price is almost the same as the market pricing which indicates we control the cost of raw materials, logistics, and budgets very well. Mohawk has different research and development (R&D) teams and different factories aimed at corresponding requirements. Each one of them is responsible for different aspects. Some factories make carpets, others produce LVT. Mohawk has factories to meet the needs of clients worldwide, such as Australia, South Korea, and China.
Kin: Is there anything special about the yarns in Mohawk’s carpets?
Buddy: There are two technical aspects. First, we spin yarns by our own, and process yarns in two ways. The first way is conventional, which may be the same as other companies: A protective coating will be applied onto the surface of the yarn for its anti-stain properties. Second, we have an innovative way of making the yarn anti-stain by changing its physical property.
More than 99 percent of common stains we know, such as coffee, tea, cola, fruit juice and so on, have negative-charge particles. The yarn, on the other hand, is a petroleum by-product, which gives its positive-charge particles. You may ask why every carpet company would do an anti-stain treatment. That’s because positive and negative charge particles combine easily and make the carpet very difficult to clean. So when people put a protective coating on the surface of yarn or carpet, they actually coat it with a layer of negative-charge particles. Then, the carpet can have a “rejection effect” on stains, making it easier to clean.
But what’s so amazing about the yarn manufactured by Mohawk? We’ve changed all of its positive-charge particles into negative. We call this yarn “Duracolor” that doesn’t need any anti-stain treatment, which certainly contains a chemical solution that may be harmful to the environment or humans.
After carpets are installed, a certain degree of wear and tear will happen. Nowadays, the longest warranty in the industry is 15 years. But when we change the physical nature of the yarn, we do not need any chemical treatment on the carpet, which is beneficial to the environment, office spaces, and people’s health. In addition, Mohawk carpets have a lifetime warranty, as long as you do not throw it away.
Buddy: Actually, Kin, I like your design style very much. Would you like to give me some suggestions? I know you worked in foreign and Chinese enterprises before. Can you share some of your experiences and thoughts? Or trends about designing modern offices?
Kin: I think during the design process, many people will overlook the importance of floor finishing. Generally, designers would think about flooring after considering the space, the ceiling features, walls, colors, etc. But here with Mohawk, the material, colors, lines, and texture from your carpet product lines are very inspiring. I think these unique qualities will give designers lots of ideas.
Kin: As a designer, it is very important for us to continue educating ourselves on the knowledge of materials and their properties. We need to improve our awareness of how different materials behave and react with the environment. Only then we can create a coherent space with all the walls the floors the ceiling and the furniture talking with each other.
I think Mohawk‘s carpet has a very rich color selection. One of the series I really like is the one with simple patterns created only with high and low loop of the same color yarn. It creates a 3D effect with shade and shadow: very minimal and architectural, even looks different depending from different angle. I think that’s a very special product where Mohawk makes a difference from the other carpets.
Buddy: This is the Mohawk “Move Floor” series. It’s called “Move” because when you look at it from a different angle, the pattern looks like it’s moving. A good carpet not only gives an interesting effect to the floor, but also inspires designers. A unique carpet may stimulate designers to create a unique space.
Kin: But I have a question, it seems the pattern on each carpet tile is not symmetrical. Is that intentional?
Buddy: Yes, our intention is to avoid the static and regular pattern on the carpet and make it more dynamic. As you have noticed, we created this asymmetrical pattern by changing the direction of the tiles, the high and low loop on the surface, and the metallic yarn within. All together create a very interesting and dynamic flooring. It looks different from different perspectives, under different lighting conditions.
Kin: You‘ve mentioned there are four major import carpet brands in China, but on the other hand, there are also some domestic brands coming up. How does Mohawk strategize to compete against all these domestic and foreign brands? This seems very difficult, I guess?
Buddy: Although we are in different fields of work, we actually face similar questions in this market. I‘ve struggled when I first joined Mohawk. The brand is well-known elsewhere but very new here in China. And it’s even unnoticed compared to Chinese domestic brands like Shanhua and Haima. In this situation, to open up the market and let customers know our brand, as you just said, we will not only compete against the other brands but also improve our influence in China.
Kin: In addition to what we have just mentioned, for the carpet itself, personally I feel that many clients wouldn’t think that they need to use import brands. They may think there are many local products available for just around RMB 100 to 200. Although imported carpets may have better anti-stain quality, they can buy a local product at a lower price range, and then renew it when it is too dirty to clean. The question is, what is your view to that?
Buddy: I think, first, personally I have a firm belief that our product is great. At first, clients might not understand the brand, or feel its properties are important. But in the process of using our carpets, they will understand what kind of product it is, and what benefits it brings. I am a big fan of our brand regardless of its influence or brand awareness in China at the moment.
Buddy: Secondly, I think anything takes time, and even the most powerful people cannot please everyone. The same applies to a product. We would focus on our targeted client groups.
Thirdly, regarding what you‘ve mentioned about the traditional perception of carpet and its value. It‘s quite simple actually. For example, nowadays people pay so much attention to the office environment when air quality became a serious issue here in China. Many office spaces obtained certification from LEED and WELL. But if we look at five years ago, you can recall people paid very little attention to an office environment. So, I think clients need to be guided. The perception of carpet and its value cannot be changed overnight, for it is a process and I believe we can be the pioneer. For you and I as designers and material suppliers, we need to keep going with providing good ideas regardless of the market condition. We have to challenge the traditional value. I believe this is just a matter of time.
Kin: Have you ever come across some challenging clients? And in the end, were they finally touched by your brand?
Buddy: I often tell my colleagues, “There are all kinds of fish in the sea.” When you experience more, you would encounter a variety of requirements from the clients. Mohawk is a well-known brand, and our brand’s reputation would bring us clients. But in the end, how many clients can it will bring us? That‘s why we focus ourselves more on our professional service pand technical skills. We stand in the client’s position to think and explore the best solution most suitable for the corporate culture of clients. Sometimes, some of the projects have also made us very disappointed even though the whole team put a lot of effort. But we learned from these and we have more experience to do other projects and provide better service for other clients. I am sure Kin you would have faced similar problems with your clients, right?
Kin: I agree with you. That‘s why we put our focus on our design, on our service, and most of all on our client. I think our success can only be achieved with a strong foundation of thorough understanding of our clients, help them to look at the issues from different perspectives, and provide our best solution. This is what innovative and creative should be about.
Buddy: So, we need to create a win-win situation, especially now when we are all struggling in the O2O economy. Now with the rapid development of online companies, operation cost for offline companies are increasing more and more, which makes it very difficult for us. As you’ve always said, designers and suppliers should collaborate more for our common goal. Regardless what kind of companies or what kind of industries, each of us has our own market, we should insist on our beliefs and keep going. Like you and I, we collaborate with each other, because we know we are among the best elite in our industry. As long as we keep insisting and believing ourselves, we will become “better“ in others eyes.