FLOORS Influential Leader: Business insights from Brian Hoyle
Brian Hoyle, commercial director at Top Carpets & Floors (TCF), has exited the flooring business after an illustrious career that spanned more than four decades. He and the teams he worked with brought about significant and positive change in the flooring industry.
Marlene van Rooyen, Editor-in-Chief of FLOORS magazine spoke to Brian to talk all things flooring, leadership and how the industry has changed.
“There are so many highlights in my career, but it all began when I joined Nouwens in 1980 as a sales rep in Cape Town. I didn’t get into this industry by choice, but like anyone, I needed an income to provide for my family and there was this seductive opportunity in the flooring industry – and I loved it, Brian says.
He believes that outsiders when they enter the flooring industry and stay for a couple of years, will probably remain for a lifetime and that is exactly what he did. Next he operated as a branch manager in Cape Town for Van Dyck Carpets, and his relationship with the Romatex Group helped him to reach his achievements over the years. “When I joined TCF at the turn of the century, I took a lot of time thinking about how the company could succeed. Over the years I learned so much and was able to bring my knowledge of manufacturing, wholesale and retail to the TCF cause.”
Understanding all three dimensions of the business helped Brian build his reputation, and that of TCF.
When Brian entered the industry back in the 80’s, it was ill disciplined. A major cause was the manufacturers dual channels of distribution and their reliance’s on wholesaler volumes.
They were difficult years and the lack of profitability at retail was challenging. Few recognised this oversight and competition between the wholesalers was fierce and this had serious impact on retailer profitability.
At a later date help came
Likewise Floors was established in 2019 and brought a lot of stability. It was the result of a merging of three of South Africa’s leading flooring companies, Fotakis Bro’s Johannesburg, MF Wholesalers and Selborne Flooring Distributors that collectively have 70 years of market expertise. More importantly it brought stability which he readily acknowledges.
Brian believes that the two main skills in business are to be a good listener and to ask questions, as these skills will create new opportunities. Top Carpets grew massively during the 20 years that Brian was part of management.
Marketing and excellent service essential
One of the main things that changed over the years was the method of marketing. “In-house and digital marketing” were introduced to TCF in 2010. With the changing needs of consumers, it is important to understand that for a retail flooring business to be successful, owners should ideally learn from each other as this encourages and guarantees growth; and the company becomes stronger.” Buying ways have changed and even though it’s moved online, consumers still have the need to see and feel the product.
“The flooring industry has changed. Where FLOORS magazine used to be mainly driven by carpets, now it’s a mixed across the board. FLOORS remains one of the best sources of information, he says.”
During his distinguished career, Brian learned many lessons. He says he gained knowledge from international counterparts on how to be relevant. The standards of our main manufacturers and distributors is world class but they should constantly strive to be even better. At retail the other element upon which suppliers should focus is product availability.
Asked about some of the foreseen changes and predictions in the flooring industry, Brian says there are definitely opportunities for DIY, residential carpet tile and wall cladding. “There is also an opportunity for skilled and trained flooring contractors, and it would be ideal if the industry could successfully support this vital part of the industry. There is a shortage of skilled installers and long term expansion will depend on how the current industry structure take the initiative to fill this gap.
Looking back, I asked him what the highlights of his journey in flooring were, he told me the following:
Keeping Romatex in the game for 17 years
Running Regina Carpets and Pretoria Wholesale Carpets (PWCC)
TCF membership recruitment over 80 members and the enjoyment we had together. In the same period only having 2 resignations (both of whom went out of business shortly after)
The relationship with my best friends and colleague for 20 years – Barry Hatch, Priya Naicker, Dixon Govender, everyone at TCF Head Office and all our members.
His leadership lesson is mainly the importance of teamwork. He had a strong drive for customer service coupled with a gentleness and wicked sense of humour. This helped him in his notable career and in building the success of Top Carpets.
Ed’s Note: It was lovely to interview Brian. We reminisced of days gone by and the opportunities that are available to the industry. Brian, we wish you the very best for the future and thank you for your dedication and service to the industry.
Guest Editor, Liezel van der Merwe’s note: Brian has genuinely been one of my mentors in the flooring industry. When I started working with my dad, the late Schalk Burger, one of my first appointments was with Brian. I was impressed with his larger-than-life personality, attention to detail, and passion for business. Thank you, Brian for always making me take notes and challenging me to make FLOORS in Africa one of the best trade magazines in the world. You are a legend.