ENTREPRENEUR’S CORNER: Q & A WITH CURT ROBINSON
September 24, 2013
By James Forrest
One of the real privileges of being a corporate attorney, especially one operating my own firm, is having the opportunity to work with clients who have had tremendous success in business and life. Curt Robinson is one of those clients that inspires me with his values, someone who teaches me something new about finding success in business seemingly with each interaction we have.
I sat down with him recently to discuss his career and the reasons he believes he’s been so successful through the years. Curt is a leader in the residential and commercial flooring business, with multiple business interests. As managing partner of Nox Corporation, Curt leads a company that represents the global leader in the luxury tile marketplace. In less than four years, the company’s luxury tile line has grown its market share from less than one percent to its current market-leading status of 15 percent share.
As chief executive at SurfaceLinx, Curt leads a firm that’s marketing a breakthrough product for flooring adhesives, something that could be a real game-changer for installers and Do-It-Yourselfers alike. Finally, Curt runs a company associated with Nox Corporation, N Plus, dedicated to selling sundries and accessories to support the Nox flooring line.
Prior to running his own successful enterprises, Curt built his career running business units for several of the industry’s leaders, including Shaw, Armstrong, Mannington Mills, and LG. But the real foundation of his success comes from the twin inspirations of family and military service.
The son of a career military man, Curt followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the United States Army, establishing himself as an elite soldier through paratrooper and reconnaissance work. His father’s influence, as well as his military training, gave him the perspective and values upon which he first built a successful career as a police officer, and then later in the flooring arena.
Robinson’s Tips for Success in Business
Strive for Precision and Accuracy
Curt says that his father instilled in him that he “must have a certain way of doing things, going about his work. First and foremost, be precise and accurate in all that you do, and be consistent—nothing should ever fundamentally change in your regimen.”
Operate with Integrity
“My father expected us to live as we said we were going to do,” Curt explained. “He taught me to be a man of my word, and that’s been the source of much success in my life. When people trust each other, they can achieve great things together.”
In his military career, Curt served as a recon scout, and this skill prepared him for addressing market opportunities in business. “In order to be strategic, you must execute a business plan with precision and accuracy, you need to do your homework,” Curt stressed. “And once you do your homework, you’d better be able to communicate what you’ve learned to the people who move your operation forward based on your guidance.”
Curt learned at a very young age, serving in elite military units, that “it’s never about you by yourself. It’s about people and their ability to work together to meet challenges and solve problems.” He explained that the teamwork concept goes beyond colleagues and strategic partners, to the point where he views customers as teammates: “I look at my customers as being on the team—not just someone to sell something to. It’s not about me—it’s about defining a common goal together and then figuring out how we as a group will work together to achieve that common goal. Teamwork is everyone doing his job to serve the ultimate purpose.”
Keep Your Priorities Simple
Another strong military takeaway that has served Curt quite well is being able to distill many challenges into a few simple priorities, three to be exact. “I’ve found that it’s best to keep to the Rule of Three—set three major priorities for your team each week, each quarter, and each year,” he explained. “If you give people more than three major priorities, we’re going to find a way to screw up number four and thereafter. We saw this over and over again in the military, and when your level of precision and accuracy means life or death, you keep your priorities simple and easy to understand.”
Work with Others Who Have Similar Values
“I think it’s very important that we surround ourselves with people who have the same commitments we do,” Curt said. “If we are committed to being precise and accurate, we need advisors and partners who will do the same. If we have integrity and prize teamwork over individual production, we need advisors and partners who have a collaborative spirit. I see these same values in our attorney, our accountant, and the people in my companies I work with closely on a day-to-day basis.”
As usual, this recent conversation ended with Curt relating something that rings so true as we all work to develop interpersonal relationships in our business endeavors. When I brought up the subject of strategic partnerships and asked how he’d been able to have so many successful joint ventures in his career, he came back to me with a very simple piece of advice: “Just ask someone for help. If you ask people for help, many of them actually will. Some do it out of gratification of ego—they get a boost of confidence from being able to help someone, to be of value to another person. Others do it simply out of kindness, a genuine sense of just wanting to help someone who wants or needs their help.”