Troy Hodges (’90)

Category: Accomplished Alumni | Awards

When asked if they had interest in working overseas, more than half of the Business Fellows students in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business BUAD 207 course raised their hands. Fortunately for these aspiring business professionals, international businessman and Vol for Life Troy Hodges (’90) was there for a special November session to share about his 30-plus years in the flooring industry and sales in Asia. Following the lecture, Hodges was presented with the university’s Accomplished Alumni Award by Steve Catlett, associate vice chancellor for advancement.

The honors course on ethical leadership and effective communication is co-taught by Jeannine Berge, director of undergraduate professional development and career management, and Jen Rittenhouse, director of honors programs and assistant professor of practice in the department of management and entrepreneurship, who were in attendance.
Steve Catlett presents Troy Hodges with the Accomplished Alumni Award
“For our students, there is nothing like hearing from current business professionals,” said Rittenhouse. “I was grateful to have Troy speak to our class about his extensive overseas experience.

“Troy has spent half his life living and working in Asia, where he’s had immense success in business development and sales for flooring and textile industry giants like Milliken, Shaw, and Mohawk. In 2013 J+J Flooring named him director of international sales for Asia, and he has been successfully leading and managing sales teams across the region for many years now with Milliken & Company even expanding his company’s market reach. It was such a pleasure to see Troy honored by UT with an Accomplished Alumni Award for his significant professional achievements.”

With Milliken & Company, Hodges most recently served as regional manager over Southeast Asia. He shared with the class about the importance of guanxi—personal connections or relationships—in his business dealings in China and surrounding Asian countries.
“It’s not that the product you’re selling or the company you’re with aren’t significant,” said Hodges. “But if your customer has better guanxi with someone else and all things are equal, they’ll probably go with the other guy. And of course, there are other things—like customer age, industry, or area—that play into how important a factor guanxi is.

“I found that listening and learning go a long way. Even just extending your business trip to explore the area helps you better understand people’s values.”

Karaoke, for example, was helpful to Hodges for building trust and relationship with many of his Chinese business partners in Shanghai, who used to regularly take him out after hours to large multilevel karaoke establishments, although he says that this pastime is not as popular now.

“It was truly a pleasure to share my expertise with students,” said Hodges. “They asked great questions. I told them that one of the biggest lessons I learned was from one of my bosses. He told me not to be afraid of mistakes, because if you weren’t making mistakes, you weren’t learning. That advice freed me up to learn a lot.”

Hodges also learned a similar lesson during his time at UT.

“You only have so many great memories in life, but my time at UT was so good it was almost idyllic,” said Hodges. “Just before freshman year, I took part in a four-week tryout for the soccer team, and I made it. That was one of my first major accomplishments.

“I tried so many different things while I was a student: I was an RA and part of the student senate and I joined everything I could join, including a fraternity. Being at UT truly empowered me and helped me find myself.”

With that firm sense of identity, Hodges knew his opportunity when it came. He accepted a job with Shaw Industries, graduating on a Friday and starting work the next Monday.

“My UT experience really built the foundation of confidence to try new things and create opportunities for myself,” said Hodges. “That translated into so much, and now I have a beautiful family and an international business career.”
Hodges currently lives with his wife and three kids in the Philippines. On the night UT beat Alabama this football season, Hodges joined in the postgame celebration with fellow Vols, stogie in hand, watching from the opposite side of the globe.

“That win took me back! I was so proud to be at UT, coming from small-town Hixson, Tennessee,” said Hodges. “One of my favorite college memories was when my grandmother showed up on the front porch of my fraternity house the morning of graduation. It was a surprise to me and all my frat brothers! She flew all the way from Texas to watch me walk the commencement stage.

“Now, I am so proud to have received an Accomplished Alumni Award from UT,” added Hodges. “It’s still great to be a Tennessee Vol.”
Hodges with his grandmother following his graduation