Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Bob Wood speaking) We do all aspects of floor covering. I've been involved with it since 1985, and we opened this operation in 2007. Our main focus is the Medford and Ashland areas, but we do get over into Grants Pass and Klamath Falls now and then.
Business: Completely Floored Flooring Co.
Owners: Ross Rier, Lesslee Rier, Bob Wood, Michelle Harkins
Address: 1125 S. Holly St., Medfor
Facebook: Completely Floored
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I grew up here and went to Phoenix High School. Ross and Michelle went to Medford Senior High and Lesslee went to Ashland High.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? My brother-in-law Don Rippy was an installer and got me involved. I went out on my own as an installer for 20-some years and then got an opportunity to work on the sales side of the business. That taught me how the business operated, and I later managed Dave's Wholesale. Ross got a sales position with California Carpets in the Bay Area, and he worked with the major stores up here. When I was doing installs I would do some of the jobs he sold, and then we worked together doing installations for a bit. Our wives were doing other things, and when we opened this business they came into it with us, and both are a very important part of it.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? Our building isn't big enough. We need more room for inventory than we have. We have 4,200 square feet, and our goal is to be in a building that is 8,000 to 10,000 square feet — in the correct location. We were thinking an order-in business would be good enough when we started, and it has been good. But there is a vast element that we are missing out on and we are going to fix it as quickly as we can. If I could have known the recession was coming, I would have opened up a few years earlier. We opened right at the beginning of 2007, but the silver lining is the recession taught us how to watch every nickel and dime.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? Our square footage is what it is; we obviously can't display every vendor that offers floor covering. We have to watch our displays on the showroom floor to see they are producing. If we're not selling off it, we need to replace it with something people will buy. With our limited space, we have to have displays that produce.
Who are your competitors? Lipperts, Color Tile, No Frills and Dave's Wholesale are our main competition. The box stores are competition for sure, and we do well when we go up against them. It's more competitive now than during the boom; everything went from product quality to price. During the boom, people wanted a product and price wasn't the big issue. During the recession, it's changed to price, where price is everything, and that's made pricing really competitive. We opened our store to combat what we saw as minimal customer service. We try to pour it on as heavy as we can. Customer service had gotten away from our industry because of the boom. Now it will make you or break you. I'd say 60 percent of our sales are directly from referrals of jobs we've already done.
What are your goals? We want to be here in Medford in a facility large enough to sustain all sides of the marketplace — the walk-in traffic, cash and carry — to the people who want to order the most expensive carpet. At some point we would like to open multiple facilities in other towns — we would love to be in Portland and Bend. Grants Pass is kind of crowded right now. That would mean hiring employees. The size of our building is prohibiting us from doing that. A larger building will allow us to hire a warehouse crew and sales staff.
What training or education did you need? I got most of my training, as did Ross, on the job. I learned from Don Rippy and Tim Moser, really experienced installers. I worked with Tim for three years, and he taught me what I needed to know about floors. I was able to transfer that information over to the sales side. Our vendors come in and have seminars about their products, and supply houses have installation seminars so we can stay on the cutting edge.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? If you are going to do it, go for it — don't go halfway. If you're going to take the plunge, don't be half-hearted.
To suggest ideas for this column about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email email@example.com.
Correction: The phone number has been updated in this story.