Before Silicone Valley earned its moniker for hosting and developing the country’s technology sector, Don Gupton was as attentive to details in his flooring installations as those young tech start-ups were in building their companies. When he took his business to the next level and opened Precision Flooring in San Jose, Calif., Gupton moved beyond installations to become a full service flooring shop.
Thirty years later, the company has grown with the tech sector to become a pillar in its community with annual sales well into seven figures and growth of over 20% just in the last year. Business has been so good following the recession, Precision Flooring has been able to add 10 staff members in the same time and it recently opened its first satellite location two hours away in Sacramento.
While Don is still the “Big Boss” at the company he founded, today his son, Donnie, helps run the day-to-day operations as “Boss.”
“Technically he’s president and I’m vice president,” says the company’s second generation who graduated with a communications degree from the University of Nevada, Reno. “The titles originally came as place holders from our web team and they kind of stuck.”
And although the younger Gupton is not an installer by trade, he shares his father’s dedication to detail on every project.
“We’re not a speed demon group,” he explains. “Dad’s vision for the company has a lot to do with installations. We have in-house crews and take a craftsman’s approach to jobs.”
In fact, contrary to many of its competitors, the majority of Precision’s installation crews are in-house, complete with benefits and a 401(k) plan.
“For many installers,” Gupton says, “the way to make money is as an independent contractor and be paid piece work. Ours are hourly and finding the best compensation plan to encourage quality work as well as incentivize them to be productive has been a positive challenge.”
He also ensures growth opportunities for his installation teams with ongoing training and in-house apprenticeship programs.
Gupton believes the job stability offered is one of the company’s key selling points for both prospective clients and staff. Another is the comprehensive team list on the retailer’s website, including installers, complete with quick descriptors and photos that evoke a happy work environment.
“Our customers like the fact we put all our installers on the site,” he notes. “They can take a look at who is part of our team prior to them showing up at their homes.
“Our competitors don’t have the same kind of personal touch we do,” he adds. “We have a very relaxed atmosphere where one of our core values is to encourage everyone to have fun at work and just be themselves.”
Another area for Gupton to put forward a personal touch is with Network Today, one of the largest business networking groups in the San Francisco Bay area, where he is serving his second year as the organization’s president.
“When the economy took its downturn,” he says, “we went back to basics with face-to-face marketing. [Network Today] has members from business areas including construction, banking, legal, finance and personal needs, but it is focused with only one representative from each category.
“A great deal of our business is based on word of mouth referrals,” Gupton adds. “We actually have a brand and a business people trust where they turn to us on a local level.”
Precision has earned much of that trust with the openness of the company’s website and workers, he feels. A “no hard sales approach, and by ensuring all employees are current in their knowledge of product and training.”
To keep current, Gupton is a regular attendee at The International Surface Event in Las Vegas, and his sales team is encouraged to attend local vendor trade shows from manufacturers including Shaw and Mohawk, as well as those offered by area distributors.
“Education is important for our customers and our team,” he says. “By providing ongoing knowledge and training for our salespeople and installers we take care of customers first and foremost, making it a little more than a floor.”
The company also provides its team with training and reinforcement on customer service skills. “It’s not as natural a thing as many people assume,” Gupton explains.
Key points to the strategy include maintaining contact and following up with customers, as well as doing everything to keep them first and foremost to make their purchase of more than just a floor, but an experience they will enjoy.
As such, Precision Flooring is more than just a family business. With close to 40 employees out of its primary store, vital dedicated roles have been defined in areas such as marketing and production to ensure proper accountability and focus for both those roles and management.
Another activity where the company went back to basics as a result of the recession is with a strong emphasis on database marketing and building relationships with its existing client list. In addition, by utilizing his own experience in communications, the younger Gupton has taken advantage of technology and social media to maintain those relationships.
Through quick videos highlighting the benefits of different flooring products for various needs, he builds a trust level with his prospective clients to drive leads while educating them and making his sales team’s job that much easier.
Positives aside, Gupton is candid about some of the mistakes made during his 10-year tenure at the 30-year-old company. Specifically, “investing a lot of money into advertising in the Yellow Pages was a huge mistake for us.”
One of the greatest challenges for his company going forward is competing with the big box stores, which Gupton believes has hurt the industry by using their giant advertising budgets to emphasize price over education and providing the right product solution for an installation. The net effect is to devalue the flooring industry as a whole in the consumers’ eyes, something Precision works at reversing every day.