Mobile flooring company celebrates 20th anniversary
Robert People was working for a real estate company in Houston, after working for his father's jewelry company in Austin, and he was headed home when he turned on the radio.
Robert listened to an advertisement for a mobile flooring franchise when he got the urge to call and inquire.
"I picked up the phone and called, which I would never do, but I was at a weird place in life," Robert said.
Robert's wife, Julie, was equally surprised at his spontaneity.
"I thought he was nuts," she said.
The gamble paid off for Robert, who had no contractor background and had never purchased flooring before.
Robert ran the franchise for more than 18 years before starting his own business. The model was the same and there was no franchise in the Austin area, so he ventured out on his own.
"It's the perfect way to do business," said Julie, who joined her husband from Dun & Bradstreet and nearly doubled their sales. "People want to see the sample in their own home. They don't want to drive all over town checking samples. They want good advice.
"It's odd because this industry doesn't have the best reputation. If you haven't had a home improvement hiccup, then you know someone who has, and I think that makes people appreciate the way we do business. We aren't afraid to talk to them about the pluses and minuses. We are really big on communication because we don't like surprises," she said.
People's Signature Flooring varies from other flooring businesses in a number of ways, including not having a brick-and-mortar showroom, but that isn't the only thing that sets the company apart. The flooring company, which values relationships, does not hire from the normal talent pool.
"I know we are contractors, even though that isn't my background and I just don't think that way, so when we hire people we don't hire from the industry because they bring in bad habits," People said. "We would just rather they do it the way we know how to do it."
People's has a set group of contractors they work with and generally do not venture outside of those crews. If a bid would conflict with one of their crews, they would just as soon pass on the bid than hire a group they have yet to work with, Julie said.
The approach has worked for People's Signature Flooring, which saw a 15 percent increase in sales compared with last year.
Although Robert has proved a mobile flooring business is a viable option, he still can't believe he has been been in the industry for two decades.
"It doesn't seem like 20 years," Robert said. "Especially in the carpet business. I am just grateful that our customers take care of us and we take care of them."
Life without a brick-and-mortar location
"People keep asking us when we going to grow up and get a showroom," Julie People said. "It is just something that, for us, the added overhead doesn't make sense."
Without a physical location, People's Signature Flooring does not receive drive-by, drop-in traffic and must rely on word-of-mouth and online review sites such as Yelp and Angie's List in order to secure business, Robert People said.
"When you have a showroom, you have the same problems as everyone else," Robert said. "When you have a business, it can be beneficial to make yourself as different from the competition as you can. We are polar opposites of those big-box stores."
People's Signature Flooring does, however, own a warehouse to store all of its flooring products.
Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. By appointment only