Floor Coverings International of Madison
Franchisee trades heavy equipment for Berber and bamboo.
After working around heavy equipment for 27 years, including 21 years in sales, local franchisee Hubie Durst, 50, decided to start a new career in a softer industry. “I was just burned out,” he said, “and wanted to do something different.”
He attended a Milwaukee franchise show, then worked with a franchise coach who introduced him to Floor Coverings International (FCI), a Georgia-based company. Durst liked the company’s representatives and the fact that the franchise didn’t demand high overhead.
After further research, he bought in, spending $45,000 of his own money for the initial franchise fee, which encompasses most of Dane County’s ZIP codes, and another $32,000 for a business start-up package that provided the flooring samples and necessary computer programs. He found and bought a used Chevy Equinox and covered it with a logo wrap – also included in the start-up price – and launched Floor Coverings International of Madison in August 2011.
The business brings a mobile flooring showroom into customers’ homes, from carpeting to tile, wood, and laminates. During a home visit, customers can lay samples on their own floors, view a computer rendering of what their room would look like with different flooring options, and at the end of the visit, receive a proposal. “We don’t get final payment until we do a final walk-through and everyone’s happy,” Durst said.
FCI’s customers are in large part residential, but Durst says he’s also been working with light commercial accounts, builders, general contractors – anyone needing flooring. He subcontracts the flooring installers, and currently works with about four different teams.
Durst has a 700-sq.-ft. showroom on Madison’s west side that operates by appointment only, and a small warehouse. “I really don’t stock anything,” he said. Flooring comes in as ordered, and the installers move it out just as quickly.
He employs one full-time employee, a design associate, and hopes to hire a project coordinator soon. “At that point, if I want to cut out on a Tuesday afternoon, I’ll have things in place,” he said. It’s all part of his plan. “This can provide me a type of lifestyle where I don’t need to be the business. I can run and manage it rather than some franchises, where you’re so involved that it can’t run without you.”
Business has been steady, and leads have picked up since July, after a slow spring. “If we do 15 to 20 calls a month of average size, we can make a little profit.”
With plenty of flooring businesses around, is he concerned about competition? “I view this differently,” he said. “There’s competition, but there’s competition in everything. I’m not after all the business, I just need a little bit. I just have to find my niche, get my name out, and do a good job for my customers. Then they’re your best salespeople.”
He’s glad he made the change. “In my previous job, things weren’t really in my control. I still have stressful days, but my blood pressure has gone down.”
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