The Grand Slam

By Kristin Fitzgerald, Southern Oaks Flooring, Nashville, Tennessee

My husband Jared and I are deep in the throws of youth baseball, attending four games a week. Last year, a hard throw from shortstop broke our 8 year-old’s nose. On the same night our 5 year-old casually peed in his pants while playing centerfield, explaining afterward that he didn’t feel like leaving the game to use the bathroom. I’m a little terrified of what this season will bring.

Yet we sign them up every spring, and not just because we’re avid fans of the game. When we practice baseball with our sons, we spend as much time talking about sportsmanship, hard work, and the value of failure as we do batting or throwing the ball. Acknowledging and learning from mistakes has fueled our growth as parents and as business owners; it’s a lesson we continually practice and want to pass on to our kids.

When we opened Southern Oaks Flooring in 2010, Jared knew he wanted to work with his hands and liked installing floors. And he didn’t know much else. For the first few years, he subcontracted through larger companies and big box stores, installing the same prefinished floors over and over. We never received direct phone calls or inquiries. He enjoyed not being stuck in a cubicle, but work never excited him.

In September 2014, he lost a contract with a local flooring company, which devastated us. We both felt like we had failed. But that failure eventually led us to open our eyes to the possibilities that lay before us.

We went into hyperdrive. We had never gone into debt for our business, so we continued to keep a shoestring budget. I taught myself how to design a website and realized I actually enjoyed it. I bought a $5 logo and started signing us up on social media platforms. We saved enough money for Jared to attend more NWFA training workshops, something that previously had seemed too expensive to pursue. We quickly realized we couldn’t not afford to invest in his education. Soon after we began working together, the calls started coming in. First it was a few times a week. Over the next three months it turned into several calls a day.

Our success gave us the confidence to push forward. Jared became enthralled by the craftsmanship and knowledge passed on to him by his NWFA instructors; he determined to learn more. To hone his skills. To dream big.

Three and half years later, we find ourselves in a surreal place. We recently left the NWFA Expo in Tampa, where his floor was a Finalist in the Wood Floor of the Year contest. On the last day of the convention, we both stood at the display, staring at our picture for a moment. We still couldn’t believe what we had achieved. According to Tommy Lasorda, “about the only problem with success is that it does not teach you how to deal with failure.” We had never had that problem. There, at the Expo, only we knew how much failure we had endured to get to that point, and how much strength we had gained from it.

We had struck out plenty, but never stopped swinging. And that’s the lesson we want our sons to carry with them long after their baseball days have ended.

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