Footprints Floors was founded during one of our generation’s worst economic downturns, the 2008 financial collapse. The driving force behind the company’s formation was straightforward: I had a family to feed, including a newborn baby! The trials and tests I faced during those early and lean years helped me develop five principles for managing a business during challenging times.
Let’s examine these five principles:
TRUST YOUR GAUGES
In aviation, a pilot learns to fly according to his or her gauges without referring to his or her senses in regard to what is happening outside the cockpit. When a pandemic swept through the world in 2020, there was no blueprint for how to move forward, and many companies were cutting back or shutting down entirely. I encouraged my team to remain calm and reject the temptation to ride the waves of fear and trepidation. It’s tempting to react instead of responding and to diverge from your core convictions when the situations become disorienting, but we trusted the things that we knew to be true and to do what we had always done, and that is placing a premium on respecting our customers’ homes, their wishes, and of course their health as a primary concern.
We place a high value on being transparent and providing the best service we can, even during the difficult times we experienced the past three years. We also took as many precautions as possible to protect the health of our employees and our valued partners and subcontractors. Being properly prepared before and during a project helped ensure the safety and well-being of not just our workers, but also the homeowners. Everything told us we should adjust or modify how we operated, but we simply continued conducting our company according to our values, convictions, and experience.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOOD PEOPLE
Surround yourself with good people who share the same goals, values, and vision, and then empower them with the creative freedom to develop and deploy ideas that will be beneficial to the company long-term. Our executive team is composed of seven members who come from different backgrounds, but share the common goal of supporting all employees and franchisees in developing and deploying their talents and abilities. I firmly believe that good leaders surround themselves with a competent team and invite them to provide valuable insight and feedback. I respect my team not only because they are effective and excellent professionals who lead their respective teams well, but because they are not yes-men. They provide ideas, feedback, and even pushback when warranted.
HAVE ONE PERSON WHO IS WILLING TO SPEAK WITHOUT RESERVATION
While the buck ultimately stops with the CEO, there is great wisdom in seeking counsel from other sources before making a tough decision. No one person has infinite wisdom and knowledge, and since we all have blindspots to varying degrees, leaders must surround themselves with trusted advisors who can speak in difficult situations. I find that my closest ally and most trusted confidant is my wife. She is willing to speak the truth about difficult situations, provide honest feedback, and let me know if I begin to deviate off course. Too many leaders have failed because they didn’t have someone willing to be honest, and give unvarnished feedback when warranted.
TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WELL
Growth in business comes when customers are treated well – often and consistently over the long haul. When businesses fail to treat their customers well, they lose their customers, and without customers, businesses die. When running a business, a plethora of things can distract, draw attention, and take time away from the things that really matter. It’s important to always return to the basics and remember why your business exists and who your business is for. Growth will come naturally if a business is actively providing a good solution to a real problem and treating customers well.
KEEP THE FIRST THINGS FIRST
There is always a strong temptation when running a business to sacrifice the most important things on the altar of success. This becomes even more pronounced during turbulent seasons when there is a greater pull on your time and resources. For this reason, it’s even more of an imperative to keep sight of what’s most important. I’m mindful of that, so I strive to keep the first things first. What this looks like in practice is prioritizing my faith, family, and work in that order. I don’t always get it perfect, but I do my best to maintain those priorities. My wife is the executive director of a Christian youth theater, so we enjoy a lot of time together as a family developing, producing, and participating in musical theater. The love of money and the drive for business success has compelled many leaders to sacrifice the most important things. Keep the first things first.
BONUS TIP: CREATE A BUSINESS THAT OUTLASTS YOU
My long-term goal is to continue to expand opportunities to others who are driven to be successful while maintaining work-life balance. In different seasons of our business, we have focused on expansion, while at other times, we’ve intentionally focused on bolstering the support we provide to our current employees and franchisees, so they have all the necessary tools to help make them successful. Another goal is the expansion of our Footprints Floors First Fruits Foundation Fund. We are in the early stages of organizational development, but our ultimate goal is to donate 25 percent of our profits to other like-minded, non-profit organizations, namely ones that provide adoptive care for orphans. We are here on planet Earth for a short period of time. Create a business that outlasts you.
The ideas and principles highlighted in this article have guided and governed Footprints Floors’ operations not only during challenging times, but also during good times. From those uncertain and humble beginnings in a little house with a bouncing baby in 2008, to a business whose reach has expanded across the country, our organization has been served well by following these tips.
Bryan Park is the owner and founder of Footprints Floors, which is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. He founded the flooring installation company after serving in the U.S. Air Force. Today, Footprints Floors has more than 160 locations across the country. He can be reached at email@example.com.