I have been in the hardwood flooring industry my entire life. When I was a child I would ride along with my father to many of his hardwood floor projects at his company, Innovative Hardwood Flooring Inc., and as he installed, sanded and finished, my brother and I would sit and watch while eating the lunch he packed for us, or he would tell us to grab a broom or send us to the work truck to grab supplies he needed. As a child and even a teenager, I did not picture myself working at a hardwood flooring company as my career. When I became an adult, for several years I found my own jobs outside the industry—separate from working with my family. Working in other industries showed me that hardwood is my passion, though, and today, at age 29, I am working side by side with my father, Joe Cresswell.

Just because I grew up in the wood flooring industry didn't mean I necessarily felt prepared for starting in the family business, though. I started doing estimates for our company in 2014, and in the beginning of my estimating career, I was shy due to not having all the knowledge I needed. I embraced the idea that if you stop learning, you aren't growing, and learning on the job provided plenty of chances to grow!

In the world of sales, no matter what your industry, it is very easy to overpromise or say what the client would like to hear, and that's something I've definitely learned the hard way on occasion. For example, we had a job where the client called at the last minute asking if we could do the base, too. Wanting to make her happy, I said we could throw that in for her. Well, this was a 1,600-square-foot job—and the walls were curved! I didn't realize how long it would actually take, and it set our final coat back two days.

Of course, now instead of answering a client's question right away with, "Yes, we can do it" in an attempt to make them happy, I revisit the job site, create a change order and also discuss it with my team, analyzing the schedule and the profit on the job, prior to making any final decisions. This was so embarrassing to learn, but luckily I have great coworkers backing me up and helping me learn.

This was so embarrassing to learn, but luckily I have great coworkers backing me up and helping me learn.

I have also learned to always be honest and transparent with clients, even if I have to tell them something they may not want to hear. For example, in recent years in our area we are seeing many homes with crawl space ventilation issues, and, since Mother Nature has so much control over hardwood, we have spent many hours visiting homes with cupping issues. To try to prevent cupping before it starts, before every job we walk the home to make sure the vents are open and not clogged with debris, and we have found some homes where the plastic isn't properly installed. Sometimes they even need to get a crawl space ventilation system. At the point of sale I am very transparent with my client, reminding them that a hardwood floor is a natural product and being sure to educate them about what could happen if their crawl space is not properly maintained. Most of the time our clients do listen to us and mitigate this issue prior to us working; very seldom do our clients not help us with this. To be proactive, we have also added a disclaimer in our contract that states, "Innovative Hardwood Flooring Inc. will not be held liable and is not responsible for the crawl space conditions of the home." This helps us to be able to collect our full payment at the time of completion.

Working in this industry, every job is different. As a team, we have learned to always keep our eyes open, and if we do find something that was unforeseen, we stop what we are doing and contact our client if needed. We make it a point to over-communicate so our clients can know what to expect and can be prepared for any change order or potential outcome.

In my career today, my days consist of appointments with potential clients. I greet each home with a smile on my face and a goal of leaving my clients with their questions answered honestly and the confidence that they are choosing the correct company and team for their hardwood flooring investment. I am thankful for all the lessons I have learned and mistakes I've made so far. They have all made me a better estimator, and almost 30 years after my dad started this business, I'm proud to build on our company's reputation as a company that can be trusted.

Tara Cresswell is estimator at Tacoma, Wash.-based Innovative Hardwood Flooring Inc.