How a Different Career Prepared Me for Wood Flooring Customers

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My partner, Dylan Siddle (at left) and I first met when I hired him to work on my mother’s house.
My partner, Dylan Siddle (at left) and I first met when I hired him to work on my mother’s house.

I’m not a woodworker, but I work with wood a lot. I partnered in a wood floor business in June of 2021. Prior to that, I’d spent almost 30 years in human services. I ran therapeutic residential programs for juvenile offenders and court-placed teenagers. In that career, I developed skills that have been valuable to our wood floor business. Before, my clients were young adults who took a very hard read on trusting anybody. The key to providing a helpful experience to them rested in the development of connection, trust and rapport (not unlike my wood flooring clients today).

I loved my career, but in 2019, my father passed, and 18 months later my mother wanted to relocate to where I lived (in another state). She sold her home and purchased one near mine that required significant renovations. I decided to leave my career to oversee those renovations, and I ended up working for the contractor who completed them. It was rewarding: I learned a lot, and I had a hand in renovating my mother’s new home. 

My mother wanted the floors in her new home to be like the gorgeous hardwood she’d had in her previous home, so I contacted local wood floor companies but was unable to get any sense of empathy, interest in my dilemma or advocacy for me as their potential customer.

My primary concern was my mother. I felt that making her new home feel like her old home was vital to diminishing the emotional upheaval I assumed would accompany leaving the house where she’d raised a family and lived for over 35 years.

I held out and eventually met my now-business partner. He’d been a part of two successful companies, one of which he’d co-founded, and I’d seen his finished work, which was exceptional. He was also clearly a man who sincerely cared that his customers were thrilled with his work. He agreed to help me refinish the floors at my mother’s home. As we worked together, we found we enjoyed doing so, and I saw he was passionate and relentlessly dedicated to seeing things through to an exceptional outcome. In short, I saw a man whose values aligned with mine.

We quickly began discussing the potential of partnering in a wood floor business. I learned he started in his grandfather’s wood floor business as a child. He ultimately spent time as an employee of his grandfather’s before, as a young adult, starting his own company with a friend. He’d left his former company after a few years—coincidentally about a month before my mother’s move—after coming to feel he and his former partner didn’t share the same enthusiasm and appreciation for the work they were doing.

Before moving forward, my partner and I discussed our belief that the best performing companies have several things in common:

  • They act ethically and with integrity at all times.
  • They have a culture defined by a growth mindset and strength-based interactions.
  • They’re driven by a purpose greater than themselves—not money.
  • They sincerely respect and care for the end users of their product or service.
  • They maintain a culture internally that’s characterized by respect, dignity, and consideration for others.

We felt strongly that these issues weren’t just congruent with business maturity but were also integral to simply being an ethical person. And we both felt this was the most important dynamic to anything we did together. Neither of us was willing to sacrifice one iota of integrity to make a buck.

We also realized that in addition to complementary skillsets, we had different views of contracting. His was from the inside, so to speak, as a contractor. Mine was from the outside, as a customer and a homeowner. As we continued to work our way through the formation of our company, we talked openly about how I had viewed contracting work and what I looked for any time I’d hired someone to work on my home. They were the very things I’d seen right away when I met my partner: competence, dedication to his craft, and a willingness to listen to what was important to me as his customer.

RELATED: Lessons From A Lifetime Of Working With My Father

The reality is that most customers know very little about contracting work or about contractors themselves. They make a leap of faith in hiring a “pro” they believe can fix what’s broken, execute a stunning renovation, or perhaps transform their home with an exquisite floor restoration.

We took advantage of the perspective we had on both sides of the equation and worked to make the leap of faith easier for our prospective customers. We worked hard to build trust and rapport through honest advocacy for our clients, education that empowered them to make informed decisions, and a desire to help however we could. And we watched for opportunities to be proactive. We knew that many customers wouldn’t know what our work entails, and as a result might not know what questions to ask.

Additionally, we knew that professionalism was in the doing, and doing is where rubber meets pavement. Enron was run by professional people. Theranos was run by professional people. Bernie Madoff had a professional investment firm. But were any of them professional? We knew we wanted to be, and that meant being open, transparent, honest, and authentic.

As a new company, we were fortunate to gain traction quickly. We started with jobs for people who knew us and grew from there. We utilized social media to illustrate our quality and to share our vision and values as a company. And we did so with confidence. We knew what we could do, and we were relentless in delivering on our promises and advertising. We viewed every contact with a customer and every job as an opportunity to illustrate our values. That’s been deeply fulfilling.

As a result, we’ve been blessed with wonderful customers and opportunities to work with other amazing professionals in our local market and beyond. We’ve had the chance to craft gorgeous floors for stunning renovation projects. We’ve connected with industry partners. We’ve had the opportunity to learn from people we sincerely admire and respect. And we’ve had the chance to help people and leave them better off than when they first called us. We talked often about wanting to help customers build equity by virtue of the work we complete for them. We made it clear that we didn’t want to just make a living; we wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of others. And the most powerful vehicle for us to do that was through wood floors, and so we passionately did so.

We continued to see a positive response to our approach, and eventually wrote a sales philosophy for our company, and are now sharing it here. We believe our dedication to that philosophy has been beneficial to us. It’s certainly been deeply fulfilling, and we hope it can be beneficial to you, also. 

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