My parents have owned a small flooring company since 1986 in a small town of 1,500 people.
My dad was the sales guy and my mom did the office work. They were going strong, making a nice living for themselves in the town I grew up in.
Then my dad got diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and everything changed. Coming off a recession, they had been hit pretty hard. Then, just as they were starting to pick up again, his cancer diagnosis turned debilitating. The first year of his diagnosis was extremely difficult. The business suffered. They got in severe financial debt due to growing hospital bills, and my dad’s inability to work.
In just two short years after his diagnosis, my dad died. My mom had to face everything head first and found herself in $250,000 worth of debt, mainly hospital bills, and taking loans out against the business to be able to pay her employees and make up for the major loss of income. She was someone that had an 800 credit score my whole life. This was devastating.
She had a meeting with her lawyer to discuss options, and he told her to file for bankruptcy and move on with her life. Start fresh. A clean slate.
She already lost so much…and now her business? My mom sat with this decision and ultimately decided she would not file for bankruptcy. She would try her best to keep the business going.
The first few months after my dad died, business wasn’t great. Mom soon realized that people thought she had closed after my dad died. So many people figured since there was no more Chuck Smith, there probably wouldn’t be a Chuck Smith Flooring anymore. People started shopping elsewhere. Some were even afraid to shop with her, because they didn’t know how to address the absence of my dad.
My mom, struggling with the grief of losing my dad and the having looming debt surrounding her, decided she needed to do something. She was determined to get back on her feet and make this business work, but she didn’t have the budget to take out big fancy ads or offer incentives like the big box stores. She wasn’t on Facebook or any social media and had no desire to start. She knew one thing though – she needed to start taking action.
First, she bought a big banner for the front of the store that said, “Yes, we are OPEN! 28 years and still going!”
She decided to make a simple website that showcased her hours, some photos, and even have a nice tribute to my dad and his legacy. With another reminder – yes, we are still open! Come see us!
Then, she started calling old customers. “Hey, it’s Deb! Just wanted to let you know that we are still open. Please spread the word. I know Chuck isn’t here, but I still am, and we are still going strong.”
And, lastly, she decided to do “appointment only” weeknight shopping hours. A more personal shopping experience for people that worked during the day.
One by one. Customer by customer. People started coming in. Contractors were ditching box stores and shopping with her again. They appreciated the care and customer service they have received and wanted to do business with my mom.
Within two years after my dad died, my mom paid down her debt. And, by year 3, it was completely paid off.
Last year she called me and said, “Lindsey, you’ll never believe this. I just hit $1 million dollars in sales this year.”
But I did believe it. I saw a woman full of grief and pain, a woman who decided not to let it take her down. She didn’t compare herself to what everyone else was doing or try business strategies that didn’t feel authentic to her. Instead, she used the solid reputation and took action on the things she did know how to do.
And now, my mom has surpassed my dad’s best sales numbers.
His legacy continues, and so does hers.