Absorbing knowledge raises your value
By Lisa Stout I got married in the flooring business 37 years ago. My husband’s parents were in floors and opened their business in 1976 – it’s still open, owned by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. My husband was an installer during high school and college, and I would be his helper when he got to work. I learned a lot about the installation part of the company in those few years.
While he was in Oxford at the University of Mississippi, he came up with the idea that we would open our own shop – I would sell and he would install. So with the help of his parents, we opened our doors in March 1986. I was terrified.
As a woman in this business, I don’t get a lot of negativity — just a little skepticism when I try to tell men about installation or waterproofing, or something they think I shouldn’t know. Mine [observation] is that women are only expected to know something about decorating and design when in reality we know a lot more. For example, I’ve found that people assume that women don’t know about installation and tend to ignore my information. Since I’ve been in this business for 37 years – and an owner for 35 years – I certainly have a lot of knowledge to back up my advice. My biggest struggle is being intimidated by contractors – whether dealing with them before they’re done or discussing a mistake and possible solution.
My suggestions for any woman looking to enter this industry is to learn as much as possible about products and installation. Read and study all you can and take as many product knowledge classes as you can so that you are the best at what you do. Our motto here at Stout’s is, “It’s worth talking to the experts.”
No ‘woman’ is an island
My mother-in-law was a big help in teaching me what she knew about the business, and I was able to use my abilities and put them to work from there. Alex Hill, one of the original founders of BPI, also helped me a lot in handling the business side of things. There are so many people I could name because I was only 19 years old with a high school education when we opened our company. However, I decided that I would take my business to the next level and be the best in my field that I could be. I participated in everything possible to bring this company to the forefront of our industry.
Anyone can sell anything, but your customer service and your knowledge can and will set you apart from everyone else. You have to be different in this business. Put as much value in yourself and your company as possible.
Lisa Stout co-owns Stout’s Carpet & Flooring, located in Oxford, Miss., with her husband, Mitchell Stout. They opened the business 35 years ago when she was 19, and they have been growing the business successfully ever since.