What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

(Editor’s note: Following is the 13th installment in a series promoting Women of the Flooring Business, an industry group that provides members with a networking platform, mentorship, coaching and more. To join, visit https://bit.ly/WomenoftheFlooringBusiness. )

IIndependent Carpet One has been in business since 1968, when my father, mother, uncle John and another family joined forces to provide beautiful floors for families and businesses.

It wasn’t until 1977 when we moved to Michigan, and as a high school student, that I began to learn what it meant to put in 10-12 hours or more a day into creating a retail flooring business. All along, I knew this is what my legacy would be. This is where I belonged and I was taught by my mentors.

Handling hardship

When we were forced to close in March of 2020, I had to lay off my entire staff. I had never felt more blessed then when they all returned to the payroll when we reopened our doors in late May. That is a great testament to our business. And I am ever so grateful to each and everyone of them.

My two office managers and I came to work every day for nine weeks, learning the CDC processes that needed to go into effect—all the PPE requirements, PPP loan applications and forgiveness forms. I had a crash course in “pandemic training,” along with the entire floor covering world. What kept me sane were the Zoom calls with the Carpet One advisory council and our Woman’s SWEAR Group—comprising 10 or more Carpet One women. I had to put on my big-girl pants and trudge forward. It was during this time that I truly feel I stepped into my mother’s shoes and began to fully submerge myself into running this business.

I am proud of where we are today, and it’s all due to teamwork, staying positive through adversity, leaning on others for support and knowledge, continuing to be proud of the business that I grew up in and promising my parents—even my father, who passed away in 2007—that I can handle this. You know the old adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” That’s my attitude now. And, boy, am I strong.

I’m not going to lie—working in a family business for so long has some struggles. My two brothers and I have different sets of goals, opinions, work ethics and ideals. Just being male and female and the age difference adds to some frustrating situations. Any family members in a business like this can relate. We don’t all have the same thoughts on how the business should be run. I base my direction on how my mother handled the store and follow her set of rules and guidelines. I have a softer side and a more involved relationship with my staff than she did. But don’t get me wrong, I call her every day and bounce ideas off of her. But, in the end, she allows me the space to make my own decisions—fail or not. After all, that’s how you grow and learn and improve. Once you stop learning, move on to something else, because you won’t be good to anyone—including yourself.

Cathy Buchanan is the second-generation owner of Independence Carpet One Floor & Home in Westland, Mich. She holds a seat on the Carpet One advisory council and is also a proud mother of two.

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