When people ask me how I got into the hardwood flooring business, I’ve joked that I was genetically engineered. There’s more than a bit of truth to that. My dad, W.B. Purser, went into the hardwood flooring business in 1947, not long after he left the army. He started his business in Mint Hill, NC by leaving flyers on the doors of homes. In short order, his business took off. So did his family. By the early 50’s, mom and dad had a typical baby boomer family with four stair step children – three sons in a row and then a daughter.
Growing up, my brothers and I were exposed to the wood flooring business a good bit. We had no idea how valuable that exposure was till later. We all three ended up starting our own, separate wood flooring companies. Howard and David were in Charlotte where we grew up. I migrated to Atlanta after college. All of us have maintained small businesses. Most of the time we were the only employees. Between the four of us, we have racked up 165 years of hands on experience. The meter is still running on two of us.
Dad had one of the most remarkable reputations of any tradesman I have ever known. Deeply religious and a work ethic that few could ever match, he had the respect of everyone who knew him. His clientele in Charlotte, NC covered a wide spectrum. He often had a waiting list that spanned months. They didn’t care. They wanted W.B. A doctor stopped my examination when he heard who my father was. “Young man, as far as my wife and I are concerned, your father hung the moon.” Five minutes later, the examination resumed. It was more than loyalty; it was devotion.
the Mentor: What I Learned
It wasn’t just working with your hands that he taught us. Riding shotgun in his 1965 Chevy Sportvan was a better classroom seat than most MBA programs offer. He told me who the “boss” was on any jobsite. Designers, architects, contractors, decorators, etc., they come; they go. The boss lives there, they don’t leave. The boss pays the taxes on the property. The boss is who you make happy. A happy boss will get you work. That advice has served me well for forty years. It is the foundation for word of mouth referrals – the Oscar of endorsements.
Dad passed away in 2002. None of his sons have ever tried to fill his shoes. There was no need to try. He taught us how to walk, how to buy our own shoes and how to lace them up and go to work. When it came to hardwood floors, he taught us how to make the boss happy. What more could you ask of a mentor?