Fred Stone has three different businesses. He spends most of his time at Elegant Hardwood Floors and Mr. Stone also has a flooring distributorship called Classic Surfaces and also, he has several beach vacation homes in Charleston, South Carolina as rental properties. Last year he sold Stone Truck Parts to the NAPA auto parts holding company GPC. During his free time, Mr. Stone enjoys working out and competitive golf. He has played in the Charleston Azealia Amateur Tournament several times. He also likes surfing and has been on surfing trips to several different countries. His Mother and Father are very involved in business and and philanthropic and causes such as the Junior League, Jobs for Life Program, various churches, and they have a scholarship at Wake Forest University.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
Well I started at Elegant Hardwood Floors in 2009 because the business needed someone who had financial and business skills as it was struggling. As an entrepreneur, I was excited to join Elegant Hardwood Floors and learn all about the business, which was new to me. I could see the potential of turning the business around with a needed product and service in a growing industry. I could see the value of the flooring business in the Charleston area which has retirees and affluent people due to the historic reputation of the area.
How do you make money?
I make money by solving a need. For example, in the hardwood flooring industry, solving the need of the customer who wants a beautiful hardwood floor. We solve that need by providing a quality product and service at a fair price with a warranty and guarantee. We succeed on those principles therefore we make a profit and stay in business.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
It took about eighteen months through a combination of separation of the quantity of people who didn’t share the same values of hard work, providing a quality product for customers, and to managing costs. We have been able to grow the business by doing a great job in the community.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
There were some doubts at first because the timing was not ideal as the company had been managed very poorly. There were people who were not committed and didn’t know how to run the business. At the time, we had a low customer base and the economy was bad, so there were some uphill challenges. But, what we did have was a few really good employees who wanted to stick with me and the business. They had confidence in me to provide a living for themselves and their families. Even when we did not have much work, they were paid so they would stay and as a result of that they stayed loyal and as our reputation was built up again and the economy picked up, they remained with me and are now very valuable to our success.
How did you get your first customer?
For our first customer, I went shopping with a few competitors and was able to offer the customer a fair price, which led to one of our first jobs. We provided the service that they wanted, we had great enthusiasm for the job, and we were very thorough in our work. And I asked for the job! That is always important, that you ask for their business.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Our equipment and our vehicles are all very nice and have our logo, as well as our website. Our vehicles also have the work we do printed on them. As they drive around, people see that and call us for a bid on their project. It is very helpful for business to be seen and have our advertising visible around town.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
The toughest decision I have to make [ever] is deciding to fire someone. That is always a tough decision, but sometimes necessary for the business.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think that being very determined, paying close attention to costs, and making good financial decisions. Also, being honest and loyal to those who share the same vision of the company.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When I see the employees grow and taking ownership of their role is quite gratifying. I like to see when they actually do things better than I used to!
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I think that we’re going to be innovative and we have a sister company, Classic Services, which is offering new products and services, such as new types of wood floors that are beautiful and that other people can’t offer. These are affordable and combined with our process to complete the work, the customer will be very happy. We make it easy for the customer to do business with us and we perform our work as scheduled with minimal distractions and minimal mess, such as dust, for example. By doing a great job and adhering to our agreed plan, we continue to add more projects to the company.
What business books have inspired you?
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter, and Emyth by Michael Gerber.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
Employee Health Insurance! This helps the employees improve their health and creates a stable work force. The employees really like the benefit of health insurance, which also helps with increasing our retention rate.
How are your other businesses doing?
Classic Services, our sister company, was started in January of 2016 and is doing very well in the hardwood flooring industry. In June of 2017 I sold Stone Truck Parts to NAPA auto parts and then I purchased three historic Charleston residences used for luxury vacation rentals in Charleston, South Carolina, which are also doing great. I have had a busy 18 months! I am continuing to grow and I am looking forward to the future of my career.