Business ownership runs in David Baker’s family, but it took the pandemic and losing his job in the fine commercial and publishing paper industry for Baker to make the leap. He opened his Floor Coverings International franchise in Kansas City, Missouri, on February 8 after vetting about 50 franchises in the home improvement industry.
Baker’s family history also inspired him. His great-grandfather was a carpenter in Germany and Poland, who taught Baker’s father the trade. They both had their own cabinet-making shops before World War II, when they were forced by Nazi Germany into the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland. Baker’s great-grandfather died there from starvation.
Baker’s grandmother and grandfather were transferred to Auschwitz, where his grandmother worked as a baker and his grandfather worked as a cabinet maker instead of being sent to gas chambers. They escaped to the U.S. after being liberated by Soviet troops in 1945 and landed in northern California, where Baker’s grandfather again opened up a cabinet shop. Knowing no English, their last name became “Baker” because of his grandmother.
Baker’s dad, who was born in Poland, ended up becoming a technical engineer and owning a business in Wichita, Kansas, where his company developed a barcode scanning system for Blockbuster, Baker said. “My plan and his plan were for me to take over his business, but he got cancer at a very early age, in his late 40s, and fought it,” Baker added. “We ended up having to sell the business to cover his medical expenses, then he finally passed away.”
Since then, the rest of Baker’s family have asked him why he hasn’t become a business owner.
“I think it just wasn’t the right time, (because of) other situations—trying to take care of my mother who was dying from cancer right after my father, they died a year apart,” Baker said. “…I was very involved with my father’s business…I learned so much from my dad, and I knew eventually at one point I’d (open a business), I just didn’t know when.”
Floor Coverings International has 142 franchisees and more than 170 units throughout the U.S. and Canada and offers 3,000 flooring choices. Based in Norcross, Georgia, Floor Coverings International is a subsidiary of FirstService Brands, which also owns Paul Davis Restoration and CetraPro Painters. The investment ranges between $150,000 and $310,000, including a $57,900 franchise fee.
“After some serious vetting and looking at different markets and franchises, we landed in the home improvement industry, which seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, even before COVID,” Baker said.
He and his wife, Bev, looked at insulation and painting franchises before narrowing it down. They were attracted to the level of training and support offered by Floor Coverings International, from marketing to their IT infrastructure. Baker attended a two-day discovery day and jumped in, then trained 99 percent via Zoom before going in for a week of training in-person the first week of February.
“It’s a really class organization,” he added. “The approach we take with customers versus our competition is very class, it’s very professional and customer-oriented, it’s a no pressure approach, it sells itself.”
The transition to becoming a first-time franchisee was a bit easier for Baker, he said, most likely because of his entire family being self-employed business owners and his own four years of senior level management experience. Floor Coverings International also matches each owner up with a franchise coach with similar personalities, Baker said, which really helped him learn the business faster.
“I’ve learned a lot even though I have all this experience, from my ops coaches, and quite frankly, they’ve learned some things from me too, there’s this sharing back and forth,” Baker said.
“There can be some hard discussions at times, and if you’ve got two people on the same wavelength, it makes it so much easier. It’s nice to have somebody who has your back,” he added. “…This is a big gamble. I’ve thrown everything I own into it, it’s a no-fail situation for me. But I’m comfortable with the measured risk I’m taking because of the support.”