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retailer2retailer: Thank you mom and dad

by Scott Perron

Volume 26/Number 21; March 4/11, 2013

It was just two decades ago when I entered the business of business for real. That was the month I took over the family operation originally known as The Shag Barn in Plainville, Conn., which became Perron’s Flooring Center.

I had all kinds of bright ideas as a 27-year-old aspiring to make something of himself. My parents, Don and Gladys, had built a business with no formal training, experience or rich uncle to back them—just guts and determination. They did not inherit a thing, attend a formal college or business school, or even work in a flooring store up to that point.

It was 1971 and both were in their late 30s when they decided to boldly enter an industry they knew nothing about except as consumers. When I think back to that five-car garage they converted to an 800-square-foot showroom with one receiving bay, it’s as if I am back watching them help customers while offering coffee or banana bread and sometimes holding a card game with the local distributor reps who would stop by.

We also had a basketball hoop on the end of the building and a badminton court painted in the parking lot.

When not in school my childhood consisted of being around my parents. They were consummate sales professionals who genuinely loved people. My mom was uniquely organized and meticulous with detail, while dad favored the one drawer filing system, literally.

It was not until the late ’70s when dad rented a 1,000-square-foot warehouse from Don the plumber who had retired. Just five years later, we bought our first forklift—a 1963 Tow Motor that I did not sell until 2008.

Until 1989 we sold only carpet and vinyl. My folks decided to build their second commercial building in as many years with apartments above and a cornerstone bearing our name. Gladys sold for Stanley Home Products and used the proceeds to invest in multi-family houses while Don tended to the store, followed a customer home to measure a job or displayed the famous “Back in 30 Minutes” sign when grabbing lunch.

Although most would argue they spent too much time working while raising my sister and me, the opposite was true. We were always together in the store as it was right behind the house in which we lived. During the evening we would watch mom triple check and pack orders of household products into cardboard boxes for the hostesses of her demonstrations, prior to their arrival each week on Saturday to pick up the orders they had placed; it was truly like an assembly line.

My first jobs were warehouse duty, installer’s helper or step and fetch when I got my driver’s license. I got all the best jobs too as I am pretty sure 95% of the rip ups they assigned me were based on how many animals “lived” in that room.

It was during these years, living with two sales pros, that molded me into realizing that I loved selling even as a teenager. Many have said the second generation often feels entitled but that is one attribute my two greatest mentors would never allow.

Instead they taught us to be independent, gracious and to serve people. From these humble teachings and schooling, I then received countless hours of guidance and advice from the best people in the industry and business coaches alike, which has allowed me to spend the last 20 years of my life doing what I love with passion.

From warehouse to sales, to managing and owning, from writing and speaking, to franchising and developing, I have been blessed to be the product of my greatest teachers. Thank you mom and dad.