– Owner triples revenues of Gates company she acquired in 2015
– By KEVIN OKLOBZIJ
Abby Reinhard admits it’s at first a little difficult to draw a parallel between her educational background and the business she chose to own and operate. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan in organizational studies and a master’s of education degree from Harvard University in the special studies program. That’s hardly the prescribed pathway into an ancillary sector of the construction industry as the supplier of commercial flooring products. Yet here she is, halfway through her fifth year as the owner and president of GP Flooring Solutions in Gates. Since buying the firm from the founder, George Hage, in January 2015, Reinhard has changed the name from GP Land and Carpet Corp., more than quadrupled the number of employees (from nine to 39), more than tripled revenues and relocated from Brockport into a spiffy, new amenities-laden space on Marway Circle in Gates. Oh, and she was also named Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Council of Rochester last fall. Not everyone is necessarily impressed, however. She was attending a social event last summer when she ran into the stepmother of a childhood friend. They chit-chatted briefly and then Reinhard was asked what she was doing in life. Quite gleefully she said she owned a flooring company. The response: “Oh … well, you do what you have to do.” Well, no, actually, she does what she chooses to do — and she does it very well, according to those who work for her and with her. “At my first meeting with Abby, I will be honest, I was a little apprehensive,” said Thom Curatalo, account executive for international flooring firm Tarkett. “The flooring business in Upstate New York has some deep roots. “But she does things at a different level. She’s so sincere and you can just see the ambition in her eyes.” That passionate desire to immerse herself in everything that was her new venture was evident from Day 1 as the new owner. “I was amazed with how much she learned in such a short time,” said Linda Nauerth, the administrative manager who started with the company in 1991. “She really just took the bull by the horns. “I was so intimidated by her at first. She’s so smart and I figured she’d just think I’m this little country bumpkin from Brockport. But once you know her, you want to be around her because she’ll make you better. She’s invigorating. She has new sights and a new vision.” The 40-year-old Reinhard has made this venture work because, she believes, the fundamentals of operating a successful business don’t necessarily need to change based on the industry. It’s a lot of people skills and life skills, and those were areas of expertise she knew she’d draw from when she left Harvard. “I had the initial plan of getting into leadership development,” said Reinhard, who grew up in Pittsford and is a 1996 graduate of Sutherland High School. “And then I decided to get married and have a family and move back to Rochester.” ‘Let’s buy a business’ Upon her return, she did her own consulting work in marketing communications and fundraising while her husband, Josh Reinhard, was working as a general contractor. But then she was bit by the business ownership bug. “I was ready for something new,” she said, “and a friend had bought a business (in manufacturing), and that was enlightening to me. ‘Wow, just buy a business.’ “So my husband and I started talking about this idea. We probably dug into about 13 or 14 different businesses and about half were in construction, which does align with my husband’s background.” One was in furniture, another had something to do with mirrors. “I literally don’t remember them all because, to me, they were not memorable opportunities,” she said. That was also her reaction when she learned GP Land and Carpet was available. “When I found out about the flooring opportunity I said, ‘Flooring … really? That’s not sexy, that’s not exciting,” Reinhard said. “But we dug into it and we knew something of the owner, and learned to really appreciate this industry. ” Part of their appreciation was its place in the world. A hospital, courtroom or office building isn’t going to have dirt floors, right? “Flooring is something every organization needs,” Reinhard said. “It needs to be replaced, it needs to be
maintained and it’s fashion for the floor. There are so many beautiful, fashionable flooring options. I can actually talk about flooring tile and get excited about it. If I can do that, I’m in the right job. ”There’s a saying within the industry that makes the work seem rather simplistic: “It’s just flooring; fuzzy side up,” Reinhard said with a smile. She learned that it’s by no means easy, however. That’s why she did as much as possible to become well-versed in the profession. “She understands that in our industry you have to have strategic relationships with strategic manufac-turers,” Curatalo said. “She figures if she works with the major players in the flooring industry, then they’re going to want to work with her. She’s really good at embracing the manufacturer and utilizing what we do best. ”That just goes back to her education. “I studied leadership and management in under-grad and grad school, and my professional back-ground is in marketing, communications, sales and fundraising,” she said. “I’m a non-engineer so I wasn’t going to buy an engineering firm. But I felt fairly confident that I could learn any number of different industries. ”Indeed, her experience was essentially a chapter in a textbook.“In grad school, a lot was case method. Organization X, this is their situation — what would you do?” she said. “At a certain point I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m living a case.’ But instead of writing a paper about what I would do, I’m doing it (in real life) and I’m able to see the outcomes.” A people person Who she is also helps guide her as the CEO.“I’m very focused on ‘How is everyone feeling?’ and coaching and inviting their ideas and input,” said Reinhard, who is the sole owner. “I’m big on celebrating and socializing and demonstrating that we care about each other, about our team, about our families. ”That’s why, each week, there’s an employee huddle. Around 20 team members take part in the office with perhaps another five connected by phone. “We do personal good news and professional good news, round-robin,” she said. “Someone might say my son won his hockey tournament and he scored a goal and it was really awesome and I’m psyched that I finished the reports. ”Reinhard believes the workplace must be much more than just a place to work. But she’s also adamant about standards. On the wall in the lobby are the GP Flooring Solutions core values: 1. Always do the right thing; 2. Exceed everyone’s expectations; 3. Care passionately; 4. Be quick yet thorough; 5. Have fun and enjoy life. “They’re talking the talk and walking the walk with their core values,” Curatalo said.The end goal is to set themselves apart from others in the industry. “There’s competition on everything, so we really focus on how we can differentiate through a level of professionalism,” she said. “And defining and living our core values, from early on, has been critical. It’s helped us to identify the right people for our team, build a thriving culture and make good decisions. ”Hire right, treat customers right Those decisions included making Nauerth the ad-ministrative manager, hiring Scott Baker as director of operations, adding Tim Glassbrook as director of sales, and having her husband handle project management. The basic business is selling, installing and main-taining any type of flooring for commercial customers throughout the state. The firm deals with direct-end users, not Joe or Josephine Public who need new kitchen flooring. There is no residential component to the business.
Abby Reinhard Position: Owner and president of GP Flooring Solutions Age: 40 Education: Bachelor’s degree in organizational studies, University of Michigan, 2000; master’s degree in education, special studies program, Harvard University, 2010 Home: Pittsford. Family: Husband, Josh; daughters Caroline, 7, and Amelie, 3; son Leo, 6. Activities: Serves on the boards of Entrepreneurs Organization, Fuse Commercial Flooring Alliance and Blackfriars Theatre. Through EO, she is the ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day for Rochester. “The idea is to empower women through entrepreneurship and to tackle poverty. … I’m excited to engage with the Rochester community around empowering women as entrepreneurs because I’m very troubled by the poverty in our city. I want to do something about it, so I’m looking forward to engaging with community partners.” Quote: “In construction, we’re in the business of managing chaos and complexity on an unrealistic timeline. … The way that you problem-solve and manage through that and communicate about it, that’s how you demonstrate value.”
The largest concentration of work is in the Roches-ter and Finger Lakes region, but there are plenty of clients in Buffalo and Syracuse, and GP Flooring Solutions also operates a division in New York City. They’re doing flooring for educational institutions, government buildings such as the courts and health care facilities. About 35 percent of GP’s business comes through partnerships with general contractors such as Le-Chase Construction Service LLC, The Pike Company and Manning Squires Hennig Co. Inc. Josh oversees that division. There’s also a maintenance division, which is out-performing expectations, Reinhard said. GP services any and all floors to restore the luster and/or look as well as extend the lifespan. It started as an add-on. It’s become a revenue-producer. The firm is a certified women-owned business, “which helps you in the door,” she said. “But if you don’t perform, you’re no longer in the door.” Performance often is determined by the ability to adapt. Any number of issues or events can impact a construction project. “In construction, we’re in the business of managing chaos and complexity on an unrealistic timeline,” Reinhard said. “There are inevitably challenges every day. So to have a culture where we focus on the good and share appreciation, that’s what gets you through those challenges and helps you to provide value to your customers. “In the end it’s how you manage those complexi-ties, those unforeseen circumstances. The way that you problem-solve and manage through that and communicate about it, that’s how you demonstrate value.” Maintaining the company standards, not placing an emphasis on growth, is most important to Rein-hard. Increasing revenue — and adding the staff to go along with that growth — is important, but not if it means sacrificing integrity and the core values. “I need to think through how big we want to get because of that people focus we have,” she said. “I do believe that culture is something that can scale if you do it right. Look at Southwest (Airlines). Look at Zappos. You just have to make it a priority. “And I’m saying all this with full awareness that we still have a long ways to go. Continual improvement is still a huge part of our DNA, so I am always aware of areas that need improvement. We want to feel like we’re on top of our game, and if that means not growing at the same pace and doing more fine-tuning for some period of time, that’s OK She has already exceeded initial expectations. But in doing so, she simply raised the bar. “When I bought the business, it was like a jumping on a moving train,” Reinhard said. “We had a lot of work to execute on while I also needed to climb a learning curve and implement some foundational pieces to the business in terms of policies and technology and people. “We’ve grown while making key improvements along the way, and we’re certainly not done yet. We’ll never be done.” firstname.lastname@example.org/(585) 653-4020
Reprinted with permission of RBJ. Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved