Michelle Winters: From Flooring Industry Novice to Industry Leader

-Article by Alice Dean

Michelle Winters, one of the founders of the organization Women of the Flooring Business.

Michelle Winters is a former flooring store owner, consultant, speaker, and a founding member of the organization, Women of the Flooring Business. Kyle Hedin, host of The Floor Academy Podcast asked Winters to explain how she unexpectedly found herself at the helm of a flooring company without any prior industry experience, yet somehow she managed to go from a novice to an inspirational leader.

Through her determination, hopeful outlook, and valuable connections she’s made with other entrepreneurs, Winters’ circle of influence has widened to create a lasting positive impact on many.

This article provides a glimpse into Michelle’s journey. Read on to glean some of her valuable business insights and discover her vision for the future of the flooring, tile, and stone industry.

Michelle Winters: From Flooring Industry Novice to Industry Leader

Winters was working as a real estate assistant, and over the course of four years, she transitioned to becoming a business partner. As a single parent to two toddlers, she faced numerous challenges, including a family court case, health issues, and other struggles. She said she had “every reason to make excuses.” As Winters transformed these challenges into motivations for success, the dynamics of her role changed from being mentored to becoming a mentor.

A very dedicated and talented installer Winters knew dreamed of owning a showroom. Her vision was to empower someone with technical skills, so she encouraged him, saying, “Why not? I’ll help. Let’s do it… How hard can it be?”

Once the showroom was up and running, the installer changed his mind, moved to Hawaii, and left Winters on her own. She said, “I witnessed somebody completely lose their mind, and I didn’t understand why they would drop everything that we had worked so hard to create… I suddenly had to figure out how to run a flooring business, like that day.”

Winters’ immediate reaction was to make a decision to believe that the numerous challenges ahead were not insurmountable. She told herself, “This this is not going to beat me. This is not going to defeat my idea that this is possible… I’m going to figure out how to make this store even more successful.”

There were so many different factors that played into the ongoing success of the store that it would be impossible to cover them all here, but one of the major areas of focus Winters unpacked on the podcast was consumer education. A vast amount of content about flooring is available online, but not all of it is sound. Winters stressed the importance of providing consumers with reliable details about materials and installation without talking down to them.

To accomplish this, she assembled a team of people with diverse areas of expertise, including a highly experienced general manager. Their collaborative approach to consumer education helped ensure clients received trustworthy information.

Bridging the Gap Between the Office and Field Operations

For effective communication within the team, Winters emphasized the importance of each person understanding their role and the roles of others involved in projects, from project managers and salespeople to installers and their crews. Winters explained, “Not only are we going from the office to the field, the field is coming into the office, as well. That way, we’re able to understand a little bit of everyone’s language and communicate more clearly exactly what needs to be done.”

Together, they discussed objectives and expectations and made sure everyone’s priorities aligned with the vision for the project. This collaborative approach lead to successful outcomes that helped promote the continued success of the company.

In bridging the gap between the office and field operations, another area of intense focus for Winters was workflow. She said workflow “was part of the systemization strategy for the business… where if somebody had to step out, we could still execute the plan.”

Winters feels that workflow is one component a lot of independent retailers miss. “Those workflows… protect the project from going awry if someone has a sick date or can’t be there,” she said, “because we’re all humans working together, and we have to allow for human things to happen sometimes.”

Adapt the Framework

As someone who helps others start, upscale, and sell businesses, Winters eventually sold the flooring store. This had not yet happened when Hedin interviewed her.

In a follow-up interview with Alice Dean, Top Floor Writer (author of this article), Winters said, “The store was one of my most challenging endeavors. I could have never known, when I was in it, how much leveling up would be needed.” In typical Winters style, she added, “I emerged with some of the most amazing friendships you can ever have.”

Winters compared her flooring store experience to having her third child, a “hurricane of a human” named Alice. “I thought I had parenting down,” she explained. Like running the store, Winters had to “adapt the framework” she used to become a “better parent overall.”

What Winters Envisions for the Future of the Flooring Industry

A proactive-communication approach to business will help drive positive change in the flooring industry, according to Winters. Winters and Hedin unpacked all sorts of interesting ideas in the podcast, from empowering women through Women of the Flooring Business to the Floor Academy podcast. She noted, “Platforms like podcasts offer invaluable opportunities for professionals to connect and collectively address common challenges.”

One example of a common challenge is the shortage of skilled flooring installers. Winters proposed a possible solution: prioritize creating desirable career outcomes for those who invest in learning and mastering the trade.

By offering competitive wages and creating a culture of excellence, the industry can attract and retain talented installers, Winters said. She also warned against retailers chasing the lowest installation prices, which she said could create false ideas among consumers about what good flooring installation actually costs.

Winters’ vision for the future of the flooring, tile, and stone industry is one where retailers and others meet together and figure out how to provide quality work opportunities that attract talented installers. “Otherwise, why would anyone learn this incredibly complicated skill?” she asked.

Her vision for collaboration extends across various market areas. She said, “We’ll all do better if we take the best from each different geographical area and establish a standard.” And then she asked, “That’s something great to think about, Kyle. How are we going to pull everyone together?”

Perhaps we can accomplish this monumental task by approaching it like Winters approaches challenges: by believing a solution to the problem is possible and then rolling up our sleeves and taking action.

Winters' Fun "Front Burner" Project

When Winters sold the flooring store, she decided to take time off. “I didn’t know how to enjoy living,” she said. “I was so productivity driven I didn’t know what Michelle does for fun.” Winters considers Women of the Flooring Business, a collaborative community, to be part of that fun. Be sure to listen to the full episode to hear more about Women of the Flooring Business.

Picture of Alice Dean, Top Floor Writer

Alice Dean, Top Floor Writer

Alice Dean is a writer, video editor, and marketing content manager. She helps trades contractors, especially those in the stone and tile industry, to be seen, heard, and understood by creating marketing content that attracts, educates, and sells services.

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