Paul Hartke is making 2020 the year that he follows his dreams.
“I have always worked for someone else my entire adult career,” he said. “But I have always had a desire to own my own business and build a legacy for my children.”
Hartke, who lives in Marion, recently became a franchise owner with Floor Coverings International.
“We offer pretty much anything you would want to put down on your floor,” said Hartke, citing the store’s offerings of carpet, tile, hardwood, luxury vinyl plank/tile, bamboo, cork, stone and area rugs.
Hartke visits customers’ homes in a mobile flooring showroom stocked with some 3,500 flooring samples.
His son serves as office manager while also a full-time student at Kirkwood Community College.
When the decision was made to become his own boss, Hartke looked at four different franchises. He decided on Floor Coverings International because of its franchisee support, he recalled, allowing him to draw on the best practices of 150 other franchises.
In addition, Hartke believed his new business would dovetail with his wife and daughter’s business as real estate agents.
While Hartke did not have direct experience in flooring sales, he said he’s been leaning on his past work experience as he launches this business.
“I felt confident due to my experience in building homes when I lived in Kansas City,” he said.
He also can tap into his experience working as an HVAC sales engineer for 20 years.
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Hartke opened the business in the last year, which of course came with challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Being the new kid on the block and getting your name out is always a challenge,” he said, “I am figuring out the appropriate rate of growth, so I don’t’ grow too fast or too slow ... .
“Because of COVID, obviously, we are all masked up,” he said. “In some ways it has hurt because people many not want you their home. But on one hand COVID helped from the perspective that people still want to do home improvement projects and feel more comfortable having someone come to their home so they do not have to leave and actually go to a store.”
Hartke also is working with customers dealing with derecho damage.
“I have learned quickly that being a small-business owner you wear many hats.”
On any given day, Hartke is going on consultations, ordering flooring, receiving deliveries at the warehouse and hopping on corporate Zoom meetings.”
“Clients are dealing with me from the consultation, to measuring, to the final install,” he added.
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At a glance
• Owner: Paul Hartke
• Business: Floor Coverings International of Cedar Rapids
• Address: 5915 Fourth St SW, Cedar Rapids
• Phone: (319) 531-7771
• Website: cedarrapids.floorcoveringsinternational.com