Profiles in Leadership Series: Artisan Hardwoods
Extending a Legacy to the Next Generation
Get it done, do it right, take pride in what you do.
That mantra is the core of Artisan Hardwood Floors’ success for 50 years. A family owned and run business, the company just recently capped off a semi-centennial anniversary with a nomination for Family Business of the Year from the Austin Business Journal. The epitome of generational venture, 18 family members over four generations have worked for the company over the years and non-related employees have become family too.
In the last few years, managing family members David Bailey, Pat Bailey, and Joshua Gregory, third-generation descendants of founder Roy K. Flint, have been looking to the future. In addition to the work Artisan has done for clients, they have been extremely proud of the careers they’ve helped their employees build. During a discussion about the next 50 years of Artisan, they realized that they wanted to help others create the kind of durable, respected business that their family had created.
Training Future Artisans
As part of this goal, they recognized that bringing up true professionals in the industry – not just technicians – was key. They wanted to train a generation of experts who could carry on the family tradition of craftsmanship and service, who might take over the business some day or go on to create their own businesses that provide great jobs for others. After several years of research and collaboration with industry associations, they developed the Artisan Certified Professional Program. Recognized by the Department of Labor as a formal apprenticeship program, it is a three-year course that allows the graduate to become not just a subject matter expert, but an artisan and well-rounded professional.
More Than Installing Floors
From the beginning, the team was clear they wanted to create more than just a typical certificate program. 6000 on-the-job hours, 420 classroom hours, and 100 hands-on classes are taught by industry leaders and trade associations; students actually build, finish and repair a floor in the training area. The program includes personal enrichment modules like The Art Form of Hardwood, business accounting and finance classes and even elective cooking course. Customer service is taught as a critical skill, with the understanding that by focusing on extraordinary service, the money will follow. It is also reinforced that success is about both the client and the employee. In Joshua’s words, “Go out of your way to give a crap about people.” Building a successful business requires respect that flows from inside to out.
A Commitment on Both Sides
The first year of the inaugural program has been completed by two apprentices, one of whom was promoted from within and one new hire. As a paid, three-year program, this is a big commitment for both Artisan and the apprentice, so there is a six-month trial period before the training starts. Applications are open to anyone, whether experienced in the business or not. More than technical experience, they are looking for people who want to make a life out of this trade, who have a passion for detail, and fit Artisan’s core values.
Inspired by this dedication to bringing artisanship (and Artisanship) to the next generation? We are too!
What changes do you think we will be (or should be) embracing in the long term?
LS: In the future, a drive for inner direction will push us to see a greater expectation; therefore, a higher demand on quality and innovation. As we get settled into new priorities, our human nature will turn us to higher hopes and set higher expectations.
CC: As Austin and Texas move forward, we need to consider our energy sources and how best to be prepared for future energy demands. Almost all of our residential clients are asking for redundancies to be built into their homes, in the event that we have another catastrophic power failure. I think this is something that will continue to be a focus long-term in Texas. As a sustainable design firm, we were already working with clients to incorporate alternate energy sources - solar power, geothermal, etc. However now we are seeing requests for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces throughout the home, gas appliances and space for battery packs and generators.
WM: Because of Austin’s history and current infrastructure, I predict that Austin will be a model smart city. I predict a high level of importance will be placed on everything from smart technologies to indoor and outdoor air quality to noise and night sky regulations to walkability, alternative transit, and alternative workplaces. I predict a high quality of life coupled with (unfortunately) a high cost of living.
NP: I think the future is very promising. Austin is growing fast and is particularly attracting people from areas with strong design cultures. I don’t think that every segment of the market will benefit equally from this but overall, I would expect that it will help propel Austin’s design scene in gaining recognition at a national level.
Photo Credit: Turnstyle Design
Austin is coming to prominence in many ways. What does Austin need to do to become a world-class design destination?
WM: We need an official design district in Austin. (Editor's Note: We concur!) We need to nurture local talent, including artists, artisans, designers, and architects. We also need to make sure that we maintain a global perspective in our local design community.
LS: A greater willingness to push the envelope and think BIG. Any environment looking to benefit from (and compete in) a futuring mindset, will need to be willing to take risks, put their best work ethic and skill set forward to tip the scales to something we haven’t quite seen.
Photo Credit: Ironwood Industries
How can we all embrace the future of design in our homes?
WM: You don’t have to be an early adopter to embrace the future of design. As good citizens, I think we all have a responsibility to at least consider and follow the success (or failure) of new design and building practices. This includes careful decisions about remodeling versus new construction, along with considerations like solar power, rainwater collection, electric vehicles, wood versus steel versus concrete, the list goes on.
NP: Resist trends, stay true to what matters to you and invest in quality and sustainability. If can’t afford it all, do less and do it better.
Be willing to stay open in your thinking as a homeowner and from a tangible and implementable perspective, place emphasis on quality over quantity.
Rather buy less that is better, than more that is not.
Remember, your home serves to accommodate your lifestyle, not someone else’s.
Avoid the pretties for appearances sake. Remind yourself that it is not important what the outward world tells you to do (Instagram etc), instead you’ll find much more fulfillment in seeking to celebrate your own individualism. The right designer helps you do that by guiding you to rediscover your uniqueness.
CC: Be conscientious when selecting items for your home (furniture, finishes, cleaning products, etc.). It's not just about finding products that are good for the environment, but are also good for your health. Also, always check for rebates when making upgrades to your home. The options are always changing, but there are usually rebates to be found from your gas or electric company when you are installing a new energy-efficient system in your home.
Photo Credit: Furrow Studio