“He hates it when you call him the boss,” says Phil Lloyd’s younger brother, Bill, who recently left a career in medical supplies to become the operations manager of the Albuquerque company that provides flooring and installation services for new and remodeled facilities both in and outside New Mexico.
“That’s not me,” says Phil Lloyd, who spent nearly a dozen years in the business working for other, often larger, flooring companies, including DuPont. “I guess you could say I’m not ‘boss-gifted.’ A lot of people to this day don’t know that we [he and his wife] are the owners of this company.”
And that’s not only the way Lloyd wants it, he also feels it’s one of the keys to the company’s growth and success. Founded in 2004, Rio Grande Flooring jumped from $1.82 million in revenues in 2005 to just short of $6 million last year. During the same period, the company moved from a rented space and mostly local work to its own two-story building (near the Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque) and to finished jobs from Arizona to Texas to Denver.
Much of that success Lloyd attributes to the lessons he learned from working for many years for others. For example, what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a corporate head’s hot temper or micromanagement. And also what happens when you try to wear too many hats by yourself.
The combined experiences led him to create a company where not only are the employees given responsibility and the freedom to make decisions, but the “boss” is not above acknowledging his own mistakes or getting down on his own hands and knees to inspect a job.
“I’ve worked for four good-sized companies and I’ve seen how installers are treated,” says Lloyd, speaking from the upstairs office where wall charts of the company’s current jobs (about a half dozen, with 60 or 70 more pending) hang and which also serves as a playroom for the Lloyd’s youngest daughter, Arianna, age 4. “I figured if we had our own business and could take care of our installers and our employees, we could go farther. From the little to the big, I’ve taken all I’ve learned and put it into this business.”
That attitude has resulted in a lot of happy contractors and a steady stream of repeat business. While many flooring companies have to scramble for a competitive bid to earn a job, contractors have begun to approach Rio Grande first, asking the company to bid. The Lloyds have had inquiries about their services from places as far afield as Mississippi, Oklahoma and California — though they’re reluctant to expand too far or too fast.
“The places I’ve worked at where there are 200 employees … you lose the personal touch,” Phil Lloyd says.
Their philosophy of positive relationships and mutual respect extends to the company’s five employees — Joaquin and Carlos Lopez, Dana Crawford, Danae Hurst and Bill Lloyd (Phil Lloyd insists they all be mentioned by name). The group is as much family as the Lloyds’ five children (four from previous relationships), who range in age from four to 22. When something bad happens to one of them — like Crawford’s car getting wrecked or Joaquin Lopez’s house being broken into — the Lloyds are there with both financial and emotional support.
“We’re a family and a team,” Phil Lloyd says. “Everyone has a job and they do what they do best.”
“I think one of the reasons the business has thrived is because Phil’s really good at putting the right people in the right place,” says Mary Lloyd. “He gets good people and then lets them do their thing.”
One of those people is Mary Lloyd herself, who handles all the bookkeeping for the company, in addition to running her own bookkeeping and tax preparation business. The couple met when Mary was asked to look over the books from her husband’s previous business venture — and was forced to break the news to him that they were in shambles. When asked if he married his wife for her accounting skills, Phil Lloyd — who attributes a great deal of the business’s success to her acumen — says, “Yes. And much more.”
The value of a good bookkeeper was not the only lesson Phil Lloyd learned through a mistake. When he first started his own company — with he and Mary as the only staffers — he tried to do everything from measuring for materials to job checking after installation without any assistance.
“I was wearing five to seven different hats,” says Lloyd, who admits to being very detail-oriented. “And I couldn’t do that because I’d end up getting upset and kicking a lot of desks.”
Now he’s delegated many decisions and details to others, like Joaquin Lopez, a native of Mexico who came to work for the Lloyds about a year ago.
“I can bid any job, I don’t have to ask Phil,” says Lopez. “He never puts pressure on you. Phil is not my boss. He’s like a part of my family.”
Neither is Phil Lloyd interested in calling his employees on the carpet (so to speak) when something goes awry.
“I’m not looking for blame,” Lloyd says, “I’m looking to fix it. Everyone learns by mistakes. That’s how we all got to where we are today.”
Though both the Lloyds modestly claim their success has not been achieved strategically — “We just kind of do what we do and the business has evolved,” says Mary Lloyd — Phil Lloyd’s brother, Bill, sums up the source of their success.
“The truth is, every other job I’ve ever had I worked for someone and here I work with someone,” he says. “Everyone here is an equal.”