WOFB: Absorbing knowledge raises your value

HomeColumnWOFB: Absorbing knowledge raises your value

By Lisa Stout I married into the flooring business 37 years ago. My husband’s parents were in flooring and opened their business in 1976—it is still open today, owned by my brother- and sister-in-law. My husband was an installer through high school and college, and I would be his helper when he went on jobs. I learned a lot about the installation part of the business in those few years.

During the time he spent in Oxford at the University of Mississippi, he came up with the idea that we would open our own store—I would sell and he would install. So, with the help of his parents in March of 1986, we opened our doors. I was scared to death.

Being a woman in this business, I don’t get much negativity—just a little skepticism when I try to tell men about installation or waterproofing, or something they don’t think I should know. My [observation] is that women are only expected to know about decorating and design when, in reality, we know much more. For example, I’ve found that people assume women don’t know anything about installation and tend to dismiss my information. Since I have been in this business for 37 years—and an owner for 35—I definitely have a lot of knowledge to back up my advice. My biggest struggle is being intimidated by contractors—whether I’m dealing with them before they’re ready or discussing a mistake and possible solution.

My suggestions for any woman wanting to enter this industry is to learn as much as possible about products and installation. Read and study everything that you can and take as many product knowledge classes as you can so you are the best at what you do. Our motto here at Stout’s is: “It’s worth talking to the experts.”

No ‘wo-man’ is an island

My mother-in-law was a big help in teaching me what she knew about the business, and I was able to take my abilities and put them to work from there. Alex Hill, one of the original founders of BPI, also helped me a lot when it came to handling the business end of things. There are so many people that I could name because I was only 19 years old with a high school education when we opened our business. However, I made up my mind that I was going to take my business to the next level and be the best in my field that I could be. I have participated in everything possible to push this company to the forefront of our industry.

Anyone can sell anything, but your customer service and your knowledge can—and will—set you apart from everyone else. In this business you have to be different. Put as much value in yourself and your company as you can.

Lisa Stout is the co-owner of Stout’s Carpet & Flooring, located in Oxford, Miss., with her husband, Mitchell Stout. They opened the business 35 years ago when she was 19, and they have successfully grown the business since then.

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August 16, 2021

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