George Valentino spent ten years in the United States Air Force before transitioning into a civilian career. Looking for a fresh start after 40 years working for various engineering companies, Valentino opened Floor Coverings International (FCI) in Waynesville, Ohio in May 2012. FCI is a shop-at-home floor-covering retailer with 90 franchisees operating in 20 states and Canada.
Can you briefly talk about your military and government contracting background?
George Valentino: I was in the United States Air Force from 1971 to 1981 working as an electronics engineer. I worked in various places including Mississippi, Oklahoma City, and then came to Dayton, Ohio for graduate school and have been here ever since. After the service, I worked in assorted companies that did contracting related to electronics and simulators. While in the Air Force and when also working in Industry, part of my duties included preparing technical, management, and cost proposals in response to RFPs (Requests for Proposals), developing SOWs (Statements of work), Teaming Agreements, and Technical Approaches to the Government.
What led you to make the decision to start your own business, and how did you decide on Floor Coverings International?
After about 40 years of having a job and working for others I had enough of being subservient to the sometimes-whims of others. Not being the type of person to fade away, and having worked with tools and renovated/remodeled houses over the years, I wanted to do something in the realm of "home work". At a job fair I met a local FRANNET (Franchise Network) representative and looked into several types of franchises. Floor Coverings International was by far the right fit for me, especially because of my tool and woodworking/home remodeling experience and also because I had an installation crew already identified. After attending FCI's open house back in May 2012, learning the processes they have developed and meeting the HQ team, my decision was made!
What aspects of your military and government experience were helpful as you started this new venture? What were some of the new challenges you faced, or new skills you had to learn?
Numerous elements of my experience were helpful, including attention to detail, cost analysis, high self-esteem, attention to detail, many more. Challenges faced: Not enough time in a day; is available cash enough?
Can you talk about the support you've received from Floor Coverings International? Would you say it's a good organization to ally with if you're a veteran interested in this kind of career?
Selecting Floor Coverings International as a franchise is really a two-way proposition. (1) What did I think of FCI, the agreement, the processes, the possibilities, and the staff at FCI HQ in Norcross? and (2) What did the staff think of me? Obviously, we both felt good about one another! I would also draw a distinction between starting and owning a business and having a career. A career can be had by a veteran in many different civilian domains; starting a business by a veteran requires investments of time and funds long before a salary or dividend may be available.
Can you describe a typical "day in the life" in your business?
Up at 5:30 AM and done with calls or emails at 8:30 PM or so. Many things in-between: Scheduling and conducting appointments (personal interaction with the clients, making measurements, preparing quotations); participating in networking meetings; ordering products; and always seeking to find new leads.
Do you have any general advice or tips for veterans who are transitioning out of the military and might be interested in your line of work?
If you like what you are doing it is not work! If you want to build a business, it takes hours, dollars, and sweat. At present I own and am developing a business and the process is to become established and known in my area, capture projects, and conduct these projects in the best way possible, providing excellent products and service to my customers. Any veteran (or anyone else for that matter) who wants to start his or her own business needs to understand that there is no clock watching to be done, and there needs to be ample dollars during business start-up. When the time came to change careers purchasing a franchise looked like it would be less risky to use the proven processes that FCI has developed. I wanted to be something part of an established business.
FCI's Design Associates bring product and design leadership to consumers when considering their flooring needs, style and budget as well as provide professional installation services. For more information, visit www.floorcoveringsinternational.com.