Family Ties

Family Ties

Franklin Shanklin Sr. has always dreamed of starting a family-owned business. So it came as no surprise when his sons, Frank Jr. and H. Dwayne, partnered with him to create a family legacy to pass down for generations to come. Today, the father and sons serve as the CEO, COO, and president, respectively, of Shanklin and Sons Carpet Inc.

Shanklin and Sons Carpet specializes in a vast array of flooring, including carpets, hardwood, linoleum, tile, and vinyl composition tile for commercial and residential customers. Incorporated in 1998, the company has seven full-time employees plus some 17 subcontractors who are called upon to assist with larger installation jobs.

The Knoxville, Tennessee-based firm reached $1 million in revenues last year. The flooring company anticipates reaching $4 million in revenues by year-end 2004.

The company has worked with major commercial contractors including H. J. Russell & Co., East Tennessee Mechanical Contractors Inc., Denark Construction Co., the city of Knoxville, Knox County School System, and Integral Building Group.

As a young man, Frank Shanklin Sr. worked in his uncle’s furniture store, where he repaired furniture and laid carpets. He witnessed firsthand the rigorous but gratifying demands of entrepreneurship. Shanklin and Sons originally started out as a home-based business, before moving into its current 5,000-square-foot facility. The owners collected $10,000 from their personal and retirement savings to cover startup expenses for carpet samples, a used truck and a trailer, computers, a fax machine, and flyers.

During the first year of business, both father and sons worked full-time jobs. When Shanklin Jr. was laid-off as a probation officer from the state of Tennessee, he was then able to dedicate his full attention to the business. That following year, Shanklin Sr., 61, took an early retirement from his gig as a maintenance supervisor at Lockheed Martin. Dwayne, 32, came on board full time approximately six months ago after completing five years of military service.

In the beginning, the business owners found it difficult to compete with already established firms. In an attempt to solicit business and get their name out to the public, the entrepreneurs targeted new housing subdivisions and construction sites, speaking directly with homebuilders and apartment managers about their products and services. On the commercial side, they focused on building strong business relationships with general contractors with the ultimate goal of turning those connections into joint venture partnerships.

The Shanklins admit that understanding the business was more of a challenge than anticipated. “We knew how to install carpets, but it was a different story when learning how to run a business,” says 35-year-old Shanklin Jr. “Much of what we learned about the business in the beginning, we learned through trial and error.”

It was a $15,000 line of credit received a year into operation, in 1999 that afforded the company more cash on hand and flexibility. As business grew, thanks to referrals and word of mouth, the Shanklins used the money to cover payroll, overhead, and other daily expenditures. They also received advice from experts on business matters such as accounting and