Chris Blyde is a 40-year veteran of the flooring industry and it’s fair to say he’s done it all. From the underlay room to the Director’s office; Chris has seen the highs and lows and experienced all aspects of the flooring game. Starting his career in 1978 as an apprentice carpet layer with Mills and Moore in Sydney, Chris is now co-director of Carpet Court in Holden Hill, North East of Adelaide in South Australia.
Chris and his business partner Gavin Johnston took over the store in 2010 and Chris says “We’ve evolved massively over the last eight years and the future looks very promising.” They’ve just had their best four months in the eight years they’ve been running the store; contrary to what others are reporting. Success comes on the back of hard work, a great team and anticipation of their customer’s needs.
Chris remembers his early days “We were very old school; I recall we had a Singer sewing machine from the 1930’s to stitch our carpet together. Sales would measure on site and come back to the warehouse to transfer the measurements onto the carpet with chalk. I started in the underlay room on the scissors to get my hand and arm strength up.” Chris values those early days where he learned all the skills from the ground up. He says “We had an electric cutter but I wasn’t allowed to use it until I’d mastered the scissors.” Understanding how things were done back then has given Chris a sound grasp of the skills and theory that underlies his profession.
Mills and Moore was started by people in the building game. They got into flooring and brought a lot of their people over to the new business. Many of the trades were carpenters who learnt the new trade. Chris says “It was a radical move but they were very good at what they did. The company lasted about twenty years and looking back, they were fun days. I worked mostly with carpet and linoleum back then.” Chris still uses that hands-on experience and gets out as often as he can to measure on site. His partner Gavin chooses to work ‘on the tools’ and Chris regards him as one of the finest trades-persons he has ever met.
Chris moved to Adelaide in 1985 to work for Les Morris and Kevin Freak at the current business in a shop just across the road from where they are now. Les and Kevin had owned the business from 1978 and Chris worked for them for 26 years in sales. Chris recalls that back then there was a lot of work cutting roll ends; brought in by the container, in the actual showroom. During that time Les and Kevin started another Carpet Court store in the Adelaide region and Les sold the Holden Hill store Chris in 2010. Chris says “Les made it easy for me to buy him out. I believe he saw the potential in me and two stores was not what he wanted.”
Chris said “We’ve done a complete flip from when we bought the business; from 100% retail back then to about 65% insurance work now.” He says that insurance is hard work with a lot of double handling compared to retail. Matching floor coverings is also difficult at times but Chris maintains some excellent contacts to get the right materials. “Homemaker centres have had an impact on retail so shifting our focus to insurance has helped us greatly. We often do online campaigns in the retail sector to keep that side going” he says. While they are happy to do commercial work, they don’t have a commercial focus.
Of the industry, Chris says finding trades-people isn’t easy. He is disappointed that the TAFE colleges aren’t supplying the skilled people they used to and is highly supportive of the industry’s own efforts in getting apprentice schemes off the ground. He says “The future of the flooring trades will be carried on the back of the industry’s own initiatives.” At Holden Hill his team consists of Steve; Kevin and Wayne in sales; Calum in the store; his business partner Gavin and his wife Karen as office manager.
Chris says their single most important issue is service. Insurance related builders and brokers need things done quickly and Chris and Karen have found that keeping their clients up to date on their jobs with regular reports is a service their clients appreciate. “Service is more important than dollars” Karen says “and we found out that getting back to people regularly was something they appreciated most. We try to anticipate what our clients need and provide this in a timely manner.”
Out of the office Chris would like to be playing more golf and played on a Palmer designed course in Port Douglas earlier this year. He’s a voyeur of motor sports; loves the plentiful and excellent wineries around Adelaide and spends time with his grand children who are a big part of his and Karen’s life. They started travelling at least once a year in 2012 and their favourite destinations so far have been San Francisco in the US and Queenstown in New Zealand. They have a busy life but they love what they do; they have a great team to support them and anticipating their customers’ needs, appear to have their future well in hand.
Pictured (L-R): Wayne, Karen and Chris.