Houston’s go-to floor company – for both exquisite new floors and the restoration of old floors – is Schenck & Company. Owner/namesake Greg Schenck (photo at right) bought the fledgling company from a buddy more than 35 years ago. He had no background installing floors or woodworking, but that did not dampen his enthusiasm or hinder his success. Ten years ago his son Chris joined the Schenck & Company team, making it a two-generation family business.
We recently caught up with Schenck, who took time off from sanding and staining floors, to answer a few nosy questions.
Tell us about the early days.
I was born and have lived all my life, in Houston. I graduated from the University of Houston with a BBA/marketing degree and quickly learned I was not good at creating advertising or marketing campaigns, so I went into heavy construction equipment sales. After five years in that industry, my childhood best friend – who is a true entrepreneur – offered me an opportunity to buy the fledgling wood flooring company he had started the previous year. The remaining partner and I fought for a year, then I bought him out, wiped the slate clean and started over. No business experience, no wood-floor experience, just a burning passion to be the best at something.
What did you want to be growing up?
I grew up surfing with my best friend and never thought I would leave the ocean. I wanted to be an oceanographer and attend Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla. As it turns out, I failed to send my application before the deadline and enrolled in UH as a back-up in order to not lose a semester, fully intending to transfer the following semester. But I met my wife at UH and never left Houston.
Who has been your mentor?
I have been very lucky to have numerous mentors. My father taught me to appreciate antiques, the old ways and preservation of historically significant structures. Both my parents taught me the importance of hard work, honesty and ethics in my personal and business life.
My first boss, in the equipment sales position, taught me how to be organized in my sales career and reinforced the work ethic instilled by my parents.
My best friend, from whom I bought the fledgling company, provided invaluable insight and assistance in the early years as to the nuts and bolts of operating a small business. I was blessed by the invaluable contribution of these four mentors, without whom my little company surely would not have survived.
How do you keep your team motivated?
I have been extremely fortunate to have a wonderful, tenured team, many with 25-plus years with me. I consider them family members, as we are all on this mission together. We suffer and prosper together. It brings me great joy to empower them and watch them grow and blossom in their areas of responsibility.
The least favorite thing about your job?
Paperwork. I enjoy most being in the middle of the action, on the jobsites, interacting with our guys and our clients, not trapped in the office staring at my computer monitor.
What’s the most common mistake people make caring for their wood floors?
Using incompatible maintenance products. There are more wood-floor finish and maintenance product choices today than ever before. Homeowners need to carefully read the instructions to ensure the proper maintenance products are being used on their floors. Unfortunately, most owners don’t get involved in these choices until the damage is done. Using incompatible maintenance products can create huge problems and expensive, unnecessary repairs.
Can flooded wood floors be salvaged?
Not all flooded wood floors can be salvaged, but many can. We have several approaches in our tool bag and work very hard to salvage the ones we can.
What is your secret talent?
I abhor mediocrity and never want to stagnate. I am always looking for a way to improve things. Whether it is over-building a subfloor for the best “bones,” searching for the coolest flooring materials or improving our processes, I constantly question myself and our team if there isn’t a better way to do it. It is quite likely they consider this trait of mine as a curse instead of a secret talent. However, it is who I am.
“Every day I read …”
By the end of the day, I am too exhausted to read. I am very visual and love to look at architecture and design magazines. Although I have no formal training in either of these fields, I enjoy looking at the images, ponder the intent of the design and learn from it.
What is your biggest extravagance?
We have a place in the country with lots of animals. I unwind there and it keeps me grounded. My animals and projects at the ranch mirror my passions with my business.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
I think he would be surprised I am so distant, literally and figuratively, from the ocean. But I think he would be proud of the little company we have built.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know.
My wife tells me I have a junior-high level sense of humor. My daughter is the only one who understands and appreciates it.
What is your favorite food and drink pairing?
Hands down all-time favorite is authentic Mexican food with margaritas. Unfortunately, that preference is slowly morphing – out of necessity – to healthier food with Topo Chico.
What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
I stay busy with numerous projects at the ranch. I have never been the type to sit on the porch with a good book, but am always outdoors doing something.
What is your favorite Houston building or landmark?
I love traditional classic architecture but don’t really have any strong favorites. I enjoy the architecture of the buildings at Rice University and the older homes in Broadacres. I like the timelessness of the architecture, and it is comforting to me to know that this style has endured – and will continue to endure the test of time.