On the desk of Herminio Bustos, the owner of US Hardwood and Carpet, sit two powerful symbols of his values as a man and as a businessman. One is a well-worn copy of the Santa Biblia (Holy Bible), and the other is a small pile and crumpled papers bearing the creative handiwork of his young children’s drawings.
None of the children, who range in age from 4 weeks to 18 years, happens to be at the store at the moment, though they often are. But they are clearly the reason Herminio gets up for work every day, as he has done since he opened the business 15 years ago. His face lights up when he talks about them.
“I have a lot of kids,” he says. “I feel very much blessed.”
He doesn’t come right out and say it, but The Good Book also informs his business ethics: “Honesty is the most important thing,” he says. “I don’t promise anything I can’t deliver.”
There’s a good reason for that business practice, as well, and he acknowledges it. The word-of-mouth recommendations and rave reviews on Yelp that keep have kept customers walking through the door year after year would dry up if he were to adopt a do-anything-to-make-a-sale attitude. He’d rather see people walk out the door without buying than be unhappy with the hardwood flooring, tile and carpeting products and services he offers.
Although he doesn’t advertise, Herminio said it’s not unusual to have customers come from as far away as San Francisco, San Ramon and Dublin, on the recommendation of their friends.
What is the sales experience like for the potential customer? Although he has a sales associate in the store sometimes, chances are very good that you’ll be greeted by Herminio himself. With a wry smile, he says, sometimes a couple will come in not quite sure what they want—and hoping he’ll tell them what to buy.
He’s more than happy to spell out the pros and cons of various products, but he stays away from making any decisions for them.
A typical example, he says: The woman wants a very light-colored carpet because she can see in her mind’s eye how lovely it will look. The man takes a skeptical view, saying he likes a much darker color. The kids and pets, he worries, will make swift work of staining a light shade with spilled juice, or worse.
Herminio won’t take sides, but he’ll point out how much work it will be to keep each variety looking its best, then point out they could always make a choice that splits the difference in both shade and ease of maintenance.
“They like to hear my advice,” he said, “but I don’t know their house. It’s their choice.”
After the deal
When a customer buys a hardwood floor, tile floor or carpet and has it installed, that’s not the end of the deal, as far as Herminio is concerned. Herminio likes to keep the relationship going — not by constantly bugging people to buy something else, but by offering maintenance and other tips on his website blog and Facebook pages, where visitors will also find updates on trends in flooring styles and products
Herminio’s entrance into the flooring business was driven by necessity. He had been involved in a family jewelry business for years, but it got harder and harder to make a go of it as the price of gold started on a long, sharp climb.
So, when a friend who was a carpet and wood floor installer suggested Herminio start a flooring business, he gave it some serious thought. After doing market research on the competitive flooring business, he decided to sell his stake in the jewelry business.
He used the proceeds to open a shop in Santa Clara in 2001.Unfortunately, it was not an auspicious time start a new business. The dot-com bust and 9/11 were just about to create massive economic turmoil, especially in Silicon Valley.
But he learned as he went along. With his good service and the strong reputation, he kept his shop open. After a while, he began to realize his business had grown to the point that he needed more space.
So in March 2017, he relocated the store a few blocks to where it is now (1702 Lafayette St.). Now Herminio has enough room to display rearrange his products more easily and even has a small storage area available for the first time.
That, and there’s a bit more room for the kids to play.