Kelly Ogorzat never planned on a career in flooring, but it's turned out to be a good decision. She is now not only one of the managers of Hacienda's S&G Discount Carpet but one of the company's owners.
Born and raised in Hollywood, Florida, a town near Fort Lauderdale, she taught kindergarten and preschool for ten years at a Catholic school in the area before circumstances led her to come to California.
"It was a point in my life when I was thinking of a career change," she recalls. It was also the time when John Ogorzat, who is now manager of S&G's San Jose location, asked her to marry him and move to California along with her daughter, who was about to enter ninth grade.
Leaving behind her family and lifelong friends was a big decision, but Kelly agreed and, in June of 1997, a new adventure began.
"It was a big switch - location-wise and in my life and career," she says. When she heard from her husband that S&G needed some help in the office, she began working on the company's accounts payable and receivable to see if she liked it.
"I enjoyed it very much but missed being in touch with people," she recalls. "In teaching you're in contact with the children and parents all the time."
For someone who was trying to get to know a new community, a job in the back office was too isolating. Fortunately, a solution was at hand.
"S&G offered me the opportunity to go onto the floor, a sales position, and I absolutely loved it."
As it turned out, she discovered a lot of similarities between her sales position and her old role as a kindergarten teacher. The increased public contact was one; her teaching skills also came into play.
"The most important thing I learned in teaching is to listen first and talk later," she notes. "Our customers come in and we'll ask a couple of questions to get them talking, and then you really have to listen to what they want - what product they want and why they want it. You have to be very aware, very open minded, and take a lot of time to listen in teaching, and that's what you do on the floor, also."
One of her first lessons was that she can't make decisions for her customers.
"Part of communicating with and understanding our customers is not making judgment calls for them," she says. "They're the ones purchasing it and you have to make sure that the product meets their needs."
She sees this as an important step in learning to be a seller rather than just a buyer.
"You go in as a buyer and you have a specific product that you believe is the best. As a seller, you have to open your mind and recognize that it might not be for everyone, you have to respect their opinion and step back. A product might fit their needs even if it doesn't fit mine."
Her solution to that situation is a simple one.
"I just give them the facts about what each product has to offer and let them go from there," she says. Informed customers, it seems, are happy ones.
While adapting her teaching skills to a sales setting was relatively easy, her new job also had its more difficult transitions.
"Product knowledge," she replies when asked about her biggest challenge.
"There are a lot of products out there. I don't expect to know everything about all of them but I do expect to know a lot about many of them, so I continuously read or take books home or watch the magazines. My biggest challenge is knowing and understanding the flooring market."
After four years with the company and a recent promotion to manager, however, her knowledge of the different products sold at the store is quite thorough. Her position even allows her to be among the first to spot trends in the flooring industry.
"Carpet is always changing," she says. "Pattern carpets are in really heavy right now because of advertising by the manufacturers - people see ads with all the pretty, patterned carpets and see them pictured in home decorating books and that becomes the trend, just like berbers were before."
She has also noticed regional differences in decorating styles.
"The West Coast is different from the East Coast, and always will be," she notes. "We get people here from the East Coast and they're used to putting different color carpets in all their rooms. In California, people tend to move a lot, so people tend to go with neutral colors - they pick colors they like, but they also think of resale.
"We even have one product we call 'real estate beige,' because it allows a new buyer to put in whatever furniture they're using."
She's come a long way in her short time in the field and she's quite pleased with how things have turned out.
"When I started, I knew I didn't have to stay - I could choose to do something else," she says. The experiment has been a success, though- "I absolutely fell in love with it."
It's also made her move away from her old life in Florida easier. Kelly's interaction with customers and contractors has also allowed her to get to know her new community, Pleasanton.
"It really helped me relate a little bit, learn a little bit more about Pleasanton. My daughter went to Amador High, so you mention that and people connect with Amador High," she says.
"We get a lot of customers that send their neighbors in, that send their sister in, and you just get to know people. It really introduced me to the community. It reminded me of when I was teaching, getting to know all the parents."
From teaching to sales to management, Kelly's decisions have all paid off, sometimes in ways that she never could have foreseen.
For instance, she now has something new in common with one of her family members.
"I have an uncle who all his life was in flooring," says Kelly. "He calls me every once in a while and gives me little tips."
Above all, she's made lots of new friends through her work. "I still keep in touch with some of my customers," she says.
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