If it's true that most of us learn by doing, Barry Jeffery got an advanced degree in concrete floors his first time out.
Jeffery and his son, Matt, own Chattanooga Floor Care and Sanitizing, which specializes in concrete floors. But Barry recalls that he was solo on his first such project, back in 2014.
"Didn't know what I was doing, and it killed my body," Barry says. "Then Matt came in – he's an educator, a researcher – and says, 'Dad they've got machines for that — 1,000-pound grinders with diamond blades on the bottom.
"So we bought one of those, and now we have six and a staff of 17 people, including us," Barry says.
A Fort Oglethorpe native, Barry Jeffery attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He made stops in the hospitality and health care industries and was working at Chattanooga Office Supply when he started what would become his current business.
"I started doing floors on the side," he says. "It was a way for me to help people and still make a little money for myself."
While Barry was working his day and side jobs, his son was teaching middle school in Atlanta. Matt says that when he got married, he realized he wanted to work for himself. He says he explored several options, but then took a hard look at what his dad was up to.
"Matt came to me in 2015 and said he'd like to make [floors] our business," Barry recalls. "In July 2016, Matt moved home and we got moving as Chattanooga Floor Care and Sanitizing."
In his work with Chattanooga Office Supply, Barry was sanitizing client floors as a matter of course. Matt says that while the new business emphasizes a total range of floor services, he and his dad continue to sanitize, as well.
"We just watched the market, and saw a need for installation," Matt says. "The teacher in me started researching, and I found a big niche there – not many people who do it, and fewer who do it right.
"We built a business plan built on customer service," he says. "We offer concrete floors based on three things – how does the customer need the floor to function, what does the customer need for the floor to look like, and what's the budget?"
Given the company's emphasis on concrete-floor installation, Barry Jeffery says he and Matt were in the process of phasing out sanitizing spray when the COVID-19 pandemic moved them to defer that plan.
Chattanooga Floor Care and Sanitizing
* Owners: Barry Jeffery and Matt Jeffery
* Online: chattfcs.com
"We've started spraying again because people have asked us," he says, "but it's not the main focus of our business. When [the pandemic] is over, I see it fading away."
The Jefferys say that concrete floors now account for about 95 percent of their company's business. They say the business held up well through 2020, but they started to see some pandemic-related impact early this year.
"We're just now seeing schedule problems with contractors due to projects taking longer than expected," Matt says. "If an electrician on a project tests positive, he's got to go into CDC [Centers for Disease Control] protocols.
"Since we're typically on the back end of a project, there's a trickle-down effect that affects us – but we're happy to be in that position, rather than figuring out how to stay in business. We haven't been hurt as much as some in the community," he says.