This week Vivid Minds interviews Lisa Whitty, joint owner of Hunt’s Carpets. Lisa and her husband, Ken, have owned and operated the business for the past nine years and are strong supporters of local businesses and community organisations.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an Armidale local. Not only was I born and raised in Armidale, but I was also educated at local schools and obtained a degree in accounting from the University of New England. Before taking on Hunt’s Carpets I worked for a local accounting firm for 19 years. My husband and I are joint owners of the business. Ken is also a local – born and bred in Armidale and has worked in retail since starting out in the workforce. Ken and I have two kids, Ella and Luke. The whole family is heavily involved in local sport – particularly hockey. We had always wanted to own and operate our own business, and when the opportunity to purchase Hunt’s Carpets came up, we didn’t hesitate.
What does Hunt’s Carpets do?
We supply and install flooring and window furnishings, mainly to residential properties, although we also work on commercial properties. We cover the New England area – Armidale, obviously, and we travel as far as Tenterfield, Inverell, Ebor, Dorrigo, Walcha, just to name a few places.
When did you start your business?
We bought the business and started operating on 1 July 2011. Hunt’s Carpets has been operating since 1983, so we kept the name. Ken worked for Lindsay (Hunt) for about 18 months before the opportunity to purchase the business came up, so he had a fair idea of what the business entailed.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
For me, it was a big change from accountancy to product retail, although many of my skills are useful in my role here. Learning about all the different products took a lot of time for me – and it’s really ongoing learning, because there’s always something new or updated to learn about.
For Ken, it was learning to measure and quote jobs – making sure that the measurements were correct and then making sure to apply the correct pricing.
While it was great to take over an established successful business, we took a while to make our own mark. We have worked hard to take the business online, and with COVID, we have focused a little more on online product reviews and increasing our presence on social media. Establishing and updating the technology side of the business is also a continuing process.
What do you like most about running your own business?
It’s great having the freedom to choose to come and go as we please, to a certain extent – it can be a bit difficult when you own and operate your own business! We’re able to be involved in the kids’ activities a lot more now – we get to see them play their sport and also attend many of the school events that they are involved in. Extended breaks are a little more difficult, though.
It’s also the satisfaction of knowing that we are building a business for ourselves. We’re able to make decisions that suit our view of the future and build the business in that direction.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Know what you are getting into. It’s important to have an understanding of the hidden aspects of the business – the legal side and the accounting side, so make sure you get good advice.
You need to be prepared to ride through the highs and lows because no business is entirely clear sailing – you need to keep focused on the long term. When you hit a hurdle, it’s important to look at the options carefully and decide on the way forward – there’s generally a solution for any problem. Sometimes it takes you out of your comfort zone, but in the end that’s how the business grows and succeeds.
Also, it’s important to focus on communication – from the top down and the bottom up. All members of the team have a voice and that’s where the best parts of the business grow from. And the communication goes further than that: it’s important to maintain good and open communication with all of our customers.
What inspires you?
The satisfaction of seeing that our customers love what we have done for them. Positive feedback drives me. It’s also knowing that we can help the local sporting community. It means a lot to both of us that we are able to do that. It’s also great to be recognised for what we have achieved, having a good business and having a good business name. I like people to be happy with what they have received and the advice that we have given them, so that keeps me looking forward to each day.
What is your secret for success?
Building the business through good service. We back our products, plus we have the best contractors and excellent staff. Customer service is one of the most important parts of our business – and we always strive to provide all of our clients with the best service and quality workmanship. Everything has to work together.
What’s next for Hunt’s Carpets?
We’ll continue to focus on providing excellent products and services to the local community. I always say that we are in the business of bringing our customers’ ideas to life.