THE REAL STORY
We love making beautiful hardwood floors. Real Wood Floors is committed to making the best wood floors in the business, and our company has been successful as a result.
But while we make wood floors, our real purpose is to work towards the day when every orphan is home. This is the mission that gets us up in the morning, and gives us the drive to keep growing, serving and succeeding.
Knowing your Why makes all the difference. We hope that our story encourages you to discover your Why, and begin pursuing a bigger purpose for your business, team or organization.
Clyde Elbrecht and Sam Cobb
Co-owners, Real Wood Floors
I glanced at the calendar on my desk. Just a month until graduation and I still had no idea what I was going to do. I was a senior at Missouri state and could see a diverging path in my future. One was the expected road, well defined and often traveled. Career, promotions, success - make lots of money. The other was more focused on making the world a little bit better by helping people, in some way. Living a life of significance.
Unable to decide which path to take, I did what any college student would do, I procrastinated. I decided to take a gap year and go make a difference and see what it was like. I headed to Eastern Europe to teach English as a second language. I made a difference in the lives of young people and helped them become more well-rounded people. I came back from my gap year with even more conviction. I loved making a difference but I also knew I had bills to pay and I wanted to be able to eventually provide for a family.
Now with a few more years perspective, I realize I was struggling with a false dichotomy. I thought I had to choose between the two, either do well in a business career or help others. I later realized I could actually pursue both at the same time. While Real Wood Floors is definitely a for-profit company, we are solidly driven by our mission. We're working towards the day when every orphan is home. In the following pages, I'd like to share with you the story of how we got here.
From the beginning
Let me tell you how it all started. I was traveling to China for business and my friend suggested I visit a certain orphanage while I was there. I gladly agreed. I was excited to fit in an opportunity to make a difference. I didn't expect it to be a life-altering trip. I was blown away by the incredible work this organization was doing. They were acting as the last chance for some of the most broken children in China to find healing and recovery from their physical ailments in order to hopefully be adopted into loving families. During my time at the orphanage, I noticed the flooring in the children's homes needed some attention.
Being greatly moved by the work they were doing, I volunteered to replace the flooring since my company designs and manufactures wood flooring.
But as you'll learn, I tend to speak before I think. So, when the orphanage director called to ask me when we'd come to install the floors... I had to do some fast thinking. You see, we create flooring, we don't install it. I hung up with the director and picked up the phone again to make one of the boldest phone calls of my young career.
I called one of our largest customers and, after exchanging pleasantries, I jumped right to the point: Josh would you be interested in installing a wood floor in a Chinese orphanage? His response was immediate, uh, sure man, how much does the job pay? Well, it pays nothing and, in fact, I'd have to ask you to pay your own way to get there.
We're donating the floor. I started to launch into a detailed explanation of how I'd gotten into the situation but Josh interrupted me, "Hey man. Yeah, I'll do it." And I'll try to get some other guys to go along. I was shocked.
Here was a guy not only willing to donate his labor, time and travel but to risk his own reputation by asking his competitors to join in. Amazingly, he did convince two of his competitors to come along. Now feeling empowered, I called another client in another market and made my pitch and three more of our clients signed on to go, all at their own expense.
So, in 2008 we traveled to China with 10 of our customers to install wood floors in an orphanage near Beijing. It took a little over a week to complete the 9,000 sq ft installation.
Right after we returned home I received another surprise. The clients who went with us asked when we were going back. Again, I was amazed. I had stumbled onto a way to make a difference using the very same skills I used to make a living. I didn't have to choose between one life or the other.
In 2009, we went back to China again, and more than doubled our crew. In 2010 we went a third time with a larger group of clients and friends. In 2014 we returned with a group of 35 for our largest flooring install yet, and most recently in 2016 to do repairs on damaged floors. Every time we've gone, we've been able to make more of a difference than the time before and more than I ever thought possible.