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Scott Lippert, president of E.N. Lippert and Sons, is carrying on a business his grandfather started in Medford in 1957. - Jamie Lusch

Home Grown: E.N. Lippert and Sons

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Scott Lippert speaking) We're in the fashion and design business, with floor products as our primary assortment. My grandfather Ed started the business in April 1957 in Medford.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I grew up in Grants Pass, went off to college in Seattle and came back to Medford in 1994.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? When I attempted my own direct sales and marketing of Cutco cutlery, a business outside of floor covering, I discovered how challenging it was. After losing a lot of money, I realized the family business might not be so bad, after all.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? Probably we would have been more proactive looking at other markets in the region before the economy turned and has done what it has done. Maybe having some targets in mind for when and if the economy turns around.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? Having to close down the Klamath Falls location two years ago and move the corporate staff back from Bend to Grants Pass. We did it because of the economy. We had been in Klamath Falls since 1996 and Bend since 2001. We didn't have a retail storefront in Bend, just our business office. In hindsight, it was wise not to purchase a building over there, which we had considered. The Bend market is really struggling.

Who are your competitors? Our biggest competitors right now are the big-box stores. They attract the consumers who think because they stack it deep and sell it cheap, that it's the best value. Most consumers perceive there is value. But the real value is the bottom-line dollar. I would consider Color Tile in Medford and Colonial Decorators in Grants Pass as our local competitors.

What are your goals? In five to 10 years, we're still going to be focused on enhancing positions in current markets and looking at other markets in Southern Oregon for future expansion. We would probably go into different markets than in the past. If we went back into Klamath Falls, it would be under a different business model. We started No Frills Flooring to address the cash-and-carry, do-it-yourself market in 1997. Right now that model is doing very well, even in this economy. Most people are willing to take on a little more responsibility and be involved a little more in the process than we've seen before. We joined Carpet One, a national buying group with 1,000 member stores worldwide, in 1989. It has offices in Manchester, N.H., and St. Louis. Carpet One gives us tremendous buying power and enhanced warranties.

What training or education did you need? I found out education didn't do a whole lot other than provide social opportunities. My direct-sales business was great training. When it comes to knives, everybody had knives. I had to create a need and I had to demonstrate what I was selling was better than what they had in their drawers. For someone in a retail environment and having customers come in the door already having a need, it made it pretty simple. I've listened to a lot of sales training tapes and attended sales seminars and read self-help type of books, too.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Buy things as you go, as you can afford it. Try to avoid charging and racking up debt. Live within your means. If you aren't able to write a check for something, ask yourself if you really need it.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.

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