By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — Ray Horvath is one of many business owners who got a big economic boost after Hurricane Katrina roared through Southeast Louisiana in Aug., 2005.
And he is one businessman who looks back on the after effects and knows there was an important lesson he learned through it.
As owner of Floorworks and Blinds located at 316 Johnny Smith Blvd., just off Highway 11, Horvath was like many construction-related businesses that had more work than they could handle after the hurricane.
It was easy to understand that hundreds of flooded homes would need new flooring after the storm, and Horvath got his share of that work with his relatively new Floorworks and Blinds business.
But after a difficult job several months into the flood of business, Horvath learned a lesson that seems to be a reason he is still surviving today.
“We were like any other flooring business after the storm. I knew there was going to be a huge amount of business and at first I was taking as much as I thought I could handle,” he said.
But Horvath realized a few months into the deluge of work that he had pushed a little too hard, and it helped him change his approach—a decision that seems to be serving him well today.
“One job didn’t go so well and after we went in and fixed everything, I scaled it all back and knew I had to not take so much work, since I always wanted to leave a job with the client completely satisfied,” he said.
“Since that time, our approach to every job has been that way. We take our time and make sure it is done right. Years later, I think that is why we’re still doing well, even in this tough time. We can compete with the lowest prices in town, but the thing that separates us is great customer service,” Horvath added.
Growing up his entire life in Slidell, Horvath learned about hard work from his dad, who owned R&H Trucking. Horvath was working from the time he was 7, he said, and quickly learned about the business world with on-the-job training.
“I always worked with my dad from a young age, and it not only taught me a good work ethic, but taught me about business in general,” he said.
Horvath tried college for several years, but ended up back at home each summer to work enough so he could pay for his schooling. After several more years with his dad in heavy construction work, he saw an opportunity for his own business, but in something not quite as physically demanding.
“A friend had a flooring business and I ended up buying it and starting my own business just before Katrina hit,” he said.
Horvath rented the building at the corner of Pontchartrain Drive and Front Street, and only had Floorworks and Blinds up and running for four months when Katrina flooded the south side of Slidell with 6 feet of water.
“When I got to my store it was so bad inside, not just from all my own flooded inventory, but from lots of stuff that had been in the building from former businesses,” he said.
Horvath took just over a month to clean all the mud out and get new stock, beginning to work in a building that didn’t even have a roof.
“I knew I had to get up and running as quickly as possible,” he said. “The store was so messed up, we hauled away 18 dump trucks full of debris, mud and other junk.”
Horvath does appreciate the challenge he faced from Katrina since “I probably gained 10 to 20 years experience in a short time from what I did after the storm. And looking at the entire time we did storm work, probably about two years, I think I learned a lot and handled things pretty well.”
He said his business has been successful up until today, at a time when new home construction is at a near standstill, because he developed many clients in his first years, along with clients he picked up from his dad’s business and his younger life.
“I was a very social guy in my early years, and truthfully, it helped me have a lot of contacts for business,” he said. “Almost anyone who walks through these doors is someone I know, or someone who is a friend of my friends.”
Katrina proved to be a building block for Floorworks, since Horvath readjusted his approach early on, and made sure to leave his clients satisfied.
“You have to remember that the flooring people are the last ones to finish a house,” he said. “I would come in after many people had been messed over by other subs, so I had to really make sure they were satisfied with our work. Those are the people who keep coming back now if they need more flooring or blinds.”
Floorworks handles all aspects of the business, including stone, porcelin, ceramics, hardwoods, all kinds of carpet and blinds, and by offering design consultation.
Horvath is married with four sons.