Local businesswoman Kris Piotrowski’s background may not be what one initially expects from someone running a mobile flooring showroom.
Now a local franchisee for the Atlanta-based Floor Coverings International, the Scottsdale woman brings with her a wealth of experience – both in the Navy and in the corporate world, including earning a Harvard MBA.
Her new Floor Coverings International Mesa, which opened near the end of December, serves clients throughout the Valley.
Long before she ever got her shot at a franchise, though, she said she wanted to be a stockbroker. But she was too short – literally.
Piotrowski said her short stature stood in the way of her goal, as the busy stock-trading environment was heavily reliant on hand signaling.
And though she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from DePaul and hoped to run her own business – taking after her cobbler father – she felt she was too young for such a venture.
So, she joined the Navy in 1994.
“Even with a college degree, the market just wasn’t great with jobs I wanted to do,” Piotrowski said.
“I decided to do something different and it was the Navy, and so I just took the plunge and went for it, kind of like the franchise. You just have to take a risk sometimes.”
Though she only planned to enlist for a couple of years, she wound up giving the Navy more than two decades.
She was deployed seven times, served in Iraq in 2006, and was stationed on four different ships: a cruiser, a destroyer and two carriers. She was awarded a Bronze Star for her time in Iraq.
Her positions over the years included House liaison between U.S. Navy and members of Congress, joint contracting officer, Navy acquisition and contracting officer, assistant supply/logistics director, director of supply chain logistics aboard the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and director of logistics and operations – aviation at U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.
“I ran basically the supply department on different ships,” she recalled. “It’s everything from paper to aviation engines to food – anything logistics or supply related.
“At my height, I had a team of almost 600 sailors and it was when I was the supply officer on the (U.S.S.) Dwight D. Eisenhower,” she continued. “And so, it was a huge tour.”
While in the Navy, however, her entrepreneurial goals remained intact. She pursued a Harvard MBA while enlisted.
“One of the things they test you on is your Myers–Briggs (Type Indicator) and all your different tests and they tell you what you’re good at, and they said I was an entrepreneur,” she said.
“And then, of course, my dad had his own business growing up, and so it always kind of stuck into me in the back of my head, ‘You really should do your own business.’”
After leaving the Navy in 2015, she still desired to run her own business but wound up spending several years in corporate America, still feeling she wasn’t ready to be on her own.
While working in the business world, she said she gained experience as a director of service provider management at facilities management company Vixxo, after which she worked at Taser, which became Axon.
“I ran their logistics and their global facilities; so it was everything from negotiating leases to tenant improvements,” she explained of her work with Axon. “It was quite the gamut.”
But something kept nagging at her. She still wanted to run her own business. Finally, she was ready. She landed upon Floor Coverings International.
“I said, ‘You know what, I’m sitting in the best place financially, emotionally, I’m situated with home – everything.’ So it was the best time in my life if I was going to do this, to do it now,” she said.
“And then this brings up the, ‘Well, why a franchise?’ And really, it’s because I don’t want to do the digital marketing. I don’t want to do the negotiating products. I want to be on a team while running my own business versus having to do everything. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, and I wanted my own schedule, and so it’s kind of what led me to where I am.”
Plus, some of her corporate background lends well to her new profession.
“It’s home improvement and I also have facilities in my background,” she said. “And, it was the culture of the franchise.
“Culture is key, obviously, and so the more I learned about them and the other franchise owners and how they were able to scale and how they were backed by the franchisor, it made it stack above anything else I was looking at.”
Now 48 and working hard at her longtime goal, it all comes full circle. She feels her time spent in the Navy pairs well with her business acumen.
After all, she said, the Navy builds character – including structure, organization, time management, values, integrity, courage and commitment.
“Just dealing with flooring installers, I’m very upfront and honest with them. I’ve had several of them say I have more integrity than what they’re used to seeing, and so they want to be on my team,” she recounts.
“Those are kind of good things. The business aspect of the Navy is a little bit different because it’s government, but the important pieces you need to carry with you through life are found there.”