Man of Many Faces
Michael Schanzer’s 25-year overnight success — Argosy Floor Covering LLC
When a man begins his career both as a licensed architect and a licensed interior designer, who would think that his path would lead him to opportunities even he couldn’t imagine? The CEO and President of Argosy Floor Covering LLC, Michael Schanzer, is such a man.
Michael proved his prowess as an architect and interior designer during the 1980s when the savings and loan crisis brought a substantial decline in design and construction opportunities. Interested in commercial flooring, he began working with contractors and manufacturers, learning the intricate details of flooring manufacturing, application and installation.
Drawn to the idea of working for himself, Michael opened Argosy and began with tenant finish work. He became so successful that he decided to tackle projects that required a bidding process. He submitted five bids. To his amazement, he won all five and started installing flooring for high-rises, large libraries, hospitals and schools.
What it Takes to Become Credible
Aside from taking the obvious steps toward establishing his company—setting up a support structure, acquiring credit and bonding for simultaneous large projects, and developing those ever-so-critical accounting and project management systems—Michael wanted to stamp each project with his personal organizational skills, honor, aspirations and goals.
Carpet, resilient, ceramic, stone, wood—Michael has built relationships with the highest-quality manufacturers for all these types of flooring, and he now offers enough product diversity to provide one-stop shopping for his customers. And that’s to say nothing of the relationships he’s developed with vendors who sell specialty products, such as flooring with high Sound Transmission Coefficient (STC) ratings that help to reduce sound transmission in hotels and performing arts centers.
“It takes a large variety of products and a huge bank of technical knowledge to satisfy customers’ needs and wants,” Michael says. “I want my customers to know that, regardless of twists and turns or problems, I’m there to help satisfy them ‘til the end.” His vast network of contacts has assisted him in completing over 3,700 jobs.
Michael also takes pride in being an active team member who can contribute to resolving difficult situations. “We primarily work in Central and South Texas,” he says, “but when my customers have problem projects in other areas, they know they can call on us to help. Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee, we’ve taken care of the needs of some customers for the nearly 25 years since Argosy’s formation, so we go where they need us. We don’t want to let them down.”
Solving Others’ Problems
“It’s a tremendous problem when contractors default, so we try to help make things right whether it’s for a customer or someone we’ve never met,” says Michael. Recently, when he got a call from an engineer facing moisture-related floor problems in a building under construction, Michael was able to present several options to help solve the problem. When these types of opportunities are beyond the scope of some of Argosy’s competitors, Michael says, “that’s where being experienced in both design and construction can save the day.”
In another situation, $200,000 in flooring material was received on a project that was out of tolerance due to a manufacturing error that couldn’t have been detected before shipping. “An overseas delivery of replacement tiles would take several months,” Michael explains. “Specs are just that exacting, so we had to find a way to alter the material. We figured it out, though. Re-cutting the tiles was the only available option to complete the installation by deadline, so that’s what we did.”
It isn’t in Michael’s character to boast, so when asked to describe his largest customers and projects, he quietly responds, “Well, we did the AT&T Center and the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, but we don’t accept jobs based purely on size or profitability. We’re approached for jobs every day of the year, though we don’t advertise at all. We let our work stand for itself, and referrals and repeat clients provide a constant stream of opportunities.”
Michael typically uses the pronoun “we” instead of “I.” It’s not in his nature to take credit. He insists, “Credit belongs to my staff.”
A Different Sort of Management Style
Michael holds his relationships sacred, and that includes those with employees. “I have belief in my employees because we all agree that before a person can truly respect others, he has to respect himself.” He spends personal one-on-one time with all members of his staff. “They learn to respect themselves first,” he says. “Only then can they respect others, me, their families and everyone else they encounter, whether they work with them or not.”
The Argosy staff performs and behaves at their best because that’s the best way to become and remain a valuable team member. Michael says, “We’ve never ever had an issue we couldn’t resolve.”
Senior project manager Bob Anders and estimator David Aneiso, along with up to 100 installers in the field, all participate in this process not only because it contributes to successful performance, but also because it enhances their quality of life. “That’s why some employees have stayed at Argosy for over 20 years, Bob says. “We do everything we can because we’ve found that being part of this team is more than a job.”
David adds, “It’s a culture. We even cross-train so there’s always somebody who can step in for anybody else at any time. What’s equally important is that, with Michael running the show, we always know how valuable we are.”
Follow-through to Community
That level of conscientiousness guides Michael in all areas of his life. Sure, it applies to family, customers and employees, but what about those who don’t even know him—or have never heard of him?
Michael is happy to live a life providing for others anonymously. He likes it that way. “In the past, we’ve sponsored Little League teams, but I didn’t much care for how the company might be perceived as advertising, so now we just donate the funds. People who build houses for Habitat for Humanity, and those who make those houses their homes, they don’t need to know who donated the flooring.” Even when flooring donations reach 5- or 6-digit levels, Michael stays in the background.
Michael and Argosy employees endeavor to create and maintain the highest level of ethics and morals, and to provide quality products and workmanship at a fair price. “Whether it’s been a $50 job or one for $2 million,” Michael says, “we own that we are the ones who are thankful when we sell and provide service.”