Two Blind Guys was awarded the 2022 Business of the Year by the Kirkwood - Des Peres Area Chamber of Commerce and will celebrate 25 years in business this October. Owner Debbie Kinsinger (DK) and her two sons, Kris Kinsinger (KK) and Rob Kinsinger (RK), talk about their roles as leaders of this dynamic family business.
Two Blind Guys underwent changes, and Debbie became the sole owner in 2013. Describe that experience.
DK - It was scary because I went from having a part in the business, to fully running it. Thankfully, Hunter Douglas provided so much support as I worked to move from a mom-and-pop business to a premier gallery experience.
What was a significant turning point since you took over the business?
DK - There were two major turning points. The first was when Kris started in sales, and the second was when Rob came in to handle the finances.
Did Kris come into the business to handle sales?
DK - No. Kris was thrown into sales overnight. At that time, I was our only salesperson, and Kris was working in the showroom, taking phone calls and helping with installs. One day, I broke my leg on the job and couldn't walk. We needed to continue calling on customers, so Kris stepped in as the salesperson the next day.
KK - I was terrified because I had no experience in sales. I was comfortable with installations but had no idea how to walk into a house with samples, books, and pricing. It took a couple of weeks, but I ended up liking sales.
DK - Breaking my leg propelled our business in a different direction. I began backing out of sales which allowed Kris to develop into that role, ensuring that our customers would always be cared for.
Kris, when did you know this would be your permanent career?
KK - When Rob came into the business. His strengths are very different from mine. I'm not a finance guy.
DK - Rob came in and completely revitalized the financial aspect of the business.
RK - I graduated with an economics degree from the University of Missouri St. Louis. I applied what I learned in school to alleviate some of the financial pressure Debbie and Kris were facing. But nothing I did on the finance side of the business would have mattered if we didn't have happy customers. I couldn't do their jobs. Kris knows how to grow a business through marketing, networking, social media, and sales.
DK - We each have different strengths that cohesively keep us all together. I'm grateful and thankful for each of them. They bring a lot of knowledge that I don't have.
What's the one thing you've learned as business leaders?
KK- As leaders, whether as owners or managers, we do a disservice to co-workers, employees, and clients if we are not following our potential to grow or expand. It's our duty to continue to grow. There are points where we get comfortable or hit that milestone and think we made it. But there is another milestone if you keep going. It's our duty to keep going.
RK - People think that when you become part of a family business you have a golden ticket for life. Everyone on our team works hard to go above and beyond to operate at the highest level. Solid communication provides clarity for the long-term growth and success of the business. Communication with each other and our customers is one of the keys to our success.
DK - You can only grow if you see a path for growth. As I start documenting the journey of how we began and where we are now, I realize it is well worth the struggle. Everything happens for a reason, and breaking my leg was God's way of saying, "You have to do something differently." We've come a long way just in the past couple of years. We completely renovated our showrooms in Des Peres and Chesterfield with state-of-the-art designed Hunter Douglas products that match the interior design and automation trends. And we are looking at the entire home industry for opportunities to scale and grow.
What's the one piece of advice you have for other business leaders?
KK - Surround yourself with mentors and people who will challenge you. Minimize voices that say you're crazy for thinking big or that it's not worth it to work so hard. Listen to the people who are your biggest champions. They usually have been where you are and can point you in the right direction when things aren't easy.
RK- Find a specialization and stick with it. Take ownership of your designated role and respect each other's expertise. I can suggest something to Kris or Debbie, but at the end of the day, they will do their best job and have the business's best interest in mind.
DK - Have an open mind and be willing to learn new things. The most successful family businesses are the ones that figure out how to work together.
As brothers, have you always been close?
KK - Since I'm the oldest and Rob is the youngest of the four of us (siblings Jenna and Jake are in the middle), we were at different places in our lives because of our ages.
RK - I recall taking a lot of abuse. Particularly being duct taped to our doghouse and being pelted with paintballs.
KK - We wrapped Rob in pillows, put a ski mask on him and said, "Run."
DK - Like I said earlier, we've come a long way.
For more information or to reach the team please contact: twoblindguys.com
Surround yourself with mentors and people who will challenge you.