What began as a bicycle shop in 1912 has evolved into one of the nation’s largest distributors of security products. When H.L. Flake soon marks its one hundredth year of operation, the company not only will celebrate its centennial in a new facility in Houston, but will do it with a coast-to-coast locksmith following in the thousands representing every corner of the Continental U.S.
Founded by Herbert L. Flake, over the years the company added not only locks and keys, but also lawn and garden equipment, material handling supplies, air rifles, wagons, roller skates and more. In the 1920s, Flake also handled Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
“We’re proud of this company’s heritage and the entrepreneurial, free-enterprise spirit that’s a part of it,” says Dan Floeck, CEO and Managing Partner who purchased the family-owned firm from Herbert Flake’s heirs in 1988. “But we’re even prouder of our progress over the past 23 years, focusing on locksmith needs with an unsurpassed inventory of competitively priced, quality products and timely delivery. And we’re excited about our next century of helping locksmiths build their own businesses profitably.”
Family owned, decades of experience
Floeck is keenly aware of what it takes to run a business. Prior to purchasing Flake, he spent more than 15 years in auto parts retail operations, advancing from assistant store manager to manager, then managing two stores and ultimately running 70 auto parts stores and their distribution, along with several bicycle shops.
His son Jeff Floeck joined the company full-time in 1999 after graduating from Texas A&M, and worked in accounts payable, purchasing, sales and other areas before taking on the role of President and Chief Operating Officer. Dan’s daughters, Leslie Moerer and Lindsey Floeck, have responsibilities in Purchasing and Customer Service.
“We know how important it is to get the items you need - even if it’s only one - when and where you need them and at a competitive price,” Jeff asserts. “Our combination of extensive on-hand inventory, user friendly Web and phone order processing and great shipping programs help us to maintain a very high level of overall customer satisfaction.”
“Not only that, we follow the Golden Rule - we treat our customers the way we want to be treated,” injects Dan. “This means not only quickly, efficiently and pleasantly handling routine orders, but also when an occasional mix-up occurs or when special needs arise.
“Unlike large corporations, we’re not concerned about making a number this quarter or this year; we’re focused on the long term. There’s no giving customers the run-around or hiding behind corporate ‘rules.’ If a locksmith runs into a situation involving, for example, a large sale where extended payment may be an issue, it’s easy for them to reach me or Jeff directly to work out a solution with an owner of the company.”
National reach - Small-company responsiveness
“You won’t find a lot of red tape around here,” Jeff says. “We don’t have layers of management like some large firms do. Unlike managers of branch warehouses that are part of national chains, our hands aren’t tied by rules handed down from a distant corporate parent. We’re a family owned business. A locksmith can reach the decision makers when they need to, anytime; at worst, one of us will respond within 24 hours.”
Dan draws a boating metaphor. “We’re like a guy in a canoe who can turn on a dime. Large corporations or even branches owned by a major company are more like the Queen Mary. By the time they realize a special locksmith need exists, they’re a long way from shore and it then takes a lot more time and effort to turn around a solution. We respond quickly.”
H.L. Flake retains its small-company agility, flexibility and responsiveness even though it’s grown from seven employees when Jeff joined the firm, to nearly 50 now. Its monthly sales volume (even in these tight times) is more than 4-1/2 times higher than its annual sales when Dan bought the firm. All of this didn’t happen by accident.