Three Generations of ISKALIS
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While taking this image, there was a bit of sparring over the correct way to tie a necktie between father (John) and son (Tom Jr.) while grandfather (Tom Sr.) simply wanted the process to be completed “in his lifetime…please.” In an effort to capture good smiles for the photograph, I asked all 3 Iskalis’ who was the smartest?…they all replied “me” in synchrony.
Growing up where business and family were one, Tom Iskalis Jr. learned a lot from his father and his grandfather. The small-town values with which he was raised helped guide him to make the recent decision to join the family flooring business that for nearly 50 years, has persevered in good times and bad.
The third-generation Iskalis credits his grandfather's dream and business savvy, and the support of his second generation father with giving the company its strong foundation. He had been mentored by great role models, and he wanted to gather the guidance he received, and the principles he learned from his family and begin his career. Of the many lessons he learned from his grandfather, there were two that stood out. The first was there is something to learn from everybody. The second was that “business relationships are circular, you may be in front of someone today and behind them tomorrow so be straight forward.”
Tom Jr. has learned that being the boss' son is not as easy as one may think, it takes time to get up to speed and to learn all aspects of the business. Thankfully, many have helped and mentored him to learn his new role. Tom Jr. hopes to “create a memorable customer experience by providing the customer with the knowledge to create beautiful interior spaces.” In addition, his academic background and passion for entrepreneurship brings fresh eyes to the table with an understanding of key metrics and performance data.
The business, which sells carpet, tile and hardwood for residential and commercial spaces, has continued to flourish, in part by staying ahead of the trends and anticipating and coping with changes in the economy.
As a young man, Tom Iskalis Sr. worked for his father, an Albanian immigrant who owned an upholstery business. Tom Iskalis Sr. recalls his early love of textile design that would later translate into interior design. Tom would later purchase “K&K Rugs and Carpet” in 1976. “Our humble beginnings began in a 400 square foot space. Today our combined spaces have grown to more than 70,000 square feet which includes a corporate office, two recently renovated residential and commercial retail showrooms, a warehouse in Gurnee and new retail showrooms on the horizon that will all be part of The Iskalis Flooring Group.”
Succeeding through the decades has meant offering not only high-quality products, but also delivering on customer satisfaction. The company's flooring business remains strong by offering a variety of products and services; commercial and residential installation, sanding and refinishing, carpet cleaning and repair, kitchen countertops and back splashes to name a few.
Second generation John Iskalis, was offered a position in the company by his father after graduating from The University of Illinois in 1991. John is a driving force in the expansion of their commercial work. With dogged persistence, he has been able to grow the business and takes great pride in transforming communities one project at a time. John is invested in the future and is continually upgrading processes to estimate and quote prices quickly and to better manage work crews, installation and communications with clients. In addition, the company website contains its full product catalog so customers can shop and select samples before visiting the showroom.
The Iskalis’ endured the great recession of 2008, as well as many previous down times including the recent pandemic. They continually move forward with instilled a love of family and a tremendous work ethic. Being able to perform in every area of their business and knowing their customers is vital to their success. When Tom Iskalis Sr. is asked, “what is the greatest aspect of your family business?” He becomes very emotional. His response is, “When I hear various people are taking note of my son and grandson’s kindness, and that they truly care and provide great attention to their customers… this is the legacy I hoped to achieve.”
With so many roles to fill within their growing ventures, a variety of talents and viewpoints can all contribute to the success of the family business. Alongside the Iskalis men, stand the Iskalis women Doris and Dana Iskalis. They are behind the scenes handling the accounting and finances. Each of the 3 generations of Iskalis brings a unique set of skills and energy - a blend of “old school vs. new school practices.” They have stuck to their small-town roots and family values. They have had their fair share of loss and struggle but through it all, they have never lost sight of who they are serving…their long-standing customers, their communities, and each other.
Tom Iskalis | 1st Generation
"I had an early love for textile design that would later translate into interior design and transforming spaces."
John Iskalis | 2nd Generation
"The most rewarding part of our family business is to have the ability to blend old school and new school practices."
Tom Iskalis Jr. | 3rd Generation
"Being the boss' son is not as easy as one may think, it takes time to get up to speed and to learn all aspects of the business."
Let's Hear It For The Girls!! Doris and Dana Iskalis.
"The success of a family business is largely due to a circular relationship in which intangible factors enhance each other - love for the family business and trust amidst different business factors. Through their passion for family, Doris and Dana Iskalis provide the business with a powerful asset: the strong family glue.”
Doris Iskalis, is the matron of the family and has been working with Tom Sr. since their first store on Grand & Westmoreland in Waukegan. At that time, Doris states, “I had 4 young kids at home. I would go in each day to do bookwork. Tom’s parents also lived with us (around 1978). I always made myself available to help Tom with the business. I would juggle the kid’s school and sports activities and maintain the household as well as working part-time at our stores. We went through some rough times when the kids were little, but Tom was a very hard worker and a risk taker and that’s why he is successful today!”
Doris Iskalis recalls wearing different hats over the years. She primarily has been responsible for the accounting and bookkeeping, but she even did some selling at times. She used to make sure the store was decorated nicely for the holidays and kept the store supplied with essentials. Today, she pays the bills, salaries, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Doris has always enjoyed being able to get out of the house and meet all kinds of people while knowing that she is helping her husband and her family. “Tom and I still like to get to our stores each day and keep busy!”
Dana Iskalis works alongside her husband John, and now, is joined by her son Tom Jr. Dana brings her accounting expertise to the business. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University, she was employed as an accountant for 11 years at Baxter (which became Cardinal Health). When her son Tommy was born, she began working for the family business part-time. As the business expanded and grew, Doris needed help. Dana’s children were in school at this point, so she was able to commit to 5 days a week. Like Doris, she juggled her home life and that of the family business. Dana’s favorite part of working for the family business is “being able to see my son every day now! He was away for 4 years at college, so it is wonderful to be able to have him nearby.”
While the glass ceiling has kept many women from management positions at many businesses, family businesses can offer more opportunities for women to apply some authority. Women can greatly influence the business as well as the family - at the intersection of these two systems is a fine dance. For more than 2 decades, the Iskalis women have been doing just that.
Pictured below: Doris Iskalis, John Iskalis and Dana Iskalis at The Shanty in Wadsworth where they recently completed new flooring renovations.