Caprittas Find Perfect Balance Between Work and Home Lives
When Michele Capritta thinks of small businesses she pictures the two owners yelling at each other all the time, while their poor employees have no choice but to sit and listen to it. “We’ve just never done that,” she said.
In fact, if you’re looking for the perfect model of how a husband and wife can put together their own business and make it thrive, Tom and Michele Capritta just might be one of the best examples in Brevard County.
The owners of Capritta Fine Appliance have been in business for 30 years; many of their employees have been there for 20 years or more. One of their three sons, Kevin, who started coming to the store with his mother when he was 4, now works as a salesman. Tom’s brother Patt works in the shop as well.
The company sells high-end refrigerators, washers, dryers and other appliances as well as energy-efficient air conditioning units, in addition to a service and repair department. It’s a business Tom and Michele have built from the ground up – or maybe that should be from the garage up – all while being able to maintain the perfect balance between work and home.
“It always has worked pretty well for us because we both have different duties,” Tom explained. “Michele took care of the paperwork, invoicing and paying the bills, and I ran service calls. And we get along; we’re best friends … and married … and business partners.”
“She’s more tolerant than I am,” he joked. “She puts up with most everything I do.”
Tom started a service-technician business in his home in 1982, while still working part-time at Kemper Business Systems. The fact he was able to do both jobs at the same time was a blessing, because it meant he and his family didn’t have to struggle as much financially during those first three years it took to get the business up and running.
Tom, who has the final say on business matters, would work his regular job during the day and take service calls at night. Doing that, while also trying to raise a family, meant that when those calls came in, Tom wasn’t the only one hopping in the truck. “In the evenings, when he used to do the service calls, the kids and I would go with him,” Michele recalled. “We’d wait in the car and wait for him to get done. It was basically a family event.”
“It got to the point where the phone was ringing so often you’d try not to work, but you have to. We’d actually take the kids and go to a hotel for the weekend so we wouldn’t have to answer the phone. Then we finally got it out of the house to where it became a normal business.”
Building on Solid Principles
The Caprittas opened their first store in 1990. It was a Maytag Home Appliance Center. They’ve been in their fourth location, at 2565 West New Haven Avenue, for the past eight years and have been selling high-end appliances for the past four years.
Asked if they had any advice for couples just starting out in business, they came up with a couple of different ideas that not only reflect how they’ve been able to make it all work between them, but also how they’ve been able to stay in business for so long.
First, “Keep work at work. Keep your home life, your home life. And choose a boss,” Tom said. “There’s one leader. You can’t have two chiefs. Whoever it’s going to be, pick one.”
Secondly, “Have enough money to live through the first three years.”
And finally, “Make sure you just take care of the customer, and then the money will come. If you worry about every nickel and dime, charge for this and charge for that, you’re just going to run yourself crazy,” he said. “It’s just better to do the right thing and at the end of the year, you’ll say, ‘Hey, we made some money.’”
“I think that’s a good philosophy, to not worry about the money, just worry about the job and doing it right. That’s why we’ve been around 30 years.”