The Home Trust International (HTI): How did you get into the floor covering industry?
Raffoul Ajami (RA): I immigrated to the United States in 1968 and lived with my Aunt Mary in Cumberland, Rhode Island. My cousin Raymond was a school teacher who sold and installed carpet part time. One day his helper was ill and couldn’t work. So I filled his place to help carry the carpet. As we were leaving the project I stopped and took a moment to look at the room. The new carpet was beautiful. I was so proud of the installation that I told my uncle that I wanted to become a carpet installer too. I attended morning classes to learn the trade properly. I loved what I was learning. It must have been apparent to my instructor because within only a few weeks he asked me to help him install the Boston Opera House corridors carpet. It was clear to me after finishing this artisanal installation that I’d found my calling; to make lives better by making special places better looking and more comfortable. It was important to me then as it is now, that every installation must be executed at the highest level. My entire life has been dedicated to learning installation the right way; new materials, tools, installation systems and innovations. As a result Ajami now is recognized as an industry leader, and one of the most experienced and innovative flooring companies in South Florida.
HTI: What has been the strongest influence on your career and why?
RA: Each client’s satisfaction, gratitude and compliments keep me going. Each new client motivates me to continuously do the right thing. We’re the one company that has mastered installation and continues to work to be even better.
HTI: If you could have told your 20 year old self one thing, what would it have been?
RA: To do exactly what I’m doing now.
HTI: Please tell us about your family and your personal life.
RA: My family was poor. We moved from Syria to Venezuela when I was 13 years old. I barely finished 6th grade at the Sacred Hearts School. In Venezuela I could only attend one trimester of night class. Our lives changed when we were blessed to move and make a permanent home in the United States of America.
HTI: What is the best advice you’ve received?
RA: Charles Hummel’s book ‘The Fire Place in the Fireplace.’ He wrote (paraphrasing) “In order to get a good fire to warm-up, you need to chop the right logs, placed them correctly and turn the fire on, then you will get warmth. However, if you sit in front of a fireplace and say give me warmth first then I’ll give you good logs, you’ll spend the rest of your life cold.”
HTI: Is there a common thread that runs through all great products?
RA: Quality, style and innovation
HTI: Do you prefer the country or the city?
RA: I can live in both. But due to existing circumstances, I prefer to be in the city.
HTI: What recent project or transaction are you most proud of?
RA: The decorative marble columns we did at the new dining area of The Galleria in Ft. Lauderdale. We take immense pride in the public and private projects we do for our prominent designers.
HTI: In what ways has your company or your industry changed over the years?
RA: Product and installation innovation. There are new innovations that were unimaginable just a few years back.
HTI: The one thing I’ve had forever is:
RA: My integrity. I keep my word.
HTI: What do you miss the most?
HTI: What is your favorite object that reflects extraordinary design and why?
RA: Nature and its unlimited designs and colors.
HTI: What makes a home sing?
RA: When the materials and elements harmonize with each other.
HTI: What place most inspires you?
HTI: Please tell us about your taste in music. Do you have a favorite artist?
RA: Middle eastern and classical music, Oum Kalthoum and Andrea Bocelli.
HTI: What is your favorite brand?
RA: Mercedes is the perfect luxury value combination.
HTI: When you’re not working where are you most likely to be found?
RA: It rarely happens. My greatest pleasure is being with my family.
HTI: What makes a great organization?
RA: Integrity, passion, innovation and its people
HTI: Why The Home Trust?
RA: Because it represents the business model that we believe in.
HTI: If you could be granted one wish, what would it be?
RA: Peace on earth.
HTI: What would you be doing if you weren’t managing Ajami Surfaces?
RA: I’d be painter or a musician.