Antonio Sustiel is a millionaire many times over living the very essence of the American Dream: He has the luxurious mansion in Miami Beach, James Bond-like trove of fast cars and motorcycles, faster boats, and arguably the fastest-growing flooring company in the country, if not the world, in Flooring King. Over the next three years, the mission is opening 350 more stores in the U.S., another 350 in Europe and 100 in Canada.
One might assume the Israeli immigrant who arrived in America with $400 to his name is sitting high upon the mountaintop, enjoying the good life, appearing on such TV shows as CNBC’s Blue-Collar Millionaires and Bloomberg TV’s The American Dream, counting his riches and throwing himself into philanthropy. It’s partly true. Sustiel certainly lives by the work hard, play hard mantra, but at his core is still obsessed with the nuts and bolts of his business. On a given day, at one of his numerous stores spread across eight Florida cities, it’s not uncommon to see the 58-year-old driving a forklift himself.
“I have a passion for the forklift; my father’s construction company had two when I was growing up. He taught me how to drive one when I was 7,” Sustiel says. “Never forget where you came from. If we get containers when I’m at the office, I’ll work four hours straight and have the best time of my life.”
There are also the phone calls. So many phone calls. Since the beginning of Flooring King nearly two decades ago, Sustiel not only lists his personal cell as the contact number, but he also takes most of his company’s orders, seven days a week. Although two assistants help with the 400 to 500 calls per day, Sustiel estimates he talks directly with 10,000 or more customers per month within two minutes of their call.
“There is no greater lesson for a young entrepreneur than pick up the damn phone,” Sustiel says. “Call people and don’t be scared to deal with them face-to-face.”
Before starting his flooring juggernaut, Sustiel compiled a life’s worth of lessons through experiences both in his native Israel and in the U.S., starting at age 6 with his father’s small construction company. After years of skipping school, he dropped out altogether at 13 and went to work for his dad full time. They would often arrive onsite at 4:30 a.m. Following six years in the military, with his father’s blessing, Sustiel moved to Miami, with which he had fallen in love during a childhood visit.
For two years he worked 14-hour days at a flea market, some days losing as much as 5 pounds under a tent beneath a sweltering sun. Having saved enough money, Sustiel opened a fragrance store in downtown Miami. It did well, particularly with international bulk customers, and at just 35, he retired with $4 million in the bank.
“My family was set for life, all the money I would ever need,” he says with a laugh. “So I thought.”
After touring the country in an RV for two years, Sustiel returned to Miami and bought cars and real estate. Then more cars and real estate. A couple of years later, there was no money left.
A friend called one day wondering if Sustiel’s many international contacts would allow him to move some wood flooring that couldn’t be resold in the U.S. After a bit of legwork and a few phone calls, Sustiel shipped five containers, selling the flooring to Caribbean customers. With that, a future “Flooring King” was born.
“I already had connections around the world and a reputation,” Sustiel says. “You really can do anything in this country. You know, I still receive as much satisfaction selling a grandmother $300 worth of flooring as closing a half-a-million-dollar deal. I work from the stomach, not the pocket, or I couldn’t sleep.”
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 Issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo Courtesy of Antonio Sustiel