Matt Hall, our newest salesperson, joined us in February. Previously Matt worked in the furniture industry, so he observes our industry with fresh eyes—often seeing what those of us building business veterans take for granted or do not notice.
Matt’s Food for Thought
1. “There’s a lot more to decking, railing, and fencing than meets the eye. Be patient with new hires!”
Depending on where they’ve come from and their experience level, they may be on a steep learning curve. Don’t assume they know all best practices, code requirements, or processes when plumbing a post, installing ledger boards, etc.
“Give step-by-step instructions and set expectations. Cover all the bases to ensure they know how to do their job to your standards.”
Don’t assume customers understand our industry terminology. Describe things in simple terms so customers don’t get lost in the jargon and misunderstand what to expect.
“Don’t just explain the ‘what’ but also the ‘why.’” The more customers grasp why you’re approaching a project a certain way, the better chance they’ll be satisfied with the outcome.”
One of the most effective ways to plan for the year ahead is to look back on the year behind. Assessing your performance in 2023 can give you valuable insight into what is—or is not—working for your company.
1. Financial performance
Review your financial statements to evaluate where your company stands. Drill down into the numbers to understand what aspects of your business are contributing to—or hindering—your financial success.
2. Project performance
The jobs you take on directly affect your financial results. How many projects did you complete in 2023? Which types of projects were most profitable? Were any projects “in the red”? Which workers were most
Using your past financial and project performance collectively as a learning tool can help you identify:
- Areas to reduce costs
- Ways to improve cash flow
- Whether to raise prices
- The types of projects to focus on the most
- Whether some workers need additional training
And that knowledge will help you set informed goals and strategies for improving and growing your business in 2024.
In this sixth and final article featuring the concepts from Paul Jarvis’s book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing, we discuss the power of relationship building.
You may have noticed a trend in marketing these days: big companies are trying to emulate smaller companies by appearing more relatable, personable, and accessible.
That’s in line with what Jarvis describes in his book. Business leaders with a Company of One mindset recognize the importance of building mutually beneficial, long-term relationships.
Relationship-Building Reminders and Tips
- Long-term relationships are acquired through demonstrating empathy and earning trust.
- When you gain trust, you earn word-of-mouth referrals. That brings opportunities to nurture new relationships and increase your social capital.
- Think of social capital as a bank account—you can only take out what you put in.
- Social capital breeds reciprocity. The more your company connects with others through educating and helping them, the more they will want to do business with you.
- Never take existing customers for granted. Find ways to show them they’re valued.
Did you miss any of our “Build a Business That Works for You Using Company of One Concepts” articles this year? You can catch up on our earlier articles anytime by visiting: homesteadoutdoorproducts.com/blog/.
Wolf’s new collection of low-maintenance, durable outdoor beadboards for porch ceilings and wainscoting has the look of real hardwood while offering the weather-resistance and durability of high-density PVC.
Features and Benefit Highlights
- 1/2” x 6-1/8” x 18’ boards have tongue-and-groove design and hidden fastening.
- Does not absorb moisture.
- Won’t swell, rot, split, or delaminate.
- Requires no special installation tools—cut, drill, miter, nail, or glue it like wood.
We have Ash and Silverado colors in stock. And Cherry and Mahogany are available by special order.
Trim Coil by Berger Products
Trim coil is a must-have, and we now offer Berger Products’ trim coil in 24” x 50’ coils and matching nails for a seamless look.
Colors in stock:
- Tuxedo Gray
- Desert Sand
- Glacier Blend
- Snow White
Reach out if you have any questions about these or our other products!
Issues with suppliers and customers can—and do—happen. Material deliveries get delayed, or the wrong product arrives; some customers have unrealistic expectations or are uncooperative. It goes with the territory when you’re a contractor!
When things don’t go according to plan, many people have a knee-jerk reaction. They express frustration and, based on what they feel is their right, often demand an immediate resolution. They want the matter fixed, no matter the cost to the other party.
But that isn’t the best way to handle things. Burning bridges rarely is! Instead, lead with wisdom when faced with a problem.
Wisdom: the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
That’s a fancy way of saying to use common sense and think beyond the issue at hand. Consider more than just dollars and cents; think about how a solution will impact your relationship with the other party—and potentially others who get pulled into the fray.
The best outcome will likely be one in which there’s compromise rather than a one-sided resolution in favor of just one party.
In this fifth article based on insight gleaned from the book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing by Paul Jarvis, we talk about trust.
As a contractor, your success depends on how much people trust you. Trust is about demonstrating competence, instilling confidence, and showing you care.
Often, trust must be formed before people will buy. This is why generalized ad mailings have low return rates while personalized messages do so well. Fortunately, building trust through word of mouth is cheaper than marketing campaigns. However, it does require a commitment to deliver quality workmanship and a superior customer experience.
That entails meeting customers’ unique needs and exceeding their expectations by delivering simple, customized solutions that accomplish their goals. A homeowner needing a deck wants a builder who can achieve their vision efficiently and effectively. The customer isn’t looking for a contractor based on whether they drive a high-end work truck or have a full-time admin assistant. The homeowner cares about whether the contractor can construct a quality product that provides lasting value.
Tips for Developing and Leveraging the Trust Factor
- Be agile. Stay open to trying new approaches and processes and be willing to end methods of operation that aren’t working.
- Aspire to excellence in every aspect of every project.
- Ask your satisfied customers for reviews. Surveys indicate that most customers would willingly review the completed project, but only a fraction of small businesses ask them to.
Next in our series: Building long-term relationships.
Fiberon® Promenade PVC Decking features the aesthetic appeal of handcrafted wood decking and the superior performance of premium PVC. Promenade is quickly becoming a customer and contractor favorite!
Why Customers Love It
- High-end look with low-maintenance needs: Looks like natural wood without the upkeep.
- No-slip safety: Its mold- and slip-resistant surface texture makes it an ideal choice for waterside applications, such as docks, marinas, and pools.
- Long-lasting beauty: Its durable construction defies scratching, fading, cracking, splitting, and warping.
- Peace of mind: Promenade comes with a Lifetime Performance Warranty and a 50-year Stain and Fade Warranty.
Why Contractors Love It
- Fast, easy installation: Installers can construct Promenade decks quickly, using the same tools required for building wooden decks.
- Less heavy lifting: Promenade’s boards are lightweight (much lighter than composite), making them easy to handle and install.
- ASTM E84 Class A fire rating: The decking satisfies building code requirements that many other products do not.
Homestead Outdoor Products has Fiberon Promenade PVC Decking in stock now! Talk with your rep for more information.
According to Bill Hursh, inside sales representative at Homestead Outdoor Products, attention to detail makes the difference between a project that goes smoothly and one that hits bumps in the road. Decking and railing jobs are no exception!
A project’s trajectory is set in motion when contractors order the decking/railing material. Here are Bill’s top-three tips for ensuring accurate orders that put all else on the right path.
1. Realize changing colors or products might affect pricing and timing.
“If you get a quote on a product in a particular style or color, but the customer changes their mind, check with us on the pricing and availability,” Bill advises. Some styles and colors might cost more or not be in stock.
2. Triple-check specifications for special orders, such as gates.
“Triple-check measurements, color, and other specifics before placing orders for anything custom,” Bill says. And if you suspect something might change (maybe the customer is uncertain and still thinking through what they want), wait before ordering materials.
3. Look over order confirmations closely.
“While we are extra careful not to make mistakes, look over your order confirmation from us—ideally the same day—to make sure everything matches up with what you ordered.”
Homestead Outdoor Products has an effective internal process for double-checking orders. However, it’s not foolproof when there’s room for interpretation (such as doing a takeoff from a photo or drawing) or if a contractor orders the wrong items.
The book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing by Paul Jarvis shares how small businesses can stand out from larger companies.
In this issue of The Homestead Post, we’ll share two tips (inspired by chapter 7 of the book) about how contractors can leverage their person-to-person connections and use them to their competitive advantage.
1. Demonstrate Empathy
Some studies indicate many people weigh how they are treated by a company more heavily than product features or price when making buying decisions. While it may be difficult to beat bigger competitors on pricing alone, small contracting companies can win projects by going the extra mile to make customers feel important and that they’re being listened to. Take notes! It shows you’re paying attention as customers talk about their challenges and needs.
2. Follow Through
Fortunately, small companies often have more control over fulfilling what they say they will do for a customer than do large corporations with long chains of command and even longer red tape.
Following through on your promises to customers builds their trust and confidence in you. And that leads to
a stellar reputation and a stream of referrals from happy customers. In his book, Jarvis says to consider this: 83 percent of new business comes from word of mouth!
Next in our series: A deeper dive into trust. If you missed our earlier articles in this series, catch up now!
Running a small business involves a lot of moving parts, and it’s important to make sure they’re all going in the right direction. That’s where a business plan—a document that captures a business’s objectives and provides a road map for achieving them—comes in.
Three Big Benefits of Having a Business Plan
1. Helps you steer your company as it grows.
As opportunities or unexpected challenges arise, you can make strategic decisions about how to handle them based on how they fall into your plan and how they may affect your goals.
2. Helps you hire and do business with the right people.
A good business plan will describe the types of employees and professional services your company needs to succeed and grow. So, as you’re hiring workers or looking for vendors, your business plan will help you determine if their qualifications and characteristics will be a good fit.
3. Helps secure funding.
The chances of getting a bank loan or attracting investors are slim to none without a business plan. A business plan offers details about your products and services, management, operations, sales and marketing, and financial projections. It gives lenders reassurance that you’ll be able to pay your debts and investors confidence they will get a return on their investment.
For help writing a business plan, visit the Small Business Administration’s website at SBA.gov, or consider reaching out to the nonprofit SCORE at score.org for free mentoring and assistance in creating a business plan.