Winter Deck Maintenance Tips: A Checklist for Homeowners

Although decks are not used as much now as they are in the warmer months, they shouldn’t be neglected.    

Share these four maintenance tips with your customers so they can keep their composite decks in optimal condition for spring and summer:

1. Keep your deck clear. Remove debris, leaves, and non-essential furnishings and decor from your deck. The fewer obstacles, the faster and frustration-free snow removal will be.

2. Remove snow with a plastic shovel or soft-bristled broom. Metal shovels or sharp tools can scratch the surface of your deck, so avoid using them.

3. To melt ice on your deck, use salt-free, dye-free ice melt products. Opt for products with calcium chloride or potassium chloride, which are less likely to damage or stain composite material.

4. Check fasteners and tighten them if necessary. Decking materials can contract in cold weather, so inspect your deck’s fasteners. Tighten any that have loosened or popped out to keep your deck stable and safe.


Business Building Breakfasts Are Back!

Mark your calendar so you don’t miss these learning (and FREE breakfast) opportunities.

  • Thursday, January 25: Topic: Fiberon® Decking
  • Thursday, February 29: Topics: Wolf® Decking PRO certification, UFP-Edge®, Evolve Stone™
  • Thursday, March 28: Topic: Superior™ Plastic Products
  • Thursday, April 25: Topic: Key-Link™ Railing Products

Where: New Holland Coffee Co., 832 W. Main St., New Holland, PA

When: 7 to 8 a.m.

R.S.V.P.: Email Jill at jill@homesteadoutdoorproducts.com or call our Sales department at 717-656-9596.


How to Make Selling a Mutually Beneficial Experience

Part 1 in our series based on the book To Sell Is Human

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink provides a fresh perspective on sales. 

It reminds us that selling is about more than winning a bid; it’s about motivating people toward a mutually beneficial outcome. Besides dedicated sales reps, everyone else who represents your company (including business owners, receptionists, and installers) is a salesperson in some way. They are all responsible for persuading and influencing others (employees, customers, vendors, etc.).

Selling in Today’s Consumer-Empowered World: What Contractors Should Keep in Mind   

With customers more informed and connected to information than ever before (thanks to the Internet and social media), the stereotypical sales persona (slick, pushy, dishonest) no longer has a place in today’s world. Successful selling requires a genuine effort to improve, simplify, or enrich others’ lives with solutions that meet their needs.

If the concept of selling makes you uncomfortable, consider the following tips:

  • Inform and educate to allow others to make an informed decision.
  • Know it’s OK to say, “I don’t know”—as long as you follow it with “Let’s find out,” so you get the answers your customer needs.
  • Recognize that people may think they know the best option based on what they found on Google. If their online sources provided misinformation, respectfully correct those misconceptions so the customer doesn’t base their decision on false knowledge.

Ultimately, sales is about being of service to others. Approaching it that way makes it more intuitive, fulfilling, and effective.

Up next in our series: The importance of attunement.


A Fresh Perspective for Small Contracting Companies

Matt Hall

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.”

2. “When talking with homeowners, don’t talk over their heads. What’s familiar language to you might be Greek to them.”

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.”


Plan for 2024 By Reviewing Performance in 2023

With 2024 just around the bend, now is the time to think about how you’ll move your business forward.

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
productive?

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.


Build a Business That Works for You Using “Company of One” Concepts

Part 6: The Hidden Value of Relationships

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/.


Product Spotlight—Wolf® Woodlands Collection: Edge and Center Bead

Photo courtesy of Wolf Home Products®—Wolf Woodlands Collection

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!


Food for Thought: Solving Problems By Letting Wisdom Be Your Guide

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.


Build a Business That Works for You Using “Company of One” Concepts

Part 5: The Power of Trust

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.


Product Spotlight: Promenade PVC Decking by Fiberon®

Photo courtesy of Fiberon®

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.