Three Tips to Avoid Unwelcome Surprises When Buying Decking or Railing

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.


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

Part 4: Leverage the Personal Touch

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! 


Do you really need a business plan?

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.


Four Tips for Successful Cable Railing Installation

Photo courtesy of Key-Link™ Fencing & Railing

Cable railing—with its sleek profile—has become a popular choice among homeowners wanting durability and a minimalistic aesthetic.

According to Mike Stoltzfus, outside sales representative at Homestead Outdoor Products, “Installing it can be challenging, though, because every manufacturer has their own unique cable railing system.”

Inexperience and lack of unfamiliarity with a brand can ultimately lead to costly installation errors. However, Mike says a willingness to learn and attention to detail will help ensure successful results.

Recommendations for Flawless Installation

1. Educate yourself on the cable railing system.

Before ordering the product, familiarize yourself with it by reviewing the manufacturer’s sales and technical resources. For example, Key-Link™ has a video and installation guide on its website to allow contractors to learn about the installation process.

2. Pay attention.   

Follow the manufacturer’s installation guide step by step so you don’t miss any part of the process. Doing things right from the start will spare
you from spending extra time and money to fix mistakes.

3. Check fittings on every post.    

Every post (corner and end) will have fittings, which may loosen during shipping and handling. Before you begin the installation, check each post and hand-tighten fittings if necessary.

4. Ask for guidance.    

When you order from Homestead Outdoor Products, Mike is here to offer guidance to contractors who are new to installing cable railing. He’ll meet with you on the job site to answer questions and help you get started with confidence.


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

Part 3: Mindset and Personality

Welcome to our third article inspired by Paul Jarvis’s book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business. In the first two articles we covered:

Now, let’s talk about mindset and personality!

Mindset Matters

Jarvis advocates a mindset of purpose, but he cautions not to confuse purpose with passion. Purpose considers what you can offer the world, whereas passion often is about leveraging a skill to see what it can get you.

Purpose is based on values: It’s why you do what you do—and it should serve as the compass for your company. Successful business owners not only consider what they’re good at but also make sure demand exists for what they do. They let their purpose guide their decisions. Moreover, they recognize that multi-tasking and busyness are roadblocks to critical thinking. (Studies indicate that a person’s ability to focus drops dramatically after working 55 hours per week!)

Tip: Write down your purpose. Don’t worry about how it sounds, just make sure it reflects your values.

Personality Prevails

Small companies have an edge over large brands—they have more opportunities to bring a personal touch to everything they do. Personality can be a major differentiator, and successful small business leaders use it to their advantage. It is possible to be professional without being impersonal!

Let your uniqueness shine through. Authenticity creates trust and respect.

Next up in our series: Keeping customers happy.


Business-Building Breakfasts

Join us on March 31, April 28, and May 26 to enjoy a free breakfast along with insight and tips from Wolf® Home Products and affiliates.

New Holland Coffee Company 7 to 8 a.m.
R.S.V.P. to reserve your seat! Space is limited to 40 people per session, so hurry!
Send an email to sales@homesteadoutdoorproducts.com or call 717-656-9596.


Rainy Day Tips for Contractors

Even when spring showers put a damper on working outside, there’s plenty you can do to maintain momentum.

Stay busy and productive by:

  • Making sales and customer follow-up calls
  • Preparing invoices, paying bills, and getting caught up on other paperwork
  • Planning your marketing strategy
  • Cleaning and doing maintenance on equipment and tools
  • Preparing your truck for the next day’s work
  • Researching new building products you’ve been wanting to learn more about

Don’t let rainy days be a downer! With a little motivation on your part, they can be the perfect opportunity to tie up loose ends and move your company forward.


Add Value Through Upselling—How to do it the right way!

Upselling, when approached with purpose, can be a win-win for contractors and their customers. It can add value and increase customer loyalty. Sadly, many businesses give upselling a bad rap because they look at it as a way to push products or services on customers—even when customers don’t need them—for the sake of making more money.

Tips for Effective and Ethical Upselling

Again, upselling should be good for both you and your customer. It should involve recommending additional work or products that will:

  • Improve the function or endurance of some element of a project
  • Increase safety, or
  • In some other way satisfy the customer’s needs

One example of exemplary upselling is to propose using better-quality materials that last longer and will provide more value for the customer’s money. For instance, a contractor might recommend all-vinyl decking rather than composite materials because it offers greater protection against moisture and requires little maintenance.

Ultimately, upselling builds client relationships when done properly. And that’s the true test of whether upselling is ethical and truly offering value.

In the next issue, we’ll cover the concept of cross-selling to improve your company’s bottom line.


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

Part 2: Leadership Qualities

Our series inspired by Paul Jarvis’s book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business continues! To refresh your memory on what our first article covered, “company of one” isn’t defined as a one-person business. Rather, it refers to running a business resourcefully and not trying to grow a company for the sake of growth itself.

Today, we’ll focus on Company of One leadership qualities and the nuances of growth (covered in chapters three and four of Jarvis’s book).

What characteristics do effective leaders have in common?

Leaders who embody Company of One principles share many of the same qualities:

  • They have well-rounded business acumen; in other words, they know a little about a lot!
  • They have good communication skills.
  • They are resilient.
  • They understand what motivates people.
  • They are decisive and focused.
  • They know when to say “when” and how to avoid getting burned out.

Note that excellent leaders aren’t necessarily charismatic. Introverts can—and do—make stellar leaders.

How do they approach growth?

Smart leaders think of growth not as a goal but as a result of improved products or services. They don’t let their egos drive growth. Instead, they pay attention to what will benefit their customers. That’s especially important for small businesses with limited resources; it costs about five times more to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones!

By approaching growth as an effect of serving their customers optimally, leaders make it clear that they are in tune with their greatest strengths.

Stay tuned: In our next Company of One article, we’ll touch on how a leader’s mindset affects business success.


Business-Building Breakfasts

Please join us for a free breakfast and learning session at the New Holland Coffee Company from 7–8 a.m. on the last Friday of each month from January through May. At each session, a Homestead Outdoor Product vendor will talk about new products, installation techniques, and more.

RSVP to reserve your seat! Hurry! Space is limited to 40 people per session.

Send an email to sales@homesteadoutdoorproducts.com or call 717-656-9596. 

Join us!

  • January 27 Superior™ Plastic Products
  • February 24 Otter-Tech™ Underdecking
  • March 31 Fiberon® decking
  • April 28 Wolf® Decking Pro and Key-Link™ railing
  • May 26 Wolf® Siding and Evolve® Stone