Tips for Defining Your Business’s Focus

  • Don’t try to be all things to all customers.

    If you’re always coming in too low on Home Advisor quotes or losing your shirt on budget-conscious residential customers, you’re seeing signs that maybe you’re pursuing or taking work that isn’t a good fit for your company. 

  • Have a company mission statement that defines your vision for your
    business’s purpose and value to the marketplace.
    It can be a useful tool for guiding your prospecting efforts.
  • Realize that what you view as your preferred target market might not be realistic right now because of how customers perceive your company.

    To appeal to the customers you consider ideal, it might require time, patience, and consistent effort to demonstrate that you deliver the value they seek.


Then and Now: Horse Fencing

VINYL HORSE FENCES—THEN

Way back when, in colonial times, whitewashed wood board rail fencing was the traditional choice for agricultural and other utilitarian purposes. It became known as “horse fencing” because it was ideal for keeping horses corralled. Because the fences were made of wood, they became a major spring project as miles upon miles of fencing needed to be repaired and repainted each year.

Eventually, vinyl rail fencing emerged that could offer the same clean, whitewashed appearance with low maintenance needs. As vinyl fences began to prove their value to farmers, ranchers, and homeowners, they paved the way for the creation of other vinyl outdoor products.

VINYL HORSE FENCES—NOW

Today, vinyl rail fencing comes in a variety of colors. It’s simple to install and constructed using 5’ x 5’ posts that are secured to the ground with concrete. The posts have routed holes to receive the 1.5” x 5.5” or 2” x 6” rails, which have tabs to prevent them from becoming disconnected from the posts. Gates can be built off-square to accommodate rolling terrain.

Vinyl rail fences primary uses include:

• Containing farm animals (except for cattle, which might break the fence)
• Marking property boundaries
• Providing foot-traffic guidance
• Marking barriers around shallow ponds and other minimal-risk property features


Which Will You Be Known For? Price, Quality, or Speed of Delivery

When providing services and products to your customers, you have an important decision to make: Will your company be known for its low prices, exceptional quality, or speed in getting the job done?

Achieving all three is a nearly impossible feat:

  • Increasing speed usually increases costs (through hiring additional labor or buying equipment) and may diminish quality (if a faster turnaround is at the expense of proper attention to detail).
  • Improving quality often adds cost (via higher-grade materials and/or workers with specialized skills) and pushes out completion dates (due to the extra attention and care given to the job).
  • Decreasing costs may sacrifice a quality end result (due to using lower-quality materials or less-experienced workers). There’s often a give and take, so it’s critical to think about what you want your brand to be known for. Rarely, can businesses market themselves as “lowest prices,” “best quality,” and “fastest.” Usually, they become known for one or two, at best.

Consider:

  • Harbor Freight Tools vs. Snap-on
  • Kia vs. Mercedes Benz
  • Walmart vs. Nieman Marcus

So, how can you determine the right legacy to build for your company?

That’s both easy and difficult at the same time! It involves knowing your company’s core strengths. Rely not only on your gut for figuring this out, but also ask for candid feedback from your customers. If there’s a mismatch, you’ll have some work to do, either to shift the scales to what you want to be known for in the marketplace or to embrace and strengthen the public perception that already exists.


New Product Spotlight: Wolf Portrait™ Siding

We are pleased to now offer Wolf Portrait Siding.
Your customers will love its:

  • Authentic wood-grain texture
  • Superior protection against moisture
  • InfinitySeam™ Technology, providing a precise fit
  • Proprietary ColorWatch™ premium ASA capstock that helps block UV rays and prevent fading

Wolf Portrait Siding is available in two collections and six colors. It’s made in the USA and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Contact us for more information!


Tips for Choosing Fencing and Decking Colors

In our showroom, we field a lot of questions from homeowners and contractors about color selection for fencing and decking. They want to know “What will look best?” with the exterior of the house.

That’s a tough question to answer! Color choice is very subjective. What looks good to one person may not appeal to another.

That makes it challenging when proposing color pairings. However, by keeping a few key considerations in mind you can narrow down viable options for customers.

  • What is the exterior color of the house?
  • Does your customer prefer subtle or bold palettes?
  • Does your customer like contrasting or complementary colors?
  • What architectural style (colonial, contemporary, Victorian, Mediterranean, etc.) does the home have?
  • Is the home located in the city, suburbs, or country?
  • Are the environmental surroundings vibrant or subdued?

Examples of popular choices for several common situations include:

Modern city homes
Stark colors are often chosen to complement minimalist design.

Beach homes
Faded, subtle colors like cool gray and light tan present well in muted surroundings.

Lancaster County country homes
Saturated (deeper) colors often look best because the rich colors in the environment don’t drown them out.

Of course, customers have the final say. It’s important to collaborate closely with them to ensure they make an informed decision—one they will be pleased with for years to come.


How to Deal With Customers Who Don’t Want to Pay

When customers pay late – or don’t pay at all – it can hurt your
cash flow. Here are some ways to prevent problems and deal with issues
when they do happen.

Tips for Preventing Customer Payment Problems

  • Be wary of projects that were started by another contractor. It raises a red flag when a customer wishes to suddenly switch from one contractor to another. Make sure the “opportunity” didn’t come to you because the customer didn’t pay the other contractor and is looking to find the next unsuspecting business to do the work.
  • Set up a payment schedule to insulate your business from non-payment. What works well for many contractors is asking for one-third of the project rate up front, another third at some point during the project, and then the final third at the end of the job. Getting payments in installments can help keep you on solid ground as you devote time, materials, and effort to a job.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Contractors that rely on one or two customers for their income are at
    risk of needing to scramble to find work if the customer suddenly hits a slump or decides to use a different contractor. It also puts the price negotiation power in the hands of the customer. Try to diversify where your revenue comes from, but if you do put all of your eggs in one basket, watch that basket carefully!

Tips for Dealing With Delinquent Customers

  • Be professional, calm, and politely persistent. Set a schedule for calling non-paying customers regularly to check on the status of their payment. Set expectations that you’ll be calling back again to check in.
  • Propose a mutually agreeable payment plan. Often, slow payers are either poor managers or in a financial crunch. They want to pay, but they’re struggling.
  • Consider a collections firm, but only after other tactics have failed. If the dollars at stake are significant enough, then it may be worth trying this. Realize, however, that this could do permanent damage to the customer-contractor relationship.

Wolf Distinction™ Railing

With the classic appeal of white painted wood and OptiBracket™ Technology, Wolf Distinction™ Railing makes an attractive and durable addition to outdoor living spaces.

  •  It’s easy to install—with a simple all-in-one kit.
  • It requires minimal maintenance.
  • One versatile bracket supports 6-foot and 8-foot rail sections; connects 22.5°, 45°, flat, and stair; and hides out of view to provide a flawless finish.

For more information about this railing that combines a timeless look with modern innovation, contact us!


Best Practices for Handling Two Common Issues With Railings

To help you navigate two challenges you might encounter with railings, we’re sharing the following helpful tips:

Options for Handling Difficult Angles

Installing railings can get tricky when circumstances present something other than straightforward 45° or 90° angles.

Here are some options for dealing with odd horizontal plane angles:

Poly blocks—These solid plastic blocks, which are available in colors that match vinyl railings, can be cut to accommodate any angle.

Painted PVC trim—By cutting a wedge out of PVC trim to meet the angle requirements and painting it to match the railing, you can effectively solve the problem.

Surface-mounted post brackets—Rather than using the existing post, consider cutting it off and putting a surface-mounted post bracket on the deck. This will allow you to mount railing at any angle.

Aluminum as an alternative—If you’re not too far along in the process, switching to aluminum railing can simplify matters. With aluminum railing, you can use swivel brackets, which make it easy to accommodate strange angles.

How to Avoid Gaps When Attaching Vinyl 2 x 4 Railing to a Rounded Vinyl 4 x 4 Post

In screened porch applications that require attaching a 2 x 4 vinyl rail to a rounded 4 x 4 post, an unsightly gap can occur.

Follow the step-by-step guide below to avoid the problem:

  1. Start with a 2 x 4 that is 1/4 inch over required length.
  2. Cut to where the 1/4 inch radius begins.
  3. Cut a 45° angle with a miter saw.
  4. Finish fairing the curve with a rotary tool or utility knife.


Advantages of Decking Patterns

When customers look for a contractor to install a deck, they may think of it as a commodity that any home improvement company can tackle. But a deck doesn’t have to be “just a deck.” Suggesting a decking pattern to your customer shows that a deck can be an attractive architectural feature and that you are a designer, not just an installer.

Fortunately, your team already has the skill set needed to build decking patterns.
With precise measuring and planning for some additional time to frame the deck, you can create a stunning deck with a design such as:

  • Parquet
  • Herringbone
  • Basket Weave
  • Diamond
  • Diagonal
  • V-Shape

How Decks With Patterns Benefit Your Customers

  • Create a more interesting outdoor living space
  • Minimize the appearance of gaps when boards expand and contract

How Installing Decks With Patterns Benefits Your Business

  • Sets you apart from your competition
  •  Adds revenue—decking patterns require more planning, materials (depending on the pattern), and labor

If you’re in a competitive-quote situation, consider suggesting a decking pattern to your prospective customers. It will help them visualize that a deck can be far from ordinary, and it will demonstrate your versatility, creativity, and capabilities.


Wolf Home Products Outdoor Cabinetry

We’re happy to now be offering Wolf Endurance™, aluminum cabinetry that stands up to wear and weather. Available in ash, black, and white powder- coated finishes, Wolf Endurance makes a visually appealing and versatile addition to outdoor living areas.*

Homeowners will love how this cabinetry makes entertaining on decks and patios a breeze. It comes in a variety of options and seals out rain and moisture. You’ll appreciate how easy it is to configure and install. It’s lightweight, fully assembled, and customizable to fit any surface.

Want to learn more? Contact us for more information!

* Homestead Outdoor Products does not sell countertops and ranges. They must be purchased independently.