Product Spotlight: Evolve Stone® Mortarless Series

Photo courtesy of Evolve Stone®

Homestead Outdoor Products now carries Evolve Stone®, a high-performing, simple-to-install stone veneer with the look and feel of natural stone. Evolve Stone delivers premium quality, aesthetics, and ease of installation:

  • More impermeable to moisture than other stone veneer products on the market because it doesn’t hold moisture against the structure
  • Exceptionally durable to withstand the rigors of shipping, installation, and exposure to wind and weather
  • A beautiful, realistic stone look, with UV-resistant colors seamlessly infused throughout the product
  • Installs up to 10 times faster than other stone veneer products

Installation Advantages for Contractors

  • Requires no specialized labor training—No masonry expertise is needed.
  • Installs with standard tools—A finish nailer is all you need. 
  • No weather-related restrictions—You can install it under any conditions and temperatures.
  • No structural considerations—It installs under vinyl siding structural guidelines.

In Stock Now

We currently have Evolve Stone’s District View style in stock in two colors: Morning Aspen and Phantom Shadow. If you are interested in other Evolve Stone styles and colors, we can place a special order for you.  

Call us or visit evolvestone.com for more information about this innovative, versatile product for exterior and interior applications.


Four Tips for Working Safely in the Heat of Summer

Summer brings the perfect storm of heat, humidity, and the hot sun. It’s prime time for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, so it’s important to make sure workers know the first signs of heat-related problems. 

Early Warning Signs

  • Excessive thirst 
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness

More serious symptoms—such as rapid heart rate, no longer sweating, confusion, and difficulty walking—can happen if dehydration goes undetected or is ignored.

How to Stay Hydrated and Healthy

  1. Keep plenty of water (and other beverages that contain mostly water) on the job site, drinking them gradually throughout the day.

  2. Pack fluid-rich foods (such as fruits, vegetables, salad, applesauce, etc.) for snacks and lunch.

  3. While the amount of water individuals need varies from person to person, the general rule is eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Sweating increases the body’s need for fluids, so you may have to drink more in the summer.

  4. Pay attention to the warning signs mentioned above.

A safe summer is a successful summer! Be sure you and your workers make your well-being a priority.


What It Takes to Go From ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

A Hedgehog Mindset

Jim Collins’ book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t describes the six traits of successful companies. Our past articles have discussed three of those characteristics (humble yet driven leaders, the right people, and confronting reality) as they relate to contractors. Now, on we go to the fourth trait. 

Great Companies’ Trait #4: The Hedgehog Concept 

Good-to-great companies understand what they excel at and stick to doing it—like a hedgehog. Hedgehogs are exceptional at one thing (rolling up into a spiked ball), which pays off because it ensures their survival. 

Like a hedgehog, successful companies focus their efforts on doing what’s remarkably effective for them. 

According to Collins, the path from good to great involves finding the intersection between three considerations. At the center is your hedgehog superpower.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What drives your economic success?
  • What do you do the best—and better than anyone else? 

Let’s take a look at how a contractor might use that formula to discover what they should concentrate on in their business.

Hypothetical Scenario: Joe Carpenter 

What is Joe’s passion? While Joe Carpenter doesn’t mind doing regular building work, he really loves the challenge of building and installing spiral staircases. He enjoys the art of using geometry to perfect the particulars of each unique installation.  

What drives Joe’s economic success? Not only does Joe enjoy making spiral staircases, but also he earns a really good profit on them. At the same time, he realizes (because of heavy competition) that he doesn’t make much profit at all on standard residential addition projects.

What is Joe exceptionally good at doing? Joe has become known as the “go-to” guy for spiral staircases. He has an innate talent for creating them, and customers rave about his ability to capture their vision. Plus, most other contractors don’t want to touch those projects—and those who do lack the ability that Joe possesses. 

What is Joe’s hedgehog superpower? Spiral staircases are where Joe’s passion, financial success, and talent intersect. It would be wise for him to direct most of his focus, ambition, marketing, and energy toward attracting more customers who want an expert at building spiral staircases.

What’s your hedgehog superpower?

Stay tuned for our next article. We’ll talk about the importance of a “culture of discipline.”



How to Get Referrals: Just Ask!

Referrals from satisfied customers stand as one of the most effective tools for growing a business. However, not all contractors feel comfortable requesting them. They don’t want to bother their customers, or they believe it’s in bad form to ask for referrals.

If that’s your perception, you may be missing out on new opportunities! 

Instead, look at it this way: Your requests for referrals give your customers the chance to help you (a hard-working small-business owner) AND solve a need for someone they know. Asking respectfully doesn’t pressure your customers to “sell out” their friends, family, or business contacts. Instead, it allows them to think about who might genuinely benefit from your services and expertise.

7 Referral Tips for Contractors 

1. Get organized and be selective. Make a list of jobs that went (or are going) very well and ask those customers for referrals. The fans of your work are the people most likely to recommend you enthusiastically. 

2. Choose the right communication method. Consider the persons you will be asking for referrals. How do they prefer to communicate (phone call, text, email, etc.)? Reach out to them using the method they find most convenient because it may help ensure you get a positive response.

3. Make the ask specific. If you’re interested in getting more jobs of a certain type (perhaps they’re more profitable or more in line with your specific expertise), let your customers know. That will help generate referrals for the projects you want to add to your schedule.

4. Ask before the job Is done. If you’ve completed most of a project that has been smooth sailing, consider asking for referrals before you’ve finished the job. Because you’re still actively connected with your customer, you and your exceptional work will be fresh on their mind. That may help make your referral ask more top of mind, too.

5. Be honest. If you feel awkward about asking for a referral, break the ice by telling your customer you’re nervous or uncomfortable. EVERYONE has experienced that sort of feeling at some time. 

6. Be flexible. Some customers may feel most comfortable giving your information to someone else vs. giving someone else’s information to you. Express your preference but let them proceed in whatever way makes the most sense for them and whomever they want to refer you to. 

7. Follow up. What if a customer says they’ll be happy to recommend you but wants some time to think about who might need your services? Follow up with them after a week or so to see if anyone came to mind. 

We hope these tips help you harness the power of word of mouth to grow your business!


A Warm Welcome to Our New Inside Sales Representative

Bill Hursh

We are pleased to announce that William (Bill) Hursh has joined our team! As an inside sales representative, Bill will support our customers by estimating materials required for projects and facilitating a smooth order process. He began his role at Homestead Outdoor Products on March 14. A Lancaster County native, Bill has years of estimating experience in the commercial flooring industry.


What It Takes to Go From ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

Confront Reality

In past articles, we discussed two traits (humble yet driven leaders, and the right people) that author Jim Collins says successful companies embody. Now, we’ll touch on the third trait in Collins’ book  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t.

Great Companies’ trait #3: Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith) 

Good-to-great companies have leaders who confront the reality of their situation—even when it’s less than ideal. Only by acknowledging the truth can the right decisions be made to improve the circumstances. 

Confronting the brutal facts involves:

  • Being truthful,
  • Asking for truthfulness
  • Acting upon truth 

But there’s more to it than that. Good-to-great businesses keep faith in their mission and goals. They don’t let pessimism cloud their vision for a brighter future. At the same time, they acknowledge and accept there will be hard work ahead to overcome the challenges that stand in their way of achieving that vision. 

Three Tips for Getting to the Truth of the Situation 

Collins suggests several ways business leaders can understand their company’s reality. We’ve put our own twist on three of them that we believe may be helpful for contractors. 

1. Lead with questions, not answers. Ask for opinions and input from your workers and customers to learn the facts as they really are. Don’t try to steer people into saying what retrofits into your grand vision.

This point is crucial for charismatic business owners with a strong leadership personality. Their outspokenness and strong opinions may overshadow the ideas of less-vocal workers and customers.

2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion. Open the door to discussion and allow room for disagreement (in casual and formal situations). Don’t try to force people to think a certain way. Debate enables people to share different perspectives and ideas for problem-solving and improvements.  

3. Conduct autopsies without blame. When things go wrong, discuss them with your team. Take care to do so in the spirit of wanting to get better as a company rather than to condemn people for making mistakes. 

Stay tuned for more insight about going from good to great! Next time, we’ll talk about Collins’ “Hedgehog Concept.”


New Product Spotlight: Superior Plastic Products 400 Series Railing

Photo courtesy of Superior Plastic Products

400 Series Railing is a new vinyl railing system designed for drink rail.  

FEATURES

  • Product construction is an aluminum plate attached to a vinyl top rail (the complete piece is ready out of the box!) to which you attach deck board.
  • The aluminum piece has predrilled holes every 12 inches for fasteners (provided).

BENEFITS

Photo courtesy of Superior Plastic Products
  • Versatility—You choose and supply the deck board to fulfill your customer’s aesthetic vision.
  • Simple, No-hassle Installation—You don’t have to grapple with adapters or special brackets. Simply lay the deck board in place and fasten it with the provided fasteners. 
  • Aluminum plate construction offers enhanced tolerance and strength. It’s ideal for future accessory add-ons (like under-rail lighting) and prone to less deflection and flex than vinyl. 

Want to learn more about this new offering? Give us a call!


2022 Product Availability Changes

Homestead Outdoor Products and several manufacturers have made changes to offerings for 2022. Here is an updated summary of several of these changes. Please contact us if you have any questions!

HOMESTEAD OUTDOOR PRODUCTS

NEW: We will be stocking RISE Siding, a synthetic siding product, from RISE Building Products.

SUPERIOR PLASTIC PRODUCTS AND KEY-LINK™ FENCING & RAILING

NEW: Superior Plastic Products has introduced a new railing product, 400 Series Railing (featured in our Product Spotlight), and Key-Link is rolling out matte color finishes as standard on both Outlook and Chesapeake Series railings.

DISCONTINUED: Superior and Key-Link are making the following changes so that they can focus on providing their best-selling, most in-demand products.

Superior Plastic Products is discontinuing:

    • Infill options: Baron, Belmont, Denver, Glass, Victorian, Heritage, Kinzer, Lexus, Imperial, Oxford
    • 7000 Series Vinyl Railing
    • 1000 Series Vinyl Railing: replaced with a new product line, Fabricator Railing Line
    • All lawn and garden items: EXCEPT Pergola offerings
    • All porch posts: EXCEPT Plain, Traditional, Madison, and Classic

Key-Link™ Fencing & Railing is discontinuing:

    • Infill options: Hammered, Twisted, Decorative, Round, Indented, Bowed, Alternating Twisted
    • Arabian and Lancaster Railing (Key-Link will also begin stocking minimal gloss colors. Gloss will require special orders across all railing series offerings.)
    • 12-watt Placid Point Lighting power supply and Outlook Series sections without code support

FIBERON

NEW: Fiberon has added “Promenade,” a new line of PVC decking. 


What It Takes to Go from ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

The Right People

In his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, author and researcher Jim Collins discusses seven key traits of highly successful companies. 

  1. Level 5 Leadership
  2. First Who, Then What
  3. Confront the Brutal Facts
  4. Hedgehog Concept
  5. Culture of Discipline
  6. Technology Accelerators
  7. The Flywheel

In this article we’ll take a look at the second characteristic that’s critical for going from good to great.  

GREAT COMPANIES’ TRAIT #2: FIRST WHO, THEN WHAT

Collins advises business owners to put “who” questions before “what” decisions. “What” decisions—strategy, vision, tactics—will be easier to tackle when a company has the right people on board.

Whether a contracting business has a handful of workers or hundreds of employees, having the right people on a team can make or break productivity and performance. A good—even a genius—leader cannot compensate for the problems created by hiring individuals who are not a good fit. 

Consider a business with four workers. . . one “bad apple” represents one-quarter of the workforce. The company’s owner or a supervisor will have to spend a lot of time managing that person. Also, that individual’s poor attitude or shoddy work can quickly hurt the company’s reputation and lower employee morale. 

How can you avoid this trap?

  • Focus on building a team of capable people who share your company’s values and work ethic. 
  • Be choosy about whom you hire. Don’t be in a rush to fill open positions with “warm bodies.” With labor shortages hurting our industry, it may be tempting to hire the first applicants in the door. Instead, take your time and assemble a team that will work well together for the long haul.
  • Hire for the attitude, train for the skill. While people can learn many trade skills, a positive outlook and motivation to do an excellent job come from within.  
  • Compensate your employees at or slightly above the “going rate.” Remember that no matter how much you pay, the right people will perform their best, and the wrong people won’t care about their impact on your business. 

Stay tuned for more about going from good to great! Next time, we’ll talk about the third characteristic, “Confront the Brutal Facts.”