The Most Important Question to Ask Before Creating a Customer’s Outdoor Living Space

A customer’s reasons for wanting additions or renovations often have multiple layers. Peeling back those layers is critical for proposing a design that will truly meet and fulfill your customer’s unique vision. How? 

ASK, “WHY?”— MULTIPLE TIMES 
For example, let’s say Customer A and Customer B both approach you with “I want a deck.” But why do they want a deck?

When you first ask “Why?” both Customer A and Customer B answer, “I want to spend more time outdoors.” But that doesn’t mean the same deck design will serve both customers equally well.

When you drill down further by asking, “Why do you want to spend more time outdoors?” Customer A answers, “Because I want a quiet, peaceful place in nature where I can read and meditate”; while Customer B says, “Because I love inviting friends over for cookouts and parties.”

Aha! Now you have the information you need. So, for Customer A, you might include a secluded nook for reading and a relaxing water feature; and for Customer B, you might include a built-in bar area, fire pit, and space for a big-screen TV. 

The moral of the story: Ask “Why?” repeatedly to get to the root of a customer’s wants and needs.


Two Tips for Running an All-Around Efficient Business

House owners greeting building contractor.

The job site isn’t the only place where efficiency is important. When contractors also have their administrative tasks in good order, they can boost productivity and profitability. Here are two tips for making your back-office run like a well-oiled machine.   

PLAN YOUR DAYS
In addition to scheduling your work for customers, also make a note of other tasks you need to take care of. Block out time for preparing estimates, creating invoices, returning phone calls to prospective customers, and other business must-dos. Whether you use a written calendar or the one on your smartphone, reserving time to tend to administrative tasks will help ensure they don’t pile up and become overwhelming or slip through the cracks. 

BUILD IN SOME “WIGGLE ROOM”
There’s a saying that even “the best-laid plans of mice and men” often go awry. Sometimes, projects take more time than expected, customers change their minds about what they want, a traffic jam delays your arrival to a job, or some other unforeseen situation occurs. As you’re planning your schedule, consider building in some buffer time between projects and tasks to give you some breathing room when things don’t go your way.

The more organized and efficient you keep all aspects of your business, the more successfully you can manage everything you have to do and the better you can serve your customers.


Product Spotlight: SCREENEZE® Turns Patios into Paradise

Photo courtesy of SCREENEZE®

With warmer weather here, homeowners want to spend more time in their backyards—without the buzzing and biting of annoying insects. Homestead Outdoor Products has the perfect solution in stock: SCREENEZE®, a fixed-screen system that allows you to transform your customers’ patios and porches into bug-free outdoor living spaces. Call us for more information!

Simple to install • Cost-effective •
Versatile: It can be used with openings that
have 90-degree angles or arched openings
(by using SCREENEZE FLATBAR).


Three Deming Principles to Improve Productivity and Work Quality

In our last newsletter, we talked about the renowned management consultant W. Edwards Deming and his Plan-Do-Study-Act process to improve productivity. Now, let’s explore three more Deming principles that can help you manage your business.  

Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service.
Think ahead to the future. If you’re considering expanding your services or making other changes, start laying the groundwork now. Also, always seek new ways to improve operations by:

  • keeping up with industry trends;
  • investing in training for employees; and
  • communicating with your employees (such as a ten-minute huddle at the end of each day) to discover what’s working and what is not.

Adopt the new philosophy.
Having a “rolling with the punches” mindset can hurt business efficiency as you find yourself constantly putting out fires. Instead, look critically at how your company has been doing things and be open to new approaches that will prevent circumstances from going ablaze in the first place. For example, rather than just assuming your crew will know exactly what to do, ask your employees or sub-contractors to repeat verbally what they are tasked with doing. Doing so will allow you to confirm understanding and help prevent mistakes. 

Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
Inspecting jobs after they’re finished is too late to ensure or improve quality.  Instead, consider doing random check-ups on-site to assess if in-progress jobs are meeting your company’s standards. This will enable you to identify if crew members need additional training and figure out what process improvements will help eliminate quality failures. 

To learn more about all 14 of Deming’s principles, visit The Deming Institute website at deming.org.


Buy and Save! Up to 10% Rebate on Fiberon® Decking 

Photo courtesy of Fiberon® Decking

Fiberon® is offering rebates on purchases made in 2019.* With a minimum purchase of $500, first-time buyers will get a 10 percent rebate.

Second- and third-time buyers will save, too! After receiving the first-time buyer rebate, users are eligible for 5 percent rebates on their second and third purchases of $500 or more.

When you buy Fiberon decking through us, we will give you the rebate form, or you can complete it online at fiberondecking.com/FTU.

*All completed rebate forms and supporting documentation must be submitted or postmarked no later than December 31, 2019.


Key-Link Cable Railing Systems: Sleek Styling for a Contemporary Look

Photo courtesy of Key-Link Fencing & Railing

For customers looking for unobstructed views, cable railing systems deliver an open, low-profile alternative to more traditional fence and railing options. Their ease of installation makes them attractive to contractors, too.

Key-Link Fencing & Railing offers both horizontal and vertical cable railing products that are conveniently boxed as kits and sold in 36” and 42” high x 6’ and 8’ long sections.

Horizontal Cable Railing
Key-Link’s Arabian and American Series horizontal cable railing comes with pre-drilled, pre-fitted posts and a pre-drilled center stabilizer baluster and top rail. They have cable that can span up to 100 feet.

Photo courtesy of Key-Link Fencing & Railing

Vertical Cable Railing
Key-Link’s American Series vertical cable railing comes pre-installed with no drilling required for standard installations. For homes with small children, vertical cable railing offers aesthetic appeal and peace of mind.

Ready, Set, Retrofit.
With Key-Link’s cable rail infill components, wood or composite posts can be transformed into a modern cable railing system. Just replace existing railing with cable rail and attach to the infill components.

What Do Your Customers Need to Know?
Cable railing complements modern home styles especially well. Used with post caps with outdoor LED lighting,
cable railing is stunning after sundown.

Key-Link cable railing systems can be used indoors as well as outside. The price tag is a bit higher than other railing systems, so you may want to set that expectation with customers from the start. But as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” Key-Link cable railing is made of high-quality 316 grade stainless steel to resist the effects of time and weather, and it doesn’t get in the way of customers enjoying their surroundings.

Call us for more information about this stylish and versatile product!



Plan-Do-Study-Act: Getting It Done the Deming Way

W. Edwards Deming—engineer, educator, and management consultant—left his mark on the working world with his revolutionary productivity principles. Although he advised international corporations, his teachings also can help local contractors improve how they work and increase profits.

Plan-Do-Study-Act
Deming’s Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle is particularly helpful. It’s based on applying four steps to projects, so that the next time you work on a similar project you can do it better and faster.

For example:
Say you have a decking job to complete and want to make the fastening choice that will allow you to finish the job effectively and as quickly as possible.

Plan: You identify your options as either face screws or a clip system.

Do: You start the project and use both types of fastenings in the beginning.

Study: You evaluate which fastening method is quicker.

Act: You use the fastening system that took the least amount of time for the rest of the job and on future projects.

While very basic, this scenario demonstrates how you can apply the PDSA process to your business. As you look for ways to boost efficiency and profitability, think about how you can put the Plan-Do-Study-Act concept to work for you.

Stay tuned for more practical applications of Deming’s ideas in our upcoming newsletters.


Product Spotlight: Fiberon® Good Life Decking

Homestead Outdoor Products is now stocking Fiberon Good Life Decking to replace Wolf’s recently discontinued Terrace Decking line. Wolf will serve as the area distributor of Good Life Decking.

With similar pricing and features as Terrace Decking, Fiberon Good Life Decking is filling the “good” spot in our “good, better, best” options lineup. It offers low maintenance—thanks to its composite construction, capping on three sides, and protective finish—at an affordable price point. We carry two multi-chromatic colors, Beach House and Bungalow, which give the rich look of tropical hardwoods without fading, warping, or splintering.

Call us to learn more about this attractive and durable decking.


Capped Composite Decking Versus PVC Decking: What’s the Difference Anyway?

Customers look to their contractors for expert guidance on which decking material will serve them best in looks, durability, and price. So, when faced with the choice between capped composite or PVC decking, which should they pick?

In our local area, many property owners choose PVC decking. Composite decking, however, has become a fan favorite nationally.

The following are some key considerations to help educate customers so that they understand the differences and advantages of each.

Capped Composite Decking

Capped composite decking has an inner core made from a combination of recycled wood and plastic. Boards are “capped” with a plastic coating to resist moisture infiltration and help prevent mold and mildew.

Pros

  • Costs less than PVC decking
  • Resembles the beauty of natural wood
  • Doesn’t require sanding, staining, or sealing
  • Resists mold, mildew, splitting, splintering, staining, scratching, and fading

Cons

  • Absorbs and retains heat from the summer sun more than wood or PVC decking does
  • More difficult to work with (e.g., heavier to carry; pre-drilling required because face-screws aren’t recommended)
  • More susceptible to moisture than PVC (not recommended for decks close to pools, hot tubs, or natural water sources)

PVC Decking

PVC decking is made entirely from plastic (polyvinyl chloride).

Pros

  • Completely free from rot and insect damage because it contains no organic materials
  • Doesn’t require sanding, staining, or sealing
  • Resists mold, mildew, splitting, splintering, staining, scratching, and fading
  • Longer-lasting (generally) than capped composite decking

Cons

  • Expands and contracts more than wood or capped composite decking
  • More expensive than capped composite decking

Keep in mind that different brands and decking lines vary in construction and quality. If you need help weighing the pros and cons of the decking products we offer, we’re just a phone call away!