2023 Fred Case Award Finalist: Overhaul Leads to Progress

Thoughtfully redefined business strategies allow a remodeling firm to forge ahead.

by Kyle Clapham

Mark Ferguson, founder and owner of Ferguson Builders in Greenville, South Carolina, partly attributes his firm’s growth to the home renovation boom after 2020 but admits the rapid expansion of the company turned out to be unhealthy, pushing the firm beyond its limits. This, he says, exposed weaknesses both in leadership seats and processes. A thorough reevaluation and some hard decisions were called for.

As his workload reached 100 hours a week, Ferguson was acutely aware of the need for change. Delegation seemed quite impossible as members did not take full responsibility for their department. It became evident that without making a change, neither he nor his team would have the necessary support to achieve their future goals.

“Some lead carpenters wanted to be project managers, and others wanted to be lead carpenters. They would get frustrated when they were confronted with a shortcoming or something that didn’t meet their expectations,” Ferguson recalls. Further, unclear roles and responsibilities weren’t just problems involving lead carpenters and project managers. Similar problems existed throughout the organization, he adds.

Then Ferguson became aware of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and its flagship book, Traction. He recalls that he listened to the audiobook multiple times to fully absorb the message: He needed to get his teams on the same page through focus, accountability and discipline. At the same time, a period of rapid turnover in the firm became a turning point for him.

He felt he was falling short in many areas of leadership and committed to implementing many EOS principles, beginning in 2022. “I can quite confidently say that if I had not become more vulnerable and developed the accountability chart and brought on people strategically as a leadership team—not continued with my individualized leadership—I would not be talking to you today,” Ferguson says.

Because of those difficult years of overwhelming growth, Ferguson set out to find leaders who understood their role and wanted the responsibility that came along with it, not just a title. Ferguson Builders’ leadership team has since been transformed, he says, from a list of positions to be filled to a carefully curated group of team players who are successfully leading their teams.

Ferguson Builders
Greenville, South Carolina

Years in business: 13
Total number of employees: 12
Revenue: $3.2 million (2022); $2.4 million (2021)
Number of jobs: 27 (2022); 22 (2021)

Ferguson defined the qualities needed for each role and integrated the company’s core values in the hiring process. He then restructured and expanded his team, positioning members into seats that aligned with their strengths. This provided clarity for both Ferguson and his team, ensuring alignment of skill, interest, company culture and core values.

Ferguson outlined the roles that were created: marketing manager, sales manager, design and pre-construction manager, production manager, office/HR manager, and financial manager. These are presented as an accountability chart, which differs from a simple organizational chart in that it includes the role title, the accountable person’s name, and the three-to-seven crucial areas of responsibility/accountability for that role.

With the new leadership, the company is again growing quickly, Ferguson says, and this time with a team that can support it. He explains that he supplies the vision, and the leadership team develops and carries out that vision. Challenges on the jobsite no longer cause a project to halt, he says. Instead, issues can be brought to a project lead and the job keeps moving. Jobs are completed on time, and clients are served better.

After delegating responsibilities to members of the leadership team, both Ferguson and his team needed clear tasks, accountability, and an effective system to track progress.

With his leadership team, Ferguson developed scorecards, dashboards and documented systems for each department. These included metrics that allowed tracking progress across each department and would both hold the department accountable and reward progress.

Success, Ferguson explains, is measured based on a given role’s ability to accomplish the company’s objectives. At the beginning of the year, the leadership team meets and sets the goals for the coming year.

These goals are based on the company’s 10-year plan, the previous year’s accomplishments, and the steps needed to stay on track to meet the company’s 10-year plan, Ferguson explains. Once the goals are set, what each department needs to do to accomplish/change to obtain the company goal is analyzed. Those are then broken into three-to-five measurable objectives.

For example, specific goals for the production manager might be to hire three new carpenters, increase weekly production volume by $20,000 and train two new lead carpenters. For marketing, goals might be to obtain 550 remodeling leads, increase kitchen remodeling leads by 25 leads year-over-year, and increase referral leads by 15 percent.

Although Ferguson says he is now working half the hours he used to, he adds that Ferguson Builders is experiencing renewed progress that is sustainable because of strong leadership and processes. QR

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