Top 500 Profile: Nimble Approach
authors Kyle Clapham | June 15, 2019
In the early 1980s, Alure Home Improvements painted houses full-time in Long Island and New York City. By the end of the decade, however, the company noticed a change in its markets and started offering siding and windows to give homeowners additional options when updating their exterior. Roofing came soon afterward and, eventually, Alure stopped painting houses altogether.
“We knew there wasn’t much land left for new construction, so it was very rare for people to be buying new homes on Long Island,” says Sal Ferro, president and CEO. “The majority of people relocating and moving were going to live in homes that were already existing, homes with warts that needed fixing. People buy a home and start looking around at what they need to have done.”
Alure opened a showroom in East Meadow, New York, in 1991 and decided to add a kitchen and bath remodeling division in response to the growing need on Long Island. The company provides a custom kitchen and bath service as well as a more systemized procedure, which can renovate kitchens in only 10 days and baths in just five because projects do not involve moving walls or changing an existing footprint.
“People are getting a little older, and they want to do those projects they’ve always wanted to do. They always wanted to redo their kitchen; they always wanted to have a master bath suite,” Ferro explains. “Getting into a business that people want, rather than just what they need, diversifies us to the point where we can straddle any kind of economic situation.”
In 1997, Owens Corning shared the concept for a new product that could revolutionize basement wall finishing with Alure, who developed the first generation of sales, marketing and installation techniques for the system. Alure encouraged the manufacturer to form a franchise around the product and in 2007 installed $22 million of the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System.
But many homeowners could no longer afford discretionary projects during the Great Recession, so the company paused its basement finishing business, Ferro notes. “We weren’t doing it for a couple of years after the recession [because] it seemed to die out,” he says. “People are showing that they’re interested in finishing their basements again.”
Ferro joined the company in 1988 as a production assistant and demonstrated strong work habits, dedication and loyalty to Carl and Bob, the sons of Alure founder Sol Hyman. Ferro became vice president in 2001 and took over as president the following year after they recognized his ability to inspire and influence both employees and clients positively in wake of 9/11.
Alure grew sales from $23 million in 2003 to $50 million in 2007 and nearly doubled its number of employees to 98. The company continued to expand services and leverage its growing base of satisfied customers with additional products—including sunrooms, extensions, dormers and new construction.
“A marketing strategy focused around relationships and getting that brand out has allowed us to be the strongest brand in our region,” says Ferro, who ranks internet sources such as SEO keyword, pay-per-click and online aggregators as No. 2 for leads behind repeat clients and referrals.
People often hear about Alure through advertisements in print and on TV, the radio and even the back of a bus, and then Google the company, Ferro explains. They click on the Alure website and become an internet statistic, but the branding should be credited for driving them there in the first place. Sometimes the company simply cannot pinpoint where an internet lead originates, he adds.
“It’s all about marketing. What can we do? Where can we spend our marketing dollars? [What’s] the best way to get the best return on our investment, so that we can charge a competitive price?” Ferro says. “I need to keep marketing costs under 10 percent, all in. When you go out there and get a new customer, it’s not cheap. You’ve got to respect that lead and do the best you can with it.
“You can’t do anything without people,” he adds. “Many others, their biggest problem is they’re unwilling to grow because they have to let go of things. When you let go of things, you lose control. There’s a control aspect to it; there’s an ego aspect to it. You’ve got to throw all that out the window. You’ve got to rely on your management team. You’ve got to rely on your ability to bring in, hire and train good people—and let them do their jobs. And when they don’t, the only way you know is by holding them accountable.” QR