Boardwalk Builders, Inc

by Emily Blackburn

Patricia McDaniel

Rehoboth Beach, DE
GQ All-time Recommend Rate: 96%
GQ 2020 Recommend Rate: 95%
Number of Jobs in 2020: 17
Type of Firm: Full-service Remodeler
CEO: Patricia McDaniel

1. Demand for services is stronger than ever. Supply delays are widespread. Building product prices are rising. Please name the concrete steps you take to keep customers satisfied as timelines and prices are fluctuating?

There are several tactics we use:

Stay in regular contact before, during and after completion, using Zoom meetings, phone calls, web-based platform, emails and text messages.
Insist on selections being complete before a start date can go from approximate to firm. (By insist we mean try as hard as we can. I would say we have moved from 50% to 95% over the past 18 months.)

We are very careful to be upfront (from the first meeting) about the constraints of the marketplace, and have added escalation language to our agreements with the clients (but that probably doesn’t improve their satisfaction). We are offsetting this by devoting one person to order everything (materials and trade contracts) within 2 weeks of contract signing to lock in prices and get ahead of extended delivery times. This helps keep project timelines shorter.

We ask clients to not be in residence for projects that are more expansive. COVID decreased clients resistance to moving out while we are working. No clients onsite speeds up progress.

We work hard to get the clients entire wish list included in the project because change orders are an order of magnitude more disruptive in the current business climate. Larger change orders sometimes have to be deferred to a new project in order to keep the original scope of work on schedule.”

2. A good remodeling or home improvement firm knows the limits of its capabilities to take on additional work. What do/would you communicate to clients when you cannot handle their job and must decline their inquiry?

We use an approach that uncovers what is important to the prospect so we can mutually decide if we are a good fit. For example, if they want to start sooner than we can fit them in, we discuss if this is a deal breaker. If it is a deal breaker, then we part as friends that don’t work together. This typically occurs at the first appointment, before presenting a proposal, saving us and them time. In other words, we let them tell us it doesn’t work for them.

For some people, having to wait for us makes them want to work with us even more.

Our marketplace is on fire, but the base of trade contractors is limited, which means the contractors are all in the same boat. We could produce more work if the labor market wasn’t overstretched. The trick is to be able to give them a start time that we don’t keep changing (assuming they are meeting their assignments on time).

3. During busy times like these, operational adjustments are needed in order to take on more work, often with the same level of staffing. What steps have you taken to ensure a quality experience despite the added workloads for your team?

While it is true that we are having the same issues as others with finding staff to add, we don’t take on a job unless we can deliver it on-time, on-budget, to a very satisfied client. We maximize our capacity by being very thorough in the project development and project purchasing phases. On projects below $400K we like to have all materials in hand before we start. (Larger projects we like at least the first 3 months in hand). These tactics tee the production team up to increase capacity because well-planned projects can be completed faster. You never get back days you waste in the early weeks of a project, preparation is key, and we go slower to go faster.

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