No matter the state of the economy, homeowners will always need someone to take care of minor jobs such as caulking their bathtub or repairing their kitchen floor. Many remodeling companies, however, exhibit scant interest in taking on this kind of work. They would much rather wait and score a $250,000 project with a two-story addition or finished basement than touch the small job.
“Who are you going to call for it? There aren’t a whole lot of reliable handyman companies out there, so you’re dealing with all these one-man operations, chop-shops and guys who do it on the side,” says Darrell Babboni, president and CEO of Honey Do Men in Carmel Hamlet, New York. “But they don’t answer the phone, come back when there’s a problem or stand behind their work.
“We fill that void where we do the small-, medium- and large-size jobs,” he adds. “If you want a two-story addition, or you want to remodel the kitchen or bathroom—or if you just want to seal the driveway, paint your house, caulk a window or a bathtub—we cover the full spectrum. And what that does is it puts us in a unique position. Because we handle all the jobs that nobody else wants, we end up seeing an uptick in the smaller, maintenance and handyman kind of repair jobs.
“Then when the economy swings and the market picks back up, and people have more cash flow, we start getting calls for bigger jobs. Instead of maybe painting a deck or staining or refinishing, let’s talk about replacing it. I don’t care how big or small the job is, I just care that they hire us. Once we get a foot in the door, we can show you our quality of work and our customer service.”
After earning $7.9 million on 1,620 jobs last year, Honey Do Men remains on track to reach $10 million in revenue for 2023, Babboni notes. He credits the growth to his staff, which started with just six employees three years ago but has since expanded to 26. Like many other companies, the full-service remodeler relies on subcontractors to complete all the work the firm does in the field.
“I have four crews who do nothing but install windows and doors every day all-year round,” says Mike Pressgrove, president of PDQ Construction in Topeka, Kansas. “I also have six remodeling crews, and they’re scheduled into next year, so it’s been very, very steady. I do think we’re a little different here in the Midwest; we’re kind of insulated from some of the [volatility] on the coasts.”
Since 2009 PDQ Construction has grown about $250,000 to $500,000 per year, although finding qualified workers continues to be a challenge, he adds. The company started a student chapter of its local builders association in the last few years and recruits kids from area high schools as well as trade schools. Pressgrove regularly talks with these groups to educate them about the industry.
“This year I’ve got three kids who are going to be seniors—they’re working through the summer and interning,” he says. “Generally, they come back the next year. I’ve got some superstars who started just coming right out of high school. The beauty of that is these kids don’t have a lot of baggage; they don’t have a lot of bad habits. At that point, you can train them the way you want.”
This year the community hosted its first “build a future” event with 45 local businesses and 550 kids attending, Pressgrove notes. The largest school district in town even has a separate building where 13 different trades learn about their craft and hone their skills. PDQ Construction donates tools to the remodeling program, which periodically helps the company with some of its projects.
“Anytime you can get your hooks in that younger generation it’s great because the skilled people that we’ve got—everybody’s getting older—and there was a pretty good chunk of time there that you didn’t have youngsters coming into it,” Pressgrove says. “So, it’s been a breath of fresh air to have them here. And that ‘build my future’ event is going to be awesome for years to come now.”
As the average size of the larger jobs (such as additions) grows for many companies, Design Pro Remodeling in Fairfax, Virginia, has noticed a transformation in its customers. Homeowners are more informed and focused on the function and details of their project, says Jeff Newell, one of four co-owners. HGTV and similar programming probably has something to do with it, he notes.
“The home they’ve lived in for some time, now they’re there all the time and thinking about this new way that they can utilize the current space, build an addition or whatever else,” Newell says.
“Since COVID-19 it’s been a lot more wall removals and just redoing the entire main level to get exactly what they want,” adds Andrew Jones, another co-owner. “That’s been pretty consistent.”
In 2022 Design Pro Remodeling earned $36.5 million in revenue on 2,268 jobs, and the company is targeting $40 million for 2023, Newell says. “What we’re finding is people want to make their space theirs if they’re going to stay in town. That’s where these larger projects are coming from.”
The more jobs a remodeler accomplishes, however, the more fans that company creates to spread the word and spur referrals, says Babboni of Honey Do Men. “Let’s say I did $1 million worth of work, and you did $1 million worth of work, but your $1 million worth of work was four $250,000 jobs. At the end of the day, if you don’t screw up those four jobs, you have only four cheerleaders.
“If I’m doing $10,000 jobs and I did $1 million worth of work, I just did a ton of jobs. I now have 100 people out there talking about me,” he adds. “That’s 100 people talking to their brother and his sister about me. It’s 100 people talking to their parents about me. It’s 100 people talking to the neighbors about me, and 100 people talking to their coworkers about me. ‘You should call Honey Do Men, these guys are great. They’ll take care of you.’ That’s how I was able to grow the company so quickly.” QR