Qualified Remodeler

NAHB Remodeler of the Month: Websites, Social Media for Leads

Fournier finds value in having social media programs and websites with SEO keywords.

authors Kacey Larsen 

Mike Fournier,
CAPS, CPB
The Sonrise Companies
Broken Arrow, Okla.
sonrise-construction.com

Title: Owner

Year Founded: 2000

Number of Employees: Work with more than 350 associates

QR: Who started your company? 

MF: My wife and I.

QR: When and how did you choose this career? 

MF: I started this career by listening to God and walking through a door that He opened for me.

QR: What did you do before becoming a remodeler?

MF: I worked in the financial services industry (MetLife, Prudential, NY Life) in middle management for 14 years, where I learned about networking, meeting customers’ needs and the subtle nuances of sales.

QR: What does being part of NAHB Remodelers mean to you?

MF: Being part of NAHB Remodelers is a pinnacle for me. These men and women are the best of the best. After meeting and getting to know several of my competitors at CADRE, IBS, and at the local and state level, I would consider many of them to be “tip of the spear” great. It is an honor to have my achievements considered among theirs at the same level.

QR: Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas for your business?

MF: I am friends with many of my competitors, as I am highly involved with the local HBA and serve as an officer on the Remodel Council. Plus, I read industry and trade publications, read trends online and participate in continuing education courses.

QR: What have you done to grow your business during the current economy?

MF: We just keep doing what we do best: great customer service, attention to detail, high-quality product and never stop marketing.

QR: How has the remodeling industry changed since you’ve been involved?

MF: There is much more focus on green building and aging-in-place. Having earned my designation for CAPS and working on my designation for green building, we will be positioned to better capture the remodeling market as it moves deeper and deeper into that territory. Plus—while some of the competition is great—we will continue to provide exemplary customer service along with our superior standards of detail and quality control.

QR: What is your focus as a remodeler?

MF: My focus is to do the great things that got us here. Profits will continue to tighten as costs inevitably rise, but with continued networking, repeat customers and referrals, we expect to continue seeing a steady rise year-by-year with our revenue stream. More customers came to us through our social media presence every year, and coupled with our networking markets, we anticipate this to continue as our dominance.

QR: What is your No. 1 source of leads?

MF: We have three websites for “The Sonrise Companies” [sonrise-construction.com, sonrisegunitepools.com, and sonrisehardscaping.com] with hundreds of pages of content, over 1,000 pictures, and over 100 blogs. A solid 80 percent or more of our leads come from our websites. These websites are deeply seeded with SEO keywords and positioned with our social media presence of over 15,000 followers (10,000 just from Facebook and LinkedIn). We use an incredible website administrator who ties our other social media programs into everything for maximum optimization, and a separate person uploads fresh content and pictures every day. We have three Facebook pages and pages on Google+, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Houzz, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Manta, Merchant Circle, and almost 200 videos on YouTube.

QR: Are you seeing increased job sizes?

MF: We are not only doing more remodel projects than ever before in the history of our company, but we are also doing more higher priced remodels. People can only not spend for so long, and wallets have become increasingly open as consumer confidence has grown.

QR: Are you hiring this year, and how are you going about finding the right people for your company? 

MF: We have been very fortunate and blessed to always have some of the greatest people working with us. We find new associates by networking and asking those that work with us if they know of others that carry equal or better skills.

QR: What is the most unusual project your company has completed?

MF: We took on a project in the rural country of Oklahoma, almost two hours from our office. We met the customer through the Tulsa HBA Home & Garden Show, and they told us no one was willing to accept their project after four years of looking for a contractor. We agreed to at least look at it and made the trip to their home. They wanted to double the size of the home from 1,200 to 2,500 square feet, and they wanted to add an attached four-car garage. After hiring one of the architects we work with, we priced out the remodel based on their specs and reduced the garage from four-car to three-car so the project would fit into their budget. They had a few special requests, but No. 1 was they didn’t want to be able to see where the old house joined the new house, and this was actually quite easy to achieve. Plus, they wanted a bigger kitchen, closets, and special touches like a screen door on the pantry and a barn door in the bedroom and living room. The remodeled home turned out to be amazing. Our blogs, pictures and videos call this “Little House on the Prairie.”

QR: If you could have a 30-minute conversation with any business leader in the country, who would it be? 

MF: Without a second of hesitation, I would say President Trump. He is one of the most successful leaders, builders and real estate moguls our country has ever seen. He is not without mistakes—as no one is—but if you examine his life over the past 40 years, it is an amazing ascension. If you can remove the political bias that exists, you will also see one of the greatest examples of a business model that has ever been; that is why I love to read his books.

QR: What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

MF: It might not be considered the best advice, but it sure made an impact on me early in life. I began working full-time when I was 14 by throwing two paper routes and working as a dishwasher in a restaurant. One of my responsibilities was to go door-to-door each month to collect payment from customers for their monthly paper bill. One month an elderly gentleman opened the door to greet me. He offered me his hand to shake, to which I did. He then told me a story of how he too had been a paperboy a long time ago. After a few minutes of conversation, he paid me, gave me a tip and offered to shake my hand again. I shook it, and he told me, “Good strong handshake, son. Don’t ever lose it, and keep looking them in the eye when you do it.” I really had no idea that was what I was doing—it was just natural. But, I’ve kept my strong handshake with eye contact ever since.

QR: What motivates you every day?

MF: I have repeatedly been told I am an overachiever—it’s just me; I don’t know any way to be different. I rise early, have my daily devotion, get to work and don’t stop working until I’m done that night. I love my Lord, Pam (my wife of 40 years), our family and our business. My motivation is internalized; it doesn’t take much for me to get started.

QR: What is your favorite item in your office?

MF: I don’t know that I can name just one. I have a large 8- by 12-foot mural of the world on the wall my desk faces, and behind my desk is a large library of over 700 books I have read. My office is replete with pictures of my wife, my daughters and my grandchildren. One item that does stand out: In 1967, I was at a Kansas City A’s baseball game with my dad (before they became the Oakland A’s), and as we were walking to our seats I caught a foul ball in my glove. During the game, my dad found the owner, Ewing Kauffman (who later became the owner of the Kansas City Royals), and Mr. Kauffman autographed this baseball for me as a 10-year-old star-struck baseball-loving little boy.

QR: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?

MF: I have succeeded young, and succeeded often. At age 19, I was the youngest manager in their history for a chain of LJS restaurants. At age 24, I was the youngest multi-store supervisor in their history. At age 32, I was the No. 1 salesman in the state of Oklahoma for MetLife, having never previously “sold” anything a day in my life.  I have had three previous businesses ventures fail, have been laid off twice and fired once. After each defeat, I came back better than before. Then, at age 42, we started Sonrise with one truck and one trailer, and cash advances as needed from Visa. Now, almost 18 years later, we have served over 11,000 customers, work with over 350 associates and have morphed into three different companies.  It’s been a fun run, and I’m not about to stop anytime soon. |QR

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