NAHB Remodeler of the Month: Always Improving
Elliott Pike, CGR, CAPS
ELM Construction LLC, Vestavia Hills, Ala.
Year Founded: 2008
Number of Employees: Two full-time and two part-time employees
Who started your company?
I started the company with the support of my family.
When and how did you choose this career?
I worked in sales for several years after graduating college. One of my former clients from my building material sales days hired me to work as a project manager. He was a general contractor focused on multi-family renovations. In 2008, the owner of that company passed away. I submitted my resume, unsolicited, to several commercial general contracting companies. But, because of the economic climate at that time, most did not even acknowledge that they had received it. With encouragement from my wife, I decided to start my own company in October of 2008.
What did you do before becoming a remodeler?
My first “real” job was working as an inside “technical” salesperson for a leading manufacturer of telecommunication buildings. After that, I worked in outside sales and as a manager for a building materials supplier, then as a project manager for a general contractor.
How has the remodeling profession changed since you’ve been involved?
With the advancement of online shopping, overnight deliveries and instant downloads, customers are conditioned for immediate gratification. To meet the demand for instant everything, we’ve advanced from taking calls anywhere on our mobile phones, to sending and receiving emails with our Blackberry devices. Now, more and more, we are seeing customers forgo the phone call and even emails and simply texting us when they want to communicate.
Also, we’ve been able to satisfy our customer’s need for instant response by giving them access to our online “customer portals” where our clients can log in 24/7 and check the production calendar, review and approve change orders, approve selections or even make payments.
Right now, what is your focus as a remodeler — more growth or steady revenue at greater profitability? Please explain.
I’d like to see our revenue grow at a steady, manageable rate while maintaining (or slightly increasing) our current level of job profitability.
Many remodelers are reporting increases in their average job size in 2015, are you seeing this as well?
I did not notice an increase in average job sizes until we started nearing the end of 2015. Our backlog as we approach 2016 indicates an increase in the average job size for us.
Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas for your business?
My “go to” options for solutions and ideas for my business are my family, employees, and the members of my NAHB 20 Club, the “Mavericks” (my defacto “Board of Directors.”)
If you could have a 30-minute conversation with any business leader in the country — to pick their brain for business ideas, who would it be?
I’m always impressed when I meet any successful long-term small business owner. According to the Small Business Administration, about two thirds of small business don’t make it 10 years. So, when I meet someone that’s owned their own business for 10 years or more, I always try to pick their brain to see what they’re doing to be successful.
Finding qualified labor is a challenge — are you hiring this year and how are you going about finding the right people for your company?
I am not planning on adding anyone to our staff this year.
What is your No. 1 source of leads right now and why is it working?
My number one source for leads is referrals. We start every job with the goal of a being able to get a referral. If when we’re done, our customer would use us again or tell their friends about us, then we consider the job a success.
What is the most unusual project your company has completed?
In 2014, we installed a 210-ft.-long concrete block seawall at a local lake. What made this project so unique was the tight construction timeline we had, as the water at this lake is only lowered for about 14 days once every three years! This project was a true test of our ability to coordinate with our trade partners. Everything had to be organized perfectly… and we needed a little cooperation from Mother Nature.
What is your favorite item in your office?
The pictures of my two daughters (7 and 12 years old).
What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
“Trust your gut.” We all have moments when our “gut” tries to give us a “heads up” about something. Just sometimes, we either don’t hear it or choose not to listen to it.
What does being part of NAHB mean to you?
Not having a remodeling background (no family history of remodeling/nobody to pass on the “best practices”), I rely heavily on the resources I find through my association with the NAHB. For example, through my local association, I develop relationships with other remodelers and trade partners that I can call on for referrals and for other support. Through the Home Builders Association of Alabama, I have access to affordable workers’ compensation insurance. And because of my association with the NAHB, I have been able to exchange ideas and get direct input on my business by participating in the 20 Club as well continue to expand my knowledge of this industry through designations.
What have you done to grow your business during the current economy?
We continue to explore better ways to generate quality leads. Although more than 50 percent of our leads are generated by referrals, we understand that if we want to continue to grow, we need to maintain a steady stream of high quality organic leads that we can convert into jobs.
What motivates you every day?
Getting better! We are always looking for ways that we can get better. Our employees, trade partners and customers deserve the best we can give them everyday. The day that we stop trying to improve is the day we start to die as a business.
Anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?
As simple as it sounds, I started this business with the simple principle of “do what you say you are going to do!” Most of our customers simply want to deal with a company that has the integrity to do what they say they are going to do. That can be as simple as showing up on time for an appointment, finishing a job on time or finishing the job on budget.