Qualified Remodeler

NAHB Remodeler of the Month: Build Credibility

Involvement with professional associations and strong referral rates further Blox Construction's expertise and competence.

Stephen Layman
Blox Construction

Everett, Wash.

Title: Founder and CEO

Year founded: 2003

Number of employees: 10

Education: B.S. Construction Management, University of Washington

QR: How did you choose this career?

SL: When I was growing up, I was always building things—go-carts, treehouses and forts. My neighbor was a general contractor and a big influence on me. I used to follow him around on jobsites—scavenging scrap wood along the way—but I never thought of it as a career. It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned there was a degree in construction management, and I quickly decided that was my future. During school, I ran a small deck construction company with a classmate, which was our first experience on the business side.

QR: What did you do before remodeling?

SL: Upon graduation, I worked as a project manager for a large general contractor.

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

SL: Blox Construction has always strived to provide the highest level of professionalism in an industry that sometimes suffers on this measure. Being a part of a professional association is all part of affiliating with the other professionals in the industry and showing credibility to our customers and partners.

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

SL: One major change has been the introduction of the Built Green program [a nonprofit, residential building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties in partnership with King County and Snohomish County] and the LEED green building certification program. Both standards improve the environmental impact of remodels and reinforce the willingness of remodelers to listen to their customers.

QR: Where and what are the greatest opportunities in the remodeling market?

SL: In the Seattle area, the remodeling market is being driven by the red-hot housing market. Although remodel costs are rising as well for many people, staying in an updated version of their current home is a better solution than navigating the gauntlet of trying to purchase a home. 

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

SL: For starters, I brought in someone to manage the marketing side of the business. Business has been busy enough that we really hadn’t done much to promote our business in the past few years. She has helped not only with defining our business and marketing strategy, but also spearheaded recruitment and a migration to a new project management software that is designed to improve our cost management. 

QR: How did you decide to pursue an extensive marketing strategy for your company?

SL: We have acknowledged that print marketing is essentially dead in this segment of the industry. Customers aren’t looking for glossy brochures; they’d rather find you on Houzz or visit your website. The great thing about digital marketing is that you can get a lot accomplished with a small budget. As a company that is built mostly on referrals already, we focus primarily on inbound marketing.

QR: Your company website highlights recognitions, such as being a Best of Houzz 2017 Service Award recipient and a 2017 REX/T-REX Award winner. How do you frame such accolades with clients? 

SL: Although we don’t necessarily talk about these awards in our customer meetings, most of our prospective customers visit our website and see the accolades there. It’s just one more piece of us demonstrating our credibility. 

QR: Do you have any “tried and true” tips regarding customer satisfaction?

SL: We are incredibly customer-focused at every phase of the job. To me, that means communicating frequently, resolving issues as they appear and ending on a good note with a successful product.

QR: Is your focus on more growth or steady revenue at greater profitability?

SL: Our focus is on cost management and always achieving the desired profit margin while we grow. The industry is busy enough right now to allow for everyone to get bigger, but smart growth is the only option that makes sense for Blox long-term.

QR: Are you hiring this year, and how are you finding the right people?

SL: We’ve found that a mix of traditional methods (online posting) and newer methods (cash referral bonuses) have worked well for us and allowed us to grow our staff by 40 percent in the past year. As an example, we sent an email to all our subs, offering $1,000 for the successful referral of a superintendent. In less than 20 minutes, we had a qualified referral for the candidate we eventually hired. Today, he’s running the site for our largest project.

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

SL: In addition to trade associations like our local Master Builders Association, I have joined Vistage, a business management group that provides support for small business CEOs from a diverse range of industries. 

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

SL: That people, specifically employees, are the key to a successful business. 

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

SL: I would love to talk to Elon Musk. He has such an ability to see the future and push the envelope. 

QR: What is a favorite item in your office?

SL: Our office is in a 100-year-old home in the old downtown of our small city. My favorite place is the conference table where we can all sit together in what was once the living room of this home. Customers who visit always remark on the unique and beautiful woodwork in the home.

QR: What motivates you every day?

SL: I’m just programmed to build things. I get up every day wanting to make progress, to do it better [and] to do it more efficiently. 

QR: Anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?

SL: When I was getting my degree in construction management, and even early on in my career as a project manager, I never really thought of running an entire company. It’s satisfying to be leading the business and providing opportunities for people to learn and grow. |QR

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