NAHB Remodeler of the Month: Building Trust
authors Kyle Clapham | August 24, 2020
When and how did you choose this career?
I officially entered the construction business in 1994 when I accepted a job with a local framing company. I really enjoyed the work and was learning something new every day. We were framing large custom homes as well as completing the exterior finishes. We started at 6:00 a.m. and worked until dark. I loved being in the field and, after two years, started doing side jobs. I quickly learned that I also enjoyed working closely with clients and the business aspect of managing projects. This led me to start Liberty Hill Construction.
What does NAHB Remodelers mean to you?
Being part of the NAHB Remodelers is an honor. The depth of knowledge and experience shared is an incredible resource. It is like having an entire advisory board at your fingertips. It is a collaborative group, always willing to help another member out.
What keeps you involved in your local chapter?
Another member introduced me to the state association and, when I first joined, the president assigned me to attend the state remodelers’ group. I met so many great and experienced business owners while there, and I was able to soak up information. It was my favorite meeting every month. Everyone was helpful and willing to share his or her knowledge. I eventually became the chairman and served in that position for over four years.
How has remodeling changed since you’ve been involved?
There have been many changes within the profession over the last 20 years. From my perspective, we are in a constant state of change. Many of us now use cloud-based management systems, we have endless ways to communicate with our partners and customers, and we focus on developing repeatable processes and creating a predictable experience for our teams and clients. Something that has not changed is the core of our business is still dependent on building trust and providing honest and reliable advice to clients. We must treat our employees, trade partners and customers with respect and understanding.
Where are the greatest opportunities in the remodeling market?
There is great opportunity for skilled tradespeople in the remodeling market and for new businesses to be established. Many business owners and tradespeople are aging, and without encouraging younger and diverse individuals to enter the industry, there will be a shortage of qualified remodelers. We need to embrace the idea of creating entrepreneurs, by teaching core business skills that support trade skills.
What is the biggest challenge right now for your business?
The biggest challenge right now is the availability of skilled labor. Businesses cannot grow without the right people to develop and build the projects. With a shrinking labor force and pricing increases for most materials, the cost to professionally complete projects is rising. We are trying to find more efficient and cost-effective ways to do things while facing a growing demand with unreasonable expectations. We need to do a better job developing a pathway toward a rewarding career in the construction industry.
What is your focus as a remodeler/for your business?
My primary focus currently is centered on maintaining and enhancing our company culture as well as refining and developing our processes. I assist with marketing, hiring and employee development as well as spearheading our community service and volunteer endeavors. Building and maintaining a great team has always been the reason for our success and my professional enjoyment. When you have the right team, you are better able to navigate daily challenges.
Have you seen a change in average job size and/or types of projects?
Our average job size has been increasing since 2017 and has increased by over 30 percent in that time frame. This year we anticipate an increase of close to 15 percent over last year for average job size. We are seeing more additions versus interior remodeling projects, and clients are looking to add more square footage than previously. We are currently completing an outdoor living project with two large decks and a large screened in porch that has a living area and a hot tub inside. It is certainly a larger-than-average project for that category. Another project we will start soon is a master suite addition as well as a full kitchen and bathroom renovation. Once again, it is a combination of two larger projects that tip the scales relative to average job size.
Where do you look for solutions/ideas for your business?
My most trusted and favorite source for solutions and new ideas is my Remodelers 20 Group at NAHB. Joining that group was the best thing I have done for my business. It has given me access to incredible individuals who share their knowledge and expertise, in addition to what works well and what does not. It is like have a personal advisory board at my fingertips. They are friends, coaches, students and partners who challenge and hold me accountable. I am so fortunate to have joined the Mavericks group.
How do you find the right people for your company?
Finding qualified labor is beyond a challenge, but we have hired two new employees since the pandemic started. In April we hired an assistant carpenter with not much experience, but who is full of energy and enthusiasm and eager to be trained and learn. It was great to have a young employee willing to grow at that time, and he helped keep morale high as we managed challenging days. Later in May as we became busier, we also made the decision to add a lead carpenter and started the search. We used Indeed, social media, word of mouth and anything else that we could think of. It was a frustrating search, as we had very few qualified candidates, but fortunately, we did end up with a promising lead and quickly brought him through our interviewing process. He started two weeks later and, as a highly skilled and experienced carpenter, he should help us with the training of our assistant carpenters while proving to be a dependable resource for our project managers.
What is your No. 1 source of leads right now?
Our No. 1 source of leads right now is web searches, but that is closely followed by client referrals. We have certainly seen an increase in lead flow this spring but, overall, our numbers are consistent with years past. We only work for approximately 10 percent of the leads we receive, so we have a tight qualifying process. Eliminating free estimates and signing design agreements for all projects has been very successful in lead qualification.
What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
One of the best pieces of advice I have received is the importance of maintaining balance between professional responsibilities and your personal life. I work an average of 53 hours a week, take only the occasional appointment on a weekend and have taken at least one two-week vacation every year for the last decade. Leaving the team for two weeks forces them to make decisions and lean on each other. I encourage my employees to take vacations and use their personal time. We have developed procedures for all employees to communicate with the entire team before they take vacations, so that everyone knows what may be outstanding and how they can help while the employee is away. I strongly encourage employees not to look at email while on vacation, and I do the same. Believe it or not, it takes discipline and a defined process in order for us all to relax and unplug.
What motivates you every day?
I love what I do and everyone on my team. I have crafted an environment that allows me to achieve what I need both professionally and personally. My work supports my family and my family supports my work. I am very fortunate to have the flexibility and opportunity to maintain a healthy balance and enjoy what I do every day.
Anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?
I have been very fortunate to be successful in my marketplace and have been given ample recognition, but what gives my team and I the greatest sense of accomplishment is when we are recognized for our volunteer contributions to the community. We have participated in many community projects that include building structures for those who are less fortunate. We also are able to give back to local charities that support all different causes. As a team, we have built play sets for families in need, designed and built rooms in non-profit agency buildings that were being renovated, and created outdoor classrooms at local schools. Working together as a team on community projects provides the best sense of accomplishment. QR