Maya Bogh, president and owner, CGR, and Len Bogh, owner and carpenter, CAPS
Great Northern Builders Inc., South Berwick, Maine, greatnorthernbuilders.info
Year founded: 2002
Number of employees: 6
Who started your company?
My husband started Great Northern Builders Inc. It was originally called Great Northern Carpentry.
When & how did you choose this career?
I didn’t. It chose me. I started by helping my husband with bookkeeping and marketing while I was home with our first daughter. Over time I discovered my love for residential remodeling, and it grew into a full time role and eventually to me becoming our company’s President.
What did you do before becoming a remodeler?
I worked in the Hospitality Industry, mainly in Front Office management.
How has the remodeling profession changed since you have been involved?
The EPA lead-safe law has been introduced and is protecting many families from the danger of lead during renovation. Consumer focus on green products and energy efficiency has greatly increased. We also see a high demand for Aging in Place remodels.
Right now, what is your focus as a remodeler – more growth or steady revenue at greater profitability?
We have always focused on profitability. We have succeeded in maintaining healthy margins that have allowed us to grow year after year. We are looking to increase our revenue in 2016, but only in a manageable, incremental way. Control is key.
Many remodelers are reporting increases in their average job size in 2015, are you seeing this as well?
We are, however I am not sure whether it has more to do with the recovering economy, that we are hitting our stride as a business and attracting the larger projects as a result, or something else altogether.
Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas for your business?
The NAHB is the center for my learning – through attending IBS, working on earning designations, and through the most incredible resource a remodeler can have – my 20Club. The 20Club particularly, provides me with input on all aspects of succeeding in this industry on a daily basis. I keep up with trade magazines, and encourage our employees to do the same, and bring their learning to the table as well. Their perspective and input often resolve issues that I might not have seen a clear answer to.
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 am blessed – -although I do lots of ‘Improve your business’ reading, I would choose my Dad. The best part is that I do have the privilege of picking his brains for business ideas anytime and all the time! He is the president of a US Steel subsidiary engineering firm in Montreal, Quebec. In his career, he has worked in countries all over the world. He has negotiated in every circumstance, with every type of person. In remote villages, he has balanced local culture and environment versus mining development. He has been through weeks long arbitration. He has worked for years developing the relationships necessary to get one contract signed. He got himself to where he is through kindness, patience, listening, intuition, grit, humor, and hard work. Any challenge our business faces, he has already been through, on a much larger scale, and lived to tell the tale. He is a mentor for our business and has assisted in guiding our growth. Thank you Dad!
Finding qualified labor is a challenge – are you hiring this year and how are you going about finding the right people for your company?
Our team is our biggest blessing. We have an amazing group of minds and hands at Great Northern. The dynamic of the group is excellent; the humor carries us through the challenges. We have assembled the team we currently have through personal referrals and community connections. We aim to keep successful employees with us through competitive pay, good benefits, profit sharing, continuing education and leaving room for employee initiative and creativity. At this point, our hiring need is an administrative assistant to allow me to delegate more and focus on the big picture. I would rather limit growth than ‘hire fast’.
What is your #1 source of leads right now and why is it working?
Referrals have always been our #1 source of leads, and continue to be. We are active in our community, volunteering and donating to multiple organizations. We aim for high customer satisfaction, which leads to the referrals. We keep in touch with past customers through Facebook and mailers so that they keep us in mind.
What is the most unusual project your company has completed?
Probably the replacement of a sea wall for a homeowner on a river that has one of the strongest currents in the world. We needed to work with the state, the town, the EPA and Shoreland Zoning, none of which agreed completely on what the requirements were. We had to coordinate with the tides. We had never done a sea wall before. I was a little scared! But it came out beautifully and has held up well!
What is your favorite item in your office?
My label maker. I am an organization freak.
What is the best advice you have received in your career?
“Take care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.” I try not to let details slide. When you show a customer, an employee, or a tradesman, that you notice and take care of small details, they trust you with the big things too and the relationship grows.
What does being a part of NAHB mean to you?
The NAHB has allowed us to grow and will continue to guide us in the future. It means the professionalization of our industry. Credibility. Education. Support. Networking. Inspiration.
What have you done to grow your business during the current economy?
We are working with a marketing consultant to expand our market. We involve ourselves civically to develop our network and also to give back to our community. We are doing a project for a museum right now in a town that we want to expand into. We are donating a portion of the project cost and in exchange they will allow us to attend their sponsor events and meet their patrons. This is a win-win situation that should give us access to the clients we are seeking.
What motivates you every day?
Our family. Our daughters. My husband and I were lucky enough to be given loving homes, and a stable upbringing. I feel it is our responsibility to create the same for our children every day. I cannot be proud of our company unless I feel we handle every conversation and choice, with honesty and integrity as the guiding principles. Only then do I feel that we are doing work worthy of the good people we are surrounded by.
Anything else you would like to mention about career accomplishments?
Our company is growing annually due to our involvement with the NAHB. Get your designations. Join a 20Club – and create your own success.