NAHB Remodeler of the Month: Shifting Culture
authors Kyle Clapham
When and how did you choose this career? My love of building began as a young girl collaborating on woodworking projects with my grandfather in his workshop. Many of my fondest childhood memories were spent shadowing him on home renovation projects learning tool use, manual skills and design basics. While I attended college, I would create design themed inspirational boards centered around floor plans, interior finishes, fixtures and furnishings. After remodeling our personal residence, my husband and I received a tremendous amount of supportive feedback. We decided to take a leap of faith, and Bridge City Contracting was born.
How has the remodeling profession changed since you’ve been involved? Since starting my business, I have noticed that the building industry has undergone several changes to facilitate women in construction roles. The number of jobsites that are engaging women-owned firms has significantly increased. Women are emerging from trade schools and apprenticeship programs that exist to create more economic and diverse opportunities in higher numbers. There is more community outreach and awareness of opportunities for women in skilled labor and specialty trades. The culture is definitely shifting.
What does being part of NAHB Remodelers mean to you? Being a part of the National Association of Home Builders is of great significance to small business owners such as myself because NAHB represents specific causes that can have profound effects on the success and survival of our building industry. NAHB also serves as a trend expert, educational resource, advocate and industry touchstone for all remodelers.
What is the biggest challenge right now for your business? Growth is probably our biggest challenge right now—and it is a double edge sword! We are currently learning to manage and control our organization’s growth processes. Understanding our current capacity and service practices has been key in providing our clients with the best build experience possible. Whether it’s the number of kitchens, square feet or a combination of the two, truly knowing and understanding our current capacity is crucial if we seek to profitably regulate our company’s expansion.
What is your focus as a remodeler and/or for your business? Currently, my biggest focus is process and best practice documentation. Although it isn’t hard to document work processes, it does take time. I believe that the time is well worth it because it will help me in determining what is efficient or if something should be eliminated or changed.
Have you seen a change in the average job size and/or type of projects? Our clients are seeking projects that are diverse in budget and range. About 80 percent of our prospective clients know exactly what they want when they contact us. Twenty percent need direction and guidance. The majority of the jobs we book begin as a kitchen or bathroom remodel, and as we move the process along (more often than not), our satisfied clients will request additional home improvements.
Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas for your business? The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) runs its own small business development center in each state. They are a valuable free resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs. SCORE is another fantastic and free small-business resource loaded with online business workshops and podcasts. Free mentoring is also available—both in person and via email. I am a recent graduate of SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program. The program was taught by a retired Harvard professor and designed to replicate an MBA program, focusing on business training and management. The commitment was about 10 hours a week, but it was immediately worth the investment of time.
Are you hiring this year, and how are you finding the right people? We are always looking for talent. Previously, we have struggled to find and keep the right people. In this process we have learned three important lessons. The first lesson is that if you want quality employees, you need to be looking for them all the time, not just when you are in desperate need. Secondly, when we look for ideal candidates, we have learned that character is more important than the skills they possess. Skills can be taught, but attitude is forever. We can’t teach our team how to work hard, but if they work hard and they are coachable, we can teach them anything! Third, we believe that it is important to pay people what they are worth if you want them to stick around and truly help your company. QR