Northern Lights Exteriors

by Emily Blackburn

James Hooven

Fort Lupton, CO
GQ All-time Recommend Rate: 96%
GQ 2020 Recommend Rate: 95%
Number of Jobs in 2020: 375
Type of Firm: Full-service Remodeler, Home improvement/Replacement
CEO: James Hooven

1. Demand for services is stronger than ever. Supply delays are widespread. Building product prices are rising. Please name the concrete steps you take to keep customers satisfied as timelines and prices are fluctuating?

This has been one of the toughest “outliers” we’ve had to deal with in 2020. Clients are spending more time at home, with more money in their pockets for home improvement projects – while suppliers had to cut down their manufacturing time due to COVID restrictions. HONESTY and TRANSPARENCY were the ways we decided to deal with the fluctuations. We addressed the topics of pricing and lead time for different inventory in our original appointments.

When other competitors seemed to be hiding from the realities of the market, we chose to be totally upfront from the beginning. I’m sure we lost some clients to companies who weren’t having this conversation, but in the end – our customers were understanding because they knew the truth from the start. We explained to many unhappy clients that called throughout the year, that may have contracted with someone else, that the delays their contractor were giving them were true.

We were managing an element of concern on our side as well, but we communicated as best we could – even when dates on deliveries where changing weekly. It’s been tough.

2. A good remodeling or home improvement firm knows the limits of its capabilities to take on additional work. What do/would you communicate to clients when you cannot handle their job and must decline their inquiry?

We try to qualify from the first phone call into our office. We try to do this on-site during an original appointment and empower our team to make the call when meeting with a homeowner or other asset manager. We do our best to make a recommendation for a client that needs help and will make suggestions on ways they may be able to search for someone that could handle the project.

The most important piece to this situation to us is COMMUNICATION. We don’t want a client waiting, wondering, or watching for an estimate we don’t intend to send. That can be very frustrating for clients and gives the entire construction industry a “bad-name.” Even if we can’t do the job, our hope is the client would rave about the response they received from us and the direction we tried to help steer them to get the project they need done…even if it won’t be with Northern Lights Exteriors.

3. During busy times like these, operational adjustments are needed in order to take on more work, often with the same level of staffing. What steps have you taken to ensure a quality experience despite the added workloads for your team?

Because we have been in business since 2001, we know a lot about scaling. We want our team to be the happiest, each year they work for us. We know that our team’s “happiness” is dependent on the client experience we deliver. We focus on driving quality leads using analytics that should match up with who we are and what we do. We have built proprietary software solutions that help us ramp up, streamline operations, communicate with our customers in a variety of ways that fit their expectations, and keep everyone focused on the OVERALL BIG PICTURE of success.

We make sure we spend energy on controlling the items in the build process that we can. We incentivize our entire work “family” not just the sales team. Our company culture is very important to us. We understand we could hire and fire seasonally, let crews go during the “slower times”, but that has never been who we are.

We train, educate, and include all members in the “adjustment” conversation so “needs” of all departments are recognized and quickly accounted for. We have a “fail fast” attitude. We do our best not to get stagnant in decision making – we try…if it work GREAT, if not – we pivot (favorite term of 2020).

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