Part of Something Bigger
CAPS, CGP, CGB
A.C.T. Builders, LLC Vancouver, Wash.
Year founded: 2004
Number of employees: 7
QR: Who started your company?
AM: A.C.T. Builders was started by Aaron, Charlie and Terree Marvin.
QR: When and how did you choose this career?
AM: I like to say this career chose me. My dad, Charlie, has been in construction my entire life and owned his own company in Southern California while I was growing up. I have always worked construction, and it was a natural transition.
QR: What did you do before becoming a remodeler?
AM: The only other jobs I have had were soccer related. I played through college and coached teams and camps throughout. I continue to coach youth teams now and coached a high school team for five years.
QR: What does being part of NAHB Remodelers mean to you?
AM: Being part of the NAHB means I am part of something much bigger—part of the solutions, part of the fights and part of the voice for affordability of housing and remodeling. Being in the NAHB means there is someone out there looking out for me and my company.
QR: How has the remodeling profession changed since you’ve been involved?
AM: I have seen the addition of the lead, silica and mold requirements; drastic changes to energy codes; and mandatory tamper-resistant outlets and arch fault breakers have greatly affected electrical pricing. It is no longer an industry that allows a skilled craftsman to accomplish a client’s vision. Remodeling now requires you to be a skilled craftsman, savvy businessman and compliance officer.
QR: Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas for your business?
AM: Our first option is always our NAHB 20 Club. They have been invaluable to our success. Next, we have a network of builder/remodeler colleagues in our area whom we have the ability to talk freely with about the industry and issues we may be experiencing. Finally, we are blessed to have people who have experienced success in all different aspects of business; we look to them for advice in areas of overlap from one business to another.
QR: If you could have a 30-minute conversation with any business leader, who would it be?
AM: I am blessed with the members of my NAHB 20 Club. There are so many amazing business leaders that any businessperson would be lucky to have 30 minutes with them. My second choice is probably Sarah Lamb of Scribe America—their success is incredible.
QR: What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
AM: Don’t let what you do become who you are. I am a contractor, it’s what I do for a living and feel like we’re pretty darn good at it, but it is not who I am.
QR: What have you done to grow your business during the current economy?
AM: We have worked to expand our reach through all different avenues of marketing. We have used social medial, like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram; we work hard for our ranking on Houzz; we have spent time and money on our website and online presence; and we have created a full, uniform brand that we work hard to present to the community.
QR: What is your No. 1 source of leads right now, and why is it working?
AM: Our most consistent source is through direct referrals from past clients. We have a very high success rate when we are referred by a past client. This works so well because the [potential] clients are given a first-hand account of the success of a project and the resulting relationship. We are also seeing a large number of leads coming from our website and the shows we participate in.
QR: Many remodelers are reporting increases in their average job size. Are you seeing this as well?
AM: Our average job size has definitely increased. We are seeing that our jobs are both bigger in scale and higher in cost.
QR: Right now, is your focus as a remodeler on growth or steady revenue at greater profitability?
AM: Steady revenue at greater profitability. We have found through the years that when a job is more profitable we are able to slow to process just slightly, allowing for a more consistent and higher quality product. It also allows us to offer more of that personal, one-on-one attention we strive to provide. If we perform to these standards, we will experience growth as a result.
QR: Finding qualified labor is a challenge. Are you hiring this year, and how are you going about finding the right people for your company?
AM: We are always open to hiring if we find the right person for the job. At this time, we have no plans to hire any additional staff, but when someone falls into place that is the perfect fit we bring them onboard. Over the years, our employees have come to us through friendships and other business relationships.
QR: What is the most unusual project your company has completed?
AM: The most unusual project was a ballistics testing facility for a company that produces lightweight armor for Blackhawk helicopters. We worked with the city, state of Washington, and Feds to design and build a concrete structure that would be approved for shooting up to 50-caliber rounds in a climate-controlled environment. Second most unusual was an over-3,000-square-foot room addition with a free-form rock pool complete with waterslide and waterfall. The structure had a full mortise and tenon timber-frame roof structure.
QR: Favorite item in your office?
AM: Things that remind me of my kids are definitely my favorite. I have plaques from all the soccer teams I have coached, wooden giraffes from when I went to Africa to pick up our adopted son and drawings that [my kids] have given me. The awards and pictures are cool but pale in comparison to the items that make me think of my kids.
QR: What motivates you every day?
AM: I go to work every day for my wife and kids. I want to be able to provide for them in a way that allows them to be healthy, happy and safe. Secondly, my employees—I want to create an environment that allows them to succeed and love their jobs. Third is for the customers. If I am successful in the first two, our clients are the true winners. When people on their job are happy to be at work, their entire experience is improved.
QR: Anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?
AM: I have been blessed to be recognized with awards and accolades, but I truly want to give credit to my dad. He is my business partner and the one who keeps the whole thing rolling. He taught me how to be a family man, someone who always does what’s right, and is the hardest-working person I have ever met. Without my dad and his work ethic, I would have never had the opportunity to be in a position to receive any of these awards. | QR