Philbin Construction & Remodeling Co.

by Emily Blackburn
Matt Philbin

Mokena, Ill.
GQ All-time Recommend Rate: 98%
GQ 2021 Recommend Rate: 100%
Number of Jobs in 2021: 35
Type of Firm: Full-service Remodeler
CEO: Matt Philbin

Business technology and business software are offering new ways for remodelers and home improvement professionals to improve client experience and customer satisfaction. In what ways are you using software or technology to improve client experience?:

A positive client experience begins with the sales and design stages of the project, where our clients see their projects through our 3D design software. We truly aren’t doing anything substantially different than we did 5 years ago, but the authenticity of the designs improves with each software update, and the ability to “move within the plan” also gets better with technology updates as well.

To say our estimating software is dated would be an understatement, but it’s accurate and makes it easy to be thorough and transparent with all of the details of our clients’ projects. We have explored newer estimating products, and keep going back to what we know works and what our clients like.

Once the projects begin, we use the methods that align with the client’s capabilities and preferences in order to maintain constant communication. Ultimately the method varies slightly with each client. Some prefer email, others texting, and some actually still prefer to talk.

Rising costs for labor and building materials along with higher inflation on everything else is forcing remodelers and home pros to raise prices dramatically. Tell us about the most effective ways you are passing along these rising prices to your clients?:

Though we have done everything possible to avoid any mid-project price increases, we have had to make slight changes to how we price our projects in general, particularly for those projects that will not begin for several months. Many of the things we buy every day are now 2-3 times the price (or more) than they were just a couple years ago. Adding to this, we have enjoyed a 10-12 month backlog of work for the past few years, which makes things even more difficult because we price a project on day one, and the project doesn’t begin for nearly a year, and there’s no way to accurately guess what the commodity-based materials are going to cost when that project starts.

We do price several things within our projects based on (actual cost + tax) allowances, and then are transparent with the clients to reveal our costs when settling those allowances during or after the project. I feel like we will be doing this with more of the materials to try to offset some of the shock of the price increases we see, and I hope clients will be understanding when the time comes that these issues were out of our control and simply unavoidable.

It’s also reasonable for clients to think that smart contractors are going to increase pricing along with the rest of the market. We work in an industry where there really is no “baseline” to begin with, so comparisons clients try to make are always tricky between one company and another, but in general it would be logical to assume that the same project we estimated 3 years ago should (and will) cost more today.

Supply shortages have required you to ask clients to go back and pick another finish or building material. What are your tips for handing these product trade-off conversations?:

We have tried to advise clients early in the process that there may be more challenges in procuring the materials than usual. We have also encouraged them to begin the materials selection process far earlier than we have in the past. Prior to the pandemic, if we had a 8 month lead time when signing a new client, we would encourage them to sign their contracts (which gets them onto the calendar), and then we’d set up meetings to work on materials selections at some point comfortably in the future. Now we encourage them to sign and begin making those selections immediately. Many of our suppliers (cabinetry, windows, doors, etc) have 6 month production times right now. We’d rather have the materials here and ready, as opposed to being ready to start the project and be waiting for the key materials.

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