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Since he was 8 or 9 years old, Patrick Finn wanted to live the American Dream. Following his immigration from Ireland to England in 1985, he fell into construction work because his uncles were carpenters. In 1987 Finn finally migrated to the U.S., working his way up with a framing contractor who also built custom homes until he founded his own remodeling company in 1991.

“My dad owned a small excavation business in Ireland, and I helped him over the summertime,” says Finn, who achieved Master Craftsman status while working in England. “I said to myself, if I’m going to travel 3,800 miles from home, then I’m going to make it work and get into business for myself. I liked the autonomy, and I wanted the flexibility and other things that come with it.”

The first couple of years in business, Finn lost money. The following year, he took his books to an accountant who told him that he needed to figure out a way to make a profit, or he would be better off working for someone else. Finn asked him what he should do to stay in business, and the accountant advised him to raise his prices and learn his overhead, so he could make money.

“I started making a small profit initially, but it grew over time as the business grew,” says Finn, whose wife does the bookkeeping, and whose daughter handles the project management with an architect/design staff. The company has two people in the field and brings in other subcontractors as needed. “We like to stay lean in case there’s a slowdown, so we don’t have to let anybody go.”

A couple of years ago, his daughter expressed an interest in taking over the business eventually, which changed the dynamic. They started the transition process with the thought that she will be ready in six or seven years. “She wants to learn every aspect of the business,” Finn says. “She’s very good at marketing; she’s good at sales. She wanted to learn the construction side, though, so she wouldn’t have somebody tell her one thing and not have it be true. She’s been doing project management for a good year and a half now, and she shadowed me for a few years beforehand.”

After going through a rough patch about six or eight months ago, Finn and his daughter decided to meet with a business psychologist. “Transitioning from one generation to the next is hard,” he notes. “There’s a lot of tension sometimes. But every three or four weeks, we talk to the business psychologist and learn to communicate better with each other. And that has been a big blessing.”

Finn has been a member of business consultant Remodelers Advantage for about 10 years while his daughter has participated with him for six of those years. The organization helps remodeling companies build profitable businesses through education, training, consulting and coaching. Four of the 12 companies in their peer group are pursuing a transition, which has helped them as well.

The company typically bills between $2.2 million and $2.5 million each year, although the soft market so far this year has dampened enthusiasm. “I was really optimistic coming into the year,” Finn says. “I thought in an election year, the administration would do everything it can to ‘juice the economy’ with lower interest rates and all the rest. But that hasn’t happened. I think it keeps getting pushed out with inflation, and people are sitting on the fence. There’s a lot of uncertainty.

“We like to take on bigger, more complex projects, anything from like $350,000 to $700,000 and $800,000 jobs,” he adds. “We just finished up an addition that was $395,000. We’ve got another one that we’re working on right now that we started about a month and a half ago for $489,000. We’ve got another one coming up for permit that’s like $700,000. Those are the kind of jobs we like to do. But we’re also pricing some smaller additions too in the $250,000 to $350,000 range.”

Finn tries to be selective with his clients because he wants to make sure the company works with good, qualified homeowners. Sometimes, however, they do not discover that upfront, which can be frustrating, he says. “A lot of the jobs are coming in over budget on the design process, and so there’s fallout. We typically want four to six jobs at a time, and we’re currently running two.”

As part of a longer-term exit strategy, the company hired a young salesperson in January, so Finn can get out of sales and become more of a mentor to the staff and his daughter. “We want to grow a lot over the next couple years—and the next five or six years—because we want to be about $5 million, $6 million. It’s disheartening to see things so slow this year, but we have a bigger picture.” QR

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