After serving 10 years as vice president of construction for a luxury custom homebuilder, Robert Wood encountered a difficult situation in 2008. His company began cutting back and instituted a reorganization because of the recession, impelling him to contemplate the future. He and his wife Heather, an interior designer, ultimately decided to create their own residential design-build firm.

“Our first project was a little backyard shed. My father-in-law said, ‘Hey, if you can beat the price that Home Depot’s doing for a Tuff Shed, you can build it for me,’ and off we started,” recalls Robert, who has a degree in civil engineering. “Because of our past experience—and my connections to trades and people in the industry—we got to leverage that as we grew. We already had personnel connections in the community, so we just kept doing a good job for people, taking care of them.”

Mountainwood Homes continued to earn repeat business and project referrals from clients as the company embraced the importance of marketing and branding. “It just came together naturally; we knew that people need [a design-build] service,” Robert says. “It’s a service we offer so that we can help to make this whole remodeling or custom construction project easier for the clients.

“Some people like to get plans from other people and just quote those plans and move forward,” he adds. “We don’t want to do that because we want to get a chance to create a relationship with our clients. And that’s what we’re all about is having a relationship from the very first phone call they make into our office. That’s what makes this whole thing work—the relationship and trust that soon forms, and the ability to transform their space into what they’ve been thinking about.”

The company renovates homes and builds custom houses around Portland, Oregon, as well as in southwest Washington. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Washington shut down its construction business, but Oregon stayed open, putting Mountainwood in a unique position.

“We actually had a Washington project start one day, and we closed it down the next morning,” Robert says. “But the majority of our work is in Oregon, so we got to keep that part of our work going; then when Washington came back, we layered in our Washington work because we’re right on the border.”

Unfortunately, however, Wood had to lay off about 30 percent of his workforce because 60 to 70 percent of jobs went on hold. Even in areas where the company could operate, most clients opted to pause their projects while everyone waited on more information about the virus and associated risks. Mountainwood has since brought back all the positions that were furloughed, Robert notes.

“It’s caused us to make sure that we’re refining our processes and taking care of people,” he says. “Internally, we’re working on making sure that we’re being more efficient with how we do things and moving clients through our process—making sure we’re taking care of them. There are some material things going on as far as shortages and timelines, and so that causes us to stop and make sure we’re planning around those things, so we can still bring projects in on time and on budget.”

Job leads dried up for about six weeks in March and April, but since then they have completely turned around, Robert adds. In fact, the company received more leads in 2020 than in any other year to date.

“We are seeing a trend of larger projects—additions with kitchens and bathrooms, or just additional bedrooms. We’re seeing additions with office space. We almost never talk to anyone in which office space isn’t a priority. Probably 50 to 60 percent need two workspaces.”

Some clients are even planning for the possibility of another pandemic, so they ask for an office area and a space open for future use, he notes. “People have been making the choice to get these projects done now. Our buyer typically is a high-tech professional in the Portland area, so high-tech companies just sent their people [to work from] home, and they still kept making money.”

Mountainwood achieved $12 million in revenue on its remodeling jobs last year and has forecasted $13 million for 2021, Robert says. The company does not project massive growth this year as a result of the ongoing pandemic but believes the market will be very strong in 2022.

“We want to keep our heads up and make sure that if things are changing, we can act and react accordingly with our team, take care of our clients and take care of our teammates—take care of each other.

“Our motto is ‘building clients for life,’” he continues. “It’s important that people get a builder on their side. They have doctors and attorneys and all these other professional services; and so, we’ve just created that relationship with a lot of people, and they call themselves clients for life.” QR

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