Coming out of college with a degree in business and marketing, Robert Greaves got into kitchen cabinets and resets. He figured he would go back to civil construction, running heavy equipment, when his boss introduced him to an under-deck system. Blown away by the possibilities, Greaves sold the product for a few years before buying out the dealership in the Seattle metro area.

“I thought it was going to be the next Facebook, but it’s just a business,” explains Greaves, who in 2009 purchased franchise rights in the Pacific Northwest for Undercover Systems, which had been patented and franchised in the late 1990s. “It does really well, but it’s not a very big business. You have to be in a large metropolitan area in order to really draw some larger revenues from it.”

He changed the name to USI Undercover Systems and expanded into other outdoor construction services such as patio covers, decks, railing systems and electrical services. In response to the growing need from clients, USI kept learning, networking and aligning a group of leading experts in each specialty of outdoor living. By 2013 the business could provide a well-rounded menu of products and services that cater to outdoor living spaces in the Puget Sound region.

Since then the company has continued to seek growth opportunities to produce the best outcome for every client project. When COVID-19 took hold in 2020, the state of Washington shut down all businesses, and Greaves proactively rebuilt USI. After consulting with a creative agency, he rebranded the organization to PCF Construction Group, where PCF stands for people come first.

PCF now serves as the parent company for six divisions: Timberline Patio Covers, MasterDecks, Undercover Systems, Rescom Railing, Rock Electric, and ProAdmin Services. During COVID-19, the organization benefited from everyone staying home and funding outdoor living projects. Now, people are spending their money on vacations and going to concerts again, Greaves notes.

“Normally, you spread that out over five or six years; but everybody was stuck, so they just did what [projects] they wanted to do. Specifically for our region, that happened even more because we were locked down longer,” he says. “We used up a lot of the work that was there, and it’s just going to take a little bit of time to build up. We’re never going to see it as busy as that again.

“I don’t think people are thinking there’s going be a recession. Everybody understands that we’re having some type of a soft landing,” he adds. “But people are just a little bit more cautious about spending, and they’re choosing not to do it. It’s been harder to sell, and there’s less demand. We’re spending five times the amount of money on leads and getting fewer sales than we’re producing.”

When homeowners elect to pursue a project, they want materials and products installed that will not require much—if any—maintenance, Greaves notes. Clients also desire to extend the living space from inside their house to the outdoors through the use of a heated patio cover, especially in the Pacific Northwest region, where it rains frequently for the majority of the year.

“We’re seeing people do large projects; where we’re not seeing people spend money is on the sort of medium projects—the $20,000 to $70,000 jobs,” he explains. “Those ones just don’t seem to be selling as often. The larger, $100,000-plus jobs, those projects didn’t seem to slow down. There’s just not as many people out there who are looking to do a medium-size project.”

Based on conversations with his network and other businesses with whom he associates, Greaves expects to pick up additional product categories to fill in the gross top-dollar volume. “We are starting to step our foot into pavers, concrete and flat work, and then paver walls, which is pretty complementary to what we do. We used to sub it out, so we elected to start doing that in-house.”

Motorized screens and louvered roofs also should provide opportunities to increase sales and job sizes, he says. “For us specifically, we like the sexy ‘wow’ factor. We’re doing rendering and virtual-reality rendering, and that only goes so far with decks. If we want to continue gaining more market share, we’re going to have to get into indoor kitchens or custom homes, something that’s sexy. We’re not going to do siding or windows; that doesn’t fit our team and what we’ve created.

“So, if we were to expand into other stuff, it wouldn’t be bathroom fitter,” Greaves adds. He predicts the market will rebound after the presidential election. “People are feeling confident we’re at the bottom of the business cycle; the new business cycle will start.” QR

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