Ed Augustine still remembers going on leads with his father as an 8-year-old in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 1972. “He would take me into houses, and I’d sit on the couch with him and slowly watch the demo,” says Augustine, who ran his first home improvement lead more than 10 years later. “He’d put all the pieces of aluminum and vinyl out there and go through the presentation.
“The troubling part was from 1972 to 1980, my dad worked for probably 12 companies,” Augustine continues. “And he was a very good, honest sales rep with four kids who was always doing the right thing. But this was a really rough industry at that time. There were people who wouldn’t pay you. They were here today and gone tomorrow; they were operating out of garages.”
In 1980 the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and Augustine witnessed a legitimate home improvement company for the first time. His father worked for Aluminum Industries, which ran a factory that manufactured vinyl siding and operated about 40 stores. “They had good samples; at the office in Jacksonville, there were 15 salespeople, and everybody made a living,” he says.
“Everybody came to work every day, and they had their own building. I thought, this is the way it’s supposed to be. The checks were good on Friday, and everybody’s been here a while. [And] my dad shined there,” adds Augustine, who got a job with the company on an installation crew at just 16 years old. “Right out of the gate, I got to see the way you’re supposed to do it: the right way.”
After the family moved back to Virginia Beach in 1986, Augustine worked for a few different home improvement outfits before founding Paramount Builders in 1991. Early on he determined that Paramount would be a debt-free organization, so everything the company uses—including buildings, vehicles, printers and office furniture—has been paid in full upfront, which gives customers some valuable reassurance, he says.
“We are not going to rush their down payment back to the office to pay our electrical bill to keep the lights on,” Augustine explains. “We have their best interest in mind and want to do business the right way. When we opened in 1991, we kept the home improvement section of the Yellow Pages; today, we are the only name you would recognize because all the others have closed up.”
Paramount has implemented a number of processes since then to simplify and improve the home improvement experience for its clients. The company also created separate departments for marketing, sales, finance, production, installation and service to hold each one accountable for passing along a job seamlessly. A tool they call “critical path” helps keep everything moving and ensures continual follow-up.
“All of our jobs are premeasured so there are no surprises during installation, which could cost the homeowner more money,” Augustine adds. “We are thorough upfront to avoid any mistakes that could affect the overall performance of the job. We want [our customers] to be 100 percent satisfied for years. We listen to their concerns and do whatever it takes to make it right.”
The company transitioned from paper to digital, as well, to streamline processes and enhance the remodeling experience for homeowners. Paramount uses a sales app, which enables each department to operate more efficiently. “We are continually casting our vision for the future by looking for and implementing new concepts to reach potential customers and expand our reach,” Augustine says.
He refers to the company as “green,” not only because Paramount adopted a paperless initiative, but also due to its longstanding practice of not hiring salespeople who have worked for another home improvement business. “We take people who don’t know how to read a payment book—who don’t even know what a pipe collar is—and we teach them all of that,” Augustine explains. “We teach them how to measure, we teach them how to do a presentation, we teach them how to fill paperwork out, [and] we teach them what all the competition is doing.
“We found early on that all our complaints were [about] veterans who had been around the block a hundred times, had learned all the shortcuts and wouldn’t put the time and effort in,” he adds. “They’d been around forever, and they just weren’t going to do it our way. They were going to prequalify the leads.”
After opening a new location in Jacksonville last April, Paramount now employs more than 350 people across eight offices. “We believe that we’re not just hiring an employee; these individuals are joining the Paramount family,” Augustine notes. “When I look at my six vice presidents who run the company, I see over 100 years of experience with Paramount. I think that makes all the difference in the world.” QR