Susan Raisanen oversees sales and marketing for TraVek Inc, a design-build remodeler based in Scottsdale, Arizona. The company’s entry into the industry was a rough one. “We opened our doors in 2001 six days before 9/11, so we had a downward spiral right at the beginning,” Raisanen says.
Despite a challenging first year, TraVek’s leadership had its eye on growth and toward earning respect within the community. From a humble beginning of $100,000 in first-year sales, TraVek has grown today to a company with 70 employees who design and build kitchens, baths, additions and everything in between.
TraVek also offers handyman services, which have grown into a large percentage of its business. “We’ve got six full-time handymen who each average two projects a day,” Raisanen notes. In 2020, TraVek acquired a realty brokerage and a roofing firm to further broaden its services.
Raising the Bar in Remodeling
TraVek has long set its sights on leadership in the remodeling industry. Its owners and leaders viewed self-improvement as key to its leadership commitment.
“Contractors are at a bit of a disadvantage, in that people call them out to their homes but then are skeptical of them once they arrive,” Raisanen explains. “Our goal over the last five years has been to improve the professional image of contractors within our community. The more involved you are with a national association and with their professional standards, the more credibility a contractor can gain among clients. It’s not just one thing; all the steps count. We have many certified individuals on staff who carry professional designations. We conduct monthly remodeling seminars.”
With many staffers earning professional designations, the next step was to seek company accreditation, which had been introduced when NARI launched its Accredited Remodeling Company Program in 2017.
TraVek management said the accreditation process helped them examine all aspects of the business—from the way they branded themselves to the types of projects they took on. All aspects factor into the running of a profitable business.
“We won the Sterling Award from the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce,” Raisanen says. “Having worked through the NARI accreditation process prepared us for the rigor of the Scottsdale presentation.
“The Chamber was impressed with the transparency in our business and the commitment to education and accreditation through a third party,” Raisanen adds.
Creating a Culture of Pride
Operational improvements weren’t the only benefit of pursuing NARI accreditation. “Even our employees talk about the NARI accreditation and what that means. It helps us to attract and retain high-quality employees. We do group interviews with prospects, and our employees know we’re NARI accredited, and they emphasize how it has helped the professionalism at TraVek. People have clearly defined roles, and everyone knows how they work together in their specific roles for each project. Our employees love that everybody knows their piece of the puzzle. Accreditation really is a key part of creating the organizational culture and getting people on board with it; if they’re not on board, they’re not going to stick around.”
How to Become Accredited
Change is not always easy, Raisanen says. “Some employees groaned about the additional work expected as part of the accreditation process. The ‘why’ is really important in this for anyone—understanding why we’re doing it and how it’s going to help each one of us in our positions and the company overall.
“Have a dedicated point person to run the accreditation compliance process,” Raisanen explains. “This isn’t necessarily one person who creates everything because tasks should be delegated according to expertise; but it helps to have one centralized person to keep everything moving. This is the person who can set firm internal deadlines for the structure of getting the pieces together, the person who can reach out to various departments and get the pieces they need.”
For TraVek, it’s not about hoarding all the accolades. “No matter how many companies in our market become accredited, it’s only going benefit all of us by raising the industry’s professional image,” Raisanen says. “There’s much work that goes into it, but it’s very fulfilling. You need to make that choice as to what you want your appearance in your market to be. Do you want to be a professional organization or just another organization? Do you want to just be ‘Chuck in a Truck,’ or do you want to be more?”
Ultimately, pursuing accreditation was a companywide effort that has paid dividends, Raisanen notes. “When all of your systems are in place and your employees know what’s expected of them, the culture is good; and you have a smooth-running machine—your profits increase.” QR
About NARI Accreditation: The NARI Accredited Remodeling Company program focuses on management, operations, performance systems and processes proven to be characteristic of successful remodeling organizations. It is designed to assist remodeling business owners in building better, more streamlined, more responsive and easier to manage companies. To learn more about NARI accreditation for your remodeling company, go to nari.org/arc.