Managing Happiness

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The larger a remodeling company becomes, the more difficult it is to achieve customer satisfaction, right? Dave Bryan, president of Blackdog Builders in Salem, N.H., showed me anything is possible, no matter what your company's size and volume. Bryan's $5.5 million firm employs 35 people and produces 43 percent gross profit on 70 annual jobs.

September 01, 2006

 

The larger a remodeling company becomes, the more difficult it is to achieve customer satisfaction, right? Dave Bryan, president of Blackdog Builders in Salem, N.H., showed me anything is possible, no matter what your company's size and volume. Bryan's $5.5 million firm employs 35 people and produces 43 percent gross profit on 70 annual jobs.

They also have a 93 percent rating from past clients who would recommend them, according to customer satisfaction consultant GuildQuality. Dave's answer for how Blackdog does it?

First is hiring quality people.

"You have to be slow to hire, quick to fire," says Dave. "When we have somebody who is not a good fit for the culture, they're a toxic employee and they shouldn't be here any longer. But, we are careful when we hire. For a carpenter to come into the company, it's a three to four interview process, including me. And the only thing I talk about in my interview is culture."

Next is having strong company values.

"We took a concept from Shawmut Design and Construction in Boston, called 910," he says. "If you look at customer satisfaction as a continuum, from 1 to 10, we want 9s and 10s. We want apostles. And we'll do essentially whatever it takes to get them."

Last is rewarding positive behavior such as the following, where this employee was publicly recognized at a company meeting and rewarded with raffle tickets to win a small prize.

"We had a client who had a tree fall on their swingset, and we weren't starting the job for two months," Dave recalls. "But the project manager heard about it, and he knew they were having a birthday party that weekend, so on Thursday night, he hopped in his truck, brought a chainsaw, and cut the tree off the jungle gym so the kids could have a place to play for the birthday party because the father was out of town on business. They never got billed, and he wasn't on the clock. He did it because he wanted the client to be a raving fan for the company. That's 910. It's a million little things like that. It isn't building the addition. It's building the addition while delivering an experience that makes them upset and disappointed when you leave."

630/288-8057, michael.morris@reedbusiness.com

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