Saving big while doing good

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What if you could save your company thousands of dollars a year, give your clients a tax deduction and help the community at the same time? That's the situation now for Newman Company of Riley, Ind., through the company's relationship with Habitat for Humanity's ReStore program. During demolition, workers set aside anything that could possibly be reused, such as light fixtures, faucets, doors a...

April 01, 2007

 

What if you could save your company thousands of dollars a year, give your clients a tax deduction and help the community at the same time? That's the situation now for Newman Company of Riley, Ind., through the company's relationship with Habitat for Humanity's ReStore program.

During demolition, workers set aside anything that could possibly be reused, such as light fixtures, faucets, doors and toilets. The local Habitat ReStore representative comes to the job site and picks up the products for sale through a retail store, with proceeds benefitting Habitat. The homeowners then receive a receipt so they can claim the donation on their taxes.

The company got involved with the program several years ago through a friend of company President Todd Newman, who was involved in Habitat for Humanity. "A lot of this stuff we were throwing away could be reused, so I always hated to see it going into the landfill," Newman says.

Besides the benefits to the environment and the community, it's also helped Newman's bottom line. The company's dumping fees have been reduced by about 20 percent. Plus, it's an excellent marketing tool.

"We tell our customers that they are helping the community, and a lot of people get very excited about that."

For more information on the ReStore program, visit www.habitat.org.

Reward for a job well done

Darius Baker knows that one employee can make a big difference - positive or negative - in how a client feels about a project.

That’s why D & J Kitchens & Baths of Sacramento, Calif., now uses a $100 bonus to reward employees who are mentioned by name in post-project customer surveys.

"It has really stepped up the level of concern for the client’s mental state," Baker says. "It makes the employees think more about how they communicate with the client and what they can do to accommodate the client."

During staff meetings, Baker tells the employees to always look for little things they can do that can make a big difference for the client. For example, on a recent project, a client had a stamped concrete sidewalk installed. After it was completed, a D & J employee realized an element of the decorative finish was high enough to catch an existing wrought iron gate. Without the client’s having to ask, the employee brought in a welder to remove and remount the gate.

"It only cost $150, but it mattered to that client, who couldn’t believe we had taken care of that for her," Baker says.

About 95 percent of surveys mention one or more employees. The bonuses are a small price to keep customers happy, Baker says.


Beyond design/build

When Denny Conner meets with clients, he tells them he’s not interested in only remodeling their home. He wants to change their lives for the better.

A decade ago, Conner decided his firm, Conner Remodeling and Design in Seattle, had to be about more than just construction.

"I got tired of moving 2-by-4s around and wanted to look at the bigger picture," he says. "I realized that when we did a really good job, it changed the client’s life in an incredibly positive way."

"We have to find the things that really make a difference," he says. "Sometimes it’s the little features that mean the most to them. It can really be as simple as asking them if there’s anything else they’d like to improve on their home."

The change was more than a shift in philosophy. It also required a different approach to the project and the customer. Most notably, Conner decided that to maintain control the company would only build projects it designed. He also emphasizes with his staff the importance of really listening to the client.

Clients often don’t understand right away what Conner means when he says he wants to "transform" their lives, but once they do, they become very enthusiastic, he says.

If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at jonathan.sweet@reedbusiness.com.

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