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CQC Home: Never Just Average

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CQC Home: Never Just Average

CQC Home's Ken Combs’ journey from lemons to $15 million lemonade


By Caroline Broderick June 16, 2022
CQC Home
Combs says when hiring, CQC looks for those eager to expand on their skillset. The company has set each position to offer upward mobility, such as its four levels of project manager. | Photos courtesy CQC Home
This article first appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Pro Remodeler.

For four summers in Durham, NC’s Holloway Street, Ken Combs set up a lemonade stand. At the age of 8, it was his first taste of entrepreneurship. Business came naturally to Combs but was partly influenced by an “eat what you kill mentality” at the orphanage where he resided.

A few decades later, and less than 8 miles away from Holloway Street, Combs would open CQC Home. CQC Home has three offices, 25 full-time employees, and pushing $15 million in revenue. But that entrepreneurial spirit means there’s more out there for Ken Combs, who has a goal to become North Carolina’s largest remodeler.

“You want to be the person that gets to see how this plays out because it’s going to be extraordinary,” says business partner and wife Ericka Combs.

 

cqc home north carolina remodeler
Ken Combs

No Experience Necessary

Ken Combs’ entrance into the industry was all about “opportunity combined with timing” he says. The same goes for meeting Ericka.

She came from a similar background, being adopted at the age of 6. Ericka ended up at a community college, sitting next to Ken Combs, who decided to drop out a year later.

Shortly afterward, 19-year-old Ken Combs was searching a local newspaper for work. One ad stuck out: Carpenter’s helper. No experience necessary. He fit the bill.

He became a laborer for a custom home builder and quickly climbed the company ladder. But he couldn’t shake the entrepreneurial itch.

 

Not Just Average

Ken Combs admits it was pretentious for him at the age of 22 to think he could run a construction business better than his boss and mentor.

“It came from a moment where he had just finished a job, a beautiful house that we completed, and he sold it for $1.1 million. It took us about a year to build,” says Ken Combs. “He told me that he had lost money. Not only did he lose money, he also lost a year of his time and effort and energy into building this beautiful home.”

So he began Custom Quality Carpentry, working as a sub until it evolved into constructing staircases, screened porches, and decks. His right hand, Ericka, worked as his helper until two weeks before giving birth and general contractors worried about their liability. The family just celebrated their firstborn’s 15th birthday.

Those first three years were plagued with mistakes until 2013 when Ken found himself at the next phase with five contractors and 20 jobs. In one day, those five 1099 workers were employees, he purchased workers comp, and continued evolving.


RELATED: Read More Remodeler Profiles

CQC home kitchen remodel
A completed kitchen remodel by CQC Home
 

 

ericka combs cqc home
Ericka Combs
 

“The more I learned, the more I realized that I didn’t know. It made me hungrier to want to learn more. I started reading every remodeling-specific book or resource that I could find,” says Ken Combs. “The more I learned, the more I implemented things. I always had the desire to be the best, or to be great, not just average.”

 

Working for Each Other

Custom Quality Carpentry transitioned to a design-build model and rebranded to CQC Home in 2015 with nine employees and one designer. By 2017, CQC Home hit nearly $5 million in revenue.

The goal? Ken Combs says it will take $30 million to become the state’s largest, and he envisions getting there through more independently run offices.

Though the foundation of CQC Home’s success has been its leadership, its mission to further uplift its employees is what propels the company further. CQC offers an educational stipend, whether that’s for sending their office manager to accounting classes or enrolling their operations managers into peer groups.

“We have a hunger for learning across the board, and it’s part of our culture,” says Ken Combs.

“Kenny always, always says the rising tide raises all ships, and the better one person does, the better everybody does,” says Ericka. “I think everybody we have in our team right now is so geared towards, ‘How can I help my team?’ It’s not like we work for the client, we work for each other."

 

 


written by

Caroline Broderick

Caroline Broderick is the Managing Editor for Pro Remodeler. Most recently, she served as the associate editor for PR's sister publications, Pro Builder, Custom Builder, and PRODUCTS where she covered design, building products, trends, and more in the residential construction industry. She can be reached at cbroderick@sgcmail.com.
 

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