Brian Gottlieb likes to innovate. It’s a point of differentiation for Tundraland, the bath remodeling, window replacement, and outdoor home improvement company Gottlieb founded in 2008 in Wisconsin’s Green Bay area, and inspiration often comes from looking at his business from the customer’s point of view. So when he decided to add decks to his established sunroom business, Gottlieb looked to find sources for customer dissatisfaction that he could eliminate. One pain point was the long lead time between sale and installation. “People buy something on Amazon ...they want it today,” Gottlieb says. “But in the home improvement business, we want the homeowner to sign today, and then we make them wait six to eight weeks. To me, the incentive is: Let’s get it installed tomorrow.”
Thus was born the program referred to internally at Tundraland as “Deck in a Day.” Since the soft launch in early 2017, average lead time is down to seven days, and Gottlieb is pushing to drive it down to three. “But it’s not easy getting the whole business to that kind of turn time,” he says.
Aim to Simplify
The focus on faster installation meant limiting the choices offered to customers. “You have to decide what you can keep and what you can give up,” Gottlieb says. “We knew we couldn’t offer 150 different kinds of decks … And guess what? We found out that the customer doesn’t need that
Fewer offerings simplified not just design and sales, but procurement, inventory, and installation. And that made the process easier to scale.
Limiting the number of designs simplified the permitting process as well, but Tundraland had to change some of its construction methods to overcome the delays that inspections imposed. For example, instead of waiting for inspectors to approve excavations and concrete footing-and-pier foundations, the company switched to using precast concrete Diamond Piers (pinfoundations.com), which are installed at grade and anchored to undisturbed soil with steel bearing pins driven into the ground. “They’re quick and they often don’t require inspections,” Gottlieb says. “Plus, because they’re pre-engineered, with no concrete needed, we can start building immediately.”
The simplified model also means installers can be trained on all available designs and require virtually no advance project review time. “They show up for work ready to install, but they don’t always know where or what they’re installing,” Gottlieb says. “It works because it’s replicable, which makes it easily trainable.”
Scheduling plays a crucial role in shortening the time from sales to installation. Tundraland is fully paperless, and its Customer Care staff mirror the hours of salespeople in the field, so a contract can be reviewed and an installation scheduled the same day at the point of sale. “It lets us maximize the efforts of our people,” Gottlieb says. “By scheduling at the point of sale, we can keep the schedule full. It drives efficiency.”
For Gottlieb, the Deck-in-a Day initiative is part of an ongoing effort to streamline his company’s sales process. “The average consumer comes to our website ready to do business. But if we follow the traditional process, we can’t make a sale until we set an appointment, get both homeowners in the meeting, and sign a contract,” Gottlieb says. “I want to get to a place where, when someone is thinking about a product today, we can sell it to them today.”
Currently, most companies like Gottlieb’s create a sense of urgency based strictly on price, but Gottlieb can charge a premium for a deck that his team can quickly install. “When you start to provide service that eliminates dissatisfaction, it’s no longer about price,” Gottlieb says. “People are willing to pay a premium when they can get the project of their dreams without waiting for it.”