Disastrous Growth

Caught by a hurricane in his first year of business, remodeler Charlie Sanders had to move fast to keep up with demand in his area. But the lessons he learned throughout this fast and furious growth spurt have stayed with him, and his business hasn't s...

November 27, 2000

Hurricane Andrew caught Charlie Sanders totally unprepared. Only a few months into the first year of his new remodeling business, Sanders had prepared for about $200,000 worth of work. Instead, while helping to repair damaged homes, New Iberia, La.-based S&S Renovators did $2 million in business. Sanders had to work fast to build his company, but he succeeded, and S&S hasn't dipped below $2 million since.

"We'd been in business for only eight months, and we'd scaled everything for a first-year business," Sanders recalls. "We had more work than we could've imagined, and we had to get very organized very fast. It was a rude awakening."

Sanders asserts that quick computerization and consistent business analysis were the keys to overcoming this challenge. Each month, he looked over financial and project reports, ensuring that costs could be controlled. As projects poured in, costs and overheads were analyzed, and markups were adjusted to keep profits coming in.

"We looked at reports and went over the status of all our projects so that we would know the profits we'd made after each and every job," he says. "It was our best tool. We could plan for our future by knowing our costs and our overheads, and adjusted for future work. It's kept us in steady growth."

Currently, Sanders has four computers for his four office personnel. He uses Sage for business operation and Best 6 for construction work. Almost all S&S employees, including those in the field, were hired during 1992, during the company's spurt of demand and growth.

"During that time I had to develop a good network of subcontractors that I still use today," Sanders says. "I use the same ones consistently, ones that I have good working relationships with, so that all our jobs continue to go smoothly."

Not only did the hurricane help grow Sanders' business, it also helped him specialize. When S&S started, Sanders was custom-building homes in addition to renovating. Now the business concentrates on remodeling and specializes in insurance repair.

"The renovation has done so well that we've specialized in it," he says. "The hurricane was a big boost, and it did a lot for our region's economy. It's a bad thing, but there's good in it, too. Now, if we ever get another one, I'll be prepared for it."

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