Systems Make the Business

Who knew there are 35 steps involved in selling decks door to door?

April 30, 2003


Training classes for all employees are one of the reasons Deck America won a National Remodeling Quality Award in 1999-2000.

Who knew there are 35 steps involved in selling decks door to door? Dan Betts didn't know until General Electric partnered with his company, Deck America (now named USA Decks after a 2002 merger with U.S. Home Systems), on a business improvement project modeled after GE's famed management techniques.

"We studied the door knocker to increase his efficiency," Betts says. "I didn't know it was that involved." Documenting 35 steps in a sales process might sound ridiculous, but Betts says it helped make a big difference by identifying specific small problems.

"Between sales and production, there's always a little bit of friction," he says. "As a manager, you have to discern the truth."

Attracting the attention of an international corporation such as GE was a direct result of quality management techniques, says Betts. Those practices were honed during his participation in the NAHB Research Center's National Remodeling Quality Awards program (now a division of the National Housing Quality Awards). Deck America won a gold medal in 1999-2000.

"Participants get an in-depth analysis of their complete operation," says Betts. "It's like having a business consultant come in and do a complete evaluation for $350 [the application fee]. What a deal!"

As a result of the feedback report he received, Betts implemented a target objective program that helped his 300 employees better strive for unified goals on department and companywide levels. "They got really involved because they were the ones being judged," says Betts.

Having these kinds of systems in place, says Betts, positioned USA Decks to become the deck installation company for 70 of The Home Depot's stores this past January, with plans to go nationwide.


More information

To apply for the NHQ Award, request a free NHQ Application Kit:

Rita Knab

NAHB Research Center


The kit contains an application brochure, an entry form, suggestions for completing the application and helpful reference materials. For a 2003 award, the completed application must be submitted to the Research Center by Sept. 1.

For questions about the Research Center's quality certification programs or the NHQ Awards, contact:

Dean Potter, Director of Quality Programs

NAHB Research Center


Quality characteristics

Whether USA Decks or General Electric, companies that use quality management share these common traits:




  • Continual improvement



  • Fact-based decision-making



  • A shared mission, vision and values. This gives purpose to the organization and provides the tools for guiding decisions and behavior.



  • An annual business and/or strategic planning process. The plan is tied to the company mission, vision and values and should include strategic objectives with milestones and timetables. Progress should be monitored and controlled.



  • Commitment to customer satisfaction. Quality companies have identified who their target customers are and which factors lead to high levels of customer satisfaction. Companywide processes develop positive customer relations before the sale, during design and construction and after completion. Customer satisfaction feedback is obtained and used to improve performance.



  • A performance management system for the entire company, as well as individuals and departments. The key factors to the company's success (for example, sufficient sales or completing projects on schedule) have been identified. There are planned initiatives to improve the processes that affect those factors. Goals are defined and measured, and time lines are set. All employees are involved in identifying areas for improvement and implementing improvements.



  • A work environment that supports employee well-being, satisfaction and motivation. Quality companies help employees set goals for professional development and assist in achieving those goals. They have regular personnel evaluations, which work with incentive systems to motivate employees toward the right behaviors. Employee satisfaction feedback is obtained and used.



  • Clearly defined, written standards for quality products. This must be backed up by methods to ensure that the products meet quality standards. A process is in place to identify and correct problems and prevent them from recurring.



  • Vendors or independent contractors are treated as partners. Performance expectations for these partners are set and controlled. There are activities for improving partner performance. Partner satisfaction feedback is obtained and used.



  • Improved business results and performance. This isn't just about revenue but also about customer satisfaction, operational effectiveness, product quality and profitability. Quantitative data back up qualitative trends and allow for comparison against other companies in the local market, the industry and nationwide.

    The National Housing Quality Awards

    Patterned after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the National Housing Quality Awards are open to U.S. residential remodelers, both full-service and specialty. There are also divisions for new-home builders and trade contractors.

    Preparing an NHQ Award application requires analyzing your company for all the qualities listed above. It starts by completing a company profile, which should include a brief company history, types of products and services offered, market and geographic area served, competitive situation and new business directions.

    Applicants then must answer the following eight questions:

    1. How do senior leaders guide the organization toward a common purpose with shared values and priorities?
    2. How do you create and carry out a strategic plan to achieve a future vision, enhance competitive position and improve overall performance?
    3. How do you manage the design and delivery of products and services that lead to high levels of customer satisfaction?
    4. How are business processes designed, managed and improved to achieve performance excellence?
    5. How do you develop the full potential of employees in ways that support the company's performance and learning objectives?
    6. How do you ensure high-performing, trouble-free products and services?
    7. How do you create high-performance relationships with independent contractors you hire and product manufacturers?
    8. What results have you achieved through your high-performance business practices?

    A panel of industry experts evaluates the applications and selects finalists. Finalists will meet NHQ examiners for an on-site review by the judging team. All applicants receive a feedback report containing suggestions for improvement.

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