|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.
Whether USA Decks or General Electric, companies that use quality management share these common traits:
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:
- How do senior leaders guide the organization toward a common purpose with shared values and priorities?
- How do you create and carry out a strategic plan to achieve a future vision, enhance competitive position and improve overall performance?
- How do you manage the design and delivery of products and services that lead to high levels of customer satisfaction?
- How are business processes designed, managed and improved to achieve performance excellence?
- How do you develop the full potential of employees in ways that support the company's performance and learning objectives?
- How do you ensure high-performing, trouble-free products and services?
- How do you create high-performance relationships with independent contractors you hire and product manufacturers?
- 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.