Trade secrets

If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at

April 30, 2007


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If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at

Stand tall in a crowd


With more than 300 remodelers in the San Antonio phone book, Casa Linda Remodeling staff knew they needed a way to stick out from the competition.

"Our competition is pretty segmented," says Vice President Mike High. "There are a lot of pick-up truck guys here."

When the company hired a marketing firm four years ago, it quickly realized that emphasizing professionalism and experience would be the key to a successful marketing program.

That led to "The Homeowner's Guide to Successful Remodeling," a 12-page booklet that describes the remodeling process and what clients should look for in a professional remodeler.

"It's part of a two-step approach to our marketing," says High. "All of our marketing and advertising is about getting the guide in their hands. Once we do that, it puts us above the competition in their eyes."

The guide is free to anyone who requests it. Even those clients who don't end up hiring Casa Linda say it helps them, High says.

"We don't mind competing against other good companies that have been around for a long time," he says. "We just want to make sure the public is educated about what to look for in a remodeler."


Since J. Francis Company ( relies on repeats and referrals for almost all of its business, when past customers would say, "We didn't know you were around anymore," the company knew it had a problem.

"It happened so many times," says Jean Krak, business development manager for the Pittsburgh-based, full-service remodeling company. "We knew we needed a vehicle for staying in front of people."

So two years ago the company launched a monthly e-newsletter that goes to more than 600 e-mail addresses. The newsletter is designed to be both promotional and informational, with remodeling tips; items on past and current projects; and updates on company awards and news. It also includes a monthly trivia contest, which encourages people to read the newsletter by offering a $20 gift card to the first person who e-mails the correct answer.

Instead of managing it themselves, the company uses Constant Contact, an e-mail marketing firm, to host and distribute the newsletter, although Krak provides the content.

"The initial set-up is where the expense and challenge is," she says. "Once it's up and running you just have to revise it each month."

Since launching the e-newsletter, J. Francis Company has seen an 80 percent increase in volume. Although the newsletter is not the sole reason, it has played a significant role in growing business, Krak says.

Do a test run before you hire

Creative Contracting in North Wales, Pa., doesn't take any unnecessary chances when it comes to hiring a new employee.

Not only does Creative Contracting ( have all potential job candidates undergo a second interview with an outside consultant, but if the candidate makes it past the second interview, he or she will spend a day working at the position before being offered the job.

"Designers get a project to design and present, carpenters work with a lead carpenter, and all are paid," says president Bob DuBree. "This may stretch the process, but a good hire is a lot less expensive than a bad hire. We provide all candidates with our policy manual and give all candidates an opportunity to talk with existing employees."

Following the test work day, DuBree reviews the position one last time with the candidate to make sure he or she is comfortable and offers them a chance to voice any concerns ¯ or to back out.

"It's much better to start from scratch at this point than after months of training," says DuBree.

For more of DuBree's insight on how to hire quality employees, see his column in The Board Room.

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