How I Built The Best Decking Company There Is Through Simple Decency
(And Maybe A Little Stubbornness, Too)
Custom Decks started out as a small crew of determined deck builders and a large amount of faith. It was scary, going out on my own, but the company I had been working for folded, leaving me without an employer.
Growing up, I watched my father run his own business for as long as I could remember (and beyond), so I asked him for his advice on how to survive in a competitive industry that had earned itself a terrible reputation.
He told me that I only had to do one thing to be a successful businessman – Do What You Say You’re Going To Do… No Exceptions. Well, that has stuck with me all my life and is the core value of this company. It’s shocking how much a company can stand out from the pack by simply keeping its word.
A Rough Start
Inspired by my father’s simple words, I set out to build my empire. I created some flyers and passed them out door to door and waited for the leads to pour in. They didn’t quite pour in, but there was a trickle that I could work with, and I set off to offer some estimates. The first ten estimates failed to turn into any work. So did the next ten. And the next. I began to wonder if this was all a mistake but decided to keep trying.
By the time I received my 40th straight rejection, I was continuing out of spite more than hope. It took more than 50 no’s before I got my first yes. We built six decks that first year. The next year we doubled that and more. By the third year, we broke $150,000 in sales.
If it weren’t for our love of the craft and my bull-headed determination to get that first yes, we probably wouldn’t have gotten through that first difficult year.
Creating A Culture Of Integrity And Pride In Our Work
As our company grew, we were careful to hire only those who both knew their craft and cared about the results. Starting from the ground up as we did made it easier to create a company culture that reflected our personal values.
Each new hire believed (or quickly learned) that doing the right thing was the only acceptable choice, regardless of its effect on our bottom line. They were trained to be respectful to our customers at all times and to think about the little things such as hand carrying the lumber to the rear of a house instead of backing their trucks up to the site and just dumping in a mess all over the back yard.
We don’t allow coarse language or loud music at our worksites. We make sure that our builders keep their area neat throughout the day and leave it especially tidy when they go home at the end of the day. We teach them to treat your space as they would want their own home treated, and we don’t hire anyone we wouldn’t be comfortable inviting into our own mother’s home.
In return, we pay our workers well above industry average wages and pay them at the end of each job, which is unheard of in this business. If they are having trouble outside of work, all they need to do is let us know, and we will do whatever is within our power to help them get through a dark time.
It could be as simple as a pay advance to take care of an unexpected expense, or the loan of a company vehicle while theirs gets repaired, or it could be of a more personal nature. They know that if we can help, we will. Of course, every situation is unique and in some cases, the right way to help is to let them solve the problem on their own with an appropriate amount of oversight.
They also know that we demand a lot from them but hold ourselves to standards just as high, particularly when it comes to the wellbeing of our workers. We consider ourselves a large family and act accordingly in every situation.
An Honest Company Is A Careful Company
As you can imagine, our dedication to doing the right thing necessitates a process that includes checks and double-checks. While we will always make it right if we mess up, we prefer to prevent problems from happening in the first place.
We have learned to make sure that each step is verified before moving on to the next. Yes, it helps to fix mistakes before they become a problem, but it has also helped to create the smoothest design and build process in the business. Having us build your new deck is probably the most stress-free home improvement project you will ever experience.
Integrity Isn’t Always Easy But It Is Always The Right Thing
We run a tight ship and have policies in place to prevent costly errors. However, things can and do still happen, and we consider making it right a part of the cost of running an honest business.
Two situations come to mind when it comes to biting the bullet and accepting responsibility for our mistakes:
The Right Answer For The Wrong Color
The first involves a poured concrete patio. These days, pouring patios is a two-step process with the main portion being poured first and a second, much thinner layer going on top. The second layer sets the color of the patio, but the bottom layer is also tinted to improve the final look.
Sometimes, the person pouring the patio will accidentally switch the coloring additives, resulting in a patio that is not the color that was ordered. It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen and when it does, we tear out the patio and do it all over again on our dime.
This very thing happened with one of our customers and we apologized for the inconvenience, then told him we’d be happy to tear it down and pour him a patio that was the right color. He declined the offer, deciding the color was acceptable, if not quite what he requested.
So, we gave him a 50% discount on the patio instead. It didn’t matter to us that he was happy with the wrong color. We didn’t do what we said we were going to do, so we did as much of the right thing as he would allow.
A Step In The Wrong Direction Made Right
The second situation was in the design phase of a large multi-level custom deck project. Now, when you get a quote from us at Custom Decks, that estimate is written in stone. The only time an estimate will change is if the customer requests a change in the design, and that is exactly what happened in this case except we forgot to change the bid. They wanted to add a flight of stairs to the tune of an additional $8,000.
We added the stairs to the design but, somewhere in the process, we forgot to add the cost to the final estimate, and we didn’t catch the mistake until after all the paperwork had been signed.
Some might think it would have been reasonable to point out the error and draw up a new agreement with the appropriate estimate, and that might be the right answer for other companies. But that isn’t how we work.
Once we have agreed on a price, that’s it. If we missed an item like, say, eight grand worth of stairs, it’s on us and we went ahead and built them the most beautiful free stairs you could ever hope to see.
Integrity can hurt, but only in a monetary sense. We run our company in a manner that allows us all to sleep peacefully at night. Besides, we also know that doing the right thing is a rare commodity in this business and plays a large part in our continued success.
We Will Continue To Grow – But Our Values Will Never Change
We have grown from some guys, some tools, and a single truck, to an industry leader operating in four states. None of that happened by accident, but all of it can be attributed to our core company value of Do What You Say You’re Going To Do – No Exceptions. These are simple words describing a simple concept. They are easy words to live by when Doing the Right Thing – No Exceptions is how you’ve always lived your life, even when it hurts, costs money, or is embarrassing.
We will continue to grow, continue to build spectacular decks for our customers, and continue to keep our word. To our customers. To our workers. And to ourselves. It is as simple and as difficult as that. We do what we say we are going to do, and we always will.