What to Know Before Starting a Remodeling Company

We talked to the CEO of a remodeling company to learn what it takes to be successful in a competitive industry.

Starting a remodeling company is a turning point in any person’s life. By taking that step, you are committing yourself to a massive investment. And it’s not just an investment of money, either; attempting to build a successful company in a competitive market will require you to pour all of your time, energy and knowledge into the business. We talked to Andrew Schroeder, CEO of Schroeder Design/Build, to get an idea of what it takes to turn a remodeling company into a productive, sustainable and successful enterprise.

Remodeling is Still a Business

There are two sides to any remodeling company. There’s the actual construction work, focused on design and building, and there’s the business side. To be successful, Andrew says that you have to focus on operating the business just as much as you focus on the remodeling itself.

“Remodeling is a business just like any other business,” he said. “Someone still has to run the office, the admin side of things, and that’s consistent across any industry.”

Be Aware of the Homeowner’s Journey

Having a well-maintained, productive relationship with your clients is a major part of operating any successful business. Due to the nature of remodeling, being able to work successfully with your clients is almost as important as being able to do the actual remodeling itself.

“Remodeling specifically is so emotional for the homeowner,” Andrew said. “There needs to be a lot of time focused on your systems to support the emotional journey that the homeowner is going through.”

Remodeling is a very personal experience. Your clients are letting you into their home, which is probably the biggest investment of their lives, and trusting your company to change it for the better. Most of the time, you’ll be working in a home at the same time your clients are living in it. Making sure that your company can deliver quality work on time while not disrupting your client’s busy lives is absolutely essential to success.

Communication is Key

“Communicate with your team, communicate with your clients, communicate with the trades,” said Andrew. “Nowadays with technology you’ve got to sort through different apps and systems and pick one that’s going to be the one, a unilateral means of communication so that everybody can see what’s going on.

Making sure that all of the different aspects of your business stay aligned is a challenge facing all companies, and remodeling is no different. Schroeder Design/Build uses a management software called CoConstruct that allows everyone involved to stay up to date on all of the different elements and variables that go into a project. Through CoConstruct, builders can communicate with clients, make bids, update prices and budgets, and coordinate schedules among their team.

“The success that we’ve had is trying to beat the client to the question, ‘So what happens next?'” added Andrew. “If a client asks that question, that means we’ve failed in our communication.”

Empower Your People

The growth and expansion of a company is a great sign that you are doing something right. But that same growth does not come without its own set of unique challenges. As a company expands, roles within the business change, and you may not be able to devote as much time to some things as you used to. To help handle that, Andrew recommends empowering people within your company so that you are not the only person with the authority.

“There are different phases of sizes of companies, and as a company grows the leader needs to wear different hats, and I think that’s what’s really challenging. When you start a company, everything revolves around you. And so then you kind of start to get trapped in the sense that all the systems and all the processes and all the people you hire are ‘helpers’ that help you do more. At some point when you’re trying to migrate to a larger size company, you need to create systems that people can do the systems without having to check with you. You’re really trying to delegate some of the power, the authority, to everybody that makes decisions so that you aren’t the bottleneck.”

Invest in Safety and Dust Control

As you start a remodeling company, there are going to be a lot of tools and gear needed for day-to-day operations. One of the more specialized tools that Andrew recommends remodeling companies invest in early is a dust control system. Schroeder Design/Build uses the BuildClean system on their jobsites, which is a HEPA filter system that scrubs the air clean of any dust that could become a bigger problem down the road. Keeping dust under control is an essential part of keeping clients happy and your workers healthy.

“If you can manage to get one of those [BuildClean systems] and transport it from job to job during dust heavy building phases, it’s definitely a selling tool and it cuts down on your risk of having to hire cleaners,” said Andrew.

Learn From Everything

Every company in the world makes mistakes. What’s important is to create a feedback channel for all the things that do not go right so that those lessons are learned and not just forgotten. At Schroeder Design/Build, workers are encouraged to report mistakes and to let the design team know if certain things are not working in the field like they do in the office. That feedback is collected in a spreadsheet, which is reviewed once a month to make sure that mistakes are not being ignored or replicated due to a failure in the system.

Find Your Niche as a Company

When you start a company, you are going to be tempted to take any job that comes your way so that you make enough money to sustain the business. While that may be necessary early on, Andrew’s advice is to eventually focus in on the things that your company is best suited for so that you don’t end up over-extended and working on jobs outside of your wheelhouse.

“Pay attention and try to figure it out as you go,” Andrew said. “Are you general remodeling? Do you do small projects, do you do big projects? Do you do kitchens, baths? It’s really hard to say no to a job that you might be able to close, but isn’t necessarily what’s best for your company. But you should always be trying to figure out what your niche is, what it is that you do best.”

About the Expert

As the CEO of Schroeder Design/Build, Andrew focuses on all aspects of a project, from the big picture to the smallest detail; he has been a part of the business since 1999. In addition to his work for SDB, Andrew has served on the Board of the NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Metro DC Chapter. Andrew holds a degree in Business Management from James Madison University

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