Growing & scaling a home improvement business with

Ben Juncker and Mike Goldstein discuss how to grow and scale a home improvement business to a full-scale remodeling and home renovation company, from a marketing and operational standpoint.

Topics discussed on the podcast about taking a small company and growing it to a 7-figure business

There are many different ways to look at a home improvement business and what you can do to grow it from a one-man shop to a company with multiple crews, who can choose which projects you want to work on, rather than just taking on the projects you have to work on in order to survive.

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Audio Transcript

Hey there guys, it’s Mike Goldson again with a crushing it with kitchen remodeling podcast and we are so lucky today we have with us uh Ben Yonker who has taken one of a, you know, these small, you know handyman craftsman type of businesses in his area and he has been able to turn it into just a massive juggernaut become wildly successful and he’s going to share with us some of the tips of how he was able to do that. So maybe you’re able to figure out how to take your business and turn into one of these juggernauts as well and we’re gonna do all of that just after this. Are you looking for some fresh ideas to jump start your kitchen remodeling business? Welcome to the crushing it with Kitchen remodeling podcast, your host Michael Goldstein, founder of Kitchen Remodeling S. C. O, the digital marketing agency, working exclusively with kitchen Remodeling contractors and also the author of the ultimate internet marketing Guy for Kitchen Remodeling contractors will provide insight on proven tips and strategies from top experts in this space so that you can take advantage of industry best practices. Your host Michael Goldstein join Mike as he shares his knowledge each week with an insightful interview or educational segment about how to turn your online marketing efforts into more kitchen remodeling leads and sales opportunities than ever before and we’re back and we’re gonna bring in with us today, Ben Hey Ben, how are you doing well, how about you and I are so excited to have you on. Um but then you know for those for those people who, you know, who are watching the show live on youtube, for those who are listening, um tell me a little about who the heck are you and how did you come about? You know, to come on the show? So I started the started Craftsman’s choice in 1998 with a business partner and at that time we were just a couple of knuckleheads putting, putting siding and roofing on, and we came across this product, James, hardie siding, it’s a fiber cement siding and really realized that that was you know, kind of where the market was taking things and at that time that it wasn’t that popular but product in our area and in Minneapolis and so we were able to get in on the ground floor and really ran with that um and have used that product to kind of launch our business and become the experts in that, in that field, Well that’s that’s great, you know, I mean so many people, you know, they get, they start off almost as a hobby, right? You know, they said, jesus, you know, I love swinging the hammer right, you know, I love just fixing things, I love putting up siding, putting on roofing whatnot, and they’re able to turn it into a business, but the problem that I see is that a lot of they stopped there and it’s just them in the body or just you know, a one man show and they never really take the steps to grow it into a flourishing, you know, profit generating enterprise. And that’s something that you guys clearly were able to do and you know, and you now seem to be, you know, the, you know, the best known in the area, um, yeah, you know, either a hobby or a series of bad life choices and, and mine was, mine was the, mine was the ladder, I ended up, uh you know, and I ended up picking up shingles at a job site like, wow, this is not the greatest job in the world. How do I get the siding looks better? Let me let me do signing. But you know, to your point there, there are, there are just a lot of guys that, that gets stuck at, at that that level. And it’s really, you know, when you take it from being a handyman to a business, uh, you know, most of us haven’t had these business courses that where they teach us, you know, how to read a profit and loss statement, a balance sheet, some of those things, but I think even before you get to that, you need to have some sort of process that you want to have happen on your jobs and once you get that, and it’s repeatable, then you’re able to really, you know, find out where the gaps are in your business and, and, and build from there, no doubt, you know, and I think the other big problem that a lot of people have is they may be great handyman, great craftsmen in general, but to get other people to know that you are and be able to promote yourself, it’s a really hard thing, you know, and a lot of times, you know, people, they, you know, they don’t want to advertise that, you know, they just figure well if I just, you know, let hang my hang my shingle out as it was and you know, people will come and find me and you know, you guys were able to kind of take that to the next level and really like I said, become the most well known in the area um but take me back a little bit, you know, when you were just, you know, just you and anybody there, I mean, what did you do to really become so well known? What did you do to, to get the word out about yourselves? Well, our, our first marketing campaign was rollerblading around with flyers and putting those in mailboxes um and we started to build some things up from that uh you know, at that time, phone books were the big deal, like you had to have an ad in the phone book and they were super expensive, but but they worked and there was like a transition that was very short from where the phone books were the best to just a money suck, you know, and it happened pretty fast. Um, and so, you know, we, we have a couple of local home shows that we do uh do here? The state fair is huge in Minnesota. Um so we were able to tap into that, um but you know, over the last 6 to 7 years, we have had a website for quite a while, um, but hadn’t really put a lot of investment into that and you know, the last six or seven years, we’ve really pounded on that and and been able to get our website really generating most of the lion’s share of our leads now. And you know, that’s great to hear that, you know, digital marketing is working for you. It’s one of the things that I talk about a lot on this show is really, you know, we’re not in the yellow page world anymore. And honestly, I mean referrals are great and you know, we, we certainly welcome them when they come in, but they’re not predictable. It’s not a sustainable way to grow a business. Um the only way you can really do that is by using search engine optimization, google at social media, all the different tools at our disposal, you know, And the biggest thing is why are they, why do they work? It’s because that’s where our audience lives. You know, and I imagine that’s something that you, that you and your company really went through is trying to figure out where do we talk to our, to our customer base, How do we how do we get that perfect avatar and where do we find that perfect avatar? Um How did you go about doing that? At least on your end? Well, we’re a little different than a lot of home improvement companies. A lot of home improvement companies want to catch people at the end of the funnel when they’re they’re ready to buy. We want to be a resource to them. So R. S. C. O. Strategy is built around colors and design. So we wanna find these homeowners when they’re looking at colors and you know, so our website is built around color and design so that we can catch them early in the process. And by the time, you know, they get to the point where they’re ready to do a project, they visit our site a bunch of times, we got a bookmark and they’re like, all right, well, you know, let’s let’s give these a call and it’s it’s a product that they want. So, you know, that’s what we’ve really tried to tried to hit on is being that resource because it’s not no, it’s yeah, it’s really a long cycle and that that’s the thing that a lot of people, especially when they’re dealing with kitchen remodeling or full home renovations? You know, you didn’t see a candy bar at the aisle of the supermarket, jeez, I’d like that right now. I mean it’s something that you really have to think about and I think to your point about not looking at the bottom of the funnel, but rather at the top of the funnel or at least in the middle of it when you know, people are starting to gather information. Um you know, and I know a lot of big, big push with a lot of our clients and our marketing agency is to have that right lead magnet to have the kitchen planning guide um to have that, that checklist. Um and you know, if you can catch people when they’re still researching and you can become the most well known kitchen and all the most well known roofing contractor, whatever, whatever your home services of choice um in your area, then, you know, you you need to be the first one they think of. Um so that’s, you know, that’s that’s fantastic that you, you know, that you really think in that way and we, I wrote a book last year that it’s the Minnesota homeowners guide to uh, exterior, exterior siding and it, you know, it’s probably the most boring book on amazon unless you’re searching for siding in Minnesota, right? So, you know, most people, we’ll go through this process maybe once in their lifetime, you know, I think a lot of times guys get insulated in their industry, both with their jargon and that, assuming that everybody’s done this or heard of these products or know how it’s how it goes and for most homeowners, I mean sometimes they’ll put off this project for years because it just scares them to death. They don’t, all they’ve heard is horror stories and so we can help them by outlining that process. I think it lifts the entire industry. Yeah, let me ask you. So you wrote, wrote the book, people can go get it on the amazon by the way, if how do you kind of balance the the aspect of people are searching for? I want siding versus you want to talk about all the intricacies of siding and why you want this sighting of that siding or you know, what is it, what is it that you do to kind of kind of not fall in the eye. I know everything about siding and I want to talk about it to getting people actually interested and want to learn more from you. So I think it, you know, it they both fit together and kind of kind of lift together. So as as as the homeowners that want to get into the weeds and talk about the composition of the siding and this versus that, you know, we have that that resource that we can send them or we can, you know, talk to them at the fair, which, you know, we are at the home shows, which we do quite a bit and a lot of times, again, that’s earlier in the process, then it’s time to get siding. And so if we’ve got, they’ve got the book, they’ve, you know, bookmarked our website, uh, they’ve seen us at the, at the shows, they’ve seen us on the James Hardie website. You know, they building that whole kind of digital footprint that everywhere they go to look for hardie siding or for siding in general in Minnesota, they’re seeing our, our brand. Um, just helps to reinforce that, that hey, we should at least call these guys. I just need to be one of the three right? Like, you know, I just need to be one of the three that they call and not get every lead. You know, it’s interesting you say that because a discussion that I have a client all the time is, hey, I want to be in that local three pack when someone searches for siding near me or you know, side in Minneapolis or you know, whatever it might be that, you know, someone’s looking for, um, you know, you don’t need to be number one, you just need to be in that top three because what’s gonna happen is at least from, from a search standpoint, you know, people are gonna look at the reviews, they’re gonna, they’re gonna do some research, nobody decides just, hey, I want to go with this one guy and I’m not going to talk to anybody else and you know, it doesn’t, it’s not a pricing issue. You know, if if you’re just gonna go in and try and be the cheapest, most affordable siding company, well you’re gonna get, you’re gonna get that kind of a client too and you’re gonna get people who are gonna nitpick everything and never be happy. But if you can provide the education like you’re doing and if you can, you know, just be one of those guys, it gives you the opportunity to really show your expertise and I think that’s that’s really great. Um and by having a book that you like you do, I think that that gives you that added, you know, emphasis of, you know, I really am the expert. So let me ask you this, I’m just curious how long it take you to write the book. Well it was it was basically a series of blog posts that we edited down, you know into a more reader friendly friendly uh reader friendly option. But about a year, about a year different different blog posts and and putting those together. Um you know, it we got the first edition out there, it’s not, you know, exactly what we wanted, but we’ve got something we can hand out to people and thinking downloads. So we’re working on tweaking it, but it’s a lot, it’s a lot of dedication, you know, but but I think at the end of the day, you know, it gives something tangible that people can take away, you know, and one of the things I’ve always told people is, you know, if you you you want to have a book, right? But writing a book is not the easiest thing in the world to do. You know what, it’s easy to do. Talk to people have a, have a podcast, right? And then if you have a podcast like this, you know, you record your podcast and you’re talking for 30 minutes at a shot, 40 minutes at a shot and after four or five weeks take, take that have a transcribed, you know, and and you you’ve got something that you can really work with. So it’s it’s not that difficult to do it. You know, it’s something that we tell all of our clients, you know, you really should do and then, you know, go on amazon and it gives you like, it just gives you that automatic credibility that, you know, how many times have you heard? You know, we wrote the book on this, we wrote the book on that? Well, you actually wrote the book. Absolutely, yeah. And I think, you know, for a lot of uh companies, it’s that, you know, focus, you know, they’re they’re too busy running materials or doing something else that, you know, as a business owner that really shouldn’t be on their plate, you know, that that puts out that that fire for just the minute, but you know, if you don’t have yourself organized in a manner that you’re gonna be able to devote a certain amount of your time to working on the business to optimizing your website? You know, those things that really are becoming more and more important literally every day. You know, there’s just more and more out there. Um and that’s what we’ve tried to do as a business is is stay so far ahead of our competition in some of these areas that they just throw their hands up, you know, because right now, you know, I guess fortunately it’s business is good. So a lot of companies are just solely focused on production. They’re not focused on marketing or sales because you go into a house and the question is more often when can you start not how much it is or they run you through the ringer, but if you’re, if you’re working on things consistently while your your other, you know, your competition is, is focused elsewhere. You know, that just puts a bigger gap between you and them. But I mean what you’re really talking about strategy versus just reacting and and that’s that’s key. And I imagine that’s one of the things that allowed you to grow to the size that you are. So let me ask this, once you, once you kind of shifted from that start up phase and you shifted from, you know, being the 12 man shop to to have and crews and to be able to to take on more projects at the time? How did that change the way that you approach your marketing? Did that change the way you or even you approach your pricing or any of that? Yeah, I did it at that time I had a business partner, you know, he headed up marketing and sales. I took care of the accounting and some of the production side, but then in 2014 I ended up buying um buying him out. He wanted, he wanted to go hike the mountains of Montana for a while. So yeah, yeah. So at that time I really, you know, I needed to sit down and and figure out how I was going to do this, you know, by myself and and you know, so it was pulling out, pulling back the production so I’d get that off of my plate because I knew I wasn’t gonna have the time to do that. And at that time we also converted over to a crm contractors cloud which allowed us to, to integrate that process that we, that we outlined and have it trackable and and some accountability into the system so that we knew what happened on every job and so that really freed up, you know, basically a lot of people, we could, we could scale with technology and not necessarily adding a bunch of people and so that helped us to, to limit the amount of staff that we had to bring on to to do that scaling and, and since then it’s just been incremental incremental growth occasionally we’ll have a plateau here that, you know, we just say, all right, we’re not going to be in super growth mode this year because we need to find out where the gaps are, We need to find out, you know, what do we need more staff? Do we uh need more technology? Do we want to go to that next step? You know, is that next step worth the jump in marketing with the jump and staff that we need to um that we need to take on, you know, finding that sweet spot so critical. I mean, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who are doing 25 30 K a month, you know, and then they decided they’re going to grow and now they’re doing 75 80 K a month. And you know, we talk about profitability and they say, you know, I actually had more money in my pocket at 25 than I did at 75. We just have a whole lot more overhead, you know, and you’ve got to find out what I guess what that sweet spot is for you and your company that, that really allows you to, to be the best that you can be. Um, rather than, you know, just, hey, I’ve got a seven figure business. Look at me well, having a seven figure business is great if you’re taking seven figures home. Yeah. Revenue is, is a vanity number. You know, how much, what’s the profit? What’s the, what’s the, that’s, that’s there. That’s the important question. Yeah. So let me just, when, with all the, you know, the, the changes in the market with all the supply chain, with, with the labor shortage, how has that affected you guys? You know, and have you been able to compensate for for that or have you have to change the way that you do business because of it? The biggest impact that we’ve had is on Windows. Windows are just kind of a nightmare right now. They’re out so far that they hold up a lot of the, a lot of the projects. Um, but you know, with some of the price increases that have, have come, you know, as long as you have an ability to, to stay ahead of those, you know, if you get, you get plenty of time notice with that, you know, a lot of our competitors really are whining about it. But I just want to say guys, you just gotta raise like if, if your price is based off of materials and labor and then you’ve got profit on that. You just got a raise. So, you know what we’ve seen is revenue go up and our margins stay the same, but we’re doing less jobs and so, um, you know, that, that’s a good thing if you can get bigger jobs, more squeeze, more dollars out of every project. Um, You know, it’s been, it’s been a pretty good, pretty good year. Just stupid windows are really a pain. Yeah, I I hear that. I know. I tell you a lot of we work with a lot of people who are doing cabinet we’re facing and you know, they’ve all realized that, you know, a cabinet we’re facing, we might be able to pump out, you know, a project every 34 days, but we got to keep selling. We gotta keep selling our margins really are not there. Whereas if you can do a bigger project, you know, it allows you to put more time, more effort into it. But it also allows you to to generate a lot more without having to worry about, am I gonna be backed up and do I have to use person A’s money to cover person, B’s project, Person B to C. You know, ultimately that’s that’s where issues come up. Um But let me just kind of getting back to what I had asked before in terms of the, you know, the way that you do the marketing as well has that changed? Really? You know, where you, you need to concentrate on clients who can, can afford the higher price point rather. Um And they’re really more concerned with quality than just, hey, how quickly can you be in and out? Yeah, we’ve marketing hasn’t changed too much. Um Just because we’re so heavily, you know, focused on the James hardie siding and as you know, James Hardie grows in popularity. People see it and really they didn’t, they didn’t take as many price increases as some of the vinyl siding manufacturers. And so the gap between, you know, the best product in our market and vinyl siding is it was closing and so it’s not that much of a much of a of a gap as it as it has been in the past. So that actually is one thing that’s that’s helped. So more people are considering it that it’s not that far out of reach, right? Do you find that because you have a name brand behind you that it’s, I mean it’s a little bit easier to say because you don’t have to sell yourself as much as you’re selling a brand. Yeah, I think you know, they land on the brand and then they see our experience with that product that they want and you know, having done it since the year 2000, you know, there’s nobody in the market that that’s really even close to that. We just, and we and we we print out a it’s a little ridiculous, but we print out, you know, a 30 page front and back reference list of the projects that we’ve done. So you know, we can hand this giant, she’d just giant book over to people of jobs that we’ve done and colors and you know, all the things and it’s, you know like, wow, this is, this is pretty, pretty hefty and then there’s thumbing through and they’re like, oh, I know this guy, I know this guy, this is down the road, you know, that, that, that helps as well. Just kind of set people at ease. Yeah, for sure. I know one of the big pieces that I always tell people is you get your google reviews in place, get your facebook reviews in place because you can tell people anything you want about yourself, but nothing’s gonna sell you as much as your, as your customers neighbor is going to sell you, you know, turning turning customers into advocates is such a, such a huge component I think of getting the conversion and getting, getting people interested and if you can show them, hey, we worked on, you know, this guy, this guy, this guy’s house and they know even one of them, I mean, oh well you must be decent, you must be legitimate. I think it removes a lot of objections before they ever come to light. Yeah, definitely. And, and you know, as I understand it is, google has taken those reviews and you know, quite a bit more into consideration as they’re figuring out who comes up organically. So yeah, yeah, they, they definitely are, you know part, there’s actually search engine journal came out with a report and john Mueller who’s the spokesperson for google, you know, who basically will admit to nothing. Um, and he even came out and kind of hinted that, you know, the more reviews you have, the better chance that you’re gonna increase your, you know, your ranking within the local three pack, within the google business profile ranking. So definitely, definitely something to consider. Yeah, something we, I mean we really, really work on and it’s, it’s hard. I mean it takes effort that people are just surveyed out there, reviewed out. You know, they can, you can close out a project with them and they’re super happy and we love everything went, I’m gonna text you a link for a google review, Oh yeah, for sure, and I’ll never do it. You know, you know, one of our larger clients, they actually have a full time video crew, believe it or not. And what they do is they always tell people, hey, we’re going to the walker, Do you mind if our video, we just want to document the work that we’ve done um and you know, they get that reaction the first time and this is for a kitchen remodel er, by the way. So, you know, it’s, you know, you have all the shiny chrome and the floors and cabinets and you and you feel and not that they haven’t seen it, you know, all the way through, but the first time and you walk through the finished product and you just ask them, hey, you know, what do you think about this and it’s been great. So they put a bunch of reviews up on Youtube and they’ll email the video and say, hey, would you mind posting this? Yeah, it works fantastic because you’ve, you’ve taken all the hard work, you’ve taken the objections away from them. Um, you know, but it’s, it’s definitely, it’s, it’s a chore to get someone to review you for sure. It is. It is, yeah, I get it. I mean, you know, every story you go into, they give you the receipt and say it on the bottom, we’ve got this survey. If you take that, we’d really Yeah, yeah. You know what one of the ways I’ve also found people are doing now is they’re giving away gifts at the end of a project. And somewhere on that gift is that QR code. So if they can give a gift that, you know, it’s going to stay in someone’s home forever, you’re kind of hoping they’re gonna stare at this QR code, they will eventually use it. I don’t know how much that’s really working right now, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of that. Um, in terms of just promotional companies that are that are providing that one of the big ones right now is wooden cutting boards and noticing with kitchen Modelers. So they’ll, you know, they’ll finish the project and they’ll have a cutting board with their logo and the QR code on the back of it and no one’s gonna throw away a wooden cutting board, I mean, it’s not a bad idea, but yeah, we’ve gone to, um, you know, if we’ve got a service, a service called, you know, it’s amazing to me, like, we give a 10 year warranty and it’s amazing to me when people call and they’re like, hey, we had a, you know, had a bead of caulking pull Lewis, can, can you guys come and take care of it? It’s like three years later, something like, yeah, of course, of course, and that, you know, you’re going to come out and take care of it and so a lot of times we’ll try and, you know, collect the review at that point, you know, as, as part of the service call, not only that, but, I mean guys, if you listen and take, take some advice from this, if you can get two reviews out of one now, because certainly, you know, if they’ve reviewed you originally, they probably likely, you know, they did a fantastic job once and only that the minute I had a problem, these guys, when they answered their phone, they were out here, they help, they did everything possible, you know, even leverage it, get them on google one time, get them on facebook or house or yelp or wherever, you know, you’re trying to get those reviews on the second time around, I would think that second review is probably, you know better than better than the first one, as far as somebody reading through and saying, wow, you know, they, eight years later, they came back and took care of beta cocking, you know, that’s huge. It gives, I think it just gives a real sense of security to the homeowner, you know, it’s, it’s your most valuable possession, your most valuable asset and investment in your life is your home. And if you know that you got to work with someone who’s going to stand behind it, so much the better. Right? So, so, Ben, you’ve actually dropped some real golden nuggets on us today, and I’m sure my listeners, they have found great, great value and all that, but if somebody wanted to get a hold of you, how would they do that, where would they find you? So the best place is our website, it’s craftsman’s choice dot com, two s s in their Craftsman’s Choice dot com. And um, you know, we’ve got a lot of, a lot of resources on there, like a, like I spoke of, but can they find the book there? The book is there, yep, so, so, you know, you’re on amazon, you’re on the web, you’re, I mean, you’re basically, you’re omnipresent and all the social channels, it’s not hard to find you and that’s and that’s great, well, I want to, you know, I just wanna thank you for coming on today, I really appreciate the conversation, I think that, like I said, the listeners probably found a lot of value in what you had to say and and being able to take some of these and help them grow their business. I’d love to have you back, you know, sooner rather than later. Um Just a pleasure. Well guys guys, again, this was, was Mike Goldstein, it was Ben Younker and which is the crushing with kitchen remodeling podcast tune in next week, and we will see you again soon. Bye bye.

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