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Welcome to builder nuggets hosted by Dwayne Johns and Dave young. Hey, our mission is simple, build freedom. We're a couple of entrepreneurs turned business coaches who have dedicated ourselves to helping our builder remodel. Our clients create the most rewarding businesses in the industry. My cohost Dwayne has been a successful builder and remodeler for over 30 years. He's seen the highs and the lows from the beginning though. Dwayne has been on a quest to find a better way to run a contracting business in 2016, he found that better way. That's how I met Dave, a lifelong entrepreneur and visionary who measures his success by the success of those around him. He reached out one day with a formula on how to transform my business. And the rest is history. Since then, we've teamed up to help hundreds of contractors like you build better businesses and better lives. And now we've decided to open up our network and share our secrets so we can start moving the needle with you. It's collaboration over competition. Each week we bring together industry peers and experts who share their stories so that we can all build freedom together.
(01:10): Our guest today is a funny curly haired girl, who is a natural. When it comes to inspiring creativity, when she isn't killing it in the remodeling realm, you can find her at local art shows with her kids. She has an art background. So typically colors and patterns come easily to her, but she had no construction experience. When she started 10 plus years ago, it was a leap of faith and her team is sure, glad she jumped. She is the Jackie of all trades, a part owner of icon building group alongside her husband, Charlie. She participates in setting the strategic direction of the organization, the hiring of key personnel and overseeing trade show efforts as well as engaging in other day to day activities. Her efforts over the past two years have led to an incredible 300% increase in the company's remodeling backlog. It's my pleasure to welcome Jenny rice today's show. Welcome, Jenny. Thank you so much. Happy to be here. Hey, your, uh, your website says one of your hidden talents is foreign accents. So I'm really good at them. If you wanna talk fake British accents, I am down. There's a couple I haven't mastered, but yeah, it's a problem. How, if I go a meeting with somebody from the south, I have to mentally every sentence, remind myself not to speak with a draw. it's hard.
(02:24): It was, it was fun. It was fun for me as a Canadian opening up offices in, in South Carolina, learning some of the new lingo, like the plural of y'all is all y'all . Um, you know, but like things like, like that. And, and, and we have some funny ones in, in Canada too. So it, it goes both ways, but yeah, sometimes you have to fight it because when you, when it's a hidden talent and you, and you like to do it, you, you really have to control yourself sometimes so that you don't end up trying to speak with a Scottish accent or, you know, what, whatever the, whatever the case may be. So anyway, I went to school in Madison, Wisconsin at UW, and there was a large population of Minnesota, Minnesota people there. So there was a great state as called, which is a lot like the Canadian accent with your and all that kind stuff. So, Yeah, that's right. A right. So Dwayne, walk us through how we all got connected here. Yeah. I wanna say it goes back to IBS and it might, it might have been Charlie that stopped by the booth that made it, were you at the Show? My connection with IBS is, um, bowel, like irritable bowel syndrome, but I don't think that's what you're talking about. Although Charlie might have it, but that's a whole different podcast. Yeah. A whole different podcast. Different show. Yeah. The international builder show. Uh, That's the second option. Yeah.
(03:41): Yeah, let's go with that. and, and it doesn't work either cuz as soon as you search for it, that's exactly what you get . Yeah. So I, yeah, I, I hear you. Yeah. So, I mean, were you down at the show or was it Just, I I like on our company structure Charlie's at the top and people might think I'm towards the top, but I'm really just like at the bottom holding it up. I think so. No, I didn't, I didn't get the invite this year to the builder show. I have been in the past honestly, But yeah, no, but anyway then, you know, I had some conversations and they're like, I think Jenny be a good fit for this show. I think she's we gotta get her on this show. So I think, um, you know, we had Sasha who works with us behind the scenes a little bit spoke with her, you know, interviewed yep. Spoke with you and she's like, absolutely rockstar. Let's get her on there. You know? So we're, we're glad to have you on and I love the part about, you know, having no prior experience. I mean just, I guess back up a little bit, tell us about that. How do you go from no prior experience to just jumping In? Yes. Our origin story is fascinat. Well, fascinating to me. You all might find it terribly boring, but the origin story is not common. So many general contractors, you know, kind of came up through the trades or their dad was a plumber or carpenter or something. They, so construction was sort of a second language to them. Not at all in my case and less so in Charlie's I, I like I came to the marriage with more tools and stuff, literal tools, not figuratively like tools than Charlie, him hanging a picture is a challenge. So really, really no construction background at all. And um, he had a different industry that, um, he, he had a business in a different industry that with a few partners that they sold and he, I I'm not revealing any like great, hidden, hidden information about Charlie, but afterwards he kind of struggled with depression and was, was really had hard time sort of finding his way that business, his previous business was his baby, you know?
(05:30): And then when they sold it, he was struggling for some direction. So, and he was home for a couple years, which we had three kids under the age of four and a and a husband who was quote unquote retired. Um, it's not, that's difficult for a young marriage. So, um, a couple years after he had sold his business, he was doing a lot of coaching. Our son was involved in a lot of sports and one of the other dads was a developer and was looking for an investor for an infill piece of property here in the Buffalo, in the suburbs of Chicago, where we do most of our work. Um, and thankfully Charlie, thankfully to get him outta the house, he, he was talking about investing, but he really was, I think, ready to sink his teeth, sink his teeth into something new. So he said rather than invest, I'd really rather be your partner. And um, so they started this partnership and Steve, the partner and Charlie are, are still friends today. Steve's a great guy, but they had very different visions for companies. Charlie is a very big thinker. And Steve, I think his, his thought was more of a, kind of a boutique builder, um, much smaller workload, much more kind of intimate in that way. So Charlie, again, he's a big thinker. So, um, let's factor in this all happened in 2008, which, you know, it's a perfect time to start a realistic company. so 2008 happened shortly after they connected. And Charlie really was the money end of that partnership. So he bought Steve out and took over that infill piece of property that he had originally been called in on and really kind of had to learn to build his way out of it. So we had a very talented project manager and the one benefit to Charlie having really no real estate development background was he was kind of able to look at this as a customer would look at it.
(07:18): So, Hey, if you're building a house, what do you, who do you wanna deal with? Or how do you wanna do this? And one of the things that he found was, Hey, it would really be helpful if there was somebody that could coordinate all of these finishes and make sure the house was cohesive, looked good. And it, wasn't just kind of sending people out to random vendors and assuming that people could put this house together themselves. So I happened to be very affordable labor and free at the time. So that's kind of how I, I got into it with him for a minute one. He said, you know, do you wanna do this with me? And I did, and I'm not gonna lie. It was not easy. At first. It was not easy for either of us to recognize what each other's strengths were in this world. It being, having the kind of husband and wife stuff carry over into work stuff has its challenges. So it took us a while to find what our strengths were and how to stay in our own lanes. And the, as the company grew, it became easier to stay in our own lanes. And about last seven years ago, we had picked up along the way we would do remodels if it kind of fit, if it fit, if we met somebody that needed a remodel, but it was certainly never a focus until about seven years ago. I personally loved the remodel process, which is really quite different than new construction. And so about seven years ago, we decided let's have a dedicated remodel team. And that is how the remodel arm of icons started. And Charlie still is really crappy at hanging pictures. I'm not gonna lie. I'm pretty darn fit at it, but , that's where we're, we've hired really good people to pictures now. So I'm a Charlie I'm, uh, you know, he's great at running a business, not so great at hanging pictures. We're big collaborators
(08:55): Here. You know, we're all about learning growth mindset, all that sort of good stuff. But I mean, how did you absorb the construction side of things? Was it just through maybe the project managers you had on your team? Did you get involved with any builder groups, trade organizations? I mean, what helped to, you know, give you that, that side of it? Well remember, so it's 2008, so it wasn't thankfully like we were bombarded with work minute one, it was pretty slow. So I did, we, we were able to ramp up kind of at a nice organic pace. Um, the trades are wonderful and are, take their time with me and explain what they need from me. So, uh, like I need to know what they needed from me so I could give them that information. The project manager was helpful, but mostly it's just exposure being on the job sites, seeing the pace of it, seeing the order of it. And it was, it was, uh, learning on the fly though. Yes, there was, there were some mistakes along the way, undoubtedly, but Well, it, yes, That's how I Learned it. It, it sounds like there was really a few different businesses that you were learning about at the same time. So Charlie gets, gets into the development side of things. Yes. First. Yeah. How did that morph into, was it always the vision when you got involved with the investment with Steve, that you would also be running a construction arm or was it purely to develop the, the land and the lots? No, we would be doing construction as well. So Steve did development and construction, but again on a much kind of smaller Mo more boutiquey kind of business model. So yeah, it was always understood that we would develop and build.
(10:23): Okay. And were these semi custom, were they pre-sold, were they specs a little bit of everything or what Nobody was doing specs in 2008 because it's already professional gambling. Mm-hmm so roll in 2008 and that is just psycho. So what the great thing was and continues to be for us is most of our, we have several subdivisions now that we built, uh, develop and build some, some we don't have to develop some are infill pieces. Some we do take the, do go through the whole development phase and then build. But the great thing for us is we have an outstanding school district that we kind of hub all of our subdivisions around. And a lot of our work is based around that school district. People will move here when they're pregnant, just to get into this school district. So it is a great draw for us. And that's really where we have, um, kept Mo most of our focus is in this school district, because it it's such a great draw. That would probably be a draw for your, your project management team and your staff as well to, to be able to, um, go to that school, you School, Something that was interesting, which was some of the challenge was not appreciating each other's strengths early on or not even probably identifying what your own strengths were when you're starting out something new. How did you guys determine that? What did that look like? And what would your be your advice for others?
(11:50): Look working with your spouse. I don't care how healthy your relationship is or unhealthy as a case may be. It's challenging. It's hard to separate that home, any of the home stuff you have going on and, and divorce that with your, with your work life. So for me, I had been out of the professional work world for a while. We had four kids, sorry, three kids in four years, I had an art business that I did out of my home, and I did art shows, but it was certainly at my own pace art shows that I chose to participate in. And it, it, it wasn't, I had no organization behind me. It was just me. So I had been out of the kind of professional world for a while. So diving back into it, you know, just for just, just take tech technology in and of itself. I hadn't even, you know, been on a computer really very much in seven years. So that was intimidating to me. Corporate structure was intimidating to me, not that we had a corporate structure at that time. So a lot of it was a little overwhelming to me, plus this is a world that I knew nothing about. So I kind of, I probably entered it with maybe a little bit of a chip on my shoulder feeling very behind the eight ball, because I didn't quite know what I was doing. And truthfully either did Charlie, he, he really knows how to build and run a company, but this, in this Melia, in, in construction, he really was dependent on a really solid project manager. So I think both of us were maybe feeling a little inadequate in the roles that we started in. And then again, you know, factor in the husband and wife stuff.
(13:15): So I think as the company grew and there were more layers and more people could recognize what he, Charlie and I were both good at. It certainly helped because you know's how terrible as it sounds, it can be hard to see some of the great strengths of your, of your own spouse. You know, when you're right on top of each other. So a little distance like me working on the remodel side, I think for us has been great. Cause it's very, it's a different business model. It's a different pace. It's, it's com it really is a very different kind of arm of the company, then new construction. So we're both able to sort of Excel at, I think, what we're both best suited for. And we stay out of each other's business. Well, yeah, That, that is also helpful. That autonomy is, is generally good for anyone because you can then see, you can measure your own impact. It's, it's, it's something where you are seeing the value of your efforts and the team that you're, that you're building. And then you probably can become more supportive of each other for the thing that they're doing, because you're not in each other's way. And that's, And it's exciting for me to hear, like, he'll tell me about new subdivisions that he's, that he's negotiating for new, big sales that he's made. And that's exciting. I'm not right there next to him award. I, I don't have to hear the play by play. I just get to hear the, you know, the highlights and same on, on my end, I can, you know, we both know what's going on in the company, but for our actual communication, it's nice to have just, Hey, here, listen. This great thing that happened instead of all the sort of pain to get there. So it has been nice to have different focuses over the years. Now,
(14:46): Jenny, do you find yourselves applying that same thinking that same creation of autonomy or, or grace with your staff as being beneficial and giving them the opportunity to lead and to own their particular roles? Is that something that's happened that you've thought about or that's happened naturally through this, because those same feelings that you're having is what your staff members are, are going to feel as well. And your project managers are going to feel when they can see their impact on their part of the mission. Is that something that you guys have designed intentionally or is it something that's just happened as part of the way you guys are? So I think it's, I, I think that, especially from if I'm gonna, if I can speak for Charlie once we had the right people in place, which took some level of trust, I guess, um, then yes, it was much easier to give them autonomy. I think it it's taken us a long time to get the exact team in place. And, you know, in construction, it's a very, you know, people bounce around a lot. Um, it's just the nature of the nature of this business, but I think the team we have together now, it's really competent. It's easy to just say, Hey you, this is your baby. You handle it, you run with it. I, you know, just lemme know if there's a problem or anything I have to get involved with. That's that's a really welcome change cuz no, it was not always like that.
(16:01): It really took having the right team in place to be able to have that ability to let go. Charlie's probably holds down a little tighter than I do. Um, I I'm fully aware what I should not have any, uh, I shouldn't be involved with, but, um, he's my, you know, he is, he really runs the company. So he is much more involved in the day to day, minute to minute decisions than I ever was anyway, but still right. I think it was finding the right staff and having that faith that they can handle it and the ability to take a breath, let them handle it and walk away. You, you were fortunate to have that exceptional project manager early on as well to show you what it can look like and the freedom that you can have with, with when you have that trust built as you grew, what sort of investments did you have to make in your systems and processes and infrastructure and all that sort of thing in order to find the right people and be able to create opportunity and have those guardrails for them to run on, cuz that's the other piece. You can have great people, but if you don't have as a young company, if you don't have the systems in structure in place, you don't have guidelines for them to follow. And it's, it's hard to, to give them that autonomy with any confidence because they don't know how you want it done. That's true. What did that look like for you?
(17:09): You know what, and I'm gonna be honest. It's still a work in progress. So we are now using a software. I think that, um, we're all very happy with, but we're even, we're learning as we go. This software has, uh, has more capability than we're currently using. So yes, we need to, we made the investment in, well, this is not our first software, but we're on, we're on this software program that we all really like now we also really need to start integrating all of the features of that software to get us as functional as we should be. But we are still learning that. And as far as, uh, kind of company organization that is also still a bit of a work in progress, I, I think that, um, we are, we are unusual in that Charlie, it, Charlie owns, you know, on the new construction side, he owns the company and does all of the sales, which is really unusual. I own part of the company and I do all the sales for remodeling. So that's unusual. So yeah, we don't have a normal corporate structure. Right. I think we're getting there, we're starting to get the bodies in place that we can, you know, kind of have a chain of command, but it is probably not that typical. Well, if there's one thing we've learned with the construction companies that we've worked with, is there may not be any such thing as a normal structure. You know, we've got hundreds of thousands of, uh, construction companies and everybody has been trying to figure it out on their own and you know, you kind of create your own, your own version of it and it seems to be working for you. So you've, you've put yourselves in the, in the right spots, uh, because it's working for
(18:39): Sure it's working and that's not to say it couldn't be improved on cuz Lord knows it could, but yes it is. It, it, it has been working and, and I'm sure like all like any of us, we, we find areas we can improve on. And you've said, you know, you've had some pretty tremendous growth and especially on that remodel side, you know, with you yeah. Kind of taking it over and over the last few years, what would you say was attributed to that? I mean, obviously COVID, and some of the things that happened, we all saw are pretty, um, surprising, probably bump in, in business from that. But I mean, did you carve out a particular niche? Were there certain, you know, parts of, uh, parts of town or even, uh, type of client you were going after? What, what did you do to really kind of zero in and grow that, that part of the business aside from the school district? Yeah. Asides awesome. The school do so actually there remodel team casts, a wider net than new construction. So we really do projects in a much bigger area than our subdivisions are focused. Um, the first thing we did when we started the remodel division, Chicago, maybe unlike other markets, we don't have like one centralized home improvement trade show. We have lots of little local home improvement, trade shows, and I have no idea what it's like in Charlotte or anywhere else, but we started participating in all these trade shows and they did create a lot of leads. They were not easy leads cuz if I got a lead, so did five other remodelers that, that I know. So it was, you know, the pace was very fast. We had to get out to these jobs, you know, get out to these houses quickly, get them information quickly in order to have a chance at closing them.
(20:06): But it, it got, it kind of allowed us to hit the ground running with, uh, a bunch of leads. Again, they were hard leads, but we did get work out of them. We also got some new home jobs out of them. So trade shows have been a really nice source of leads for us. Now that we've had this really dedicated remodel division for seven years, I would say probably equal referral or our lead sources are equal from referrals and trade shows. We had no trade shows for two years actually during COVID. So, um, the fact that we were still able to grow as much as we did with no trade show leads was great for us. Um, cause referral leads are the best leads. Um, one of the other things that happened pretty early on was we had a huge account. This was a little unexpected, it was a home improvement trade show. I had a booth there and a woman came up and she was a moving coordinator for retirement home. And the retirement home had a huge amount of turnover. And every time those units turned over the new, the new tenant, I guess, had the opportunity to do minimal, minimal remodeling or really revamp the whole thing. And um, over time we have taken over all of that work. So we have a guy just posted at this job and it is, he runs his, his schedules insane. He has many, many projects going all at the same time. So that was a really nice big account to sort of lock down for real constant work. And then, you know, over time again, referrals and trade show leads and you know, sparkling personality who could say no out here. And, and I'm sure in every, in, in a lot of markets we have a couple of really big fish remodelers in, in Chicago.
(21:43): They have a real big presence here. They're very, they're, they're certainly on the, on the expensive end. And then there's a lot of, um, kind of one man, uh, operators who self perform and maybe outsource their plumbing electric, but they're carpenters and they're doing most of the work themselves. We kind of found this way to find, to, to slide in between those two levels. So we're not as expensive as those as those real big firms. And we're not the one man show we're in the middle, but we are full, full service shop. So we try and take the burden of a lot of the homeowners having to run to five different suppliers or showrooms and, and stuff. We try and take that off their plate and still have a reasonable price As you're a designed build firm. Correct? Correct. Yeah. Wanna level up, connect with us to share your stories, ideas, challenges, and successes. The builder nuggets community is built on your experiences. It takes less than a minute to connect with firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or Instagram, Want access to the resources that can take you and your team to the next level. One call could change everything. So, so you're providing the design and when, and just to be clear on the distinction between the high level ones you talked about and, and the, the volume of local business owners as well, you mentioned that they, uh, many of them are working with trade partners around electric, electrical or plumbing. Do you guys perform that in house or do you work with electricians? H B a C companies, plumbers, what, what business model have you put in, in place? What, or what's working for you?
(23:19): We outsource all, everything. All of the trade work is outsource except for project management and design. Um, we do have a showroom, which I think is, um, we use it, we use the showroom from new construction, new homes, but we, we use it for remodeling as well, even if it's not, even if they don't find exactly what they want, what's helpful with the showroom. A, it gives some legitimacy to us cuz you know, we have, we have a brick and mortar kind of presence. But when, when we do make a proposal, everything, if I'm, if I'm specifying any kind of finishes, they're all gonna be in that showroom. Now you might not wanna use any of 'em, but you can come and touch and feel everything that I've laid out for you for, you know, for a bathroom at this price. Here's your faucet, here's your, here's your cabinetry, here's your child, blah, blah, blah. It's all at that showroom, which makes it easy. Now people might not choose any of that stuff, but it, but they can, you know, they, they don't have to put in any more work than that if they don't want to. So it's, it's at least a nice jumping off point. And um, it's been, it's been a great resource for us.
(24:18): Yeah. It, it really can be the easy button and, and you know, right now for a client, the world is their oyster. If they want something, I mean you can go out and procure it for them, uh, especially on a, on a high end custom build. Um, it's our job. As you know, you have a project management model, so, and design, so you can go out and, and get it all for them and, and put it in. You do and yeah. And still be a, and still be an easy button. It's just, they're not seeing it all in that's right. I mean, location, Indoor golf courses, indoor bowling, alleys pools, you name it. Some, some really like kind challenging, interesting builds. So yeah. It's they find all kinds of stuff to build You. You mentioned that finding the right people has been probably the biggest challenge for you and you're that you're there now. And um, you feel like you're solving it. It's gonna continue to be a, an issue in the industry and it's gonna get more and more competitive or it has gotten more and more competitive. What do you think was the secret to your success for being able to attract those people? What are, what's the message that you're putting out or what's the opportunity that you create that has attracted these types of employees that you're looking for?
(25:26): I've been asked that question before actually. And I think when people come and interview like there's to your point earlier, there's stuff that other people do in this company that I couldn't begin to tell you how to do it. So normally when somebody comes in interviews with us, they get passed around to several employees. So we can all have, you know, get a read on them. If I'm gonna interview somebody, I assume they can do the job. Let's just start with that assumption right off the bat. Now let's see if you're a fit culturally personality wise, you know, what's your core? What, like, you know, what, what, what what's in your core, are you the type of person, you know, that we're looking for? In, in, in other words, like we have maybe two fault, um, put the customer's needs above our needs philosophy here. And we all believe that that will come back to us tenfold over time. You know, not everybody has that philosophy and that's okay, but you might not be a great fit here for us. And it, and we are maybe starting to learn how to say no more than we ever had before. Cuz it was always yes, yes, yes. We could do it no matter how hard it is or challenging it is, we, we are maybe learning. We have to set our own parameters a little bit better than we had in the past. But you know, we need we for, for me personally, but, and, and I know for all of us, the cultural fit is the biggest, we're a small company, you know? So we spend a lot of time with these people. So if it's, if it's not a great cultural fit, I don't care if you're the best project manager in the world, if it's miserable to work together, it's not gonna be a good fit for us.
(26:55): So for me again, I'm assuming everybody can do, do the job they're applying for. Let's just see, let me explain how this, let me explain the mechanics of this office to you. Here's this personality you have to work with. Here's this personality that you're gonna run into. How do you feel about this? How do you feel about, you know, working weekends every once in a while? You know, most of it is just using your gut and feeling people out and making sure that their priorities sort of line up with ours. I guess that's the biggest thing. Have you have you and your team taken the time to map out those core values and a vision and shared that internally or created it together? Is that something you've formalized to any extent It's come around a couple of times, I wanna say we've done like a mission and vision more than once, but that our, our core values have never changed for anybody in this industry. This is the biggest investment people are gonna make in their life. And we really consider ourselves stewards of their, of their hard earned money. And by default, we talk ourselves out of work all the time. If we think it's a really, you know, if we think there's a less expensive or better way to do things or, or not to do a project, we, we have those discussions regularly because it's the best thing for the customer. And yet I, we all firmly believe that those kind of honest conversations, I, I can think of 10 times where people have wanted to do a remodel. And I just wanna say, look, unless you're gonna live here forever. This is not a great plan. You know, you, you have to think about re resale. You have to think about market value, all that kind of stuff. So that engenders a great amount of trust and future referrals. And you know, they're gonna buy another house one day. That'll probably need work. So it's a long term play, but it works out.
(28:30): Yeah. We, we talk a lot about building freedom in your, in your business. And one of those freedoms is the freedom of relationship and with the success you've had, it sounds like you're getting more of that. You have the freedom to pick and choose your, your clients. And that's a wonderful position to be in because it's not, it's not just about whether or not you can make them happy, which is a large part of it. It's it's whether or not your staff and your team are gonna be valued and appreciated through the process as well. Cause it's one thing to focus solely on the client, but it can't be at the expense of your team, right? So the fact that you're thinking about those We're though it's hard, you know, I'm a salesperson at heart, you know, all that lovely intro you gave me in the end. I pretty much just consider myself a salesperson. So for a salesperson to walk away from a sale, I don't care how difficult the guy is. That is really a hard pill for me to swallow. And really it wasn't this year, it's the first year I fired a customer because there was just not enough upside and there was so much downside and it, and you know, it was very professional and cordial, but it just, wasn't a beneficial relationship. I don't think for either of us in the end, but that's hard for me. I'm not gonna lie. It's hard for me to walk away from that,
(29:38): But you've done the right things, you know, I mean, as you've, like you said, you started out with some trade show leads, and then you're probably getting a lot more organic referral leads. Yes. You're gonna continue more of those. Yep. As you deliver just a great experience to your clients, which then starts to afford you, that ability to focus on and I'll call it client compatibility. You really have to think about that because that when you get to that point, you're gonna generally have better projects, better clients, better the experience for everybody, your staff profitability goes up, you know, absolutely everything just improves. So you don't have to worry the volume doesn't become as, as important as the quality, you know, once you get to that point. So I think, yeah, I mean, it sounds like you guys are just doing a lot of the, a lot of the right things to get there. What's next, like we we're coming through, what's been like a really booming economy. When you think about the next five years, what are the things that you're excited about? What, where are you going with the, what the company, what do you wanna, what do you wanna achieve and how, and what are you, what are the challenges that you're gonna face in getting there?
(30:38): We'd love to scale, uh, especially the remodel side of the company. We'd love to scale it. You know, maybe have an office that we drop into Indianapolis or Madison, Wisconsin, or something. We'd love to create a system that is repeatable. It's challenging , but it is certainly the goal is to create a repeatable system. So what I, a couple of things I see coming down the pipe that I think, I think our software, you know, our internal software and our internal processes are getting better and more succinct and more, you know, we can, we can hand off packets to our project managers without them calling with, you know, 20 questions because we didn't have enough information for them. So who that is all improving as we go. Um, but as far as like in the industry, what I see coming, I think that with the interest rates going up, I think that it will have an effect on new home purchases or whether it's new builds or new home purchases. But I, uh, and I know that that is the intent of raising the, um, interest rate. I actually think it'll be, uh, more of a boom to remodeling cuz those customers, those customers that were on the cusp of being able to buy that new house now are gonna stay in their house. And it's sure a lot less expensive to remodel your kitchen than to buy a new house. So I do think for the next couple of years, we're still gonna see those customers that are now staying put because they couldn't quite make it work with a new interest rate. So they're staying put in remodeling after that projecting past two years, I think that there will be, you know, we've talked about a lot kind of fo doing some more focus on aging in place kind of transitions, um, which I think could be a huge profit center because I, this is a very lived experience for me.
(32:18): Now, my dad just re recently passed and my mom is demanding that she stay in the house that they lived in and, and it's not set up for someone in her physical condition. So she's not abnormal though. This is happening everywhere. So I do think that that could be a huge profit center for us. I think that people are consumers are continuing, continuing to be more educated through, you know, every everybody's got a phone or on their computer and they are coming to us even from when we started this, uh, seven years ago, they're far more educated and exposed to different ideas towards remodeling than they were seven years ago. So COVID has well, has absolutely exploded the remodeling. I think it will continue to change, um, the way people are thinking about their homes. Um, I think in the back of people's heads, they're still a little nervous. This could happen again. So they wanna be ready to work from home or have outdoor play area for the kids or outdoor grilling or a first floor, you know, master suite for their in-laws or their caregiver to be able to say, so I do think it will still continue to inform remodeling for years to come because, you know, kind of once been twice shy, we wanna be ready moving forward. And so many of us now are able to do things from home that we weren't able to prior to COVID, you know, how many companies now you can work from home, if you choose to 100% of the time that wasn't really a thing three years ago. So people have to set up their houses in it to, uh, in order to be able to, you know, work with this new world that we're all living in.
(33:50): Yeah. It's, it's interesting. You're, you're expanding the, the sort of service verticals that you're going into talking about the aging in place or rental properties and, and looking at that so that you are you're prepared because a lot of people, when they think about scaling, they just think about getting bigger. They don't think necessarily about, well, how do I retain my staff downsizing, the, maybe the overall dollar volume, but increasing the number of projects because in a project management model that still works. As long as you have the projects there and you have billable time for your project managers, you can scale that thing in either in either direction. If you've had the foresight to do those things, that's, that's pretty cool. I can't help, but think or admire how much you guys have done your company has done on its own, figuring it out from out of the starting blocks without the background. Are there, you know, are there other, who are your collaborators? Are, are there, do you work with other people in the industry? Is that some, have you guys just been heads down all on your own? What are you doing to go and learn and figure out how to make your company better? Are, are there, there, you know, organizations that you're a part of? Where, where are you learning outside of job site university?
(35:03): Yeah, that is still the main one. And I think the people that we hire have hired along the way, even, you know, employees that we may not be with us any longer. There's still a lot to learn from people that have been in this world for 30 years. You know, again, even if we can kind of pick and choose those parts of what they brought to the company, if it didn't work out on the end, but they might have brought, Hey, the way he approaches, whatever it is, change orders. That's fantastic. We should be doing that the way he approaches customer relations. That's fantastic. We should incorporate that. So I think a lot of our continued evolution has been with the new people that we bring into the organization. I know that Charlie has great relationships with other builders in the area and, um, I shouldn't speak for him. I don't know how much he delves into their business models and stuff, but, um, most of it is head down and new, you know, employees learning from the employees that we bring on and feedback from customers. What are you looking for? How can we, how can we be a little bit different than every other builder out there to give you what you're looking for and give you the experience that you're looking for? And for us, I think that's the biggest, the, the ends don't justify the means like if you have a miserable building experience, but a beautiful house, eh, okay. I mean, you're never gonna hear from that customer again. Uh, we've been lucky enough to have great relationships with customers over the years and, you know, can socialize with them and have continued relationships with them. Well, after their build. So getting feedback from them about what is, or it isn't working and they're more than happy to tell us when stuff isn't working, which is great. It's great feedback for us so we can tweak it and adjust as we move forward.
(36:34): You're, you're really paying attention and asking, asking a lot of the right questions of, of the people that are in your, you know, realm or universe and, and learning from it. Probably not making the same mistake, you know, multiple times. Oh, We probably do, but we eventually, we get there. Sure. But you're, it, it, it seems like you're like spinning it on the lay, then it's getting better and smoother and smoother all the time. Little, a little bit, a little bit at time, The trades are a great resource as well. You know, they work for multiple builders, so it's great to hear from them. Hey, you know what, the, the way that we're getting, you know, our bid, whatever it is, the, the way that we're getting our change order the information isn't clear to us, we need X, Y, Z. Oh, okay, great. That's good to know. Let us change our system a little bit. So it's easier for the guys in the field to be able to build the project. So yeah. Trade, trade info or trade feedback is really helpful as
(37:21): Well. That sounds like a theme since the beginning for you though. Cuz you mentioned it early on in your story that you had a bit of a chip on your shoulder or you felt, I know yeah. You might have had a chip on your shoulder, but right before you had said that you had also talked about though that you valued the trades as a resource and you went to them and asked them, which kind of, you know, it minimizes the chip to a, to a great degree and it shows that you valued them. So it's, I, I, I think that was a, a natural great first step that you went out and did and didn't try and pretend that you knew it, you got the experts and relied and valued them and continued to foster that within, within the company. Yeah. The traits that we were very, really lucky, the, the, the traits that had been with us since the beginning and then there's several of them. They're just, they're great guys. They're, they're informative. They're patient with me who knew nothing going in, you know, they they've been really great to work with, So Charlie's not here to represent himself so you get to, you get to answer for him. What would you say is the most exciting, uh, or the piece of the business or the direction of the company that he's most excited about? Because you mentioned for you that it was the, the remodeling side and that's amazing that you're growing this and have the foresight to anticipate and plan for it and having the systems in place, where does he shine? What does he get excited about?
(38:34): You know, I think we've done. Uh, we it's really been, he has done, he's developed several subdivisions or bought, you know, bought in, uh, pieces, I think for him. Um, he's excited about remodeling. I, I pulled him over. Thesing also, I think he likes the business model of remodeling. I should say that I think on the new construction side, we're all excited about, you know, we built a lot of great houses. There's been a lot of them that aren't terribly different ones, we're custom builders, but there can be some level of repetition, one to the next, but we're suddenly getting opportunities like to build bowling alleys and indoor golf ranges and climbing walls. And all of a sudden these really interesting, fascinating builds. And that has been a, a, a learning curve. I mean, not everybody knows inherently how to build an indoor bowling alley. So we're learning and it's challenging. And it's, you know, I think it's just something new. We, we're getting a lot of really interesting at bats. I would say where people come to us with these fascinating plans and, um, or, or wanna develop a really fascinating plan. And that's, what's fun. I think that developing really great customer relationship building really interesting homes is not so much volume kind of like what you're saying is as cool builds, interesting relationships, interesting options in these really cool houses. So there's some really cool stuff. People are doing.
(39:55): One thing we haven't really talked about, we've touched on it as a project management model. Are you, um, are you using a, a cost plus model, a fixed price? Are you billing for time, walk us through what the business relationship with your, or how you guys decided to structure it and why? And it may be different for custom, you know, for the it's for the new construction, New construction is different than, um, remodeling. So new construction, they, although challenging now, um, you know, they've been able to, unless it was a, a, a profoundly, you know, different kind of house than, you know, most of our bread and butter houses are, they've been able to use historicals and, um, come up with a sale price based on, you know, 10 previous houses they did that were similar enough, Charlie, what we are doing differently on the new construction side, in order to capture, I think one source of construction, one source of frustration in new construction is we have gone to this model in our, in our, um, showroom where things are levels. So people can walk through and say, Hey, the red stickers level one, the blue stickers level two. So before Charlie's going to contract, he's saying, I want you to walk through the showroom and I want you to point out what you like, so I can make sure I'm representing that on your contract, because I might think you want level one.
(41:13): You might think you want level 10. And unfortunately that's where people get frustrated. Cause I think there's some, some people feel like, Hey, you should have known that I wanted a level 10 countertop. Well, not really. You also want XYZ budget. So that kind of leads to level one countertop. So having that understanding before contract and before we have to get into orders, which people don't always feel great about change orders, that's been helpful to really, really try and better understand what people have in their heads before we get to contract. So there's less rub during the bill. There's always gonna be change orders, but those change orders aren't Hey, you should have known, I wanted this though. Hopefully we're mitigating that kind of change order. On the remodel side, we probably have our first customer right now that we will go to go to cost plus with it's a really, it's a project that started out with a huge budget and he's reducing it and it's gonna require lots of design work to get to that new budget.
(42:11): So that is probably gonna go to a cost plus kind of situation. We don't usually do it for a re for a larger scale project in addition, or a whole house renovation. We'll hard bit, it we'll do trade walks and hard bit it. And we, you know, put on our, our fee and that then that's the price. If for small projects, we, don't always hard bit it, we can use historical space in remodeling, you know, for what a standard kitchen would be, what a standard bath would be in kind of build off of that. So, no, we don't often do cost. Plus we give them a, a proposal with the, with the cost, knowing that we'll probably be some change orders along the way, but there don't ha that the goal is there doesn't have to be change orders. If you really don't wanna spend any money, use these selections that I've called out for you. Here you go. It almost ever happens though. I feel like I put you on the hot seat here, Jenny, just, but it's Fine. It's a degrees here in Chicago today, but I'm doing OK. Yeah, no, you're doing great. You're, I'm firing all the questions at you and it's rolling up like super supernaturally. I can see why your team and your clients have confidence in you. It's, it's, uh, it's easy for you and done with a smile and a green hat the whole, the whole time. So the Green hat is that's the sale right there. Yeah.
(43:19): I, I would just, you know, I would say kudos to you guys for what you've done. I mean, I'm glad we got introduced at the builders show, what we do through this platform. And obviously through the, through, through our community, you know, is, is, is all about collaboration, you know, and then people that have had success and then they get on and share it with others. You guys are achieving success, you know, and now have the opportunity to, to share it with others, you know, keep doing what you're doing for sure. It's I, I do go back to, I think the thing that's that's got me is that you guys have a pretty solid set of core values and it, it shows, you know, just from the, I think that's, what's guided you to, to, for all the decisions that you make probably directly go back to those core values. And for me, that's the big takeaway for anybody that's listening, you know, is that that's so huge to your company and it's gonna help you with every decision you have to make. And I think it's, it's definitely just, uh, you guys are an example of that. So congrats on what you've done and thanks for, you know, thanks for taking some time with us. How can folks, if they wanna learn a little bit more about you guys or connect, how can they find you?
(44:17): We are icon building group in Illinois. We have a great website. I we're all very proud of the website, so you can, um, connect through us through the website. Should I give my phone number? That seems like a bad idea, Whatever you want, You can call me if you're remodeling you're in Illinois, you can call me icon-group.com. Come check us out. There's a tab for remodeling as well. And you can, the gallery's great tons of pictures, tons of inspiration pictures. Oh, by the way, if you're a customer thinking about a new project, whether it's a new build or a remodel coming to the table with an idea of how you see your space is so helpful for all of us, not just for budget, but for feasibility, you know, uh, yeah, you might, they might show me a picture of a bathroom that's 20 by 30 and they have a five by nine bath. I, so it really helps to come to the table with some, and I, I feel like our website does a great job of tons and tons of pictures for inspiration and ideas. And then we're pretty active on how and interest, interest interest as well, um, answering, answering people's questions and stuff like that. So we do get some feedback through that as well. Actually our best sort of, not a referral source, but people go to our Google reviews and we've been, you know, knocked on wood. You can't see me, but I am knocking on wood right now. Um, the Google reviews been great for us and it gives us, again, some, it gives us some validity and people feel good about it. So Google reviews are huge. Thanks again for sharing everything. It's been fun having you on and, uh, best of luck for everything going forward. Thank you guys. It's very nice to meet you.
Hey, thanks for listening, Dwayne and I love hearing from you. Your stories are inspiring and your challenges can be overcome. Got a cool tip idea for a show problem that you haven't been able to solve, or maybe just struggling to figure out what you need next and where to get it. We can help hit us email@example.com and start building freedom.