Specialty contractors singled out by Harvard Institute’s business remodeling study
Remodeling activity is increasing quickly—a Harvard institute expects spending growth to hit 12.2 percent by early next year. But the recent recession spotlights the need for contractors to have resilient business plans capable of standing up against tough times.Larry Schaffert owns the Kitchen Solvers franchise in Frederick County, Maryland.
In its report entitled, “A New Decade of Growth for Remodeling,” the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University pointed out that specialty contractors fared much better during the recession, saying that kitchen and bath remodelers, as well as some others, “have survived one of the worst industry downturns in decades by streamlining their operations and becoming more focused and efficient.”
The institute also noted larger remodeling businesses can “benefit from scale in marketing and lead generation, scheduling, production, and negotiations with building product manufacturers and dealers.”
Now, we realize that Harvard was talking about the industry in a big-picture way, but we can’t help but feel like they’re talking about us.
Larry Schaffert, who owns Schaffert Construction in Frederick County, Maryland, bought a Kitchen Solvers franchise in 1998 after realizing that he wanted to focus on a single specialty rather than chasing whatever jobs came his way.
“Kitchens are where we put all of our marketing efforts. There’s no mud, no cold weather, no rain…” he says. “Kitchens are easier. It’s a more specialized product line, and it’s easier to find workers because they don’t have to have as broad a range of knowledge.”
The fact that Kitchen Solvers offers a further specialty — kitchen cabinet refacing — gives him another advantage, he says.
“People have been pretty tight the last few years,” he says. “Now, people are typically looking for the least expensive approach, which is something we can offer.”
Schaffert is also glad to be able to take advantage of Kitchen Solvers cooperative purchasing of cabinets and cabinet refacing materials, which drives down costs, allowing Kitchen Solvers franchisees to offer excellent prices while maintaining solid profit margins.
Kitchen Solvers also helps franchisees by providing assistance with marketing, and by providing sales training and instruction on how to use software such as MarketSharp and QuickBooks to track customer relationships and handle business accounting.
Schaffert admits that times were lean for a couple of years during the recession. Many of his competitors went out of business. As remodeling picks back up, he expects to benefit from being one of the few experienced kitchen remodeling companies around.
“If I had it to do all over again, getting into construction, I would do it as part of a franchise because it gives you a jumpstart. Knowing what I know now, starting from scratch, I would go with a specialty, and it would be Kitchen Solvers.”