Abe Degnan didn’t intend to go into business with his father, but found his architecture degree more satisfying in remodeling than in commercial construction, where he had been working. “Midway through my junior year of college, I realized I wanted to be able to build what I designed,” Degnan says. “There wasn’t a lot of quality control in the work I was freelancing, but on the projects I built with Dad, I was always happy with the results.”
When Abe (second from left) joined his father, Bob (far left), both spent most of their time in the field. But when Abe broke his leg on a job, he was forced into the office and transitioned to management work full-time. A succession plan now in place, Bob is mostly retired, working part-time in the field, while Abe handles sales, design, and estimating. The company prides itself on craftsmanship and green building.
“We want to listen to and interpret what our customers are asking for,” Abe says, “and if we do that well we’ll be able to deliver something even better than they thought they wanted.” In addition to custom design work, this means having all projects meet Energy Star and Wisconsin’s Green Built Home standards.
Five years’ worth of lead tracking results provide valuable information. For instance, the company knows that it gets a lot of leads from Angie’s List, but that very few of those develop into design agreements. The information lets Degnan tweak his marketing to target project-minded clients.
Participation in Remodeler’s Advantage has given Degnan the confidence to gradually increase his markups and sell at “pro remodeler margins,” he says.
In addition to calculating gross profit per job, Degnan breaks projects down by gross profit per day. “I look at how many hours are in that job and use the gross profit per day as a double-check for the estimating rules I’ve created,” he says.
The company has participated in Wisconsin’s Green Built Home Makeover for several years, in which a home is chosen for a top-to-bottom green remodel using almost exclusively volunteer labor.
For two years the company has hired on a high school senior as an apprentice with a goal of 15 hours of work per week. Many of the students are already familiar with design software and field processes. The hands-on training helps them prepare for college-level construction programs.
- Lauren Hunter