When it came to pursuing a part-time job in college, Chris Fox took matters into his own hands. While studying finance at Kansas State University, he put to use the construction skills he picked up from working with his father by doing work for a local builder as well as performing some side jobs for professors.
Fox changed his major to entrepreneurship and was offered a project coordinator position for Habitat for Humanity in Wichita during his senior year. On the same day, he received a call from a client he’d completed small jobs for who wanted input regarding a bathroom remodel. Fox turned down Habitat, hired a classmate as his assistant, and plunged into what became a $25,000 bathroom job—and he says he hasn’t slowed down since.
Though at first it wasn’t easy for the 22-year-old to go into half-million dollar homes and try to persuade the owners that “not only could I do a great job, but it would be a pleasurable experience working together,” he now does it all the time.
Today Fox sells, designs, selects, and orders materials, while co-owner Matt Carlson “takes care of all the jobs while they’re happening,” Fox says. The company does everything from handyman work to six-figure remodels. Maintenance and other handyman jobs can quickly become larger. For instance, a small fix on a porch railing morphed into a $65,000 bathroom.
Fox says that he has worked steadily to develop processes at the young company. In 2014 his goal is to set up a sales process.
Remodeling is like major surgery in that “it’s dramatic and it can be tough on people,” Fox says. He and Carlson try to make the experience as easy and fun for clients as possible.
In 2014, Fox plans to add a full-time handyman to his staff and is looking to establish a commercial maintenance position as well.
Even with a degree in entrepreneurship and a background in finance—which includes conducting business feasibility studies—Fox has found that pain and learning go hand in hand, as his full-service company moves through the various stages of growth. Headaches and challenges have included managing multiple jobs, “a big turning point” for this young company and its young owner, who plans to do his first $1 million in business in 2015.
- Leveling with clients is key to gaining trust and preventing jobs from becoming unmanageable, Fox says. Not long ago, Fox Home Innovations had a customer who wanted to simultaneously remodel a master bath and a kitchen. “I said: Trust me, you don’t want to do both of those at the same time,” Fox recalls. “‘Let’s do the kitchen first and then we’ll focus on the bathroom.’ It’s all about the experience our customers have with us,” he points out.
- “Once a month we shut down to take an aerial view of the company,” Fox says. This frank discussion between the partners is valuable, though Fox admits that “it’s tough to take the time to do that when we have immediate things to take care of.”