Who says family and business don’t mix? When Rich Gaspar started Gaspar's Construction in 1973, it soon became a family affair. His wife, Cathy, joined the company doing office work, then received a degree in interior design and started designing projects. Daughter Sarah Henry joined them in 2002 and is now the majority owner; Rich and Cathy—members of Remodeling’s Big50 Class of 2000—recently retired.

One of Sarah’s most coveted contributions was adding a handyman business about seven years ago. That part of the business has grown to make up about one-third of the company’s volume. The handyman business proved to be “a huge help” during the slow economy, Henry says.

The company uses subcontractors on its construction projects, but Gaspar’s Construction employees run each job. “They’re toolbags-on lead carpenters, so they’re swinging hammers while running the project and managing the subcontractors,” Henry says.

The company is very active about seeking feedback from clients. Staff members meet weekly with customers during production. At the end of each meeting, customers are asked to rate the company on a scale of 1 to 10 on its performance for the week. “If it’s anything short of a 10—which it usually is during construction because people are nervous—we ask, ‘What could we be doing better?’” Henry says. At the end of each project, a company called Customer Lobby calls the client for an assessment.
 

Takeaways

  • To help prepare clients for the ups and downs of remodeling, the company shows them the “emotional roller coaster” as mapped out in David Lupberger’s book Managing the Emotional Homeowner. The customer knows to expect a little frustration during drywall installation, for instance, when there’s a lot of mess and little visible progress.
  • Gaspar’s hires professional chefs to teach monthly cooking classes in its showroom. A speaker talks about kitchen-design trends and tips during the class. Manufacturers shoulder some of the cost, so Gaspar’s Construction is able to charge just $25 per class; attendees get a three-course meal with wine.
  • One way the company stands out from the competition: “We love working in condos,” Henry says. Gaspar’s has refined its systems so it doesn’t have to charge more than it would for working in a single-family home, except to charge for parking.
  • Employees get regular Sandler Training sessions in sales and communication, and long-term employees can apply for financial help toward a degree or certificate.