TreHus Builders' mission statement includes a reference to the company's employees as “agents of beauty and order.” “In everything we do, from the way we dress, to our Web site, to the way we answer the phones, we want to communicate this,” says David Amundson, president of the Minneapolis company.
He started TreHus, which means “house of wood” in Norwegian, almost 25 years ago. For the first 10 years, he wore all the hats. Now, Amundson has a staff of 12 office and 11 field employees. The company has a sales volume of more than $3.5 million and completes about 35 jobs per year ranging from $20,000 bathrooms to $500,000 whole house projects.
The remodeler says it is important that, as a design/build firm, his staff remains an advocate for the client throughout the process. “Clients are putting a lot of trust in one company. We need to be worthy of our calling,” he says. The company tries to mitigate clients' lifestyle disruption by adhering to consistent and detailed processes. “This includes how we write specifications and contracts, the quality of our blueprints, and the cleanliness of our jobsites,” Amundson says.
SELLING DESIGN The company has always wooed clients who appreciate, and will pay for, good design. Up until last year, TreHus worked with outside architects and a few in-house designers certified by the American Institute of Building Design. However, Amundson realized that his target clients prefer to work with architects. “The only way to attract clients to pay what it takes for great work is to have people on staff who they will trust with a higher level of design,” he says.
Now the firm has an in-house architect and an interior designer. During the process of hiring, Amundson was pleasantly surprised that so many younger architects were looking for an opportunity in residential remodeling. “Traditionally, a lot of architects feel it is beneath them to be aligned with a builder. I hope this is a sign that in the future [this] will be more acceptable,” he says.
The interior designer's role is to guide clients through selections. “People get bogged down in the selection process,” Amundson says. “Now our clients are spending the same amount of money, but are making better decisions and are happier with the end result.”
PREPPING FOR GROWTH Amundson is the primary salesperson at the company. At the first meeting with clients, he presents the TreHus process and takes photos and notes. He turns this over to one of two design/sales managers. “They are responsible for having the client sign a design agreement,” he says.
The managers work with the design staff to develop the design; then create a budget and contract, schedule the project, and communicate with clients. “They act as project manager of design,” Amundson says, “and then we also have project managers of construction.”
Having the company owner first meet clients prevents the two managers from wasting time on prospects who will not ultimately sign with the company. But Amundson plans to give up this role and hire a salesperson. “It is not ideal for me to be the primary person promoting the company,” he says. Especially when he expects the firm's 200 leads to increase with its new marketing plan.
Amundson has been working with a public relations consultant, a graphic artist, and a Web site vendor to increase the company's presence in Minneapolis. “In the past, I've relied too much on referrals. To increase our volume, we need to have more of a voice in the community,” he says.