There are days that Matt Plaskoff drives 200 miles of congested California road to visit ongoing projects and talk to current and prospective clients. But the Malibu native — who surfed away his high school lunch hours in Santa Monica — is used to the crush of cars. He snakes expertly through traffic, all the while talking (sometimes in the voice of Homer Simpson), gesticulating, pointing, and taking and making phone calls. “Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood,” he says. From the 6-year-old boy who bought candy bars and sold them to friends and then later, when he was in high school, built stereo speakers and sold those, he always had a goal, always looked to the next level. Every step seemingly leading to the next step until he got here: owner of the highly successful design/build Plaskoff Construction — with its Hollywood A-List clientele — and now One Week Bath (OWB), poised (Plaskoff hopes) to go national.
“Matt is always thinking of the business as a process and how it can be refined,” says Bill Fotsch, who is Plaskoff’s Great Game of Business coach. More specifically, Plaskoff is always thinking of ways to systematize his businesses to make them more efficient. “The best way to be competitive,” Plaskoff says, “is to be efficient.”
From its inception, OWB has been Plaskoff’s ultimate experiment in creating a highly predictable and replicable remodeling company — one that designs and builds a custom bathroom in five working days. Along the way he is facing the usual business bumps, but being the consummate entrepreneur Plaskoff attacks his challenges with the infectious energy of a visionary. “When you jump into Matt’s world and hear what he’s doing, it’s very contagious,” says Elizabeth Bryan, the director of marketing and business development for OWB.
TRIAL AND ERROR
“It’s hard to spend time with Matt and not be captivated by his level of energy and insight. It’s very clear he wants to share information and that insight with others.” —Bill Fotsch, Great Game of Business coach
A carpenter, who learned all the trades by working for other remodelers and then striking out on his own, Plaskoff along with his wife, Karry, began Plaskoff Construction in 1988. Within a few years, Plaskoff Construction had nearly 50 employees and would become a $15 million business. “It was basically a practice, with high-end custom projects. Lead to closing was long and there were a lot of people involved,” Plaskoff says.
The company began as build-only; later Plaskoff followed a design/build model outsourcing design to various architects. By the early 2000s he established a separate profit center — Plaskoff Design Group — with several full-time designers and architects. But Plaskoff abandoned that design enterprise as his One Week Bath concept began to take shape.
Trying on and discarding ideas is Plaskoff’s stock in trade. As everyone will tell you, he is all about education for himself and others. “Everything I’ve done is a stepping stone. I couldn’t have done OWB without having been in the restaurant business,” he says of the post-college years he worked at Gladstone’s, a Malibu seafood restaurant. “I learned customer service, systemization, marketing.” Having bussed and waited tables, Plaskoff worked his way up to staff training. The efficiency bug bit him then and he developed how-to training manuals. “I even created a manual on how to make a swan [out of] foil,” he says. Even before Gladstone’s, Plaskoff had studied marine biology in college (he stopped halfway to a Ph.D.) and that, he says, taught him about how to learn. “I’m a scientist,” he says, “and scientific training helps when I look at business data.”
Much later there was the unsuccessful Home Depot alliance as he developed the OWB concept, and there was a brief talk with Kathy Ireland Worldwide about a synergistic partnership with her Kathy Ireland Home Group.
To Plaskoff, failure is a good teacher, and he is a great believer in learning from one’s mistakes. In fact, for Plaskoff Construction, he developed an intranet site where project managers can “knowledge share.” Plaskoff rewards employees for inputting data on their errors — $10 for each time they make a mistake and learn from it.
Many of his employees have been with him a long time and truly are part of the business. Four key managers own shares in the OWB business. “Brian [Kargari, vice president of operations] can walk into a client’s home and say, ‘I’m an owner; talk to me like I’m an owner.’ It creates credibility,” Plaskoff says.
A fan of open-book management — part of his education-for-all attitude — Plaskoff is known by his staff as someone who doesn’t micromanage. Employees feed off his high energy, which, says Teddi Best, who started working for Plaskoff 20 years ago, “is one of the things that has made us successful.”
Plaskoff’s clients recognize these qualities, too, and in the words of Phil Ringstrom, an Encino homeowner, “Matt’s a great commander-in-chief …. [And] he wants to be in the business of bettering people’s lives, and this is the way he can do it. That comes across very clearly from him.”