During its 26 years in business, Tri-Lite Builders has survived four recessions, and owners Linda and Wayne Minde are confident that they can make adjustments and survive the latest economic downturn.
By the end of 2008, the Chandler, Ariz., company was down about 33% in volume compared with 2007.
Some clients have panicked about the economy and have halted at the design stage, Linda Minde says. Other high-end clients are reluctant to take out loans or use investment money for a remodel. “The good thing about design/build is that you can see ahead of the game,” she says. “You know how long things will be in design, so if the design pipeline dries up, you can see the hole in the construction schedule.”
The company has taken several steps to adjust to the economy, including cutting back on staff through attrition rather than layoffs. Tri-Lite Builders’ sales manager, for example, was going to retire in 2009, but decided to leave at the end of 2008.
The owners have also cut hours and pay for some staff. “We reduced hours for our interior designer from 40 hours per week to 32. And we asked all senior management to take a 20% pay cut,” Minde says.
She is also carefully reviewing overhead expenses to see where the company can save. For example, Tri-Lite Builders decided to cancel its office cleaning service, opting to ask the staff to pitch in to keep the space clean. Minde also switched workers’ compensation insurers for a firm with better rates.
She says that the downturn has meant more people offering remodeling services, which has decreased the number of leads and increased the competition for jobs. “I’m glad we have 26 years in business with a lot of contacts,” Minde says. “I’ve been marketing and networking and on boards for years. We’re ahead of the game.”
Several peers have asked Minde for marketing advice, so she decided to teach a seminar on cost-effective options for the local remodeling association. She says that being involved with the association and being a member of a peer review group have helped her company weather the situation.