Last year, William Patrick closed his design/build firm, William J. Patrick Inc., to take a position as senior designer/division manager of residential remodeling at EGStoltzfus Homes, in Lancaster, Pa.
Patrick’s company had peaked at 10 employees and a $2.5 million volume, but by 2009 he had just three employees. The economic downturn coincided with the remodeler’s search for his next career move. “Sure, we had down times, but it had as much to do with spending 20 years and meeting all the goals I wrote down in 1997. The world had changed and I had changed with it,” he says.
If the economy was better, Patrick says, EG-Stoltzfus might not have decided to expand its remodeling division. The 45-year-old company has 38 employees, is one of the largest volume builders in central Pennsylvania, and is run by the founder’s three children. Patrick got to know EGStoltzfus president Brent Stoltzfus through the local builders association. “One of their strategic initiatives was to tap the underdeveloped market of 5,000 homes they built over the last 45 years,” Patrick says.
EGStoltzfus was looking to Patrick for remodeling systems and procedures. “I was trying to understand their strategy, vision, and values,” the remodeler says, and he spent six months researching the move. During that six months, Patrick asked for input from the network of peers and consultants he’d developed over 20 years in business. They asked about Patrick’s motivation and if the recession was affecting his decision, and Patrick expressed his desire to pursue new goals.
The builder did not take over Patrick’s company but purchased some of its trucks, computers, and contracts. “They have adopted many of our design, evaluation and sales processes,” he says.
When he was closing his company, Patrick sent a letter to his remodeling clients informing them of the change, and he continues to market to them. He brought with him eight repeat and referral clients who are now in the EGStoltzfus sales pipeline. “I feel very good that my client base and relationships have followed my design/build practice to its new location here,” he says.
Patrick also brought two employees with him. His office manager is now the division coordinator and his project leader is a field manager at EGStoltzfus. Another former employee works with Patrick as a subcontractor, and his remodeling company interior designer is an EGStoltzfus consultant. Some of his subs who are familiar with creating highly detailed kitchens, baths, and basements, also followed him to his new job.
The remodeler found that EGStoltzfus was a good culture fit for him and his two employees. “We have been able to contribute and they have supported us and affirmed what we’re doing,” Patrick says. His project leader was apprehensive about working for a larger company but recognizes the stability and growth it affords. And Patrick likes having a dedicated person to handle administrative tasks, such as vehicle maintenance and health care, and the buying power of a large company. “When we ask a drywall contractor doing 100 houses a year, he is willing to offer lower rates than the onesies and twosies rate that I was getting doing 20 projects a year,” Patrick says.
Patrick is setting new goals for the remodeling division. Its 2009 volume was about $1.2 million, and he expects it to stay about the same in 2010 during the transition. The division is currently part of EGStoltzfus’ new-homes division, but Patrick is working on creating a separate profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet. He believes the company’s remodeling division could double its volume in the next three years.
Patrick wants to create a plan to reach the company’s satisfied home buyers and is currently marketing good, better, best basement remodel packages. “They’re easy to finish,” he says. “We have the plans, and we have the trade partners that worked on the houses.”
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.