William Bartlett's Home Rebuilders has come full-circle, in a way. While the $7 million Atlanta, Ga., company is rebuilding tear-downs and doing high-end remodels (the average job size is about $300,000), it's also getting back to its original bread and butter. “We opened a handyman division in 2005 — Doggone Handy, with my dog as the mascot — that's now doing $750,000 in volume,” says Bartlett (Big50 1989), who runs the division staffed by four carpenters, a dispatcher, a salesman, and several subs. Jobs typically run $1,000 to $2,000, but can vary from $200 to $30,000. Most jobs can be done by a technician, with no design and few subs to manage.
Bartlett saw a need to have different procedures for small jobs, and to that end, he started the division. Despite some profitable months, he says, “The division needs to grow some to hit a steady profit target. This is not about quick money, though; it's about building methodology, investing in tools and equipment, and establishing a reputation.”
All design services run through a showroom that was created about six years ago and is staffed by two designers and four architects. And recently, the company began building custom homes. “It's flourishing,” Bartlett says. Unfortunately, he notes, “people can't discern between a ‘McMansion' and a nice new home. If you tear down an old home — which might be poor-quality — and rebuild, they call it a ‘McMansion.' Plenty of people have been fighting against us, but they realize that the homes are nice and that they have nice new neighbors.”
Bartlett admits that he likes having everything under his control. “We have everything but our own lumberyard,” he jokes. “I've thought of it, but we don't have the mass for it. We'd need about $25 million to do that.”
Bartlett, a former accountant with a degree in mechanical engineering, began his working life with a Big Eight firm in Toronto. He says he keeps track and controls the remodeling business through good accounting systems. “If you don't have good systems, you do not have a real company.”