Ask most any remodeler about the long-term goals for his business and you'll be sure to find at least one common denominator: the desire to get the company to the point that it operates without the active participation of the owner. Alex Dean, of The Alexander Group, in Kensington, Md., is no exception. And he has nearly succeeded in doing it.
In 1993 (the year the company was named Big50), The Alexander Group found its “comfort zone” at about $1.5 million in sales, Dean says. The next seven years were spent hovering at about the same volume, building the company's systems, and putting key employees in place.
But letting go of the day-today was not easy. “I tend to want to micromanage,” Dean says. “For me, management is an unnatural act. There's been a real learning curve.”
In 2004, Dean moved his family back to his native Hawaii, but not before rigorous preparation within the company.
“We had an eight-month period [getting everything ready],” he says. “Not all of our employees made it through the change, but those who stayed don't need me to hold their hand. I have a lot of confidence in my team.”
Dean still handles the majority of sales in the Kensington office, while splitting time between Maryland and Hawaii. But as for the day when he relinquishes complete control to his employees, he says, “that point is finally in sight.”
As part of a diversification plan, Dean has begun expanding into the Hawaii market as well, though this venture is still in its infancy.
Dean, who designed and built his first solar addition in 1977, has also rekindled a longtime interest in green building. “This is an area in which we are knowledgeable,” he says. “And we believe this is the direction the work is going.”
Dean and his employees participate in National Association of the Remodeling Industry programs and U.S. Green Building Council LEED programs. “We see a lot of potential upside in being able to offer whatever level of green homeowners can afford,” he says.