A second-generation electrical firm owner has teamed with a business strategy consultant and Internet adviser to form a company offering contractors Web-based selection books. Besides giving customers and contractors a personal area on the Internet to track product selections and jobsite notes room-by-room, Brad Keyes of TrulyCustom Construction of Newton, Mass., negotiates with a company's suppliers to pass along discounts up to 5%. As the middleman, TrulyCustom earns from 2% to 10% sourcing, purchasing, and invoicing products and making sure they're delivered.
In development for two and a half years, the company has been on line as www.trulycustom.com since August. As of December, the company had 10 projects up, was working with four contractors and two architects, and had purchased more than 185 products on behalf of its clients. The seven-employee startup so far has worked with 40 suppliers and hundreds of manufacturers.
While Keyes admits to a modest start, he's set his sights on gaining a $7 billion share of the $33 billion total spent annually on high-end new homes and remodels -- a market he defines as $500,000-plus homes and remodeling projects priced at $250-per-square-foot and up.
"TrulyCustom makes me more organized and detailed for my clients," says Allison Perry of F.H. Perry Builder in Hopkinton, Mass. Also beneficial, she says, is the power of visual presentation (product photos are included), coupled with specs -- all on a personal Web site.
The contractors' Web pages are linked to the homeowner's job Web page. "It's like having a digital book of the home we're working on," says Gary Gallagher of Gallagher Home Builders in Concord, Mass.
As part of the arrangement, GCs hand over supplier lists to TrulyCustom and agree to purchase 50% of the products the company sources.
Keyes fears the "dot-com" label, because he's seeking funding to supplement the $300,000 he and his partners have invested. "We're about as far from a dot-com as you can get," he says. "We're a buyer and an information company that uses this fabulous Internet tool."