Having survived the Great Recession, Michael Hodgin is determined not to be caught flat-footed again. “This year, I decided to work on building the company to be more recession-proof,” says Hodgin, company CEO. “We’re taking a step back to take two steps forward.”
Specifically, those steps involved creating smaller business units designed to be recession-proof. The first is a ductless mini-split HVAC systems division, which he hopes to grow from $130,000 in sales to $250,000 by 2020. The second is a semi-custom cabinet line, with the thinking that recession or not, homeowners will still want to do kitchen remodels. Finally, he’s creating a restoration and small jobs division, which can use existing employees now while building the infrastructure to be a thriving unit on its own if the market cools.
While investing in those endeavors will cause total sales to dip a bit this year, Hodgin is confident that his reputation for excellent craftsmanship and customer service will allow the company to scale quickly. The key difference between Hodgin and his competitors are employees; Hodgin hires them rather than using subs. “By having employees, we’re able to operate a different kind of company with more efficient systems and procedures,” he says. “We’re also able to control a construction schedule, minimizing delays from subcontractors who are outside of our control.”
Creating systems with tight control has been crucial to Hodgin’s overall success, especially in an area where 60% of his clients are retirees, many out of state. Hodgin’s tech systems allow him to maintain communication every step of the way with clients whether they’re across town or across the country. Each client gets a project binder with a detailed flow chart, timelines, and budgets.
That focus on customer satisfaction yields an impressive 86% repeat and referral rate, which Hodgin juices with regular follow-ups and door hangers, with flashdrives about the company instead of brochures.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that in a community known for its Shakespeare Festival, Hodgin is also a semi-professional jazz musician and leader of the Rouge World Ensemble’s bass section. If that weren’t enough, he also donates to the local Habitat for Humanity and is working with the local schools on a $500 construction apprenticeship scholarship. “It’s basically being part of the community,” he says. “All this stuff is rewarding and part of a bigger picture of being in this industry and giving back. One kid with $500 of tools is not going to solve our labor shortage, but it’s one measurable step we can take.”