James Kaczman/rappart.com

Last spring Brian Altmann, president of Dutchess Building Specialists (DBS), in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., dropped by the offices of The Brothers That Just Do Gutters with a presentation book and a proposal. The owner of DBS, a full-service remodeling company, wanted to sign Brothers on for its Partners Plus program.

How It Works

Trade contractors and vendors that DBS regularly works with were invited to join the program for dues of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per year, which would help to fund a remodeling seminar series the company holds. DBS would also regularly spotlight those same trades and suppliers on its website and in its e-newsletter.

In addition, the company would continue to recommend trades to clients for service jobs and other work. Altmann says it wasn’t just a matter of taking their money and silently spending it on his company’s marketing. The idea was “a collaborative effort of customer service” in which the more business DBS gets, the more business its trade contractors and suppliers get. “I went to them and said: I’d like you to put a little bit into this so we can bring even more clients to you and to me.”

Offset Marketing Costs

Ultimately, all 10 subcontractors and suppliers that Altmann approached signed on. With the economy still slow, trade contractors see advantages in actively collaborating with a general contractor so all can get more business.

The idea is a "collaborative effort of customer service." 

“He presented the idea of trying to put together a team for his clients,” Brothers That Just Do Gutters co-owner Ryan Parsons says. “What it comes down to is: if he lands a remodel, it means all 10 or 12 of his subs just got work.” Parsons says that Brothers has “a steady stream” of DBS jobs on its schedule and would like to see more.

Kevin Etts, owner of K Etts Plumbing & Heating, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., says that not only does he do a lot of work on DBS jobs — “30% to 40% of our work is subcontracting” — but DBS remodeling customers, at that company’s suggestion, often call him later for service work.

Guaranteed Results

Altmann says he’d been thinking about launching Partners Plus for four years, but the continuing slow economy made the matter more urgent. He sought to build on the company’s reputation with clients and to extend that goodwill toward the companies DBS does business with, some of which he has worked with for 25 years.

Not only would creating a program help leverage some of the costs of sponsoring, for example, a seminar series that costs several thousand dollars to promote, but it would also result in a bimonthly forum where member companies could meet to discuss specific jobs and general business conditions.

Altmann points out that many trade contractors, by virtue of what they do, aren’t set up to generate leads, whereas his company is spending a larger portion of its revenue on marketing than ever. “If [trade contractors] spent $2,000 on marketing,” Altmann says, “they might take out an ad and get one call. If they put it with DBS, they might get 25 clients this year.” He says that Partners Plus will produce “guaranteed results” for participants.

One condition necessary to make a program like Partners Plus work is that the general contractor manages its jobs and its clients well — which the trade contractors who joined Partners Plus say DBS does and always has done.

Ron Foster, owner of Foster Flooring, says he had no hesitation about joining the program as a display of “loyalty and solidarity” and for the work DBS brings his floor-covering company — typically on additions — but also because DBS manages its jobs well. “The floor guy is the last one in, and on DBS jobs everything is empty, clear, and the customers know exactly what to expect from us at every step.”

—Jim Cory is editor ofREPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR a sister publication of REMODELING.