Former engineer finds success with a career change in home remodeling
DreamMaker™ Bath & Kitchen franchisee learns that engineers make great remodelers
An interesting aspect about the group of entrepreneurs who have become DreamMaker™ Bath & Kitchen franchisees is the fact that many of them come from engineering backgrounds. It seems that there is something about their career experience that makes engineers great remodelers. One such person is South Ogden, UT, franchisee Steve Coombs. We recently sat down with Steve to find out how his engineering background helped him in his remodeling career.
What exactly were you doing before you decided to join DreamMaker™?
I started with a career in engineering and marketing for a fairly large corporation, specializing in environmental issues, water, wastewater treatment, that kind of stuff. I was involved with the design, manufacture and marketing of major municipal and industrial wastewater treatment products and services and other biological services. I did that for 20 years, and then I took an opportunity to get out of corporate America. I was a little frustrated with things, so I started my own business back in 1999. I gravitated back to an interest I had in college, which was architecture. I started in the architectural engineering field and then switched over into engineering, so I went back to architectural design, mostly building stuff. I worked for a couple of contractors, and was their source of design and production drawings, and then branched out into doing some higher-end residential products.
So, at what point did you decide you wanted to stop doing that and join DreamMaker™?
Well, I didn’t decide to stop. What I looked at doing was trying to diversify into a different market, but similar market. Generally, when new construction is down, remodeling is usually up. I figured I was looking for a way to protect myself against cycles in the building industry and began looking at some options. I had experience with building homes and really didn’t want to do that. There are a lot of home builders out there. It’s just a dog-eat-dog world.
How daunting was it for you to jump into remodeling without having a whole lot of experience in that line of work?
It was a challenge. I had a little experience in construction. I had built my own home just a few years before that. So, it wasn’t completely foreign because I did have some experience in construction and kind of knew what it took, the different processes and so forth. But when I started looking at DreamMaker seriously, I began looking for a partner who could join me. I found a business associate in the community in which I lived, who I’d had an association with for years. I actually had him do some work on my new home when I built that. He was kind of a finish carpenter, did a lot of things. It just so happened that he was interested in looking at other opportunities, so I felt like he could handle the production end of things and I could handle the business part of it. That’s what we did, so it wasn’t so difficult to enter in, knowing that I had a fellow who understood the production side.
How would you say that your engineering skills helped you with your DreamMaker™ venture?
Well, as I worked my way up the ladder in my previous career, I was one of the major executives in the company and was responsible for marketing. I was mainly an executive doing management, assembling teams, managing marketing teams, assembling and managing independent sales representatives to market our products throughout the world. I was involved in strategic decisions, doing a lot of business planning. We were constantly looking for new products, or trying to develop new products, so I was out acquiring companies and stuff like that.
Engineering, in general, is a very detail-oriented type of job.
Yeah, my engineering background has definitely helped me. I understood how to develop a plan, how to work a plan, how to strategize, how to look at business performance indicators, those sorts of things. I felt like that was a benefit.
So, if you were to offer advice to other architects or engineers who are considering joining DreamMaker™, what would you say?
I would express that they ought to have experience in business planning and company management, know how to read a balance sheet, know how to read P&L statements and understand the financial aspects of the business. Also, understand the need for systems and processes that help the business to move forward, so that everybody knows what their role is. DreamMaker™’s systems are great, but you have to follow them if they’re going to work.
In an architectural company, most of them are small, and they really have to know all aspects of it. They have to know about the business side, but they also have to know details, processes, procedures and systems to be able to get the work done across the various disciplines that are involved. There’s engineering. There’s conceptualizing projects. There’s the actual detailing, the production drawings, knowing the codes, understanding all of that.
What would you say the biggest surprise was about your DreamMaker™ experience, or the industry in general, when you jumped in?
I think the marketing aspect. How important it was to brand yourself in your market, how to really get the word out there, how to find qualified leads. Architecturally, there are different local associations for that. You can belong to home builders’ associations and interior design associations.
There are specific publications on the builder side, but on the remodeling side there are not a lot that could really help with marketing. Remodeling is more about building relationships. It’s more getting customers and working your customer list to try and get access to more of their friends and potential customers that way. That’s where DreamMaker™ came in, as far as processes and systems and having advertising materials available. I could get on board with their systems.
Learn more about the DreamMaker™ Bath & Kitchen franchise
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