Coronavirus (COVID-19) & The Outdoor Living Industry

A Resource Guide by NADRA.org

We have written and re-written a number of letters to address how COVID-19 is affecting our industry. And the next day things change so drastically, we scratch that letter and start again. Perhaps you’ve found yourself doing the same thing in your business!

So here we are. 

Grocery stores are ransacked. Toilet paper is being rationed by armed guards inside your local Walmart. Schools are empty. Churches forced to close their doors. Sports are cancelled, and parks are closed. Just 3 weeks ago we were sitting on our deck here at NADRA HQ planning an official education and training tour. First stop had been Minnesota. A lot can change in 3 weeks. 

For some, fear is brewing as this pandemic continues to change everything about the way we live day to day life. For others, it may be frustration or even anger at how something is, or isn’t being handled locally.

How will you choose to react to these changes? 

Will you ignore the shut downs, but keep a safe distance from your crew and home owners and continue to build? How will you handle permits and approvals? Are you a lumber yard offering online ordering, or curbside service…or maybe restricting deliveries? Maybe you don’t have a choice and you have to put your business on hold.

Try to remain positive:

Ask yourself this: What is everyone doing at home? Families are cleaning and purging out their closets and garages. They are spending time together. There’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and use this forced stop, as a chance to become better in some areas. They are worried, but they are also making the best of a bad situation. 

What is the best part of this industry? We’ll tell you. Hands down, the best part about our industry is that we provide a space for families to spend time together. A place to play outside. To share a meal and a beer, play a game, jump in the pool, or light a fire on a cool night. 

The best thing you can do right now is to build on the momentum of spending time together. Remind your fans, past clients and customers that this time we are spending together shouldn’t go away in 30 days, 60 days, 90 days…. Schedule conference calls or virtual meetings. Have your client FaceTime/Zoom/Skype while you take measurements outside of their house. 

Many are keeping a distance, while embracing togetherness. Focus on that!

What you can you lean on NADRA for?

We are working on partnering with a couple programs we feel will help make a difference in the way we all do business. Programs to assist you with virtual meetings. One-on-one and group settings. We are also looking into a tried and true credit program for you to offer to your customers, which may be helpful for clients who perhaps overspent on TP…or who may have missed a few paychecks, but still want to take advantage of this season’s construction schedule. This is a program that we trust and have even used ourselves. More details are forthcoming.

We’ve compiled an extensive list of links and resources that are worth reviewing. Perhaps there will be an idea that you can use to either minimize the negative impact for your business- or help you grow as we move through these challenging times. If you have information you feel we should include in this resource guide, please send links to Info@NADRA.org.

Above all, please remember that we’re here for you! If we can help in any way…please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are your industry’s association. We are also real people, who love and value you, and want to do anything we can to help you survive, and then thrive!

List Of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Industry – Related Updates from our members, partners and friends: (all in one place, updated regularly):

Business Resources: 

Mr. Rogers’ Mom had the right idea; “look for the helpers”: 

Deck Builders: 2 Ways to Maximize Efficiency with Fence Quarter

Conventional wooden deck railing installation methods are slow, requiring meticulous measurement and painstaking work. Each baluster is installed one at a time. Depending on the length of the deck and method of baluster attachment, railing installation can literally take days. Factoring in paint or staining time, deck railing installation can extend the deck-building process by a week or more. 

Time is money. If you’re a deck builder, you know better than anyone that use of time-saving materials means more money in your pocket. Fence Quarter provides everything you need to shave days off of your deck construction. 

1. Save Time With the Deck Railing Insert

Why install one baluster at a time when you can install huge sections of railing all at once? Fence Quarter’s deck railing inserts come pre-assembled from top quality lumber. You make the frame, we send the baluster insert. Each insert can be ordered in a custom size, ready to install on-site, or your carpenter can cut the sub rail ends upon arrival. Pre-primed and pre-painting services are available. Once the wood railing is in place, installation takes about an hour.

Deck railing inserts save countless hours, enabling you to move onto the next project. 

2. Skip the Measuring 

Fence Quarter’s MEASURE NOT is a pre-made insert that makes building rail frames easy and fast. To use, butt the MEASURE NOT to the underside of the attached main rail and clamp to each post in the Infill section. This enables you to create perfectly-sized main rail frames without worry of improper measurement. MEASURE NOT comes in three sizes, including 30.5″, 31.5″ and 32″. The MEASURE NOT is also available for stair risers. 

Contact Fence Quarter

Fence Quarter makes building a deck rail easy and fast. To get started installing natural wood railings in all of your deck building projects, contact Fence Quarter to place an order today. 

A Simple Recipe For Contractors Part Two:

Referrals, Websites, and Social Media, By: Bobby Parks

In part one  of “A Recipe For Contractors” I shared views on the importance of a contractor’s building philosophy, choice of project deliveries, and messaging.  In this second segment, I’ll share my thoughts on additional ingredients with referrals, websites, and social media. It’s a combination of what I did as a former contractor and what I’d be doing in today’s market.

Prior to entering the business I had no sales or marketing experience, but yet I was able to sell and build a lot of projects with an emphasis on margin growth versus traditional production growth. It involved an effort of maintaining an awareness of what was going on in my market, but also what was not being done and where I could gain an edge. It was an effort to help set the trend instead of following it. For me, it was about laying simple but effective groundwork and creating the layers of credibility with a business recipe that allowed for success. This included implementing a strategy that provided leads through a combination of a website, referrals, and later utilizing social media. 

Leads Equal Opportunity 

The upside potential for contractors is directly affected by leads generated, the profit contained in each job, and production capability. The better the lead, the better the opportunity.  It’s also a numbers game involving a balance of quantity and quality of leads along with closing ratios. Although some brag about high closing ratios, for design-build contractors this can be a bad thing in that you’re likely leaving money on the table. It also comes down to production as most contractors have a certain “buildout capacity” that’s based on their labor availability. No matter how much they sell they can only deliver so many jobs in a year’s time. Depending on how well these projects are priced from a profitability aspect determines how well they do each year. Some stay busy, some make wages, and some are operating profitable businesses. 

Referrals, Website, or Social Media?

When it comes to customer leads and jobs sold, what is your best source? Website, social media, referrals, or another source? Of the first three, referrals are typically the best quality because they’re coming from someone that you’ve already satisfied that provides an actual testimonial referral to a friend or coworker. The fact that you’ve proven yourself to this past customer means this referral carries more weight than any other source. This provides you credibility going in and lowers the sales resistance walls that most prospects have. It also raises the prospects confidence level in you earlier in the game. To an extent it can lessen the depth of this potential customer’s due diligence efforts if they trust the person that referred you as they consider part of that process already completed. On occasion you may be their only proposal. The closing ratio is generally higher so from a lead quality aspect, all of us prefer good referrals over any other lead type.

Good and Bad Referrals

The good referrals come from past customers that you charged in a way that provided good profit margins. These customers communicate to the new prospect that although they paid a premium they consider it a sound value investment. They verify that the quality of the project and the delivery experience made it worth the price. This new prospect understands they’re going to have to pay so they’re not expecting any type of discounted deal therefore allowing you the potential profits you should be striving for.  

The bad referrals come from those where you lowballed a price and profit was limited. Some contractors who count on referrals only may have several quotes out there and they need a job to move to. They have to keep people busy and cash flowing. In order to assure they’re not going to come to a stop they contact the prospects with quotes and offer a discounted deal. This means that not only will you not be profitable on this project but the referrals that come from this customer won’t allow for good profit as well. If this  customer refers you they’re likely to communicate that the contractor works cheap and they should call them. This new prospect expects a deal same as the first so there’s no upside potential for profit. It’s another job you have to give a deal on and the process repeats itself. 

Referrals Only Can Limit Upside Potential 

Even with good referrals your companies profits can be limited if you work off “referrals only”.

On average, most organized contracting businesses that produce significant volume get 30% of their leads and jobs from referrals. This means that 70% of the leads and jobs come from other sources most of which are website or internet based. It also means that those working off referrals only are working off a fraction of the lead and quote opportunities compared to those with effective websites and internet presence. Because the ones with websites have this lead surplus they can afford to quote at higher margins and work off a lower sales closing ratio compared to the referral only leads. If you’re running referrals only you have to have a higher closing ratio as opportunities are limited by two thirds or more. Because the opportunities are limited the built in margin is likely to be lower.

The effectiveness of referrals can depend on the types of projects you deliver. For example as discussed in “Part One” your building philosophy regarding the kinds of jobs you’re known for factors in. If they’re lower end wood deck jobs that have weathered, your effective referral rate weathers with them. Whereas higher end projects with better performing materials that stand the test of time allow for longer referrals periods. 

Of course there is an argument over quality versus quantity which applies here but counting on the phone to ring and run a business by “word of mouth” from referrals creates an unpredictable aspect of reliable leads. No doubt many operate this way and many “stay busy” while some actually hit good profit numbers. A lot depends on your desired volume and the amount of buildout capacity you have.

Website Provides More Opportunities 

A website is the gateway and billboard for a company that communicates what you do and the types of projects you deliver. It’s your online headquarters that allows a display and communications of everything your company is about.  If done properly it establishes a strong layer of credibility prior to having contact with a prospect. Because online searches have become a standard process for today’s customers, without one you can be overlooked and unknown. Again, it’s a numbers game that funnels potential customers your way that far exceeds the numbers referrals only bring. 

My website for my former company focused  on two main aspects which were first impressions created by photos and simple messaging. The interior behind the scenes aspect was on optimization. It’s kind of like looking at a sleek looking race car. As good as it looks it’s what’s under the hood that makes it competitive. So regardless of your company size its important that most invest in one and that you use a professional to build and manage it.  You’ll compete with others that do so to try and go cheap or manage this yourself will likely result in an ineffective site that won’t have potential to accomplish the objectives. 

I Stay Busy and Don’t Need a Website

In my opinion many contractors that “stay busy” and don’t see the need to have a website are missing out. Why not provide yourself more leads that allow you to quote at higher prices? Why not add the layers of credibility that separate you from others? When you’re quoting from word of mouth only,  you have to be careful with the price tag as you could exhaust all opportunities and not have enough work on the board. If you have a surplus of leads that allows you to add to the price tag you have a better chance of filling up your job schedule with more profitable jobs. Because you couldn’t build out everything you quote, you can afford to take 2 out of 10 or less compared to having to hit one or two out of three from referrals. It more than covers your website investment as well as adding to your annual earnings. It does require an efficiency in terms of creating quotes which I’ll cover in a future piece.  

There are always exceptions and it is true for some that realize their value, charge good margins and fill their job board with profitable jobs. But in many cases this approach imposes a limitation on upside potential. There’s also the time aspect of being able to run more leads and provide proposals. If you’re working within the crew every day, how do you find time to do both? I’ll cover this in more depth in another piece but a lot has to do with creating a quick quote system so you avoid doing takeoffs to quote every job. It requires models for expedited pricing that allows you to do several quotes in the same time period it may take to do one. This is a necessity to operate efficiently. 

Social Media

Although FB and Instagram can produce leads and can show up in searches, in my opinion these serve more as an expanded internet presence providing social media content and secondary branding purposes. They work in conjunction with a website which is the foundation and mothership for localized leads and prospects. Social media is an enhancement tool and pathway to a site and not the same as having a truly optimized website that shows up in local searches that displays your work and messaging. It’s more likely your peers and followers who are spread out across the rest of the world will see you on the social media platforms but it’s the website that provides you a set up that communicates with local prospects. It’s where your messaging and galleries are.  FB and IG can produce feathers in your cap and add another layer of credibility. It’s a way to directly communicate with others but at the end of the day it’s the prospects in your market that you must connect with and illustrate what your company is about.  

Many businesses such as millworks, subcontractors, and other trades can be connected with builders and remodelers as FB and IG serve as a networking portal. It’s an advertising platform within the building community. It’s like a national builders show compared to a local home show. For the most part they have different audiences. I’m sure some do obtain work through these outlets but counting on social media alone is likely to limit the upside potential. To grow and be selective with jobs and attach a premium price tag, the percentages are going to favor a website.

Work With a Blended Approach

There are exceptions for every aspect here. Some contractors can hit their numbers and maximize profit off referrals only. Some may actually do the same with only a social media presence. A lot depends on the volume required and an individual’s effort in each area,  but in most cases these two aspects alone won’t provide the necessary upside opportunities. Neither replaces an effective website that allows for a better sharing of messaging and photos with local search advantages. Even if you’re a one crew operation with limited buildout capacity you can benefit. It’s not about selling more but more about filling up your job board with more profitable jobs and providing the necessary opportunities to accomplish this. It’s about not operating on hope and prayer. Most will benefit from a balanced three pronged strategy because one day the referral leads that have always seemed to arrive in time to keep you busy may slow to a point that even staying busy is a challenge. Having this balanced plan will produce more opportunities with better predictability providing for a smoother operation and better profits. It’s an investment that some may believe they can’t afford but I would argue you can’t afford not to. It’s an investment in your business and should be part of the plan. For me it was a key ingredient of my recipe. 

Bobby Parks / Instagram: @Bobbyparks007

Copyright Bobby Parks – March 11th, 2020


NADRA Code Update

March 11, 2020: ASCE-7 Subcommittee meeting on Minimum Design Loads:

By: Mark Guthrie, NADRA Code Committee

Members of NADRA’s Code Committee participated in a call held last Wednesday by the ASCE-7 Subcommittee on Minimum Design Loads.  We were there due to a proposal under consideration by this influential group of engineers to add a new load requirement to deck boards. 

The proponent was looking to mandate at first a 300 then a 250-pound concentrated load requirement on deck boards based primarily on anecdotal evidence of board failures and the increase in average weight of our population.  We feel that this change, if allowed to pass, would result in the tightening of spans between joists, the reformulation and retesting of currently well performing composite and vinyl deck boards at a substantial increase in cost for the customer with little or no appreciable increase in safety. 

ASCE respectfully allowed us to speak of our opposition, with much of our testimony spent educating the group on the already strict performance requirements of ASTM D-7032.  Some of our time was also spent drawing parallels between this proposed change and the lateral load connectors that were forced into code lacking the sufficient facts or data to support them, only to be watered down in future code and in many cases unenforced. 

Ultimately, the Subcommittee voted 8-0 in favor but two members abstained in lieu of more study.  In the near future, this item will go to the Main Committee of ASCE for a vote.  We will be continuing to be a presence within the process make our opposition known in the hopes that the best and most fact based standards will result.                       

Outdoor Shower Kits Offered by RDI

Galloway, NJ – March 4, 2020 – RDI, a leading manufacturer of railing and outdoor living products, offers customers an easy solution for creating an outdoor oasis with their Outdoor Shower Kits. Outdoor showers are a hot home feature these days. This back-to-nature haven is especially smart for those who have a pool or live by a beach or lake, and is also handy for rinsing off a dog or muddy tools after gardening.

Sold un-assembled, Barrette’s vinyl shower kits come with all the hardware needed, are easy to install and will complement any home exterior. Posts install over wooden 4” x 4” posts for a strong and secure installation. With multiple kit options to choose from, you can create the design and configuration that suits the outdoor lifestyle and landscaping needs of your customer. 

Choose the basic enclosure kit with two walls or a combo kit with a gate door. Outdoor Shower Kits are made from low-maintenance vinyl that is easy to clean, durable and long lasting. A lifetime limited warranty ensures your outdoor shower will stand the test of time.

According to Patrick Ianni, Barrette’s Director of Product Management, “An outdoor shower is the perfect affordable backyard luxury, no matter your style or budget, and is as accessible as it is desirable. It will add to your patio or yard, enhance the beauty of your landscaping, while adding value to your home.”

About RDI:

RDI is a leading manufacturer of durable, low-maintenance and code compliant railing and outdoor living products. RDI provides solutions that feature style, performance, durability and safety. Offering classic, traditional and modern designs in a wide variety of materials and options including composite, vinyl, aluminum and steel. As the Pro Dealer arm of Barrette Outdoor Living, RDI services 2-step distributors and lumber dealers nationwide. For more information, please visit www.rdirail.com.

For further information, please contact:

Maureen Loughead
Associate Channel Marketer
Barrette Outdoor Living
Maureen.Loughead@us.ebarrette.com
www.rdirail.com
609-593-5635

Question & Answer with NADRA.org

An on-going series of inquiries from consumers & industry professionals sent to Info@NADRA.org.

Question #1:

“I am planning a deck on the back of my home. I am wondering if I am missing something. 

I want to use 6×6 post and notch them for my beam and rim joist as one, then just carry it up to be my hand rail posts also. Other than maybe cost and the extra work of dealing with the heavier pieces this seems like the way to go but I don’t see anyone doing it. Am I missing something as a non professional as to why this would not work?

Other details: Deck height on one end will reach 36 inches. Total deck size will be about 24 feet along the house and a max of 12 feet out away from the house.”

Answer provided by Glenn Mathewson, NADRA Technical Advisor:

Thank you for reaching out to us for assistance.  The NADRA membership supports the organization to offer commentary to those seeking a better understanding of the deck and railing industry.  The International Residential Code (IRC) is a model code developed by the International Code Council.  Government authorities very often reference this document for the regulation of single family homes, but they often make amendments to change the rules.  The guidance herein is only in regard to the unamended model code, as we are unaware of your locally adopted building code.  The subject of guards may or may not be amended.  have reached out to our advisors to provide you assistance.

What you are proposing is not unusual in anyway and can produce a very sound and beautiful deck and guard.  Being a technical subject, it is important we clarify that you are referring to “guards” and not “handrails”.  Handrails are only the graspable rail found beside stairs and ramps to assist in ascending and descending.  A guard is a feature at the edge of an elevated walking surface meant reduce the likelihood of a fall off the edge.  Presuming you are speaking of a guard, we will continue.

According to the 2018 IRC, guards must be designed to resist a 200 lb load placed at the top of the guard, currently in any direction.  To achieve this design load through testing, an ultimate strength of no less than 2.5 x the load must be resisted.  This is a 500 lb test load.  Research has been done on this load for guard post connections and found that a 4×4 post could not be notched at the point of connection.  No testing occurred on a 6×6.  In the development of the next edition of the IRC, the 2021, much discussion was made by industry professionals on the subject of notched guard posts.  A proposal was submitted and approved for this code, based on the research and engineering analysis, that prohibits the notching of 4×4 posts.  In the discussion for this proposal, 6×6 posts were brought up.  When notched to retain at least 3.5 inches of material in the “flange” it was agreed that notching a 6×6 should not be prohibited by code at this time and without further research.  No code provisions were approved with relation to 6×6 posts.

In the absence of prescriptive design methods or provisions provided by the code, a design professional is necessary to validate structural performance. Therefore, we cannot provide you any definitive answer, as there is not yet an established accepted and generic practice to notching 6×6 guard posts. We can tell you that it can be achieved sufficiently, and is a design seen in the industry.  Here are some things to consider as you make your decision:

  • 1) Determine if there are local design standards required by your local building department.
  • 2) Discuss the design with your local building department.
  • 3) The design of your guard assembly as a whole can have an impact on the load resistance the post to beam connection must resist.  Evaluate this.
  • 4) Notching of material must be done with consideration to any knots, wane, or damage to the member near and at the notch location.
  • 5) Do not overcut your notches with a circular saw, as this equates to a deeper notch.
  • 6) If it is preservative treated lumber, you need to field treat the inside of the notch.  If cedar, you do not.
  • 7) At a minimum, do not leave less than 3.5 inches of material remaining in the untouched portion.

We hope this information will be helpful to you in your project.

A Simple Recipe For Contractors. Part One – Your Building Philosophy, Deliveries, & Messaging

Part One of a Series By Bobby Parks

Why Should a Customer Choose You?

When a prospect accepts proposals from three different contractors why should they choose you? What makes you different or better?  What benefits do you offer that others don’t and what impressions are you making that increase the chances you’ll get the job? What kind of credibility do you reflect and what kind of risk do you represent?  Why would a customer choose you to do the job?

If you’re ranked in the top 50% of contractors in your market the customers decision is  likely based on price. If you’re in the lower 50% you’re probably already on your way out of business. Being in the top half puts you in the “average” category as just one of many. Average efforts provide average returns and will not provide financial stability, business rhythm, or consistent profitability. 

Creating layers of credibility and working to position yourself to be in the top 10- 20% of your market can provide all of these benefits and more. As a member of this category you’re being chosen for reasons other than price. Most can begin to charge 5% to 15% more than they do now once these simple ingredients are added. In this five part series I’ll share the approaches that made the difference for me in how I grew my business with a focus more on margin growth instead of production growth. This is the simple recipe that I utilized while operating in a very competitive Atlanta Georgia market. It’s a recipe for a simplified approach that allows for a smoother operation and can allow you to charge 5%-15% more than many do now. 

Being in the top 10%-20% is not about company size or big fancy jobs. It’s about the quality of a companies’ delivery history, reputation, and capabilities. Its about an established short and long term reputation. Its the perception and image created in a market of who stands out as one of the best and who most would choose if they can afford to use them. It’s those who can illustrate and communicate who and what they are about and back it up with how they perform. It’s for those who want to better themselves and not just go through the motions and be average. 

Simple Approach To Business

Unfortunately a lot of good deck builders and remodelers aren’t making the kind of money they want. Many are able to pay themselves a salary each week but have nothing left beyond that at the end of the year. A 5% to 10% increase can change that significantly by increasing net profits. If you could add $25,000 to $50,000 profit on a $500K year by incorporating simple operational elements to what you’re doing now would you do it? Although many believe its too big a stretch to sale that $20,000 job for $21,000 to $22,000, I assure you its not. This recipe is an alternative way to grow your business from a monetary standpoint without adding to the headcount and production. 

Rising in the rankings doesn’t have to be complicated as there are simple elements that working together move the needle in your favor. It requires a focused approach of fine tuning communications of your image, brand, and reputation in a market. For some it may require an adjustment in their building philosophy in terms of what they offer and how they deliver it. It’s a simple recipe that requires you to work more on your business than within it. 

If You Appear to Be the Same You have to Charge the Same

The key is to not appear to be like everyone else, to create separation from others, to creat excitement with design and options, and to stand out in the right ways.  It’s about creating a scenario where the credibility and confidence levels are extremely high and any associated risk using you is zero. Less risk equals more dollars. 

If you appear to be like everyone else you’re pricing will have to be similar as there’s no justification for it to be higher.  If a prospect is trying to decide who to use for a job and there’s no noticeable separation between contractors it becomes a decision primarily based on price. In their minds the chances for a successful outcome of the project and the risk associated with each of the contractors they’re meeting with are the same so it comes down to who they can hire at the least cost. Competing on cost is a race to the bottom.

Ingredient # 1: Building Philosophy and Messaging

Your building philosophy is your contractor identity and what you as a contractor will be known for. It’s your foundation and the bowl all other influential ingredients are mixed into. It’s the motto of operation that you’ll build from that includes  your style of details, products, and process. Once it’s determined it has to be communicated through messaging and through other ingredients that will be discussed in following articles. It’s your elevator speech of what your company does and stands for. All contractors are builders but if someone ask what your companies about, and you have 30 seconds to explain, what is your answer? It doesn’t have to be complicated, just honest and make sense. But whatever it is, it’s what’s recorded in a prospects mind. Simple messaging is used on websites, and when you’re having that first phone conversation with a potential customer. Its one of the first of two impressions you make with a potential customer.

Mine was: “We don’t build that raw wood stained deck and porch that’s accepted in our market. We combine products that we believe will perform and stand the test of time. We design and build projects that look like true extensions of the home and that we know will reflect well on our reputation for years to come.”  It’s a simple message but it communicated what I wanted heard in that first 30 seconds when I spoke to them or on the website. Other details about the company can be communicated as the process continues.

What Kind of Projects Does Your Company Deliver? 

Quality craftsmanship and customer service have to be a given with any company to even begin to compete. Its like qualifying for a race. You have to achieve this basic milestone before you pursue the checkered flag. Realizing that markets for upside opportunity vary and many contractors are at varying levels of experience or maturity,  the goals should be to improve over time with how you operate and what you deliver. Being progressive and not complacent is required. 

Questions to ask yourself are: Are your past deliveries helping or hurting your reputation? If you build using lower grade materials does your customer experience buyers remorse after a summer or two? If your customer has a dinner party a year or two later with guest viewing your delivery, what kind of impression will it make? Have the joints opened up and has the decking warped and checked up? Has it weathered out and lost that new look? When they ask who built the job, are these guest going to be impressed enough to give you a call or do you get checked off the list of potential contractors they’d be interested in meeting with? Unless  you’ve used material and techniques that stands the test of time and delivered the job to this past customer in a quality manner you’ll never know the conversation occurred. 

Where Do You Rank in Your Market?

You as a contractor have to decide where you can best compete and where your best upside potential is. You have to decide if you want to shoot for ranking in the top 20% of your market or just coast in with the 50% group.  No longer providing the lower grade options for customers is a big first step. If you want cheap you go somewhere else. 

Many never leave their comfort zone but almost all of us need to in order to raise our game and find stability as a business. Otherwise we are just one of many. Higher end details or basic high end standards don’t have to be complicated. The jobs are generally more complex but if you have capability to deliver and price them properly,  they can provide not only better profitability but build a much better reputation. The better the reputation, the easier it is to sell. Part of the trick is for you and your crew members to become use to what is considered custom details to the point they become standard details. And jobs don’t really have to be complicated. Offering simple designs along with combining quality products as a standard and not an option will raise you up in the rankings. 

Easy Doesn’t Pay

I look at it this way: Whether you’re a contractor or an employee the easier a job is to do, the more people that are qualified to do it, so the less it pays. Your job offerings are the same so the types of projects you deliver immediately separate you or make you the same. What you deliver effects margin, reputation, and brand.  Understanding that markets and demand vary, the easier and simpler a project is to deliver, the more contractors have the capability to do it. In most cases these job types offer the least amount of profit compared to a “better and best” approach. You have to decide what you’re building philosophy will be, what you’re comfortable delivering,  and what you want your reputation to be in a given market. Again, Its not about the size of a company but more about the quality of a company. This means a combination of an organized process, using quality materials, good communications, and a professional delivery of projects. 

Can You Really Charge More?

So would a customer really choose you to do the job when you’re at $31k while another contractor seems to be offering a similar size project at $28k?  Would they really pay you 10% more? There are risks associated with any contractor when a customer makes a choice. Often a customer has multiple proposals and it’s the contractor that’s makes the strongest impressions that if price were equal they’d instantly choose.  But price isn’t the same so they have to weigh the investment risk element with contractors and cost. If they’re talking with a contractor that’s low in cost but doesn’t show or communicate a strong delivery history of the job types they want, the risk associated with this contractor factors in. Maybe when its all said and done they might have what they wanted but it could be a nightmare. The customer hopes and would like to think  they can save money with this lower priced contractor, but hope is a risky decision factor when choosing contractors. 

Using a contractor that illustrates multiple layers of credibility with the ingredients that I’ll put forward in the next several pieces removes the risk factor for a customer. Many will not want to gamble and would prefer to make the safe investment with a contractor that they have no doubt will deliver what they want if they’ll spend the $31,000 instead of risking $28,000. What would you do?

Nothing discussed in this series of articles requires a significant amount of your time to implement. Motivation levels vary with contractors so what you do will be determined by your personal makeup. 

If you incorporate the simple ingredients of the recipe many customers will be willing to pay you more. They’ll know that if they go with you, there is no risk and their investment is safe versus taking a chance with a riskier contractor.  The higher the job investment number the more this applies. So yes many will pay you 10% more to remove the risk of a bad investment. But like any good recipe it takes all the ingredients working together to provide the desired results. Stay Tuned.

Bobby Parks / Instagram: @Bobbyparks007

Copyright Bobby Parks – February 25, 2020

RDI’s® Decorative Screen Panels Offer Privacy Solutions

Galloway, NJ – February 24, 2020 – RDI, a leading manufacturer of railing and outdoor living products, offers privacy solutions with Decorative Screen Panels. RDI’s Decorative Screen Panels provide semi-privacy when installed on a deck, patio, or porch, delivering more options for customer’s outdoor living needs. The durable panels are available in an array of on-trend designs, colors and textures that are sure to work with all styles ranging from traditional to organic to modern. 

The Decorative Screen Panels are constructed of weatherproof polypropylene material at twice the thickness of most outdoor lattice. They resist warping, rotting, twisting or splitting and will not discolor or show scratches. The low-maintenance, impact-resistant material will ensure outdoor sheeting remains stable in extreme conditions. In addition, RDI’s Decorative Screen Panels can be painted for complete customization to complement any home project or outdoor environment.

You can also easily enhance the look of a patio or deck with the powder-coated aluminum Decorative Screen Panel Frame Kit. The surface-mountable Frame Kits work with the Decorative Screen Panels and are easily installed up to three panels high, allowing for custom configurations that reflect your personal style. 

New for 2020, and introduced at this year’s NAHB International Builders’ Show, are a Line Post Kit and Corner Post Kit to be used in conjunction with the Decorative Screen Panel Frame Kits. These new products will make it easier to create continuous and corner privacy sections on a deck or patio. 

These architectural panels provide the flexibility and versatility to use them in many custom and creative ways for your customers. They provide decorative beauty while also serving practical purposes. RDI’s Decorative Screen Panels and Frame Kits can be used for a wide range of applications that will enhance both your outdoor and indoor living spaces with color, texture and creative accents, while adding a bit of privacy. 

Mark Brown, Senior Marketing Manager, stated, “With homeowners looking to spend more and more time living and entertaining in their outdoor spaces, there is a higher demand for privacy. We are very pleased to be able to offer attractive privacy solutions for both residential and commercial uses.”

About RDI:

RDI is a leading manufacturer of durable, low-maintenance and code compliant railing and outdoor living products. RDI provides solutions that feature style, performance, durability and safety. Offering classic, traditional and modern designs in a wide variety of materials and options including composite, vinyl, aluminum and steel. As the Pro Dealer arm of Barrette Outdoor Living, RDI services 2-step distributors and lumber dealers nationwide. For more information, please visit www.rdirail.com.

Home Show Season is Here. Are You Ready?

Tips from NADRA.org

March is right around the corner, and that means we’re entering “Home Show Season”. It’s the end of the winter, the early customers are calling and inquiring. Now is our last chance to button-up any policies, procedures, and give our companies one last “spring cleaning” before the rush!

Home Show Tips:

  1. Market the event ahead of time. Ask your family, friends and fans to share a post about the show. It’s human nature to want to help. Your family and friends will want to share your post and tell people about it! If you’re feeling shy about it, offer a free prize to a random fan that shares your post. That way everyone wins!
  2. Pull the crowd into your booth. Try something interactive: Corn hole, giant size connect 4 or jenga.
  3. Two things everyone has a hard time saying “no” to! Hand Sanitizer and Candy. Do yourself a favor and stock up!
  4. Collect Potential Customer Contact information. Grab a fish bowl, use an app, anything! Have your prospects fill out their info and be sure to get permission to contact them. Run a content to entice them to fill it out. Simple ideas might be: $100 gift card to a local pub, Target or big box store gift card, maybe a free lighting package to name a few. Just make sure to give them reason to pass along their contact info.
  5. Ask the crowd to pull out their phones, bring up your social media platforms and follow you. Reward them with some branded promotional merchandise. Who says no to a free Tshirt, stickers, sunglasses or Trucker hat?
  6. Guys. C’mon. Put the phone down! Stand tall, shoulders back, make eye contact and be present. Greet your potential customers. Smile.
  7. Avoid clustering together and having staff discussions. Don’t turn your back to the walk ways. Look approachable.
  8. Wear comfortable shoes!
  9. Don’t dilly dally when it comes to follow up. Follow up right away. Most people can’t remember what they ate for breakfast yesterday! Don’t wait too long before following up. Make it a priority.

Good luck at the show. Be sure to post photos and if you’re feeling up to it, tag your friends at @NADRARocks, or at least use the #NADRARocks hashtag so we can find your home show photos!

Preparing for the busy season ahead. A few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is there any last-minute education to wrap up?
  2. Are all of our vendor agreements in place?
  3. Are your trucks and trailers lettered and in good shape?
  4. Are you displaying the NADRA logo and pledge on your marketing materials? (stand out from the competition!)
  5. Are your business cards printed with updated industry certifications and social media information? Do you have any awards to add to these?
  6. Are you utilizing NADRA’s Deck Safety Month® Marketing Tools?
  7. Do you have marketing pieces ready?
  8. Job site signs in good shape?
  9. Crew T-shirts and hats stocked?
  10. Do you have a good camera for your before and after pictures? Or is this the year to consider adding a drone?
  11. How is the website, email signature, and voicemail greetings?

If you don’t have these things ready, you have time, but that time is now! Go get it done. You’ll feel better prepared, and at the end of the day, you’ll know you did everything you could to be ready for the season.If you’re wondering where to get the best job-site signs, or you’re not sure where to order your T-shirts, don’t forget to reach out to your fellow NADRA members to ask. That’s what we are here for! Ask away. Use NADRA’s social media platforms to ask questions, hop on LinkedIn to start a discussion, Tweet! Instagram seems to be the most active these days. @NADRARocks. Use whatever platform makes it easy for you to ask your question. It’s human nature to want to help. Someone will answer you. Use your NADRA network to better your business. We are here for you. Your NADRA Board of Directors, and Home Office staff are here to help. Feel free to call or email any of us, if we can assist in any way.

We will have more tips coming your way in future issues of your industry brief.

Sincerely,

Your friends at NADRA

Fence Quarter, LLC Announces The Debut of its Carbon Fiber FAIL NOT Hardware System: The First of its King Used in Wood Deck Railings

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2020

LYNNWOOD, WA —Fence Quarter, LLC has done it again with another industry first that is changing the construction industry for the better. The company has launched its patent pending FAIL NOT carbon fiber supplement, a durable piece of hardware that can be incorporated into a wood deck railing for added support. This type of hardware system is especially beneficial for balconies and patios that require additional railing support, such as installations on the first or second floors. 

The Deck Railing Panels provided by Fence Quarter offer a beautiful and easy to install solution for homes of all sizes and styles. Like the company’s patented wood deck railing inserts, the FAIL NOT was inspired by the founding team’s extensive field experience. The team sought to create innovative tools that effectively simplify and streamline the otherwise time-consuming, costly as well as frustrating experiences that many homeowners and construction companies experience when installing, building, and maintaining porches or decks. Like the pre-assembled deck railing inserts, the FAIL NOT is made from the highest quality material, is easy to install, and delivers long-lasting results. 

The FAIL NOT patent pending hardware system is the strongest insert on the market, exceeding Building Code requirements by over 11 times. It is made using carbon fiber and designed to withstand temperatures beyond 120 °F. Like all Fence Quarter products, the FAIL NOT hardware system is designed to be highly functional and aesthetically pleasing. In fact, after installation the only component of the FAIL NOT system that can be seen are the stainless-steel security screws.

Unlike other support systems, the FAIL NOT is uniquely designed so that homeowners can readily remove their deck railing inserts for regular maintenance or for changing to another one of Fence Quarter’s unique designs.  In short, the carbon fiber support system only needs to be installed once, which saves time and reduces costs, while delivering a lower environmental footprint because the carbon fiber is made in the USA from 100 percent recycled materials. 

The FAIL NOT, as well as the entire debut line of Fence Quarter products, is now available for purchase. To learn more, contact Fence Quarter by calling Toll Free 800-205-0128, emailing sales@fencequarter.com, or visiting www.FenceQuarter.com.

About Fence Quarter, LLC
Based in Lynnwood, Washington, Fence Quarter, LLC designs and manufactures innovative tools as well as deck and porch railing inserts. Homeowners, seasoned decking professionals, and contractors can all benefit from the high quality and sustainable products that Fence Quarter delivers. From the patented deck railing infill insert to the FAIL NOT patent pending hardware system, Fence Quarter has a history of designing and selling innovative products that are the first of their kind within the industry. The company is dedicated to creating products that are easy to use, beautiful to behold, and feature high quality craftsmanship. To learn more about the FAIL NOT patent pending hardware system contact a Fence Quarter team member by emailing sales@fencequarter.com, or visiting www.FenceQuarter.com.