Steve Crowdus, president of Crowdus Custom Homes & Remodeling, Ballwin, Mo., often is told by his clients that he’d make a great counselor. Crowdus considers this the ultimate compliment because he focuses on building strong relationships. “I utilize a relational management and selling style that places full attention on the customer. I listen well and respond well; in responding, I reflect the customer’s wants, needs and desires,” he says. “Any successful business makes every effort to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but we take this to every imaginable level. No detail is left unaddressed. No question is left unanswered.”
Crowdus’ relationship-centric style may explain why he has worked with many of the same subcontractors for 14 of the 17 years his company has been in business. It also may be the reason he tends to garner exceptional referrals. One of his referrals became the Gold winner in the Finished Basement category of the 2010 Master Design Awards. The 10-year-old home built in Kirkwood, Mo., an affluent suburb of St. Louis, spares few details on the first and second floors, but the basement obviously was an afterthought. “The basement entrance was a common drywall stairwell opening to a white-box finish with exposed painted steel columns with a dropped ceiling,” Crowdus remembers. “It was a beautiful home with a less than desirable basement finish.”
Crowdus set to work getting to know his new clients to determine how they envisioned their finished basement. The result is a 1,460-square-foot entertainment area, featuring a bar that replicates the homeowners’ favorite local tavern, a gaming area for their kids, billiards space and gym with a dry-steam sauna. The basement resembles the homeowners’ beloved Telluride, Colo., condominium, down to the stone fireplace and wood trim. This remarkable transformation, however, couldn’t have been accomplished if the homeowners hadn’t put complete trust in Crowdus and his team.
The Marriage Model
“With me, the design/build process is a journey of discovery,” Crowdus explains. “The process requires some patience as I get to know the client. I really want their project to reflect who they are, and the only way we’re going to get there is if I really get to know them. I actually use the model of a good marriage to create a good relationship with them, resulting in trust and a great building experience.”
Crowdus intimately gets to know his customers, from the books they read, the entertainment they enjoy and the kinds of food they like. He begins building the relationship like any remodeler would—by interviewing his clients about the primary use of their space. However, Crowdus’ line of questioning often leads him into other aspects of his clients’ lives. “Sometimes people will squint at me and ask why something matters, but it does matter because it’s all about them,” he says.
The Kirkwood clients wanted to use their basement to entertain a large network of friends and family. “I asked how much of their entertaining involves food and drink,” Crowdus explains. “This couple typically entertains with refreshments. Then the next significant question is how to manage refreshments. Would they prefer a walk-up or walk-behind bar? Is their entertaining generally in large or small group settings? Are sight and sound, like watching movies or sports, a significant part of a gathering?”
By asking lots of questions, Crowdus uncovered the Kirkwood couple liked the idea of sitting at a bar, and they have a favorite tavern in their neighborhood. To determine what attracts the couple to this particular tavern, Crowdus visited it. “I interviewed the owner. I wanted to hear about the personality of the bar and learn about the patrons. The bar owner thought I was nuts, but it’s all about understanding who my client is. If getting to know the clients requires me to go where they go and visit what they visit, that’s what I do.”