Systems, Success and Succession

Anyone who has been involved in the Greater Houston Builders Association or the NAHB Remodelers at a national level over the past few years will have met Bill Shaw. Shaw has been a staple at board meetings, serving in several posts with both organizations. His passion has been mentoring other remodelers, first at the local level, more recently through a program that is in its trial phases at the national level.

Shaw comes by his desire to mentor other remodeling professionals honestly. First, as a member who became interested in the success of his local association, he would often note that prospective remodeler members would show up for one or two meetings and then disappear, never to be heard from again. His idea was to connect with each new attendee and follow up in an organized way to make them feel at home. Secondly, mentoring became important to him because of the impact others had on him and his business at a juncture when he thought he might ditch his remodeling business and do something else.

That moment of truth, says Shaw, came about seven years ago after having pushed, cajoled and willed his business through 19 years of trial and error. A member of the ‘Parrot Heads’ Remodeler 20 peer group, Shaw says he simply “hit a wall”; the company was stuck between $1.5 and $1.8 million in revenues. He had also hit a wall in regard to his will to devote the energy needed to make his business run. “I was burned out,” he says.

It was about that time that he had a revelation in the form of a presentation by a Sandler sales training raining representative. Shaw needed to focus much more on sales and marketing. At the same time, he was also hearing a lot about succession planning and building a company that could be transferred to an able and younger operator. He wanted to build a company with proper systems in place to allow such a transaction to one day be possible.

The first order of business was sales. Shaw says he had to overcome some levels of denial before he realized he was not a natural salesperson. “I had trained to be an engineer and had trained to fly Navy jets, but somehow I had it in my mind that I did not need any sales training in order to sell,” says Shaw.

Next up was marketing. He had observed the success of an outside marketing consulting firm in promoting the Greater Houston Home Builders Association and decided to commit the investment necessary in order to hire the firm to market his company. Committing to sales training and to a program of marketing took a leap of faith, but the previous 19 years had shown him that he needed to try a different, more systematized, approach.

The results have been nothing short of remarkable, says Shaw. Three and a half years ago after assembling an informal board of directors — true experts in everything from finance to human resources — Shaw was able to interview and identify a well qualified young professional who was willing to join the business and buy it over a several year period. His name is Shawn Vacek. Throughout this phase, the company’s new systems and processes have helped the firm grow to $3 million in revenue. And the firm will grow to $3.3 million in 2010.

A systematic approach to marketing has made the difference. In particular, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and a better functioning Web site have helped the firm increase its lead flow dramatically. Over 50 percent of the company’s leads now come through the Web, says Shaw.

Fast Facts about William L. Shaw Jr., CGR, GMB, CGP, CAPS

  • Company: William Shaw & Associates
  • Location: Houston
  • Years in business: 26
  • No. of full-time employees: 7
  • Expected 2010 revenue: $3.3 million

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