A Great Place to Work

Howard Chermak, CGR, president of Chermak Construction, Inc., instills a level of caring in his company that carries through from office employees to field employees to clients. Chermak has created a vision team and implemented a company-wide bonus system to make his company successful. It’s this level of professionalism that has won Chermak Construction recognition as one of the best places to work in Washington state and makes Howard Chermak July’s Remodeler of the Month.

“What we have is a connection,” explains Chermak. “That is, we don’t have office employees fighting with field employees fighting with customers. We all work together to accomplish the goal of remodeling.”

Chermak Construction is a full-service remodeler. It takes on any type of project that is called in for a residence, and it doesn’t turn down a project for size or complexity. Chermak has a handyman service that takes care of smaller dollar projects and a design/build arm, because an important part of Chermak’s business is kitchens, baths and small additions.

“We try to cover anything that a customer would need in improving his house,” says Chermak.

Chermak prides itself on the customer connection. The connection from the beginning phone call and having one person in charge all the way through the project really helps them with customer service. The company also requires weekly meetings with the customer to discuss where the project is and make the customer as much apart of the project as the people working on it.

“Our best business practice is making sure we are connected, sharing information and attending to anything else that the customer may need,” adds Chermak.

In 2007, Chermak also implemented a company wide bonus system to keep bringing the company together. He sets goals for the company at the beginning of the year when he writes a yearly business plan. For this he gets input from multiple people in the company for what they want to do and then sets goals for profitability. Each quarter, if the goals are met, Chermak shares the profitability with everyone in the company with a bonus equal to 40 hours of pay. At the final bonus round, at the end of the year, Chermak really looks at individuals to see who has gone above and beyond and awards bonuses on merit at that time.

“The bonus system is not set for individual goals,” explains Chermak. “So in other words we don’t encourage saving money and cutting corners in the usual manner. We decide to do a job in the best way that we know how, and when we get done we’ll all share in the good fortune of the company and so will our customers because they get a better product that way.”

Chermak has also formed a 10-person vision team of employees to help reduce the responsibilities of him and his wife, who acts as administrator for the company. The purpose of the vision team is to plan for company growth, create a disaster plan if something were to happen to Chermak and also create an eventual succession plan. The result has been positively enhanced dynamics in the company, including greater creativity, improved systems and more efficiency.

Chermak and his wife have also decided to use their home to model the work that Chermak Construction does. They are currently building a substantial remodel of their home to become a selling tool for the sales staff.

“We have six or seven sales- people in here at any given time,” says Chermak. “Sometimes clients don’t want to show their homes or we don’t want to show them to potential clients or are limited on when we can show them. So if we use our own house as a model home, we can set aside times when it can be shown and it is a much easier concept.”

For Chermak, being a part of the NAHB brings to mind the word “professionalism” but he looks at it in two different ways. No. 1: The members are professional or they wouldn’t have joined, and they have an interest in promoting themselves as professionals. No. 2: He also sees the professionalism that comes out of the organization.

“It’s not just the membership, but the organization itself is professional in the way that it handles itself,” explains Chermak. “Legislatively, I think we’re miles ahead of other organizations based on what we try to do on a national level down to a local level. That’s why I look at professionalism as the biggest thing. It provides education for me.”

Fast Facts About Howard chermak, CGR:

  • Company name: Chermak Construction, Inc.
  • Location: Edmonds, Wash.
  • Year founded: 1980
  • Number of employees: 37
  • Industry involvement: Member of NAHB since 1988; currently president of the Master Builder’s Association of King & Snohomish Counties Remodeler’s Council; past co-chair of the Remodeled Homes Tour for MBA; 2007 Top 500 Remodeler