Service is Paramount

Douglas Maahs wasn’t always a remodeler. He was in the shoe business for close to 30 years. Looking for a change, he moved to Santa Fe in 1996 and started a part-time, one-man home repair business.

That humble beginning evolved into Honey Do Home Repair and, later, Kitchens and Closets Too, now a $3 million-dollar company that employees more than 30 people and has become, Maahs likes to say, a household word in Santa Fe County.

Maahs makes a careful distinction when he says he’s in the service industry and that his business is remodeling. One of the biggest problems remodeling and repair clients have is getting someone to return a phone call or show up, he notes. “I’ve always said no matter what trade you’re in, you’re always in the service industry if you’re dealing with clients,” he says.
Service, he feels, is the reason he has seen his business mushroom.

“People kept referring us and bringing us bigger and bigger jobs to the point where we do everything from a two-hour minimum job to a quarter-million-dollar makeover,” Maahs comments. The firm still does repairs, but today it also does a significant amount of kitchen and bath remodeling as well as closet systems.

Cabinet Shop Started

In 2002, Maahs started Kitchens & Closets Too, which is a cabinet shop that manufactures and installs kitchen cabinets and closet systems. Depending on the season, the shop may buy cabinet components such as fronts or boxes. “Our closet business just runs away in the summer,” Maahs relates, “but during the winter when things are slower we can also build cabinet boxes in-house, which keeps full employment going in the shop.”

All of the company’s closet systems are custom-made in the shop, however.

Honey Do and Kitchens & Closets Too are complementary businesses, with Honey Do as the employer of record. That way, the company needs only one general liability policy, one workers’ compensation policy, and so on, Maahs explains.”

A general manager runs Kitchens & Closets Too and oversees manufacturing operations, while Maahs oversees sales. Office staff and functions such as bookkeeping, finance and management are shared.

Honey Do’s average job size these days is around $20,000, though Maahs remembers when he was happy to pick up a check for $1,000.

Maahs bills his clients on a time and materials basis. “We do estimates,” he says, “but the one thing I can guarantee my clients is that there will be something [in the job] that we don’t know about, almost without exception.

“We communicate with our clients about what we see happening as it happens, and the change orders will flow accordingly.”

Becoming Involved

Becoming involved in the local National Association of Home Builders Remodelers (NAHBR) was particularly beneficial, Maahs says. “The organization is very active in governmental affairs and in the community. I’ve met so many members of the community because of the association, and it’s really given me a chance to get a different view of what is possible to do out there in the business community.”

In the customer satisfaction area, Maahs doesn’t leave customer surveys. Instead, the office manager calls each of the clients to find out if they’re happy, if the job was done right, and if there was anything they weren’t pleased with.

In addition to its dedication to service, having its own cabinet and storage manufacturing facility as well as a mix of smaller and larger jobs are things that set Honey Do apart from its competitors. The latter allows the firm to maintain a steady level of employment, with the home repair jobs filling in the gaps between larger projects.

“I really think it’s a model that’s being imitated by other companies,” Maahs says.