Focused on the Principles of Quality and Continual Improvement

The numbers never quite tell the full story of great remodeling companies. But, they are often a good starting point. Last year, the 23-plus employees of FBN Construction in Boston collaborated on about 100 jobs that grossed nearly $10 million in revenue. What conveys a fuller picture is to know the ongoing industry, community and business focus of the company’s owner, John DeShazo, the NAHB Remodeler of the Month for March 2008.

Over a 28-year career, he and his partner Bobby Ernst have not only built FBN into a profitable full-service remodeling company with an impeccable reputation in New England, but he has also been a leader in industry associations and in his local community throughout that period. Lately he’s been involved with NAHB at a national level while other members of the FBN team have stepped in to contribute their time to organizations like the American Society of Interior Designers, the Builders Association of Greater Boston and the Boston Society of Architects.

“The great part is that we have split it up among the team,” says DeShazo. “So there are people who are interested in doing things in different areas.”

The professionalism of FBN and its stature as a leading-edge firm among all small businesses — not just within the remodeling industry — says perhaps the most about why DeShazo was selected for this award. Over the past several years, beginning with DeShazo’s involvement in one of the NAHB’s peer-to-peer business improvement groups, the Remodeler 20 Club known as the Parrot Heads, he has put FBN on a path of continual improvement and Total Quality Management. Most recently and most ambitiously, the company embarked on a multiyear business improvement journey designed to lead to the top honor among TQM companies, the Malcomb Baldridge Award. DeShazo says the company’s current focus is on the continual improvement process that is part-and-parcel of quality management, not on the award itself.

“Our goal is not to go for a Baldridge Award. That has not been where we set our sights,” DeShazo explains. “Our focus has been on consistent quality improvement to the point where there might be somebody in this company someday that might take the reins and do it. I can’t imagine it right now, but it may happen. It really takes a concerted effort that is hard for companies to achieve.”

As part of the company’s mission to improve information flow and efficiency, FBN has begun integrating a new comprehensive software program — Sage Timberline — a cross-functional construction management system to pull together accounting, estimating, procurement, and production management for streamlined, single-source control. 

FBN is also breaking down the traditional small company hierarchal organizational model into a company of teams, to better respond to changing market forces and improve customer service. These include divisions set up to handle: 1) time-and-materials remodeling — high-end work with an on-site lead carpenter, 2) custom-managed general contracting, fixed price remodeling work, 3) small services responsible for high quality smaller projects ranging from handyman size up to $50,000, and, 4) landscape construction services.

“We work in teams very well, but we really didn’t have any process to it,” says DeShazo. “And one of the things that we really didn’t understand was how many questions there would be. One question creates 100 questions. Eventually, we realized that we found tremendous value spending time with our teams ­from the field staff to upper management — as single voters solving problems. It has been immensely rewarding. It is really in its infancy. But you can tell that it is working and you just know that it is going to get better and better. It is a great way to run the company and to get decisions made. It is always way more valuable than you expect it to be.”

Fast Facts about John DeShazo, CGR, GMB, CAPS

  • Company: FBN Construction
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Years in business: 28
  • 2007 revenue: approximately $10 million
  • Industry involvement: President of the Builders Association of Greater Boston (BAGB); chairman of BAGB Remodelers Council; national alternate for the NAHB Board of Directors. FBN provides labor and resources to Remodeling Together Boston. (The 2007 team efforts were recognized with a 2007 PRISM Gold Award.) FBN has eight years of involvement with a NAHB Remodelers 20 Group.
  • Community inolvement: Boston Ronald McDonald House; Lupus Foundation of New England; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Massachusetts General Hospital; Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation
  • Industry awards: 1998 Remodeler of the Year (BAGB) 2002 Remodeler of the Year (HBAM) 2005 Remodeler of the Year (BAGB) and 2005 Builder of the Year (BAGB)