Approximately 18 months ago, Schroeder Design/Build of Fairfax, Va. made an important decision that changed the way they did business. When owners Trish and Tom Schroeder began their transition into retirement, the handoff to their son Andrew wasn’t going the way they all had hoped it would. As it turns out, each Schroeder had different ideas and plans of what they wanted the company to be.
“We had come to an impasse of where we wanted the company to go,” says Andrew Schroeder. “We wanted a plan that everyone could agree upon for the future of my parents because at some point they will be backing down. We also needed to plan where I wanted to take the company to make sure that everything we wanted to happen would happen.”
The Schroeders started out by deciding to make out five- and ten-year strategic plans with a third party and hired a coach to help out as well. Because the Schroeders were all owners in the company, they didn’t have bosses. In hiring a coach to facilitate meetings and keep things rolling, a lot of the infighting subsided and the company was able to move forward.
“The point of hiring a coach was to make sure that everything we wanted to do was on track and that we were going down the right path,” says Schroeder. “The main thing was accountability because it’s hard to be accountable to a family member. I’m second generation in the company, so anything that I needed, my parents were having a hard time being accountable to me.”
Schroeder Design/Build was able to find Charles Botwright, financial manager for Comcast, to be the coach they needed to succeed. Botwright’s background in finances, the way he approaches tasks and facilitates meetings as a mentor, was just what this trio needed to make sure they weren’t butting heads. As their coach, Botwright sets the agenda for their biweekly meetings and even gives everyone homework.
“He brings an element that we can’t bring to the table, a different perspective than what we see in our daily activities,” says Schroeder.
The main reason Schroeder Desing/Build decided to bring in a coach was for efficiency. Wanting to maximize profits and minimize turnover, their first couple of meetings with Botwright were fact finding missions. This involved number crunching, pulling out reports and data mining on different marketing schemes. With this information they could better understand their position and proceed from there.
“We started pretty basic,” says Schroeder. “We didn’t have job descriptions or organizational charts and that was a lot of the initial homework that was given to us to start to organize ourselves.”
Currently Schroeder Design/Build is looking to take the company to the next step. It’s looking to hire key managers so that Trish and Tom Schroeder won’t be involved in day-to-day activities and fall into a more general manager role. It is also looking at buying property to build a new office and create a showroom for suppliers to have more power over the whole process.
Checking off items on its strategic plan and looking how it accomplished them are paying off for the company. Schroeder indicated that the true test it’s working is peace of mind that you know where you’re heading and you feel you have a direction. When Schroeder Design/Build began this process, they ranked their company a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, but now, with the help of Botwright, they see themselves in a much better position — an 8.
“You just have to dip into your social network and see who’s out there, but you have to be open and willing to make changes, do homework and be accountable, which is one of the hardest parts,” says Andrew Schroeder. “A lot of remodelers have been working for themselves so long they have a hard time reporting to somebody, and being accountable can be really difficult for a lot of people.”