Prior to launching their company in 1996, Roone Unger, Mary Battle and Bitsy Lee worked together at a privately held lumber and millwork supply firm in Atlanta. When the company was purchased by a publicly traded corporation, they felt the timing was right to branch out on their own. They chose to offer vinyl siding installation services to production home builders.
Builders Exterior Design, as the company was originally called, thrived during a robust period of production home building in the region. Almost immediately, however, many of their construction industry contacts began providing leads for exterior replacement jobs. Today, the company, Exovations of Atlanta, bills approximately $12 million annually, 35 percent of which is exterior replacements in roofing, siding, windows and decks.
Next month the firm will take the giant step of offering Exovations franchises in other parts of Georgia and the Southeastern United States The reason for the big step, says Roone Unger, is the firm feels confident that it has developed a winning brand with the systems and processes to back it up.
“The specialty contractor has really never been recognized,” says Unger. “We feel like that is what we are doing. We are changing that. We want to expand it to other markets.”
Another part of the desire to franchise have been the investment the company has made in branding its name throughout the Atlanta metro area. Radio, TV and other marketing has been regional from the beginning. With 2 million people living in a dozen far-flung counties, their current service area is suboptimal.
“If we had it to do over again, we probably would have chosen only the ‘northern crescent’ for our advertising and service area,” explains Unger, referring to a swath of fast-growing suburbs north of Atlanta.
A Low-Pressure, Full-Service Approach
Exovations differs from the typical exterior replacement firm in several important ways. First, the company has taken a holistic approach to the exterior needs of the entire house. To that end they pitch their prospects on a 12-point inspection process that “helps customers uncover which areas of their home’s exterior are of highest need and priority,” says Mary Battle, who acts as the company spokesperson in all advertisements.
“Starting with the front door, we inspect 12 areas of the home for proper product performance, condition and aesthetics,” says Battle. “We also learn the age of the home and the homeowners’ future plans, which allows us to choose the perfect solution for that home’s exterior needs.”
The Exovations 12-point inspection includes: 1.) front door and trim, 2.) windows, 3.) siding, 4.) overhangs 5.) roofing, 6.) gutter system and protection, 7.) garage doors and trim, 8.) all other entry doors; 9.) chimney accessories, 10.) basement walls/foundations, 11.) decks, 12.) decorative architectural accessories, which include window and door pediments, columns, shutters, etc.
The second point of differentiation is in selling. Like most specialty remodeling firms, company representatives do full presentations in the home, but they don’t push the one-call closing.
Unger says that 10 to 20 percent of their business is closed on the first appointment, but they don’t place a premium on getting the business that day.
“Our people are trained to ask for the business,” says Battle. “We just don’t stay there until you have to call the police to get us out of there. We think that we are going to meet with people with whom we want to do business. And we’d like to be able to hold our heads up high and look them in the eye the next time we see them.”
A Marquee Project
Of the 400-plus builder and exterior remodeling projects Exovations completed last year, none has garnered as much favorable attention as the total exterior remodel of a ranch home in Cumming, Ga. on Lake Lanier. The project won a CotY Award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. It won a Chrysalis Award. And it won a Master Design Award for Best Exterior Renovation from Qualified Remodeler magazine.