SACRAMENTO, CA — For Darius Baker, CR, CKBR, design and business success has meant staying close to home. While this may be an unusual approach, it is the precise formula that has enabled Baker, CEO for D&J Kitchens and Baths, Inc., and company CFO and secretary John Scofield, to focus their design/build firm on kitchen and bath remodeling projects while catering to their preferred demographic.
Baker explains: “We discovered a long time ago that we did not like working in the ‘monied’ arena. When clients had more money to spend, [they also seemed] to have more issues. So, we have limited our geographical area to a 15-mile radius from our office. After all, why go further than we have to?”
Even more unusual is that the firm has maintained this approach since its inception in 1990 without a “traditional” showroom. In fact, it was not until 2003 that the firm moved into an established commercial location, Baker notes.
“Since we moved, we have remodeled the interior offices and put together a conference/selection room with one wall filled with door samples and another with base cabinets that have standard interior configurations [for clients to choose from],” he says.
According to Baker, this decision has worked seamlessly with the company’s business model – since the area has a large number of ranch-style tract homes – and the demographics the firm typically reaches.
“Our primary clientele [is] the family with late adolescents who are living in a home that has a space that needs to be better utilized,” Baker offers. “We recognize what type of project makes us money, and we make these projects a priority from a sales point of view.”
However, he quickly adds: “This does not mean that we limit ourselves to these types of projects or to any one budget range. In fact, competitors and clients have told us that we ‘own’ this neighborhood. While I would like to believe it, I am happy with that perception.”
For Baker, the firm also stands out because he and Scofield decided to use their previous experience at a custom cabinet shop as another key selling point.
“Our experience as cabinet ‘makers’ gives us a much clearer perspective [about] cabinet installation for kitchen and bath remodels. Therefore, our clients will pretty much use whatever we want them to. Still, we are very careful not to abuse this power, and recognize that our experience is why they have hired us,” he says.
He observes: “When you really understand how a kitchen and bath is supposed to work, you don’t have problems explaining to the client why things have to be a certain way.”
Although the firm relies heavily on its geographic area, local clients are not treated to the “traditional” showroom.
“By building a solid team and taking the time to know the salespeople, we didn’t need to have a showroom,” Baker explains.
But, while noting that the firm’s location is not conducive to walk-in business, Baker adds that the design – and selling – process are not hindered in the slightest.
“We have found that clients are perfectly happy to make cabinet selections from a door sample and a sample base cabinet. In addition, color samples are used to confirm stain selection. All other selections are made by the clients at the showrooms of the suppliers that we [recommend],” he says.
He continues: “This is a much different approach than what we read about, but it really shows how different the design/build arena is from the traditional kitchen and bath showroom approach.”
He concludes: “In fact, in the 25 years that we have been in Sacramento, I cannot think of one kitchen and bath showroom that is still here that was here then.”
According to Baker, one of the company’s keys to success has been the development of a “scope of work” concept that has improved the company’s “close ratio and made us more profitable with our sales and design time.”