Design Franchise Illustrates Adage, 'Mother Knows Best'

BAKERSFIELD, CA - At DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide, based here, the firm's success follows the old adage: "Mother knows best".

In fact, general manager and co-owner Patty Gray - along with husband and co-owner Everett Gray - has not only given a new twist to the more traditional roles of yesteryear, but has turned the design-build construction firm into one of the most successful franchise locations in the DreamMaker system.

This is notable considering that prior to her current position, Gray had very little business - or industry - knowledge, aside from helping maintain the books for her husband's remodeling business. Instead, she had elected to stay home and raise the couple's three children.

All that changed in 2003 when the pair bought the DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide of Bakersfield, and Patty - quite literally - dreamt that she should head the business, and decided to put that dream into action.

Gray proved a quick study indeed, smoothly translating her experiences home-schooling her children, bookkeeping, and keeping her home neat, into training and encouraging employees, managing an efficient office and creating a positive company culture.

This reaped dual benefits for the company - her husband was freed up to manage jobs, while she had the opportunity to lead the business and delegate work.

"Our company is unique because each member of our team is very well-suited for his or her position," says Gray, who notes that her son, Christian, acts as the company's production manager, while sons Ashley and John serve as financial controller and designer, respectively. Rounding out the staff are a sales manager, three production team members, and one helper.

"Our staff consistently delivers what the rest of the company promises - quality, service and value," Gray boasts.

To that end, the firm focuses primarily on kitchen and bath remodeling projects of up to $160,000, while catering to a "baby boomer" clientele who need professional remodeling guidance.

"These are customers that are looking for full service, quality and value," she adds.

In addition to the company's remodeling capabilities, the firm offers a variety of products, including ADA-compliant shower stalls and grab bars, tub liners and wall systems, as well as cabinet refacing, Gray notes.

She summarizes: "Our goal is to give our clients everything they need to make their kitchen or bathroom function - and look the way they want it to within their budget."

Dream a Little Dream

From the remnants of her fateful dream to present day, the company has tripled its annual sales goals - a feat that earned Gray "Woman of the Year" honors at the recent DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen national convention

But she swiftly suggests that it's a combination of multiple factors, including the firm's code of values, an organizational structure that maximizes each staff member's strengths and a focus on client needs that has led to the firm's success.

"We also attribute our success to the franchise system, the support from the corporate office and the training opportunities that DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen [has provided us]," she says.

She also adds that each staff member is given a clearly defined role within the company and is thereby treated as an integral part of the DreamMaker team.

"We hold daily huddle sessions where we read our code of values and discuss the issues of the day," Gray offers. "During weekly management meetings, we discuss up-to-the-minute sales, production and financial reports, as well."

As a result of this approach, Gray adds that the firm is now able to make her clients' dreams come true, as well.

"Our business philosophy is to utilize and improve systems to create a consistent experience from the first phone call to the completion of the project," she says.

She concludes: "I don't have a grandiose statement to other woman about running a business. It has been just a matter of taking the gifts I've been given and allowing myself to be stretched."

Touch and See

One of the factors that set the firm apart from its competition is its showroom, Gray believes. Though relatively small at 648 sq. ft., it still manages to showcase a wide array of amenities. "Other contractors in our area cannot give clients a 'touch and see' experience [like we can through our showroom]," she notes.

In fact, Gray relates a recent instance where the firm's showroom literally made all the difference in obtaining a job.

"One of our clients, in particular, had four remodeling bids ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, but did not see or touch any of the amenities offered in any of the previous bids. We were able to give him that experience through the cabinet, tile, whirlpool, countertop and fixture displays," she says.

"His trust level was immediately elevated to make an educated decision - and all this was done with a small showroom that includes a kitchen with door sample; refacing, tub liner, and ADA-compliant shower displays, and a working whirlpool display," she continues.

The showroom features product lines from Showplace Cabinetry, Woodpro, Canyon Creek Cabinetry, Fashion Cabinetry, BCI tub liners, Vita Bath Whirlpools, Danze and Toto plumbing fixtures, Caesarstone, DuPont Corian, granite and tile countertops, among others.

Gray notes that a visit to the showroom is designed to address four main objectives, including uncovering the clients' wants and needs; giving the customer product knowledge; introducing the customer to the design build concept, and establishing a budget.

"We believe that listening intently and taking the time to understand our client's wants and needs sets the stage for a successful job," she concludes.

Client Concern

After the initial consultation is conducted, a new appointment is then set up at the client's home, where the firm's designers can gain more information about the project and give the client a realistic estimate, Gray says.

"Each estimate is reviewed by the sales manager, and our production staff continually monitors each project's progress as well as the customer's state of mind throughout the life of a project. The production manager is also in constant communication with techs, the subcontrators and the client," Gray says.

While a retainer is required, Gray notes that the main objective of this meeting is to give an estimate that offers the greatest amount of value to the customer, while still covering all of the financial bases.

This is crucial, she points out, considering that the average project size that the firm handles is $35,000.

She adds that once a client agrees to have the firm design the project, the designer works toward developing a concept and budget. Furthermore, all projects are designed in-house by the salesperson and designers, as well as the full-time cabinet designer.

According to Gray, this formula works so well that the firm was recently honored with a regional 2005 Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), for a bathroom remodel.

She also points out that aside from competitions, DreamMaker utilizes a variety of advertisement platforms to increase word-of-mouth business, such as ad placement in the Yellow Pages and local newspapers, mailings, truck decals, yard signs and bi-annual home shows.