Swafford Construction, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Founded: 1985 | Swaffordbuild.com
Number of Employees: 11 full-time, one part-time
Company description: Full-service remodeling company; services range from whole-house renovations to small energy upgrades
Q: How did you start in the remodeling business?
A: I started working right after high school at age 18 and worked during a two-year college term. After finishing school, I worked with a couple of general contractors and architects doing drafting work and job-cost estimating. Then, I went to work with my father-in-law, who was a remodeling contractor. The challenge presented by remodeling projects drew me into it the more I was around it. When he retired, his family all left the business, and I kept going from there.
Q: What did you do before becoming a remodeler?
A: I entered an architectural technology course at Cleveland State Community college and began doing architectural drafting. I was a construction estimator and draftsman for several commercial contractors and architects before entering the remodeling business
Q: As you were growing up, what did you want to be?
A: I always wanted to be an architect. I love architecture and design. I like to visualize possibilities for buildings.
Q: How has the remodeling industry changed since you’ve been involved?
A: I became involved in remodeling in the early ‘80s, before remodeling was cool. Of course, costs were lower, but the professionalism associated with remodeling today didn’t exist. The industry has grown since then, and more and more people are making a career of remodeling. NAHBR has been crucial in promoting professional practices in the industry.
Q: What have you done to grow your business in this economy?
A: Our business has remained strong through the downturn. However, four years ago, recognizing a need in the market, we opened a division that focused on aging-in-place home modifications. That area of the market has been a surprising source of revenue for our business. The benefits of the home modification business are personally rewarding, as well.
Q: What motivates you?
A: We have a considerable number of repeat customers. They know us and trust us, and I work hard to keep those relationships strong. We keep in touch with our customers; following up is critical and the response I get on follow-up calls is tremendous.
Q: What does being part of NAHB mean to you?
A: NAHB has been a source of education for me, from operating my business to dealing with trade contractors and customer service. I operated my business from my hip pocket for many years just because I didn’t know any other way. I originally joined NAHB because of the education arm that was in place. I haven’t had the opportunity to teach any courses myself yet, but I try to promote the NAHB designation program whenever I get the chance. Several of our employees have earned designations through NAHB. There is so much to learn and gain, even for the old-timers who think they’ve seen it all.
Q: What is the best advice you have received?
A: Do the job right the first time, even if it takes longer than you thought. Callbacks are expensive!
Q: What is your favorite item in your office?
A: The telephone; it’s the cheapest and most effective tool I own. The phone enables me to be accessible all of the time and to stay in touch with past, present and future customers easily and inexpensively. It also is great for field personnel to keep me abreast of things on the jobsite. The benefits of cell phones have enabled our industry to grow and communicate much more effectively.
- Vice president, Executive Council, Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga
- Served as secretary, vice president and president of the HBAGC Remodelers Council
- HBAGC board of directors for 10 years
- NAHB Remodelers Council CGR committee
- NAHB Green Remodeling committee