Thrive and Grow

Matthew Van Dyke, owner of Timber Home Improvements in Vancouver, Wash., came to the remodeling business from a somewhat unconventional angle. “I graduated from John Brown University with a degree in accounting,” he says. “I had always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps in owning my own company, but I just didn’t know what kind of company it would be.”

Sometimes timing is what you make of it. Van Dyke opened Timber Home Improvements in April of 2008 — right at the beginning of the recession. Through difficult economic times, he was able to craft a solid business with a problem-solving attitude and a commitment to customer service.

“So many times I had heard the horror stories of homeowners with incomplete projects and contractors leaving them after getting some or all of the money for the project they were hired to do without ever completing it,” Van Dyke recalls. “I wanted to provide homeowners with a solution they would never have to worry about again as long as they live in their home. We started out selling and installing windows and, due to the market shift in the Northwest at the end of 2011, we added roof replacement to our services.”

Being in the Northwest does carry a few extra challenges, mostly related to the rainy conditions. “We are able to replace windows no matter what the weather. Roofing, on the other hand, is different,” Van Dyke explains. “With the limited number of nonrainy days, we have to be proactive and have great communication with our customers. We try to coordinate schedules to get as much done as possible as quickly as we can without taking shortcuts.”

Communication is part of the customer-focused philosophy of Timber Home Improvements. “To be able to deliver great customer service starts with hiring the right people,” Van Dyke says. “I feel we have the best employees in the industry, which allows us to provide our customers with the best service available.”

To market their services, Timber Home Improvements has booths at many home shows and fairs, has partnered with local Ace Hardware stores, and advertises on local radio stations. They also canvas local neighborhoods. “What has produced the best results for us is our canvas team,” Van Dyke says. “They enjoy what they do and are the best. It takes a strong person to take rejection from day to day and keep a smile on their face. I am amazed with what they do and how well they do it.”

Timber Home Improvements takes an education-based sales approach to market. “By educating our customers, we make sure they know what other products are available to them and let them choose which quality and price fits their needs,” Van Dyke says. “We explain which product they would be purchasing and what value it will bring; we take the time to explain who Timber is and why they would want to do business with us; and we assume that everyone wants us to be their contractor so we ask them for their business that day.”

In 2013, the business plans to add siding to its list of services so it can offer clients an entire exterior package. Van Dyke credits the growth of his company to his employees. “Without my team, I would not have the company I have today,” he says. My team is very important to me and I am proud to be in business with each and every one of them. If you treat your employees right and treat your clients and potential clients right, it doesn’t matter what the economy is when you start your business. It can thrive and grow.”

Allen Barry writes about remodeling and construction from Chicago.