President, Harrell Remodeling
Mountain View, Calif.
Year founded: 1985
Number of team members: 41
Years at company: 16
Years in remodeling: 24
Industry involvement: Remodelers Advantage, NARI Certified Remodeler, Certified Green Building Professional
Community Involvement: Girl Scouts of Northern California; Stevenson House, Palo Alto; Sustainable Silicon Valley; Menlo Park Music in the Park; Chamber of Commerce; Redwood City Community Theater; Boys and Girls Club, East Palo Alto
When and why did you join Remodelers Advantage?
Harrell Remodeling joined Remodelers Advantage in 2003. Remodelers Advantage gives us a formalized way of evaluating our business along with the expertise of an informal board made up of our peer group members. Preparing for our biannual meetings, along with the accountability and goal setting at each meeting, helps us to continuously improve.
What has been the most important lesson learned from your peers at Remodelers Advantage?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that I can have blinders on because I am so close to our business. The peer group can stand back and take a really objective look and then have the courage to say things that I may not otherwise hear.
What is the greatest threat to the success of a remodeling business?
Inadequate marketing. Unfortunately, when times get tough, the marketing budget is one of the first things to take a hit. Effective marketing isn’t about how large a budget you have; rather, it is in the creation and execution of a solid marketing plan.
If you could change one thing about the remodeling industry, what would it be?
There have been great strides in improving the professionalism of our industry in recent years because of organizations like NARI and Remodeler’s Advantage. Nevertheless, the reputation of contractors in general still suffers because of those in the business who have not learned the importance of good customer service and sustainable business practices.
How have clients’ expectations changed, and how have these changes affected your business?
Clients today are used to “fast everything”. The unreal “reality” shows on TV reinforce this. Clients sometimes don’t understand that remodeling is a process that can be optimized but not shortcut. We’re working to set expectations appropriately from the start, even as we are working to streamline our processes so we can design and produce more quickly with quality.
As you were growing up, what did you want to be?
When I was small, a cowboy, then as a teen, a rock star — I haven’t given up on that one yet.
What do you enjoy most about being a remodeler? Why?
I enjoy the variety of work available in a growing remodeling business. When I was still in the field, I enjoyed the tangible results of making something really useful and beautiful. Later on as I migrated through estimating, marketing and business management, there was always something new to be learned or improved.
What motivates you every day?
The people I work with motivate me. We have an amazing culture at Harrell Remodeling that I’ve not seen anywhere else. Not that we don’t have challenges, but we care about each other, support each other, work hard and have a lot of fun.
What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
Acknowledge others and express gratitude. There have been times when I was either so busy or self-absorbed that I forgot to thank the people around me for their many contributions. Offering sincere gratitude doesn’t just make other people happier, it makes me happier too.
What’s an interesting little-known fact about you?
Some people know this, but many don’t —I’ve been playing guitar and singing professionally in rock and roll bands since I was a teenager.