The Coming Year
Our goals in the coming year are to continue to solidify the systems that smooth the workings the business especially in the office but also in the communication with our lead carpenters and our customers. We will especially be fine-tuning the scheduling of our work and the commitments we ask of our subcontractors.
Michael will continue to write contest entries and story proposals for Fine Homebuilding, Green Building Advisor and other periodicals. Additionally we will be beginning to implement a more sophisticated work scheduling system to replace the current Excel based scheduling system and Beth and Michael will continue to develop our best practices manual which will clearly explain to our crew all the steps we take to make our houses better than the competition. We will publish excerpts of this manual in a section of the website called Green Construction Details. Beth and Michael will continue working with the NAHB's Green Building Initiative and the DOE Energy Star program to promote environmentally sustainable building practices to the mainstream building community. We feel very confident that 2010 will be a great year.
The mission of Chandler Design-Build is first and foremost to provide meaningful, sustainable, and gainful employment for our stakeholders and employees. Our primary business is building unique mid-priced homes for clients who are looking for a more personalized home building experience, custom craftsmanship, and an emphasis on "green building" systems with sustainable, low embodied energy content materials that are not pretending to be something other than what they really are.
In that learning and growth are important elements in sustaining quality of life, we choose to train our co-workers in skills related to running a construction company such as plumbing, radiant floor heating, solar heating, building design, woodworking, and computer use understanding that the kind of people we want to have working with us are skill collectors who are always in pursuit of improving their skill set and their mastery of the many trades involved in homebuilding.
Our focus is not on being the biggest or best but on optimizing our shared quality of life balanced between adequate financial resources, varied and interesting work, and flexibility to have time off as needed. In keeping with this we do not measure our performance based on percentage of sales or return on investment but rather on the ability of the company to provide adequate financial compensation to our stakeholders and employees without sacrificing their quality of life at work or at home. We want this company to be one place where "family comes first" is more than an empty slogan.
Our goal is to build a sustainable client base of enthusiastically satisfied clients. We realize that the profitability of a job is determined by the estimating and contract negotiation and the execution of the job is the way we gather positive referrals and photo's which give us the advantage in the next contract negotiation. We push ourselves to make the best profit possible in keeping with our goal of providing gainful employment for ourselves while also providing exceptional service to keep our clients enthusiastically satisfied. Service above and beyond the contract is just part of our way of doing business and is recognized by all in the company as such. In the long run failing to provide exceptional service would cut into our profits by damaging our reputation with our homeowners and the larger community. A big part of what makes it fun to work together is that we all choose not to accept mediocrity and that we take pride in providing great value to our customers.
In order to give our prospective customers a reason to choose our company over others it is important that we differentiate ourselves in the eyes of prospective customers from other homebuilders and designers in the area. We are known for the creative spirit of our homes, craftsman styling with creative details that are attractive without being ostentatious or expensive. Many past customers have become friends and speak well of the creative collaboration between the CDB crew and themselves in the creation of their home. We are known as a flexible builder, willing to try new materials and push the creative edge. We don't build ostentatious "trophy houses." Our goal is to never build a home we cannot be proud of. In general, we don't build homes larger than 3000 square feet and every home we build meets green and energy star standards.
In order to give our customers the creative collaboration we wish to be known for we need to have solid systems in place to make the running of the company happen as smoothly as possible. Dependable and repeatable purchasing, billing, estimating, and job costing systems free up time to allow us to focus on the creative aspects of home building. They also enable us to spend (and pay for) less time in the office and give us a better handle on the health of our business. Clients appreciate the depth of communication in the paperwork the office generates to keep them informed about their project. Cost over-runs and savings are brought to their attention every month. They feel that they understand their bills and are being treated fairly and with courtesy and respect. During the job we take digital photo's and we compile a CD at the end of the job with these "behind the walls" pictures along with digital copies of their final budget and allowance cost information. At the end of the job our clients also receive a "welcome letter" with the names and phone numbers of all the subcontractors who worked on their home along with warrantee information, explanations of the systems in their home, maintenance information, warnings about leaving the hose on the sill faucet during freezing weather, and a recommended maintenance schedule customized to the systems in their new home.
Chandler Design-Build Inc. is a Sub S corporation registered in the state of North Carolina. Our profit sharing plan differentiates us from other companies. While we function legally as a cross between a sole proprietorship and a corporation we operate in many ways as if we were employee owned. We use the concept of "Stake Holders" to give some of the benefits of ownership to our employees without exposing them to the liabilities. All employees, including the owners, are paid an hourly wage that is moderate to low for our market. But they get company benefits such as fully paid family health insurance, cell phone, tool, and education benefits, and profit sharing.
Profit sharing is calculated on a 60/40 split. 60% of profits after expenses (and 100% of the losses) goes to Michael Chandler and Beth Williams, 40% is split among the rest of the crew apportioned according to their performance. Michael's hourly wage is held to 15% higher than the next highest paid employee and all wages are deliberately kept modest to help the company survive market downturns and un-profitable jobs.
Chandler Design-Build was formed on April Fools Day 1987 by Michael Chandler with two thousand dollars worth of tools and an old Dodge van. Initially it was structured as a sole proprietorship but switched to a Limited Liability Company in 1996 and to a Sub S corporation in 2003. The company was profitable from the first year, starting with small kitchen renovation and trim sub-contracting jobs. Eventually, Michael passed the NC Contractors Licensing exam and the NC Plumbing Licensing Exam and started to design and build new homes. We have always done only custom work for people who already own their land.
We have always had a small crew, doing our own framing as well as trim, tile, plumbing, cabinetry and decorative sheet metal work. Also we've moved to doing all of our own plumbing, which has lead to getting involved in the radiant floor business. Our innovative work with water conservation and radiant heating was the focus of a July 2003 article in Natural Home Magazine.
Due to our commitment to keeping our construction business small we have the ability, between Michael and Beth, to design many more projects that we choose to build so we also do design-only and rendering work for other builders and owner-builders. We also have the surveying equipment and experience to do simple site plan studies identifying the locations of key trees and landscape features and elevations to assist with site planning and the relationship of the home to the landscape.
We recently helped a land developer with a site plan for a village of nine homes on a 42-acre site. It incorporates ideas from Randall Arendt's book "Conservation Design for Subdivisions" for relieving the negative effects of sprawl by preserving "view-sheds" along public roads, preserving wildlife corridors, and clustering homes around open land while allowing for views of common lands from inside the homes. For more information on the work we did for this site see environmental subdivision.
In 1997 we joined NAHB Builder 20 Club #11, "The Craftsmen", a group of 20 builders who build one-of-a-kind homes in 20 different cities across America. This program has been a huge factor in the improvement of the company's systems and it's success. Hearing other builder's stories of their success' and failures, seeing their profit and loss statements and business plans and understanding how we fit in the range of others in similar businesses has given us a better ability to look honestly at the state of our own business and the systems we use to maintain the health of our business. The group has acted like a board of directors to force us to better systematize the way we do business, to write a business plan and revise it every spring, to re-examine every aspect of the business and our relationships with our suppliers, trade contractors and clients. The profitability and sustainability of the company has improved every year that we have been a part of the group. A recent nationwide study has shown that the 500 companies who participate in this NAHB program are among the best-managed construction companies in America.
By far our strongest asset is our network of enthusiastically satisfied customers and the reputation their enthusiasm has earned us in the community. This positive perception is reinforced by our website and by our participation in "Green" community projects such as the Haw River Assembly , NC Sustainable Energy Association, NCWARN anti-nuclear group, the HBADOC Green Building Council and the NAHB Green Building Initiative. We are profitable with compensation improving for the last two years. Our goal of having all key employees own their homes seems reachable in the next 5 to 10 years.
Our biggest weakness has historically been our inability to scale down to perform minor repairs and improvements on existing homes after our 12-month warrantee service visit. Our homes have features such as copper chimney caps & countertops and radiant heating systems that we really don't like to see anyone but our crew work on. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to schedule these small jobs into the workflow. Therefore we will continue to partner with Fox Mountain Home Improvement and other local green builders to do these small jobs, working to our designs and standards. We feel that this solution will serve our homeowners and their need for quality and intelligent home maintenance while allowing our company to continue to do what we do best.