This is a follow up story for Carolina Exteriors. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Clifton Muckenfuss, Co-Founder, and Owner of Carolina Exteriors, a specialty replacement contractor based in Apex, NC. Our core services are Hardieplank siding, Roofing, Windows & Entry Doors. Our primary customers are Residential Homeowners, but we do, on referral only, work on select Commercial/Multi-Family projects. Our service area consists of Central North Carolina, specifically the Raleigh Triangle area.
Our team of 12 employees works in the areas of Sales, Marketing & Administration and Production, completing 150+ projects per year.
Over 50% of our customers are repeat and referral customers, generating +$4mm in annual sales.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
2020 presented challenges across the USA and the world in general. However, we faced those challenges head-on and preserved, remaining focused on our two more important assets - our people and customers. While we fell short of our sales goals, we remained profitable. In a time where so many businesses were cutting hours and laying off workers, Carolina Exteriors hired 2 new team members.
Our people when faced with tremendous adversity, will band together, come up with creative ideas to serve our customers and each other.
We’ve seen an increased number of leads and opportunities and while we have experienced delays due to manufacturing and supply chain pressure, we’ve been fortunate to keep all of our trade partners on job sites, working, without negative impacts on their ability to earn a living.
We have greatly enhanced the way we connect with potential customers by launching the Carolina Exteriors Digital Experience. The CE Dx puts the homeowner in control, allowing them to use their own mobile device to capture pictures of their home, which in turn, creates 3D renderings and precise measurements. Our Design Consultants can then engage with homeowners in a collaborative way using video conferencing technology, along with the patented Hover app, to bring a project to life.
Feedback from customers regarding the Dx has been overwhelmingly positive and not only has it allowed our team to service more leads, but we have also become immensely more efficient.
We recently launched the Rate 2 Donate program to generate online reviews and for each customer review we receive, we “deposit” into our local charity “bank.” Each month a winner is selected at random and we donate the “bank” to the charity of that person’s choice. We’re excited about this initiative as it will be a win-win (we win in the form of reviews, and local charities win in the form of donations and support). Our first month (December 2020) saw 15 new online customer reviews.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
In 2020, we learned the importance of having cash flow reserves and not being overleveraged. We bootstrapped the business over 10 years ago with an initial start-up budget of $3,500. We have not taken on debt in the form of loans, lines of credit, etc. since the company’s inception and this allowed us to weather the pandemic in 2020.
We learned that our people when faced with tremendous adversity, will band together, come up with creative ideas to serve our customers and each other. Our company, in 2020, was shaped by our team’s “perseverance.”
We reconfirmed that our past customers are some of our greatest assets - through constant communication with them (email, text, mail/newsletters), we received many referrals, testimonials, and new projects.
We also partnered with a new financing partner, GreenSky, that has allowed us to offer affordable payment options for customers, allowing them to commit to a project now, but pay for it later. Flexible payment terms have allowed us to close more businesses, at higher prices.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Our plan for 2021 is to grow our people, providing them with opportunities to earn more income, promotions, contests, and profit-sharing. We will achieve this by raising prices, justified by an incredible customer experience and powerful value proposition. Having buy-in from the entire team on our pricing strategy will ultimately help us keep sight of our vision and goals.
We plan to focus on NET (bottom line), not GROSS (top line). We will be able to do so by enhancing the Customer Experience which will lead to increased referrals and repeat business. We plan to grow our NET by 2x in 2021.
We do not have any expansion plans in mind for the next 12-18 months, though as opportunities present themselves in other markets, we will consider them.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I’m an audiobook and podcast guy. In the past year, I enjoyed:
- Can’t Hurt Me - David Goggins
- Traction - Gino Wickman
- Never Split the Difference - Chris Voss
- Blackout - Candice Owens
- The Wealthy Contractor
- Level 10 Contractor
- Builder Funnel Radio
- Big Stud Sales
- Business Made Simple
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Plan, plan, plan - make a list of “what ifs” and how you will address each one “if” it comes to pass.
Know your numbers - precisely how much it costs you to do business (this will allow you to set the correct pricing strategy).
Block out the noise - find a hobby, workout, etc. that allows you time to clear your mind and remove “head trash.”
Find a mentor, join a Facebook / Networking group in your business segment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be vulnerable (set aside your ego and ask for help).
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
While we don’t have any “open” positions at the moment, we are always looking for great talent. Recruiting is a big component of any growth strategy - if we find an “A” player, we will make a “chair” available for him/her to sit in.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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