(From Issues for Growth Vol.20, No. 7)
From the Front Lines: Colorado Success Stories
This series of interviews with Mead Consulting clients and friends focuses on companies that have succeeded during the recession through disruptive innovation, new business models, or superior execution. The stories are told by the CEOs and business owners themselves. This article was first published on February 28, 2011 in ColoradoBiz magazine or you can read it below.
Commitment to customer service is key to BluSKY's success
Terry Shadwick, co-founder and CEO of BluSKY Restoration discusses how the company has developed a consistent record of growth despite the recession. BluSKY provides emergency response for water damage, fire damage, flood damage and mold remediation on residential & commercial property.
How did you get into the restoration business?
From an early age I watched my father run his own small construction company. After graduating with a degree in Finance, I started out as an insurance claim adjuster, but found myself looking for greater autonomy. I went to work for a restoration company, opening their Denver office. I thought there was a better business model - a better way to do business. So in 2004, my partner Andy Bakker and I started BluSKY Restoration Contractors.
What is the difference with your model?
Our people and our detailed commitment to customer service. We search for the most professional, courteous employees and sub-contractors who have a strong commitment to customer satisfaction. We measure and monitor customer service closely and we use that information to make improvements to our service and delivery. We think the best measure of customer satisfaction is whether customers would hire us again. Currently over 96% of our customers say they would use BluSKY again. We try to make it easy for our people to provide the best experience for our customers and we reward and recognize the team members that receive "perfect" ratings on customer surveys.
Has the growth path always been smooth?
While the revenue growth has been smooth (from $1.7MM in 2004 to $30MM in 2010), we have learned that the business has a seasonality and cyclicality to it. We deal with insurance and mortgage companies that have multiple layers of approval which can slow payment. We began cash flow modeling to help manage and project our cash needs. The management team has embraced strategic business planning and a goal setting process that has helped us manage the growth. We develop strategic plans every fall and we update the plan twice a year based on actual results and conditions.
The construction industry has been severely hit during the current recession. How has the recession impacted your business?
The recession resulted in a slowdown of the rehabilitation work, as the Real Estate Investment companies (REITs) have deferred maintenance and property updates. We tightened up our collection practices and policies and focused more management attention on business operations as well as the sales process.
You have continued to grow every year. What are some of the actions and new programs you are taking to sustain growth?
We continue to diversify our offerings and we have added new revenue streams that we generate from existing satisfied customers. We have added commercial and apartment rehabilitation and remodeling. We also began to offer roofing and a construction defect business. Today, 60 percent of our business is insurance restoration with 40 percent from the additional business lines.
What are the keys to continued growth over the next 5-10 years?
Geographical expansion is a key strategy. We plan to add more locations (from 8 currently to 50 locations) within the next ten years. This expansion will be a combination of company startups ("greenfields") as well as acquisitions. The second core strategy is to continue to develop the management team and the growth of people who fit well with our commitment to customer focus.
You have a unique culture for a construction business.
We started out to make BluSKY a great place to work and for the past three years, we have been voted one of the best places to work in Colorado. Our motto is to "work hard, play harder." Many of our employees come from the Midwest and we believe strongly in "midwestern values" - fairness, trust, openness - doing what we say we will. We apply those values in a big circle and treat all employees, contractors, customers, and suppliers with respect. We have open book management and give employees wide latitude to find solutions and meet the needs of customers. We hire for culture, values, and attitudes first.
Is it difficult finding good people and developing leaders?
Restoration is less cyclical than construction. The recession has helped introduce construction people to restoration and to BluSKY. The stability of the restoration business looks a bit "sexier" today and we are now on the radar screen for the best employees. As I mentioned, we hire for cultural fit first. We develop our own leaders with an Emerging Leaders program and we encourage lots of training