THE ENTREPRENEUR with Dean Adams
The local building and construction market may seem sluggish to some, but for one local entrepreneur time is on his side, and his building business is flourishing.
Dean Adams, the young and gregarious owner of Bay Area Contracting, in part attributes his business success to taking it slow with his clients and providing them with all the comfort and perks the digital era has to offer.
"I treat the design phase of a home like dating," Adams says. "When I am working with a family for one or two years or more, we get very familiar with each other. I don't brush off a client that is thinking about building in three years. I don't look at the long lead-time before a project starts as a bad thing; it's quite the opposite. The more time we have to understand exactly what this client wants and needs, the better. I'd tell others to take advantage of a long sales cycle like this."
Adams also emphasizes the importance of providing clients with all the information they need in an easily accessible format.
"I try to take as much of the mystery out of the building experience as possible for my clients," Adams says. "They want to know when foundation is poured or when the stonework is done. We now build out the entire building schedule on an online calendar that they can access anytime from their phone. They can sync it with their own calendar, too. Now there is clarity as to what is happening, when. They see the progress, and it makes them happy."
Another perk for clients of Bay Area Contracting is a 1,000-square-foot "Up North" apartment that is always made available to out-of-town clients when they are visiting their project.
"It makes it easy for them to drop in for a few days," Adams says, "and the apartment is full of our craftsmanship and design ideas, so they get an even better sense of what we can do and what they want."
Adams said he was always confident that his start-up building business would be a success in part because of the long hours and dedication he put forth in his very first venture when he was a teenager.
"I started cutting grass when I was 14," Adams says. "I approached my grandma with a business plan because I had to buy mowers and equipment. She could hardly believe it, and though she didn't say it, she probably wasn't sure she would get the money back. But she did get it all back."
"When I was in high school I couldn't go out with my buddies until I got all the apartment complexes mowed. I told Tricia (his wife) we couldn't go out on some dates until I got the grass mowed. I was absolutely convinced I could start another business and be successful," he says.
Now instead of mowing grass and dating his future wife, Adams spends his time doing more typical teenager activity: talking on the phone. He said he calculated last month alone he spent three entire days and nights on the phone.
"Eighty percent of my job is educating contractors and talking to my clients," Adams says. "I spend so much of my time with my sub-contractors just to make sure they are staying current with the latest and greatest in building techniques, products and design. They do lots of continuing education. There might be an occasional eye-roll from the guys, but it is well worth it. My client isn't going to differentiate between one of my contractors and me, so the better job they do, the better we all do."
In addition to keeping clients happy and informed, Adams says the second most important thing an entrepreneur can do is realize you can't do it all alone.
"Six weeks before the start of the 2010 home show I was hurt and on bed rest," Adams says. "This was extremely difficult because clearly I wanted my home that was showing to be perfect. I had to delegate, and I had to trust. The great lesson for me was that this worked! I was able to use my laptop and cell phone and create some of these other systems to track our work and quality without physically being there."
"Get someone you trust to help you, Adams says. "After you prove to yourself you don't have to do it all, you won't."
Thirdly and most importantly, Adams advises entrepreneurs not to forget about their families. "It is easy to get overwhelmed," he says, "and I love to work. Schedule time off with family and stick to it just like you would if it was a client meeting. Now we take a family weekend away once a month. I look forward to those times."
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