Brad Leavitt | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Brad Leavitt

Background:  

A Finer Touch Construction is one of the premier construction firms in the Southwest. In early 2018, AFT Construction was awarded “Best of Design and Customer Service” on Houzz, a leading platform for home remodeling and design.

The Mistake:

When I first started A Finer Touch Construction, I chased every lead that came my way. 

No matter the size or scope of the project, I would set up a meeting with the client after our initial phone call. I didn’t have a defined scope of work or job-size standards that I would pursue. This created a heavy and unprofitable workload for me, as well as our team. 

When I got a phone call, I didn’t ask the customer about their budget, about the timing and scheduling or about their expectations. I would spend hours doing pre-construction and estimating, at no charge to them. But I wasn’t asking the tough questions on our initial phone call to ensure that a trip to the project was justified. I chased every lead and spent a lot of time, without ever vetting the people correctly. 

My ambition to go after every job made us completely inefficient. Depending on the size, scale and scope of work, some projects are just not a good fit for us. At the time, I didn’t realize that. We’re super efficient and cost-effective, and we offer tremendous value. Despite this, some projects just aren't right for us, depending on the budget and expectations. 

We were chasing projects that were not a good match for both parties. I spent a lot of time and money following leads that never came to fruition. I eventually learned that I should only chase projects that are a great fit for us, as well as the customer.

We don’t chase everything that comes to us.

The Lesson:

Now, when I receive a lead or a call, I’m really diligent about vetting them over the phone. Specifically, I ask them about the scope of work, the timing, scheduling, budget and expectations. With that, I can quickly gauge if the project is suitable for us. I immediately know if I should take a follow-up appointment or refer them to someone who might be a better fit.

We’re really specific about the jobs we target now. We don’t chase everything that comes to us. This has benefited us and the customers. It’s actually grown our business; our closure rate has increased by 400 percent over the last two years. After going through my list of questions on the first phone call, I’m able to determine if we’re a good fit. When we’re not, the customers really appreciate the candor. They appreciate me being upfront and honest. 

It’s created a wonderful marriage between us and the client, where the projects are wonderful experiences from beginning to end. The projects now run so much smoother because the expectations have been set from our first point of contact. 

It’s understood that the customer will interview the contractor, but we also interview the client. It should go both ways. For any job, you need to have trust, capability and understanding. Having that back-and-forth interview process has been so advantageous for us.

Follow A Finer Touch Construction on Instagram at @aft_construction.

Photo courtesy of Brad Leavitt

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