Focusing on the keys Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010
George W. Roth measures customer service by whether a client calls back for repeat service.

“There’s no better recommendation than a happy client who calls you back for more work,” says Roth, founder, president and majority owner of Augere Construction Co.

Roth and his partner, James L. Stewart II, pride themselves on customer satisfaction — a result of building relationships, good communication and quickly taking care of problems.

That process helped the construction company reach revenue between $10 million and $12 million in 2009.

Smart Business spoke to Roth about how to grow a business and keep customers happy.

Q. What are the keys to growing a company?

The relationships with the owners and clients — it is key. If you don’t do your job every time, you won’t get an opportunity to perform more work for them. We pride ourselves on most of our work is from repeat clients, whether they’re grocery store chains, churches, manufacturers or office warehouse owners.

It’s key because if you lose that relationship with that client, No. 1, you won’t be doing any more work for them, and then word-of-mouth spreads.

They will be one of your references that you can use for picking up other jobs, so it’s very key to have great client relationships.

It’s key to retaining the business level that you have and finding more and helping you expand.

We go above and beyond for all of our clients and leave them happy at the end. If there’s an issue, we make sure it’s corrected and fixed to their satisfaction every time.

Q. How do you handle issues when they occur?

Everybody is going to make mistakes, and the key when you make a mistake is not to make the same mistake twice. What you want to do is learn from your mistakes and watch other contractors, your competitors and other successful contractors that are in the area.

In Canton, a good friend of mine owns Beaver Excavating. They have done work for me in the past and we have done work for them in the past, and you can learn from people like Beaver Excavating. Their client relationships have been great throughout their career and then they take care of their employees. What we try and do is build on those same features. Put your clients first and don’t make mistakes, and if you make a mistake, don’t make it twice.

You have to get to know your clients. You know how they want things done. Everybody has their little quirks so you try and work with them. Really the key is communication with your employees and your clients so everybody knows what’s going on and there are no surprises. If you have a problem, everybody knows about it, so you can get it rectified immediately.

Q. How do you handle mistakes made by employees?

What you do is you lead by example, No. 1. If you have a presence — my partner and I have a presence on the job, maybe not on a daily basis but on a weekly basis — you help see what is going on and what a possible conflict may be.

You’re not going to be there all the time, so your superintendents are hopefully trained, they have the experience and knowledge to do what you have them out there on-site doing.

But they do make mistakes. What you do is you help them through that. Obviously, you get the mistake corrected first, show them what went wrong, and encourage them not to make that same mistake again.

That’s where the problem is. People make mistakes, and I don’t have a problem with people making mistakes. Where the difficulty is is making the same mistake the second or third time. That’s where the problem is.

A process we use with our superintendents is properly vetting them when we hire them. Initially when we hire people, we hire them on an hourly basis and see how well they can do, what they know, what they don’t know. Give them the directions that we need or they need to do the work for us. If they succeed and are successful at that on an hourly basis, then we will put them on salary with benefits and 401(k)s, company vehicles.

The people we have working with us have helped make us successful, and that’s key. You can’t do this alone. As an owner, you can’t do this alone. You have to depend on your partner and your employees in the field as well as your employees in the office. This is not a solo act; it’s a team effort.

Q. How do you communicate with clients to understand their needs and build trust?

The owners periodically come and visit the site whether it’s once a week or a couple times a week. You need to be there and need to show them around and explain to them what’s going on.

If you explain to them what’s going on, what’s going to happen next, show them any potential problems or conflicts, you can all work these things out ahead of time. By being proactive and communicating with your clients, you have a knowledgeable, proactive customer all the way through the process until completion. And I think that’s key.

You have to communicate and establish trust and relationships with your clients.

Regarding building trust, you need to be open and transparent. With open lines of communication, you must be honest with the information and give the best recommendations as proposed solutions.

The owner/client may not like the answer or solution, but you have given them the straight truth.

How to reach: Augere Construction Co., (330) 342-4287 or www.augereconstruction.com