That was the case for Michael Vasbinder, founder and president of Dublin-based ConTrak Corp., who started his own construction services firm in 1988 because he thought he could provide better customer service than existing firms did. He also saw a demand for a single, centralized source for organizing and managing complex construction projects.
“I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to manage,” says Vasbinder. “I also saw a need in Central Ohio to try to do the construction process a little differently as far as trying to have more customer service and more emphasis on satisfying the needs of the client.”
Vasbinder’s idea paid off. His customers are happy, his business is growing and in 2002, he won the Integrity Award from the Central Ohio Better Business Bureau. All of this success has only motivated Vasbinder to continue to excel in customer service. In fact, he measures ConTrak’s success by the amount of repeat and referral business it receives, not the amount of sales.
Smart Business spoke with Vasbinder about how he delivers great customer service and runs ConTrak with integrity.
How do you ensure that your customers have a great experience working with your company?
The key element is communication. If you can keep your clients completely informed as to the progress of the project, as well as the cost and status of the project, you have gone a long way to keep him satisfied.
The hardest thing in the world is to walk up to someone who has no clue about the construction business and ask him to trust you and let you spend $1 million of his money. That’s a difficult hurdle to get past at times.
We try to build upon the projects we did in the past and show the client that if we tell you this is the cost and if we tell you this is the schedule, then, barring an unforeseen circumstance happening, we are going to hit the schedule and we are going to hit the budget and you are going to be a part of this process through the whole construction.
How does integrity influence your everyday business decisions?
We are one of the few construction services firms in town that works completely open book with a client. They have the complete ability to look at our accounting, look at our trade contract, subcontract agreement, look at how we pay our trade contractors. We can even go now to the level of detail that they can see copies of all of our invoices.
We don’t ever want someone to think that we are trying to hide something from them because we don’t need to. We are going to make a fair profit on the project, and that is what you need to do to stay in business. I think by having that kind of mindset, our business just maintains that integrity level.
Our business philosophy is very simple. We just do what is right for the clients, for the vendors and suppliers, and for the community at large. It sounds trite, I know, but it’s real simple.
How do you keep the focus on great customer service as you grow?
It becomes more difficult. Finding very good people is the challenge in everybody’s business, and it’s the same challenge that we have in our business. We try very hard to recruit who we believe is the correct individual who will fit in our organization.
Our company is very team-oriented, so we look for a team player. We are not looking for someone who has a huge ego who wants to be on top of the world. They need to be an integral part of the team. Most of my employees and associates have been with me for over eight years, so we have a good longevity of people within the organization.
When bringing people onboard, we try to do it through a networking process where we go out into the marketplace and get referrals from people on candidates who they believe are good candidates. We have run ads in the newspaper, but that’s not that successful for us. The networking system has worked better.
Who do you ask for referrals on potential employees?
Absolutely, we ask clients. Also, our trade contractors work for multiple other construction services firms in Central Ohio, so they also have the ability to see and know other people in the industry.
If we have a good network of trade contractors, we contact them and say, ‘We are looking for this type of individual. If you hear of someone or know of someone who is looking or has the desire to move up or on, have them contact us.’ It has worked well for us to date.
Do you provide training?
Yes, we do. We’re a member of the Builders Exchange in Central Ohio, and they are a wonderful organization and have a lot of classes that we send people to that help with some of the training. Some of the software that we utilize has software classes that we send people to, which gets them up to speed.
I have an assistant superintendent right now who is going to Columbus State to get his degree in construction management. We have an incentive program that, if he maintains a certain grade point average, we will assist with tuition.
We like to grow from within. If we see someone who has the desire, intent and ability to move up, then we are going to help them any way we can.
You recently opened an office in Florida. Do you plan to open offices in other states as well?
That is not our intention at this time. We intend to continue growing, but we are going to grow at a controlled pace because we do not want to lose the customer service.
We plan on controlling our growth by being selective with the projects and clients we partner with. Trying to be all things to all people is not part of our business plan. Our goal is to provide our clients cost-effective, excellent construction services.
All associates at ConTrak work collectively as a team. This enables us to increase our workload to service our clients while actively pursuing new associates to assist in our growth. In this way, we are able to hire the most knowledgeable and competent associates in a controlled, not reactive manner.
HOW TO REACH: ConTrak Corp., (614) 766-9990 or www.contrakcorp.com