Case Studies

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A conservation services company negotiates the recession.

PROBLEM

How to keep the business running and profitable when the economy is faltering.

ACTION

Glenn David Mathews, CEO of ARG Conservation Services explains:
We’d already been working with Vicki Suiter for several years when the recession hit. Because of Vicki, we hadn’t blown through our profits in the good years. We already had a governor on our spending; and when business turned down, we had enough to keep us afloat.

Vicki already had given us the tools to plan our worst- case scenarios, so we knew what we had to do. Now, we run a tighter and more efficient operation than we ever have.

OUTCOME

We never have to worry about facing a sudden death situation, or walking away from a project. It makes a big difference to know what’s coming instead having to face un- pleasant surprises. We’re still here to take advantage of the upside, because Vicki Suiter helped us manage the downside.

“If Vicki Suiter hadn’t helped us in 2005–07, we’d have been out of business in 2008.”

A building contractor retro-fits his business for success.

PROBLEM

Trying to do everything for everyone drains company resources.

ACTION

Aaron Gordon, CEO of Aaron Gordon Construction recounts:

In an effort to make more profits we were underbidding thinking that would get us more jobs. Instead, we were so busy trying to sell that we didn’t have time to follow-up, and we didn’t get most of what we bid. (Of course, I didn’t have time to track our close rate, so I didn’t know how we were really doing.) We had 12 employees, and I was working my butt off wearing 10 different hats. Instead of managing the company, I was continuously putting out fires. No one was happy.

In the two years since we started working with Vicki and Suiter Business Builders we have gone from making less than 1 million a year to having projections for 15 million. Now, we have 33 employees, and I don’t try and do their jobs anymore. I set realistic expectations and hold people responsible. Most importantly, we’ve changed the kinds of jobs we bid on. We estimate less, sell more, and we follow up on every bid.

OUTCOME

Our profits mean we can pay more than competitive wages, and give decent bonuses, too. Everyone’s happy now.

“I have more control over the business and more respect from my staff. Without reservation, I say that I couldn’t have done it without Vicki’s help.”

A sidewall shingler hits the wall.

PROBLEM

What do you do when the thrill is gone?

ACTION

Peter Sutton, CEO of Marin County Sidewall Company confides:

After three decades in the shingling business, I was tired of playing the ‘I can do it for less game.’

I went to talk to Vicki because I knew my business needed to get to be more fun and more profitable, or I was going to look for a way out.

Vicki gave me an idea of how to approach prospects and run my business in a collaborative style. Now, I see presentations as oppor- tunities to educate. I take my time, learn about who they are and what they want. I focus on consulting, not selling.

OUTCOME

We’re getting business at the top of the price scale instead of fighting at the bottom, and I’m doing more of what I want to do.”

“I’m getting to do more of what I like to do, the way I like to do it. The thrill is back!”

A contractor learns to give his business a strong foundation.

PROBLEM

How to work on your business when you spend all your time resolving problems.

ACTION

Steve Rempe, CEO of Rempe Construction reports:

Before we started working with Vicki, every business decision was brought to me. Being so involved with the minutia made it difficult for me to work on the business, and not just in it.

Vicki has helped us define each person’s job and role in the company. Now, people are able to take responsibility for their positions — and I can hold them to it. This has reduced the number of phone calls from the field, giving me more time to focus on other tasks.

OUTCOME

Now when there’s a problem, I ask what they think we should do. They always have at least two or three solutions!

“Vicki Suiter helped us make small changes that have made a big difference.”

A builder learns to manage work and play.

PROBLEM

Time runs out for builder in training as an ultra-athlete.

ACTION

Bill Darragh, of Bill Darragh Builders, is a full-time contractor and an ultra-athlete. When he found his time running out, he called Vicki to get him back on track. Here’s how he tells it:

“Before I met Vicki, I was working out of my house with part-time help. I was routinely putting in 80-100 hours a week on my business. I didn’t have time to train, and I was exhausted and unhappy.

Vicki helped me put the systems and people I needed in place to sustain and grow my business. Now, I put in half the time I used to and get much more done.

OUTCOME

Now, I have an office, a project manager and an office manager. I spend my time focusing on new business, and on-going improvements that make my business even more competitive and profitable.

“My business is running smoothly, and I’ve got the time I need to do my favorite kind of running — in triathlons! Neither I nor my business would be in as great shape as we are if not for Vicki Suiter.”

Painting contractors get their business in line.

PROBLEM

Good intuition wasn’t enough to run a good business.

ACTION

Alison Heather half (with Jill French) of the Heather and French Painting Contractor company tells her story this way:

With no real business background, we had become accustomed to basing business decisions on our intuition. Our guesses were pret- ty good. But as we grew, we realized that keeping things running was harder than it had to be.

Vicki showed us how to plan on budget, explained what our num- bers are telling us, and showed us how we could be more strategic in how we spend our time and our money.”

OUTCOME

Vicki helped us optimize our potential, so we can go after bigger jobs and be more profitable. Making money isn’t a guessing game any more.

“If someone wondered if they could afford to hire Vicki, I’d tell them, you can’t afford not to hire her .”

Refocusing efforts helps a painting contractor’s business move up the ladder.

PROBLEM

Cut-rate bidding takes a company in the wrong direction.

ACTION

Dan Ross, of Ross Painting shares:

Things were going great for us until the economy fell apart. Like many contractors, we responded in crisis mode, bidding jobs lower and lower just to get work to do. Vicki showed us that 60% of our work was bringing in 15% of our income. We changed our model, and started focusing on building relationships, not on getting bids.

OUTCOME

It took a while, but now we have strong connections with architects, project managers and contractors and work almost exclusively on prestige-level homes. Along the way, we doubled our income. Now, we pass along the business we don’t take to other contractors, which is great for them, too.

“We started working with Vicki when the economy turned down and we were losing money. I have to say that if I hadn’t called Vicki then, I don’t know if we’d even be in business now. At the time, I thought Vicki was expensive. But now, given the return she’s provided on our investment in her, I think she’s inexpensive!”

Small changes make a big difference for a restoration company.

PROBLEM

Not knowing where you’re going makes it hard to get there.

ACTION

Kevin Waldron, CEO of Olympia Restoration Company acknowledges: I wanted the company to grow, and, based on gross sales, it appeared as if it was. But when I met with Vicki and she started asking me some very basic questions, I had to admit I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted the company to go, how it would get there, or what would stand in the way.

Vicki helped us clarify our goals and outline specific steps we’d take to achieve them. She kept challenging us to look at how we were running the business, and be much more thoughtful and methodical about our practices.

OUTCOME

Following Vicki’s advice helped create $1.5 million dollars of profit over the 10 years we worked with her.

“If you want truthful, honest feedback from someone who makes you confront reality, then talk to Vicki. I would encourage any business owner who wants to increase their profitability to work with her.”

A mortgage service VP learns how to get his managers’ interest.

PROBLEM

What do you do when you need help managing managers?

ACTION

Robert Pleasants, Executive Vice President of Require Release Tracking shares:

Our company has four partners – all with strong personalities. We brought Tim McNickle in when we couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Tim is an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) expert, so he knows how to speak to people in their “language.” He got the team exactly where they needed to go – and they all left feeling like it was their idea.

There are a lot of trainers who are good teachers, but they don’t understand the practical side of running a business. Tim is different. He has run a business. He knows P&L from the inside. Knows how to get to the bottom line. And, he knows how to talk to people so they get it.

OUTCOME

I’ve brought Tim in over the course of the last few years in a variety of roles: Coach. Trainer. Mediator. His ability to really hear people meant that he could be equally effective working with any one of our 120 employees. He’s helped the management team. He’s helped our sales guys. Actually, he’s helped our whole organization.

 “Tim McNickle is someone I know I can lean on. He’s great in front of a large group, and he’s equally effective working with a small group or one-to-one. Whatever he does, he delivers bottom-line results.”

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