by Andy Wells
Normandy Remodeling was founded in March 1979 by my current partner, Reg Marzec, and my father-in-law Jack Steindl. In the beginning, there were just two people; however, with early success there became the need to add staff. First, came office help, followed soon after by salespeople. Over the years, people were added in sales, production and architecture until the company grew to its present size of 47 employees.
I started with Normandy in 1997 in the sales department and was promoted into a management role in 2001. I started buying into the company and became an equal partner with Jack and Reg in 2003. I’ve been running the daily operations of the company for more than 10 years, and my background as a CPA has helped me keep the company stable, especially in these challenging economic conditions. Transferring a remodeling business from one generation to the next can be immensely challenging, and sadly, there are many examples of businesses that never successfully make that transition. In December 2011, Jack Steindl passed away, and although everyone here at Normandy—especially Reg and I—mourned the loss of an amazing man, the business of running the company never skipped a beat.
One of the great gifts that Reg and Jack gave Normandy is the guiding principles that from day one we do our best, andwe do what’s right. Normandy found strength in our design skill and high ethical standards, and we have a legacy of decades of happy customers and happy employees because of those principles. Employees find great comfort in the fact that Normandy is built on integrity. Our policies, procedures, decisions and actions are based upon fairness and good business ethics.
Although Jack and Reg never intentionally set out to create a company with a defined culture, we’ve found that hiring passionate and talented people and supporting them in an environment that is family-friendly that allows their talent to thrive has proved to be immensely beneficial. More than 20% of Normandy employees have been with the company 15 years or longer, including our director of production (30 years) and both our architectural manager and a veteran designer (tied at 26 years). Good pay, good benefits and fun outings make for a nice place to work. Our culture of support and fairness throughout Normandy is what binds our team together, so much so that many people refer to the group as their “second family.”
One of the biggest challenges back in 1979 was helping people understand the kind of work they could expect from a design/build remodeling firm. At that time, people thought of siding and window replacements when they thought of remodeling, not the additions, kitchens, second stories and major renovations that would become the Normandy specialties.
Normandy has a few qualities that are unique in the industry, which we feel help contribute to our success. While it’s common for one person to be involved with a customer from start to finish in a smaller company, it’s a bit more unusual when you have 18 salespeople on your team. A single sales designer becomes the primary contact with the customer and assumes an advisory role throughout the project. While it’s challenging to find talented designers who are also able to sell, we embrace the notion because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not uncommon for a Normandy designer/salesperson to make regular site visits during construction and stay in touch with homeowners for years after the project is complete. By placing so much emphasis on the relationship with the initial designer/salesperson, the homeowners are able to have someone with whom they are able to bond during the months of planning and construction for their home renovation.
Referrals are the lifeblood of almost every remodeling company, and Normandy is no different. We approach referrals a bit outside of the typical large company mindset. The first obvious way to make sure your business grows is to create satisfied customers—so do a good job, exceed expectations and stand behind your work. We know that we’ve done our job well when we receive referrals and repeat customers—some from a few years ago, some from a few decades ago—who have returned to Normandy for their next home renovation.
Since we operate with a baseline of making sure we do quality work, the next step is to encourage our happy customers to actively refer. We have a referral rewards program where we formally thank people for recommending us and host events in our showroom for past customers. But the biggest key to growing referrals has been the personal relationships that are formed with our designer/salespeople. Because they are involved with the renovation from the initial meeting all the way through to the final inspection and beyond, there is a genuine connection that is formed between the designer and the homeowners. We’ve learned that people like to refer people, not companies, so we do our best to support and nurture those relationships. Our designers are very active on social media and have many connections on various online platforms with past customers. The Marketing and PR Department highlight the various successes, awards, projects and accomplishments of specific, individual designers. It helps build the designer/salesperson’s own personal brand and enhance their credibility among their past and potential customers.
After the big recession hit, we decided that we needed to make some real changes to our marketing to take us through the downturn. We hired a new director of marketing and made some significant shifts in how we marketed. The Internet was somewhat of an unknown for us, and we’ve since become very involved online through our search engine efforts, social media and via other relevant websites such as Houzz. We’ve also gotten a lot more personal, trying to meet and talk with as many qualified homeowners as possible at various events to help people get to know us and hopefully to decide to choose Normandy for their project.
In the end, our company is all about people, which is what I love most about Normandy. We’ve built a team of talented remodeling professionals who love working together, they love the work they do, and they love their clients. Our employees and our customers know that Normandy will stand behind our work, laying the foundation for the next 35 years of growth and success.—Andy Wells
Andy Wells is principle at Normandy Remodeling, an award winning design-build firm located in Hinsdale, Ill. Visit the company’s website at www.NormandyRemodeling.com.