We love when we have the opportunity to speak with our contractors to learn more about them and their business. This week, we would like to share our one on one with Gifford Pierce, owner and operator of GD Pierce Home Improvements. He gave us some insight into his company, the volunteer work he does with Good Works in Chester County, and his experience using ServiceWhale.
ServiceWhale: How did GD Pierce Home Improvements get started?
Gifford Pierce: In 1983, I lost my job and my wife asked me what I studied in school. I told her painting and decorating, so she said “why don’t you just do that”. The first job I did was for some people who had already purchased the paint, so I bought a few tools and got started. I’ve been doing it ever since.
SW: What does it take to become professional contractor?
GP: I had vocational training in high school; I attended Vo-Tech. I learned a lot there and in the evenings, I worked for one of my father’s best friends who was a painter.
SW: What makes your business unique?
GP: The customer is the number one priority for me and I get many repeat customers because of it. I care about my customers and go above and beyond. I always try to fulfill their expectations.
SW: What do you like about what you do?
GP: I’m a people person. My favorite part about what I do is the interaction with the customer. I like to figure out what their vision is and try to fulfill it or enhance it.
SW: Can you recall any job that was particularly difficult or challenging?
GP: I’ve been doing this for 33 years so I wouldn’t say that there was any one job that was the most difficult. There is one that comes to mind though. Recently, within the last three years, we were going in a home to take the wallpaper off in a kitchen. The wallpaper was way more difficult than anybody could have anticipated. Someone had done some drywall work in there and didn’t put anything on the walls before they put up the wallpaper. I didn’t want to hit the customers over the head for the extra work. Instead, I worked a deal out with them and just did it for cost. This way I wouldn’t loose money on it and they wouldn’t have to pay through the ceiling. In the end, we prevailed and it turned out nice.
SW: What would be an easy job for you?
GP: An easy job for us would be to paint a room with no major work. It might just have a couple of nail holes where you can spackle it up real quick, give it a quick sand, and then paint it up.
SW: Has your business gone through any difficult times?
GP: There was a challenging period in 1990 when Ronald Reagan was leaving office and George H. Bush was coming into office. We were all on the fence, not knowing what the economy was going to do. We were expecting it to stay about the same because we thought that President Bush would just continue with Reagan’s policies, but the economy just tanked. At the time I was doing townhouse developments and when things tanked, I just stopped getting paid. I had all these buildings already painted and did the roofs, we were doing roofing then too, and we were never paid for them. My business went from 10 employees, to just me. That was a trying time. It was just me for many years because I lost a lot of money, probably $50,000 – $60,000. I only had one customer that paid me because he had the money. Somehow, he knew it was coming.
SW: What about during the most recent recession (2007-2009), did you encounter problems?
GP: We did ok during that period because I had gotten away from terms. We take deposits and we get paid as soon as we are done. I had previously adjusted the way I do business after the problems in 1990.
SW: Can you tell a little bit about how you get a deal and what the typical cost is for you to acquire a new customer?
GP: I believe the cost to acquire a new customer is around $25 to $30. It can be a little more or a little less depending on the size of the job and how it came in. A lot of my business comes from word of mouth, but I also use companies like ServiceWhale to get leads.
To get new customers, I’ve also had people tweak my website for SEO and stuff, I use Google AdWords every now and again, I have job site signs, I do email advertising and I do zip code advertising to target certain areas.
SW: What would you say is the hardest part of being a contractor?
GP: For me, the hardest part is just keeping it all organized. I have to write everything down and set reminders on my phone, otherwise I can become super focused on what I am doing and forgot about something else. I also use a board in my office to keep track of where my contractors are.
SW: What are your future plans for GD Pierce Home Improvements?
GP: I don’t have my business plan in front of me but going from memory, we are trying to do $250,000 this year, next year we’re trying to do $500,000 and in the next five years, at least a million. I think I will be adding a few employees as well for specific task like job coordination.
SW: Have you observed any problems in your industry?
GP: Yes, there are many problems in the industry. You have guys out there that aren’t experienced, who are out of work and can’t find a job, so they put in add in the paper and then all of a sudden they are a painter or carpenter or whatever. They don’t have a clue what they are doing and they underestimate everything. It hurts us because we know what we have to charge for things to be viable. I think that a number of these guys get into it (a job) and realize that they have bitten off more than they can chew, then they walk away from the job. Now they have taken money from the customer and haven’t completed the work. That reflects badly on other contractors.
SW: How the industry changed since you first started?
GP: The products and the technology have all changed tremendously. Sherwin Williams makes a paint now that they can use in hospitals and it actually kills MRSA on the walls. Within two hours of painting the walls, germs and viruses are dead and it will continue to kill them for four years unless something happens to the paint. It’s brand new, came out just last year.
SW: How did you hear about ServiceWhale?
GP: I think I did a search for companies that had lead services and ServiceWhale came up.
SW: What were your initial thoughts?
GP: I liked the way it was set up, that I am only paying when I close a deal from a lead. Yes, ServiceWhale takes a percentage, but at least I know I am going to get something out of it. That is what really,really excited me about ServiceWhale.
SW: What do you think about ServiceWhale’s pricing model?
GP: I think it is fair, actually I think it is more than fair. It’s a good deal.
SW: What advice would you give homeowners who are looking to hire a contractor?
GP: I would tell them to do a Google search on the contractor. They should make sure that the contractor is insured, licensed, and has a good reputation.
SW: What do you like to do at your free time?
GP: I’m a church goer and I do bible study. I enjoy gardening, working in the yard, cooking and canning and preserving what I grow in the garden.
I do outreach for some people every now and then too. I work with a company called Good Works in Chester County where I donate my day, usually a Saturday. I go out with other guys to work on people’s houses that are usually elderly or handicap and can’t afford to keep their houses up to code. Everything they do is based on donations, either products or money.
SW: Do you have a favorite television show?
GP: I have a lot of them. Right now The Black List is my favorite, I watch it every week. First, I watched it on Netflix then I watched all the ones that weren’t on Netflix and had to watch all the commercials.
SW: What type of music do you like?
GP: I really like classic rock, The Beatles, George Harrison, and all those guys.
SW: Who is your favorite band/singer?
GP: My favorite artist is Jim Croce. His music is fantastic. Of course, he is no longer with us but he was from this area. The house he lived in is close to my house.
SW: What would a perfect day look like for you?
GP: My wife and I sitting on an island like Barbados or Hawaii. We would be just sitting there on the beach, my wife sunbathing and me with a fishing pole. That would be a perfect day.
SW: What motivates you to succeed?
GP: Money and the vision of when I want to retire.
SW: What inspires you in life?
GP: The need to succeed and my family.
If you’d like to sign your business up for ServiceWhale, visit our website or give us a call at 866-977-3897 to speak with a customer service representative.