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1/14/09

The Cladding Rant: Modern Passive Solar House Update: The Amish And The Internet: Cladding. It sounds like the beginning of a joke...

Road sign in Amish country
Modern House Kit Week In Review:
I start with a recap:


For all you house kit enthusiasts, here's the latest news:

The modern metal cladding was delivered to the Amish the Friday prior to this update. They were able to unload it to the brother's sawmill, and I wish I could have been in that huge truck with the driver as he pulled off the interstate into the world of horse-and-buggy.

The driver of the cladding said he had a great time watching the entire operation as he waited for them to unload, using special "Amish forklifts" that meet their religious criteria (you can see pictures and a video of the Amish forklift by clicking here).

Last Monday:
The cladding was delivered to the job site, the Amish had arrived, and a day of work on the passive solar house began.

Except... questions arose regarding the cladding.

So their driver, who is non-Amish and carries a cell phone, called the cladding company.

Who then told the Amish, standing in our desolate field, in the middle of *nowhere*...

...

to look it up on the internet.
...

...

Told THE AMISH.
In the middle of NOWHERE...
To look it up on THE INTERNET.

The contractor (who was visiting his beautiful grandbabies in Florida and was technically on vacation when this happened) called me, I immediately stepped in, and had some gracious, well modulated words with the cladding representative.

You can't tell the Amish (or anyone else on site!) to "look it up on the internet." In the field, you need answers to questions, now.

The rest of the week progressed with occasional rain, which slowed us down...

And just as my thoughts turned to the fun upcoming weekend we would have taking pictures of the shiny new cladding on the house kit, walking you all through it with new video, how super-mod it would look, how sleek, how stunning... !!!...

(Start playing violin here)

...AS my eyes glazed in dreamy reverie of me, in happy dappled sunshine, sporting a floaty sundress, running, arms outstretched, in slow motion across fields awash in golden blooms to hug my beautiful shiny passive solar house kit...

Our fabulous-and-duly-put-out-by-inefficiency-much-less-protective-that-the-Amish-were-being-compromised (I agree) contractor called.


The frickin' cladding people had neglected to include that north clerestory wall section as part of their kit. And other cladding stuff.

Why
why
WHY is this so difficult?

All I wanted was to set up a national manufacturer to offer volume pricing so our customers could get a really good deal on the modern metal cladding if they so chose! ALL I wanted was to save people (you!) money! All I wanted was to make it easy for... YOU. (I'm very put out with YOU, whomever you may be, at this point. ; ) Hee hee...)

Ergh...

So it looks like we will be awaiting that stretch of cladding...
I shake my head...
Good news is, that after this, I will have a turnkey solution for... YOU : ), for the casa ti.

Ya would have thought the nerve-wracking point would have been the actual house kit, no?
When that went up seamlessly, I thought,
"Oh wow, the scary part is over, and it went great! Huzzah! All we have to do is cladding, and interior walls, and systems... but that's all easy!"

And then... came cladding.

Business Analysis:
I tell ya, it *really* has made me appreciate the architects without whose vision this would be a reality, the house kit factory, the distributor, the engineer, our fabulous contractor... It has all gone SO smoothly, and then you suddenly run into a snafu like this... all of the cladding "this"... it is just hard to understand *why* it happened.

It wasn't just this one vendor.

When I researched, then approached, national cladding manufacturers (not just this one), they all mentioned they were in lean times.

I assumed their biggest hurdle would be to visualize a new business opportunity, to think less of commercial and more of modern residential applications and understand that affordable housing can be really, really beneficial to their business long-term.

But that wasn't the issue.
Over and over I encountered a lack of detail and enthusiasm, the sense that sitting down and really going through an architect's plan, to then write up a diagram for future contractors to easily see where each piece of cladding went where... was too... bothersome?

I'm sorry, but if we start to see these same companies fail in 2009, it wasn't because they didn't have a relevant product. It's because they didn't understand opportunity, service, changing markets and detail.

Let's compare them to the SIPs people.
Even before we purchased the house kit, our local SIP factory offered free workshops on SIP to our contractor (and us, if we wanted!). (Ron, our outstanding contractor, did attend their workshop, an expense we, as our own house kit consumers, gladly paid him for travel and time to attend.)

January 20th Correction: Ron just called me to please change my account of events. With trepidation, I asked, "What did I misunderstand?!?"

He replied, "The homeowner should pay for travel, meals, and lodging to attend these free SIP workshops offered by the factory. But they should NOT pay for the contractor's time."

"What? You didn't charge me?" Now I was feeling REALLY bad and guilty. Here we have this AWESOME contractor who has gone above and beyond any of our expectations. We've made a lifelong friend (actually two, his wonderful wife, Judy), a great neighbor, and here I shirked him for time spent on our project? (Believe me, at this point he's coming out barely breaking even on our escapade.)

Ron corrected me:

"For anyone in the construction industry: The time you spend in learning anything, any new technology, will work for your business long term and be an added value for his or her business: The more diversified you are, the better you will survive long term."

As our house kit went up, the factory was there, aware of the project, available at any time in case there was a question. In fact, they offered to have a service technician come ON SITE for the first day or two to ensure the project went smoothly!
(Which, as it was running so smoothly, we declined!)

If anyone is reading this in the construction industry, I hope you take note.
1. Be open to new opportunities outside of your experience. It might be the best business decision you make. Learn to put your ear to the ground and listen to new business applications for your product coming down the road.
2. Customer service is key. It's not about the sale, it's about the successful, seamless project.
3. Follow up. Return people's phone calls. The SIPs factory checks in on me regularly.
Actually, they check in on all of YOU- those that are in permitting stages, but not under order yet! Thorough, not sales-y, just care about the stories of the people I've mentioned to them!

The cladding? I have *never* had them return a phone call before I called them again.
And not this firm, ALL of them. I met initially with several of them, and not one followed up.
They all went to my contractor.
And he smiled and said, "Well, you'd best go back to your client."

I will still offer them to you, because I hammered down pricing.
Ohhhhhhhhhhh but I will watch them, and warn you upfront.

So sad, I went through five of them, and only after all the research for national fulfillment.

My husband just, reading this, made a great point:
It's not just the SIPs factory. (This I know too well, but failed to mention appropriately:)

Compare it to our Contractor:
On a *local* level, our project manager, our CONTRACTOR, the fabulous and cannot-retire-because-so-many-people-will-need-him Ron Bernaldo, his team (thank you Daniel Esh Construction even though you can't touch the internet because you're Amish! I know these kudos will reach you somehow...) and their subcontractors... Ayyyyyyyyyyy PLUS.

On a national level, Home Depot.
We had ordered the doors and windows through them (that's the thing with the window and door schedule we provide, it's supposed to make it easy on the consumer to order energy efficient doors and windows through national distributors but locally at a good price).

The Lynchburg Home Depot (Ron in millwork there especially, but ALL of them even if I was just checking on an order) were SO customer-service driven... GREAT people. Ron would call me regularly, just to "check in", not salesman, (just as I see myself- I will NEVER follow up on you to sell- heck, I'm happy! But I will check in to see how your soil testing is going, or your zoning decision... I'm a great project manager but would never "sell" something someone doesn't want. Selling? Icky. Project Management? Fun. ) just a good guy knowing a project was in process and outstanding and seeing how the project was coming along.

He even took the extra effort where this Lynchburg Home Depot doesn't have employee emails (yes I will refrain from saying anything about that as a media company : ) ), so he, on his own initiative, gave me his personal email address and *worked weekends* to receive my files on his personal computer, to discuss them, complete my order... Wow.

Any-hoo, those are my thoughts this evening... rapidly leaving a business analysis mindset for sweet dreams on my pillow, of days in our casa ti to come. Spring comes soon...

: )

Sincerely yours,
Best wishes,
Copeland Casati

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1 Comments:

At 10/7/10, 5:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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