7 Beneficial Failures

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You’re the beneficiary of our failure.
 

“I didn’t fail. I just found 2000 ways not to make a lightbulb.” -Thomas Edison. Call it what you want, but these 7 things we got wrong.  We could deny getting it wrong, but what good is that?  Owning failure has much greater benefit for you, our target market, to reap.  Greater value comes to you because of lessons failure taught us.
  
Here’s where we failed and found a better way.
  
1.  Pricing Failure– More than once we paid dearly for underquoted projects.  Quoting errors revealed our great need for a design build process.  It was obvious.  When you carefully design and clearly scope a project (making all selections upfront), pricing is accurate - even the very best "educated guesses" aren't as accurate. Implementing the design build process gave our business long term stability.  After all, what good is a lifetime warranty when a business doesn't survive?
  
2.  Identity Failure – We tried to be a “do it all” contractor.  Any project, regardless of size, scope or budget, we tried to make work.  Big fail. This approach gave us no identity. No focus.  No niche.  Our customer base showed us we have a strength – renovations.  Design build renovations became our exclusive niche.  We no longer try to do it all. Instead, you now have a highly specialized renovation contractor.  
   
3.  Communication Failure – Verbal communication is one of our strengths, but it created a problem. We relied too heavily on it. Important details were being communicated in conversation, but forgotten. Who remembers all conversations perfectly?  Not us. Not our customers.  We made follow-up emails mandatory after important conversations.  Now the phrase “I thought you said….” isn’t necessary because it's in writing.
     
4.  Finishing Failure– Who wants to live in a home continually “under construction”?  A good renovation contractor wants your project finished  as much as you do.  “Project dribble” is phrase we coined to describe the plethora of little issues that keep projects from finishing on time. Eventually dribble got our full attention, and we found proactive was to prevent it. So your estimated date of completion isn't delayed by dribble.                

5.  Lead Generation Failure– We used Service Magic, a lead generation company, in the early days of our business.  Big mistake. It didn't take long to figure out you, our customers, are the best referral partners. That shouldn’t be a shocker.  When you’re happy with our service and quality you talk about it.  (And many are talking.)  So we canceled Service Magic, and put even more effort in delighting you, and strengthening client relationships.  It's a win-win for you and us.  
  
6.  Giving Failure– We’re passionate about giving.  “Generous Giving” is one of our core values.  And giving “too much” to charity has never been a regret.  But, we have given too much to non-charitable causes.  We pumped too much time, effort, and insights into projects that never materialized, and toward customers who never moved forward.  We figured out charging a small consultation fee is a great way to gauge a client's level of commitment.  Now business efforts are more aligned with you, the paying customer, and charitable efforts with those in real need.
     
7.  Acknowledging Failure Failure– Why are so many business owners unwilling to acknowledge failure? Maybe they feel threatened by transparency. We see it different.  “Building Trust” (which is both our tagline and our passion) requires straightforward communication, even when we get things wrong.  Talking about failure once made us squirm.  Not so much anymore.  We’re quick to tell you we’re not perfect, but as you see from this blog, we take full ownership of failure.        
 

DIY or DDY (Don't Do Yourself)

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Big DIY projects require confidence, skill and a huge reality check. 
 Self-performing has its benefits.  For starters you could save large quantities of money while experiencing the joy of personal accomplishment.  (Nothing like beholding your own masterpiece!)  Some DIY projects should be DDY projects though - projects you don't do yourself.  This is especially true if the project requires a specialized skill such as plumbing, electrical, tile setting, etc. Attempting a DDY projects can cost you dearly in terms of money, time, personal health due to stress/injury, marital strain, and......even more money.  The key is distinguishing which projects are DIY and which are DDY. So how do you tell the difference? 
Here are 7 “reality check” questions to consider before self-performing a renovation.
1.  What is my skill level?  Pros make it look easy, but don’t be fooled.  Not everyone is a pro.  Some have a natural aptitude for carpentry and it comes easy.  Others not so much.  Be honest with yourself when evaluating your skill level.  A little self-awareness can prevent you from getting in over your head. 
2.  How much time (and patience) am I prepared to invest?  Beautiful renovations happen quickly on HGTV.  They only take a 30 minute episode.  Real life renovations take considerably longer, and require significantly more patience.  You’ll feel an urge to rush, but doing a renovation hastily is a mistake.  You’re better off getting it right the first time. 
3.  How much energy can I give my project?  Renovation work is very physical and requires stamina.  If you’re typically exhausted after your “day job”, a DIY renovation may require weekends.  Just make sure you approach your project with mental and physical energy.  Bad things happen when sleep deprived zombies try to renovate.  
4. Do I know an expert?  If DIY was a game show, this is where you could “phone a friend.”  Knowledgeable friends and contacts help you get unstuck as you encounter problems.  Better yet let them know before you even start.  They’ll likely share a few vital insights as you plan.
5.  Will I be safe?  No renovation is worth serious injury.  Stop immediately if you think you might be running that risk. 
6.  Can I start with a smaller project?  You don’t need to tackle large renovations to learn if you have a knack for DIY.  Start small.  Small projects are a great gauge for how well you’ll handle larger ones.  You only put yourself ahead of the curve as you gain more experience.   
7. What’s the worst case scenario if I do it myself?  Resist being optimistic if you’re unwilling to consider the risk.  The best advice for a DIY renovation is “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” –Dennis Waitley     

What's Good?

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Disclaimer: What you're about to read has nothing to do with renovations.  Still, if an award was given for our “Most Significant” blog post, this one would win by far.

I’m sure you've our society has become increasingly panic-stricken. The news networks rarely tell us anything calming or good, and social media thrives on deception.  All this bad news begs the question: Is good news out there?

The answer is yes.  Good still happens in our American culture.  And it's worth finding.  You need to know where to look though, or face being swept away by a tidal wave of negativity.

So where is the good news?
  
At Daniel Builders we recognize truly good news starts with God. He is actually doing good right now in our community, even as much of it goes largely unrecognized.  The few recognizing this goodness are often at “rock bottom”.  They have exhausted just about every option, but one -The Haven of Rest.  The Haven specializes in helping people at rock bottom, and they frequently see God demonstrate amazing goodness.  Recently, I sat down with Stu Butler, executive director of the Haven of Rest in Anderson. 

What he said is worth sharing.

Will: Who comes to the Haven of Rest for help?

Stu: Men and women struggling with a life dominating problem.  Let me read you our Mission statement. The Haven of Rest exists to see those with life dominating problems rescued, restored and released while experiencing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ as commanded in the Great Commission of Matt 28:18-20. 

Will: What does getting help look like for someone struggling with a live dominating problem?

Stu: We don’t advertise.  We don’t have to advertise. Most people end up here by word of mouth.  We have five pillars.  Food. Shelter. Clothing. Christian Love.  Biblical Guidance. If a person’s stomach is inside out from hunger they can’t really listen very well.  Or if someone is physically exhausted and they just need to lay down a while we can meet that need.  So we start by meeting basic needs, but that’s not where we stop. 

Will: What motivates you?

Stu: The love of Christ, what He has done for me and what I see Him doing in other people’s lives. We see God doing miracles here every day and that is not only motivational but inspirational as well. I am motivated to leave things better than I found them. That is something that my dad taught me and it has stuck with me all these years. He did that and his legacy still lives on even though he passed away two years ago at age 92. I want to follow in my Father’s footsteps – both my earthly father and my heavenly Father. I want to leave a legacy that is larger than me and will last longer than me.

Will: Have you seen an increase or decrease in desperate, “rock bottom” people?

Stu: Unfortunately we have seen an increase. Material poverty has been around for a long time but we also see spiritual poverty and relational poverty. Technology has connected us but also disconnected us and that creates relational poverty. So we are ministering to men and women dealing with that as well. Interestingly in our low tech ministry centers our men and women are forced to talk and to relate to one another.  That can be a slow process at first but they can learn to relate to their fellow sojourners and that is a great thing. If they can learn to relate to and love their fellow man who they have seen it helps them to see God who they have not seen.

Will: How will the Haven continue seeing God at work?

Stu: We stand on the truth and the basics, as long as we do that we will grow and see God at work. As we are faithful to God He is faithful to us and gives us fruit for our labors. This is a faith ministry and what we have found is that God honors faith because faith honors God. We are so thankful for the support of the community, support which we depend on because we do not receive government funding for our programs.

May God grant us all an ability to recognize His good news.  

To find out more about Haven of Rest Ministries or to make a donation please visit www.havenofrest.cc

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2018 in Review(s)

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That was fast.  Hard to believe we’re in the final hours of 2018.  What was 2018 like for you?  Reviewing a year is like a football coach reviewing game footage.  You’re wiser, savvier for doing it. Forgetting 365 days would be a colossal waste. 

Some of our best lessons from 2018 came in the form of customer feedback, or reviews.  Listening when our customers speak has been absolutely essential to our business.  After all, Daniel Builders is in the business of making customers really, really happy with their homes.  They, like any good boss, let us know if we’re succeeding or not. 

Customer reviews serve another purpose. They give future customers a good idea of what to expect.  Some people write reviews with ill-intent, trying to inflict unwarranted embarrassment, or harm.  These folks are typically easy to spot though.  Most reviews are written by people who care.  They realize their feedback (both positive and negative) can be extremely helpful.

Thank you to every customer who shared their honest feedback in 2018. 

So without further delay, here’s a sampling of what they had to say.   

We appreciate the professionalism and the communication from all of you at Daniel Builders.  While it’s never fun to have folks in your house for long stretches, you made it as painless as possible.
You were easy to work with and took care of all our questions and concerns in a timely manner.  You will certainly be considered for any future projects we may have.
 – Katherine L.

I have been impressed with Daniel Builders
from my first phone call, to the design team, our Project Manager and
Carpenters and would use ya'll again for future building
projects....without hesitation.  – Kathy S.


We have been nothing but pleased with your company from beginning to end with both our projects.   You run a top notch company and I’m sure we will have more projects in the future.  – Ali R.

I would highly recommend Daniel Builders. They have been honest, on time, and high quality of work.
– Andy G.

I appreciate Daniel Builders and everything that you represent. I look forward to working with you again in the future. Let me know if I can ever provide references for you.  –Greg A.

They did a great job helping us make a 1/2 bath/laundry room into a full, accessible bathroom. The guys were friendly, knowledgeable, on time, communicative, and innovative in the design to make the most of the allotted space. We are extremely pleased with the entire experience.
– Charles C.

I'm not sure I have ever come across another contractor that I have worked with I would give 5-stars to, but Daniel Builders deserves every one. I'd probably do it just because they actually show up when they say they are going to - a rarity I've found these days - on time, every time. But they aren't just punctual in their arrival, they have completed every job for us on time and beautifully! We've asked them to remodel two bathrooms, complete odd jobs to help close a sale of a house and build a beautiful fence. We had a minor, but not unusual, problem with work completed and when we called almost 6 months later, they came out the next week and fixed it without charge. I couldn't believe the responsiveness. Most contractors would take weeks to call you back, if they ever did. Our family has used them as well and had the same great experience. We've already chosen them to help us complete our newest project - a kitchen remodel. We considered briefly to do it ourselves as we've done many times before, but the comfort knowing the job will be done exactly as we imagine, on time and by great people - that aren't us - made the decision for us. 
–Nicole C.

Just want to thank you for another great job. So sorry we did not know about you in the past. Certainly, it would have saved us some do-overs. It was a pleasure to have you in our home. Everyone we have had contact with is so easy to work with and did an absolutely wonder job. Thank you for putting as much effort into a small job (like our laundry room floor) as you did when we renovated the front of the house. Another thing that is so important: Communication. You kept us informed! When the job would start, times people would be here. Such nice and professional people that work for you. Too bad more companies do not have your work ethic. –Bill J.
 
We worked for some exceptional people in 2018.  We’re grateful for each one, and the feedback they share.
 
Happy and prosperous 2019!

The SHK Renovation

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I’m taking a risk here, but it’s worth taking.  This blog is meant to warn you.  Stay away from the SHK renovation process, and if you've already started, RUN!  Never subject yourself to that kind of experience.  Customers from the SHK tell us (and quite frequently) how much they regret trying to renovate their home that way.  Every single customer of the SHK acknowledges it was not worth it.  
Full disclosure, the SHK is not some up and coming competitor.  Instead, it’s a very costly experience better known as the School of Hard Knocks.  Graduates of this “school” come to Daniel Builders after learning valuable renovation lessons the hard way.  They all say the same thing, “I had no idea how much time, money and hardship my renovation would cost.” Ironically, the school appeals most to those seeking to save time, money, and hardships.  
Attending the SHK isn’t necessary.  In fact, it’s the only school that truly pays to skip.  So how does one avoid learning the lessons the hard way?  Short answer: Identify SHK renovators before it’s too late.  (*Note: A 2015 Houzz showed the top 3 renovation challenges were 1) finding the right service provider 2) finding the right products and materials 3) staying on budget.Really all 3 get resolved by choosing the right service provider.) The SHK renovator typically does minimal upfront legwork prior to starting a project.      
Time is money, and here’s a story line illustrating how both are easily lost in large quantities during a renovation. See if it sounds familiar.  Homeowner seeks contractor for a major renovation project.  Homeowner finds contractor A online, and contacts him based on multiple online reviews from past customers who speak highly about Contractor A’s ability to provide an excellent renovation experience.  Customer meets Contractor A and likes him even more.  Customer feels very confident contactor A is competent and will deliver a high quality/low frustration renovation.  Yet, homeowner decides to shop for a lower price.  And he finds contractor B.  Contractor B says he can do everything Contractor A, but at a price the homeowner wants to hear.  So the homeowner moves forward with contractor B.  Fast forward 3 months.  Homeowner’s expectations are shattered.  Contractor B’s actual price escalates well beyond his estimates, while his level of quality and service decline.  Homeowner fires Contractor B, loses money, and tries to figure out how to start over.  Hopefully, these valuable lessons were truly learned and the homeowner never re-enrolls in the SHK, or the cycle is certain to repeat itself.      
No major renovation should start without first doing major legwork. Good contractors realize this and plan accordingly in 3 areas.  Before anyone swings a hammer there should be real clarity on the scope of work and price.  Here are 3 deliverables you need before beginning a major renovation.
 

  1. Design – creating your design with the help of a designer or architect ensures your finished project looks like what you want.  Plus, this process uncovers new design options, as well as products the homeowner never knew existed. 

  2. Detailed Scope - take time with your contractor to spell out the full and detailed scope of work, making all selections.  Doing this legwork before starting shows you exactly what you’re paying for.  Nobody wants to get less than what they expect.  A detailed scope ensures you won’t.

  3. Fixed Cost – Cost surprises are rarely positive.  When was the last time someone heard, “Your project is going to cost a few thousand less than we estimated?”  Doesn’t happen. You no longer need to estimate when you have a clear design and detailed scope (including selections).  You can have a fixed cost at the start.   

Renovation Happiness

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"How does that make you feel?" 

Asking this age old psychiatric question is highly recommended as you consider ways to improve the space where you live.  A few days ago I came across these 7 decor characteristics that influence your emotions, and wanted to share them with you. 

The Color of Your World

In the early 1800s, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe proposed colors affect the human psyche in his book Theory of Colours. Although his interpretation of certain colors was not entirely accurate, his theory was confirmed through recent studies and experiments. Today, we know colors affect us on a psychological level.
Here are some color correlations:           

  • Red - passion, warmth, intimacy

  • Orange - energy, innovation

  • Yellow - joy, creativity,

  • Green - relaxation, naturally soothing

  • Blue - calming, refreshing

  • Purple - luxury, sophistication

  • Gray - relaxation, peacefulness

  • Brown - relaxation, calmness, connection to nature

  • Black - boldness, power

  • White - cleanliness, purity, sterility

Bringing Nature Indoors

While there's nothing wrong with filling your home with modern conveniences, too much may leave the living space feeling sterile or impersonal. Such environments do little to reduce stress and feelings of anxiety. Psychologists recommend adding elements of nature to your environment to counteract a space that feels sterile. Bringing potted plants inside, keeping a bouquet of flowers on a table, and hanging paintings of outdoor scenes will help create a relaxed and welcoming environment.

Clear the Clutter

Clearing clutter is one of the most basic things you can do to improve a room’s vibe.  We tend to let things pile up here and there.  These eyesores affect our stress levels. You may not consciously be aware of it, but seeing clutter can cause you to tense up and feel anxious. Adding a cabinet space enhances the atmosphere and provide a place for storing papers, books, and other items.

Increase Natural Sunlight

The amount of natural light a room receives will also affect your mental state. Depending on how a home is situated, some rooms receive very little sunlight. Adding skylights can help, but there are also cheaper options. Try adding mirrors to the room, placing them at angles to capture the sun's rays. A mirror’s reflection also helps make a room look bigger.

Add the Illusion of Space

Rooms that are smaller and more confining can either be cozy or suffocating. If the room makes you feel claustrophobic, try to create more room. As previously mentioned, mirrors can add dimension to the room. Additionally, look for ways to leave the center of the room empty. Instead of a coffee table, add an extra end table. You can also add more artwork to draw the eye away from the size of the room.

Take Advantage of Aromatherapy

Adding scented candles is a simple, quick way to enhance a room's aroma. Alternatively, you might prefer investing in an essential oil diffuser. Whichever method you choose, look for scents that lead to a positive and relaxed emotional state. Lavender, cinnamon, and jasmine are just a few to consider.

Invest in New Furniture

If you're a crafty person, you might build your own tables or a chair from reclaimed wood. This brings your personal style to a room, and promotes a more welcoming vibe. If your sofa and chairs don't help you feel relaxed, consider selling them and buying something a little different. Your home should be a place to relax and unwind, so keep that in mind, when shopping for new furniture.
 
Paying closer attention to how your room makes you feel enables you to create a happier environment. People often tend to create a room by adding components that they like without giving thought to how those items will affect the overall environment. Visualizing possibilities of a living space will help you create something that feels good and welcomes guests openly.
 
Feeling the need for a major renovation?  Daniel Builders can assist you further as you process these feelings. 

Are You Asking?

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“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.” – Albert Einstein
 

Identifying a renovation contractor who “best fits” you and your project is a problem solving process.  Simplifying the process requires asking good questions.  And not just your questions, but questions the contractor asks as well.  You, as a customer, ultimately want to know “Am I getting value worth my money?”, while the contractor (at least a reputable one) wants to know, “Am I getting money worth my value?”  A “fit” happens when both sides can confidently answer “yes”.

Here are 7 questions to ask and answer before moving forward with a renovation.

How long will I live in the house I’m renovating? If you’re planning to move within 2 years a major renovation probably wouldn’t make sense.  You’re not likely to recoup money invested. 
How does the renovation process differ from contractor to contractor?Every contractor is different.  Knowing how long a renovation takes, the disruption it causes, how and when selections are made, how change orders are processed, the warranties offered, and other details about the process will help you match yourself with the right contractor.   
How much will I spend?  This may be the most important question you answer.  Coming up with a range is good, but a fixed price is best.  You may need to be educated on how much things cost, but don’t make an impulse decision.  Know your spending limits.
Where do I need help clarifying and describing the renovation I want?   If you need assistance, a design build approach gives you the best idea of what you’ll receive before actually starting construction.
What are reasonable expectations about service and responsiveness?  Expecting daily updates is likely overkill, but not hearing from your contractor in several days is not good.  Weekly communication should be the expectation.  Always wise to stay up to date with your renovation. 
What happens after the project?  Don’t fall victim to a disappearing contractor.  His role after the renovation is every bit as important as his role during it.  Should simple questions or major issues arise, you’ll want a contractor who is responsive to your concerns. 
What have other customers experienced?  Pay close attention when speaking with references.  Obviously, a contractor will provide positive references who say nice things about their work.  Which is helpful (identifying strengths), but you’ll also want to identify “red flags”, or areas where the contractor could improve. Asking a reference appropriate questions will help you figure out those details.  Also, check reviews. Anything you can learn about the contractor’s track record is beneficial. 

These are just a few questions, and they can vary. Just don’t miss an opportunity to ask.  Be professional, be specific, be straightforward, but always ask.  The big question is: What will you ask when your renovation depends on it?