Show 2: Steve Scheipeter

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Steve shares how he overcame a huge obstacle that almost took him out of business and some of the things he did to turn things around along with a killer job description to help you hire your next office manager.

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Show 2: Steve Scheipeter

  1. 1. Show 2: Steve Scheipeter with S.W. Scheipeter shares how to dig yourself out of a big hole and the importance of paying attention to your financials Kyle: Welcome to Remodelers on the Rise. I’m your host, Kyle Hunt. And with me is my co-host Ryan Paul Adams. Howdy Ryan! How are you? Ryan: Hey Kyle! How are you doing? Kyle: I’m good. So this is Remodelers on the Rise Podcast #2. And we’re going to get started with our guest today. Our guest today is Steve Scheipeter. Steve runs a remodeling business down in St. Louis. He started back in 2000. They’re a design-build focus company. Recently, honored with Remodeling Magazine’s Big 50 Award. For the last few years, they’ve been part of the Qualified Remodeling Magazines Top 500 Award. And we really appreciate you going here Steve. Steve: Good to be here. Ryan: Excellent to have you Steve. Kyle: Why don’t we get started? The focus of our show is really about you Steve, your business and your experience. I just gave you a quick introduction. And I’d like to turn over to you. Briefly tell us more about you and your business. Steve: All right. I appreciate that, thank you. So, I started this business, as many, a carpenter. I use to still wear my tools as I first open the door, if you will. But today, we’ve developed into a full service design-build remodeling firm. We put a lot of focus and importance on the design aspect, the coordination. Getting everything done before we go to construction. So many of us remodelers do the remodeling part well. It’s actually not a problem. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  2. 2. So we focus on the first part, how we bring the jobs in. And getting them ready. A lot of importance on design and how well they’re integrating to the home. Getting the whole process ready to go. But other than that, you know like a lot of companies out there, we have our own carpenters and remodelers and staff. We’re just under $200 million in total revenue for 2013. Ryan: That’s excellent! Kyle: We do a nice product. We have a lot of good repeat clients. So we have really worked hard over the last 13 years. And we got a strong foundation of a company. And we sit here today. We’re really looking forward to, I am very excited about where things are headed. Economy is back, it seems. We’ve gone through a lot of changes. And we’ve survived the great recession. So, pretty excited and upbeat where things are. We’ve got a pretty heavy workload now. Kyle: Ryan, why don’t you get started with our first question? Ryan: Ok. So let’s go. We can get started with some of the other things we want to tackle. Thank you for sharing that Steve. You know one of the things we like to ask a lot of our guests is success quote. Is there any success quote or a mantra and an example of how you might apply that to your life or business? Steve: Yeah. From a business standpoint, very simple 2-word thing is “Make hay.” And what it comes from, part of me, I started with a friend many years ago when, like she said, “Make hay while you can.” And maybe it’s just an old farmer’s motto, but for me, simplifying as best we can what we do well and sticking to it. It’s easy to get distracted in a lot of ways. So, the bottom line is design them and build them for how we have them priced. I know things seem simple but it can get really complicated. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  3. 3. Ryan: Yeah. Remodeling is complicated enough. As simple as you can keep it, make it, it definitely will lend itself to a better business and a simpler life. Kyle: And focus on the fundamentals. That sounds what you’re hitting in on there. Steve: Yeah. Keep it simple. Ryan and Kyle: True. Kyle: Some people say, Keep It Simple and they do the KISS principle. K-I-S-S. But that’s too complicated. Just say K-I-S. Keep It Simple. Take the other S off. It just makes it complicated. Ryan: So true. Steve: And why add negativity in there? I call it Keep It Simple, Stupid. You know we’re all learning. And negativity doesn’t seem to work for me either so I’d agree. Kyle: Tell us a story. Not to go too negative a bit. Talk to us about a story or a time in your business journey that you may have encountered a failure. If you kind of take us to that time in your life and tell us that story. And maybe share some of the lessons you’ve learned from that. Steve: Sure! The most important one I’d say would be in 2012. When we started the company, my wife had been a bookkeeper by trade and was trained that way. It seemed like an easy, natural combination. She ran the books and I was the construction guy and a way we went. It worked well for 11 years. But by 2012, we really hit a wall. She had gone through a lot of personal issues, and was really having a hard time holding things together. We were coming out from this stressful recession. Money was tight. And we had put a lot of our personal money back in the business to keep it going. So she really struggled with the stress. And I didn’t know to what extent but really had a hard time. Therefore, after 12 years of running the books pretty well, she hit a wall. And our books were a mess. I had relied on her and a consultant for quite a few years. We no longer pay for the consultant, he was gone. And she was now gone. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  4. 4. I literally had to ask my wife, I’d tell her not to come back to work. Ryan: That’s hard. You think the lesson there is, can you work with family in this business? I see a lot of remodeling business and I come from a family-owned remodeling business myself, so can you work effectively with family members? Or is it more of needing to be more aware of everything that’s going on with our business at all times? Steve: I think, it’s probably more based on the individuals and where they’re at. I imagine that it can. We did it for quite a long time. We see other companies that do. Yeah, I think, they can. It’s just a matter of where each person is personally. For us, in a marriage situation, I know there are a lot of companies like that where it’s a husband and wife team. You know, we get a lot busy with the business. We have 3 kids and as the business grew, the workload grew. Being aware of that and the toll that it takes on the marriage and the relationship, too. Ryan: Sure. I think it’s probably hard to separate the two. It sounds like when you’re in the middle of growing a business and you’re working together and you have a relationship, it sounds like it’s going to be tough to split those two. And keep them separate. Steve: Here I was, we weren’t talking or the first time in 12 years while we were at work. So my books were a mess. I had all my table building up, building up. Very little new money coming in. And I was in a jam. I was in a spot – a bad spot. So it was the darkest point of my career to date and hopefully the last. Kyle: How did you dig out of it? Where you’re at today, it sounds like you had a good last year - the year after which you were describing there. How are you able to dig out of it and turn things around? Steve: Fortunately, some work started to come in. We had a lot, we’ve been very fortunate with a lot of referral works. Some of the work started to come in which enabled us to get rollin’. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  5. 5. But first thing I had to do was to stopgap between all the money I owed myself, lenders and new work. So I went to them all, sent them all letters saying, “Here’s the deal. Our revenue’s not enough b I’ll get current with you with new work.” It was difficult. We stuck to our guns in terms of sending the money. I’ve got some positive responses from sub-lenders and I’ve got a few negative ones, and a couple who wanted to sue me. Those things just worked themselves out in the course of time. So I did that and kept going with the work. Bring work in and made a lot of changes in time. One of the priorities was finding a new financial person. I hired a person who had 14 years of experience in construction but they ran their books much differently, she had no idea about job costing and stuff like that. The point is, I made a mistake with my first hire. Fortunately, my second hire was a bookkeeper who has worked out very well. She’s been with me ever since. And I had to bring in some help. Had to bring in some consultants – different consultants to help with the books, my CPA. So it just started to change the culture in our office. My production side didn’t change. My Production Manager has been with me for 11 years. Brought in some few designers. Just started to breathe in new life into the place. Kept going and before you knew it, time ticks away. We really stick close to the financials. Really, I had to jump in, to my ears, in the numbers. My entire career, I was, “I don’t know the numbers. I don’t understand them. You do it.” Kyle: Doesn’t work like that. Sometimes, I consistently see with remodelers is that of you are not in-tune with the numbers, it makes running this profitable business more difficult. Steve: I’ve heard that from so many other guys in peer groups and sitting in many meetings with other companies all around the country. I heard people saying the same thing. So I had to face that fear and just open the books and start reading. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  6. 6. Not that I became the bookkeeper but I had to have a better understanding. And in facing that fear, as so often occurs, I realized that it wasn’t as hard as what I’d made out to be. So I started really running the company based on the numbers which requires a work-in-progress report. So it got to a point we did those things. Because the construction piece for us, we’ve been very fortunate, it’s never been a problem. I have a very, very qualified craftsman. My Production Manager is incredibly smart and he knows the business. So first, to build the projects, it has never been a problem to us. It’s about the relationship with the client. Keeping that going from design all the way to construction. We keep our nose to the grindstone so to speak. We work on the numbers and here we are 2 years later, we’re in a much better space. The air in the office is much better. We have a much better culture going on. And we’re digging out of the hole, we are not completely out of it. But, we’ve come a long way. Probably, we only need 6 to 9 more months and we’ll have everything where we want it. Ryan: I’ll give you a lot of credit for powering through it. Because there are a lot of people who would have given up. I give you a lot of credit for that. We’re heading down into the positive side here, would you mind sharing a story or a time of your life where you had a big breakthrough – an AHA moment? Maybe take us back to that moment. Steve: I’d say that it might be in the coattails of the negative piece. I was in a point where finally I accepted the fact that I had to sit and start to learn the numbers. And accept that I had to play a part in that. So I read a few books. I started sitting down with my financial statements. And I was at a softball tournament with my daughter. Sitting up in a chair, waiting for the next game to start and reading another one these books, just realizing that I do understand this. I had a much better understanding than what I thought I did. And it was just about the fear of money and the cash flow. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  7. 7. I’ve always hated those things, cash flow. So realizing that I could do it, I had plenty of brain power. That false humility of “I can’t do this, I don’t understand this.” Kyle: I’d like to call that head trash, too. You have this idea on your head of that. Speaking with one of my clients out West here, we’re talking about the cash flow, about knowing his numbers and some areas he identified that we’ve decided that he needs to work on. And one of the things he said that you were hinting there Steve was he almost didn’t want to dig into the numbers because he didn’t want to get into the reality of it. He wanted to avoid reality and just kind of pretend everything’s good to go. That’s a recipe for more difficulties. Steve: You articulated that very well. Like once you know it, once you settle into it, it’s not so bad. It’s that piece of, “Geez! I got to open it. I got to look at it and know what it is.” And once you do it, it’s going to be like, “Ok! Now what am I going to do?” Ryan: As a business owner, what it comes down to, you’re adding another thing to your plate. And you are looking at all the things going on for you right now, it’s like how can you possibly learn something else, be responsible for something else. But there are, maybe, it’s about giving up something else that you are focused on that’s maybe not as important, then driving into financials, marketing and sales. I think of those as the 3 core things that we all need to be paying attention to. Steve: And that’s tough for me. I think a lot of the guys who come into this business from the trade side, letting it all go out there and saying, “That’s not really part of my life anymore.” Ryan: It’s harsh. Steve: I’ve been able to let production go. It took a long time. Now I take a look at the plate over here. Ok, I now got the numbers, marketing and these other things that I’ve probably said many a times in the first few years of my business that, “Well, I am not a sales guys. I don’t know the numbers.” It’s really owning up to a whole new different skill set.” Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  8. 8. Ryan: You’ve mentioned Steve a couple of things that you were excited about going into 2014. Is there any one thing in your business right now that’s really exciting you – product, process, anything you want to share? Steve: Really, it’s my management team and the culture in the office that I’m most excited about. I’m really glad that the phone is ringing, people are spending money. But, you know, when I come into the office right now, we’ve made a lot of physical changes to the office. We are still working on the process. But the people here- it’s the management team that I got – from the financial lady to the Production Manager, our newly-hired office manager and our designers. Ryan: It sounds like really having good people is the thing that’s really exciting you because it’s taking stress and things off of your plate. And you can focus on other things. Steve: Yeah. I didn’t realize how much negativity my wife and I brought to the office. So having that completely separated now and changing what look and feels like while walk in the door is very exciting for me. Therefore, where we could go with this new now, where we could go, it’s like all the players on the bench that we need to not necessarily get a whole lot bigger, it’s a part of it but to enjoy the journey better. So that’s what I’m most excited about today, in 2014. Ryan: That’s a lot of work to get there. No, that’s not easy to get to a point where you are at right now. That is not easy. Kyle: But before we get to the lightning round, I want to ask you one more question. What I see as a real key to success in the remodeling industry is our ability to give clients a wonderful remodeling experience not just, “Well, Steve and his team did a decent job, an ok job.” but to really give them a truly wonderful experience when they’re going through the remodeling process. Can you speak on that a little bit, what do you guys do that really puts that experience for the client over the top? Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  9. 9. Steve: I think, that is the work that goes into the early design stuff. I’ll give you an example. I had a meeting this morning with a client. We just designed a really large addition – a kitchen remodel and a bedroom. It’s our second project with them. We did the first 7 years ago. So we were standing in her kitchen and she was just saying how excited she is on how well the kitchen is thought out from where the appliance goes in, the drawers, what’s inside the drawers – the whole kitchen layout. She said, “In the design process, you guys asked us so many questions and it seems so much detail. But now, to be standing here and to see it in real life, that it’s completed and how well it works, I’m so excited.” So I think, it’s about that, having the experience and being able to say, “We are the experts. We need your input. You are a part of the team Mr./Mrs. Homeowner.” But having a process, walking her through that whole first piece – not just the set of architectural drawings but the details in the kitchen, but more so on the details about all the coordination pieces. The middle section gets missed. Kyle: It gets overlooked so often. Ryan: Careful planning. That’s great! Kyle: So now we are going to get into the lightning round Steve. This is where we rapid fire through a series of questions. And you continue to share your knowledge with us. Sounds good? Steve: Yup! Kyle: So Ryan, why don’t you get us started with the first one? Ryan: Steve, what is the best business advice you’ve ever received? Steve: Hire slow and fire fast. Kyle: Excellent. Can you share one of your personal habits that you believe attributes to your success? Steve: Yes, meditation. Ryan: It’s a good one. I’ve been doing the same thing. It makes a huge difference. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  10. 10. Kyle: Excellent! What book would you recommend to Remodelers on the Rise listeners? Steve: Steve Jobs – Biography. Kyle: I’ve read that. His biography is kind of an interesting read. It’s a big book, right? It’s one that I kind of went through that once I started reading, I can’t put it down. My biggest takeaway from it was just how aggressive he was. We know him to be an aggressive guy. But how he demanded excellence out of everybody and everything, right? Go ahead. Steve: I’m going to agree. Obviously, he did incredible things, right? But what I took away from that is he stuck to his guns – good or bad. Trusted what he thought was right, or his vision. But on the other hand, the way that he ripped through people, the toll that it took on his life. I mean, he died young. So what I took away from it is balance. Though, it’s something I’ve struggled with as well. Know the good about yourself and the hard work that you can do. But balancing it out with the importance of life, too. So here he is – he’s done all these great things, made billions of dollars and he’s now dead. And I believe the way he lived lead to dying at the age that he died. It was a great read. I think, one needs to balance and learn to trust yourself and your vision. It’s like how you interpret the book. Ryan: I agree. And I kind of took the same thing from the book. I just saw the movie as well. He wasn’t a particularly happy person. And I don’t know if the goal in life is to be happy or to achieve. That could be a whole other debate, a whole other show. But, to achieve at the level he wants to achieve takes a lot of energy and commitment, dedication and time. All of that. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  11. 11. It’s hard to find that balance when you are really striving for achievement in your life and it’s difficult to find that spot where you find your happiness and where you are at peace. To find that peace, you really need to relax. So I don’t know about that. I haven’t struck the balance either really. But its interesting anyway to see how the top achievers do it. You really have to go after it if you want it. But, you do also have to find some time for your family and your life. Kyle: Reading the book on Steve Jobs, he had a baggage, if you will. And I forgot Ryan what you called it “head trash”. Going back at the baggage we carry, whether it’s early childhood or whatever, the key is if we can really be free and know who we are and understand that. Then, we get to make choices and enjoy our life. Ryan: That’s a good point. Steve: So often, we sort of work out these default mechanism, if you will. From early life and it seemed he had a lot of those. For me personally, going back, taking a look at those stuff, it had made such a great impact on me with work, in my business. Not to mention, my entire life. Kyle: I appreciate you sharing that. Why don’t we move on to another one here? Ryan: Steve, do you have a resource or some kind that you want to share with the audience today? Steve: I would share something that front and center here is, a complete job description – both an overview summary and a detailed description of the job for our office manager. Depending the size of your company, you having that person becomes the backbone of the office and contact point for both your employees and the clients. So it’s an important position. Ryan: And it sounds like you are able to find the right person based on what you created. So that would be immensely valuable. Steve: Thank you. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  12. 12. Ryan: As a reminder to anybody listening, you can find that resource on our show, along with the detailed show notes and complete transcription of today’s show at RemodelersontheRise.com Show 2. Kyle: Excellent! So Steve, here is the final question. It’s a bit of a deucey tough one. But here it is. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you’re in the exact same business. But you knew no one, had no sales and only $500 of start up money. And your life depended on you selling something in the next 7 days. You still have all the experiences and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken cared of. But all you have is a laptop and $500. What are you going to do in the next 7 days to survive and generate new business? Remember, your life depends on it. Steve: First, I will figure out what I can do with the $500 to get any kind of impact out on the web. Whatever I can do with the money so I can get my name out there in the Internet. Secondly, I’d go to interior designers (first and foremost). I will talk to them. See what kind of projects they may have. Let them know of my experience. Secondly, worst case scenario, I’d go to appliance stores and look at them or people who may be coming in for projects. Then, kitchen showrooms I guess would be my third. Trust me. I won’t enjoy those last two for certain. But, that’s where I’d go to start driving out the initial project. Getting to know people on a more personal level and say, “Here’s my experience. Here’s what I can do.” to find that first job. And, I’d go back to what I can do with the web. Kyle: Well, what you were talking about in the second part is developing strategic partners. Next week, we’re heading out to an International Builders Show and my topic is specifically on developing strategic partners – people who share the same ideal clients as you. And you’re hinting on it. It’s very inexpensive. There’s a lot of opportunity there. Whether it’s architectural as you’ve mentioned designers, appliance stores. And those people who have projects and they need somebody to build them. So where you went there was a perfect spot. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
  13. 13. Ryan: Yeah. That was great. We are coming up to 30 minutes here. Steve, is there anything else you want to share? And where can people find you, get a hold of you? Steve: Well, we’re on the web on Scheipeter.com or steve@scheipeter.com. Phone number is (314) 962 7073. And we are in St. Louis, Missouri. Ryan: Perfect! Steve: I enjoyed this time. What I found is that personally, just start to look at some things like a marketing guy. Try to get your stuff out there on a different level. In front of people, in front of the whole wide world of technology. It’s a practice run, I think. I’m looking to do more of these things. I’ve been very shy of a camera or a video camera but it’s time for me to step into these things more. And like what I was doing the last few years, to step in different roles as the leader of the company. Kyle: Well, you did a wonderful job! Don’t be shy about the videos and all those stuff. Get it rocking out of you. You pass your first test beautifully. Steve: Well, I appreciate it guys! Kyle: Thank you so much Steve for coming in on the show today. We really appreciate you sharing your story. And as a reminder to all our listeners, you can check out RemodelersontheRise.com and if you could also take a couple of minutes to review and rate our show on iTunes, that would be wonderful. Thank you very much again Steve. We’ll talk to you next week. Steve: Thanks a lot guys! Ryan: Thank you Steve! Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com

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