Quality is a concept that is considered so important the International Organization for Standardization developed a family totally devoted to quality assurance, ISO 9000. Although each standard in the family clearly defines terms and systems, quality assurance isn’t always so black and white – particularly in the remodeling world.
“Right off the bat when someone says ‘quality assurance program,’ I think of a manufacturing facility or machine shop,” says David Callahan, CR, business management and sales at Glenview, Ill.-based Callahan & Peters Inc. “There’s a long binder of things that need to be implemented and checked off. That’s not us and that’s not many remodelers I know.”
Rather, quality assurance is part of the company’s DNA and a core attribute of the company. “There is no formal book or manual,” Callahan says. “It’s scattered throughout our company in documents, procedures and how we do things. There was no one point in time when I said, ‘Aha, we need a QA program.’ It’s always been part of who we are.”
Callahan sees two major arms to quality. “There’s the quality of the sticks and bricks. The parts and the workmanship that went into it,” he says. “The other part is the remodeling experience in total – from the first time [clients] call us until we walk out the door at the end of the project. The quality of the experience we give them is equally important.”
Setting clear expectations is vital to achieving quality. “We tell people our process when they come in our door,” Callahan explains. “Our contracts are clear for our projects. I write a lengthy description of work and include plans. People know what they bought. We establish clear expectations.”
Another cornerstone of a successful remodel project is good communication at all levels, Callahan asserts. Communication methods often depend on what the client prefers, as well as what is being communicated. If it’s a yes/no question, a text or email is great. If it’s a more complicated concept to communicate, a phone conversation or in-person meeting is more effective. Scheduling falls under communication, as well. “We’re crazy about scheduling,” Callahan says. “We give a client a schedule at the beginning of a project that shows everything that will happen until the end. We update it weekly as things change.”
Callahan & Peters has a weekly production meeting the whole company attends where each project under construction is discussed. A project list review includes: schedule, issues and opportunities, purchasing, client demeanor, additional work requests/change orders, budget, receivables, mid-construction/end-of-project gift and marketing potential.
Callahan cares most about discussing client demeanor. “I ask my production manager to give me a number on a 1 to 10 scale. Are they at an 8 or a 3 or a 10? Why? Clients go through different phases,” he explains. “They have emotional ups and downs. We monitor that and know there’s a graph. When the roof goes on, for example, they’re on a high because they see big progress. In days that mechanicals are installed and that takes a lot of time, they often wonder why it’s taking so long and then might be lower on the scale.”
Another part of the weekly meeting discusses company processes. “Continuous improvement is one of my favorite sayings,” Callahan says. “Every week I bring something up. What can we make better? Whether it be a vehicle, something in the shop or something in the office – how can we be better?”
Callahan & Peters provides a five-year warranty. “That says something about our faith in quality,” Callahan says. “We’re also GuildQuality members, so we do third-party verification. At the end of the project, either myself, the designer or whoever worked on or sold the project will conduct an exit meeting. We’ll get final photographs, interview the clients and give them an end-of-project gift.”
A plaque in front of Callahan & Peters’ office, engraved with a quote from Willa A. Foster, shares their company ideology: “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” | QR