02 Mar The People in your neighborhood ep. 002
Welcome to The People in Your Neighborhood show. Remember that skit on Sesame Street from when you were young, where they would come on screen and they would sing a happy song about the people in the neighborhood, and then they will introduce you to some of the people. That's what we do here. We introduce you to some of the people that work in your neighborhood. So once again, welcome and enjoy learning about some of the people that work in your neighborhood.
Hello to all our Watchers, listeners and readers out there. I'm Jeremy Lott, the host of the people in your neighborhood show. On this episode, I'll be talking a little bit with Tyler Fox of T Fox construction to find out a little bit about the unique solution that he provides for his customers. So, Tyler, do you want to introduce yourself there?
Tyler Fox (01:02):
Yeah. I'm Tyler Fox with T Fox construction. We've been in business since 2004 and that's us in a nutshell.
Okay, great. So Tyler, tell us a little bit about the unique solution that you offer your customers that no one else does.
Tyler Fox (01:23):
I'm in residential construction. The unique part is that my business offers multiple facets of the construction industry. So, I'm just not a general contractor that, wears Dockies and a polo shirt. So you see me and my business partner, and my employees on your job site, probably 75% of the time. You always get the owner as part of your quality and moving your project along well.
Before you became who you are now, where were you? Where did you start out?
Tyler Fox (02:03):
Well, I started in construction in drywall and I determined really quickly that that's not what I wanted to do with my life. So I knew how to do drywall well, and I've forgotten all about it. Now, I just know what it looks like. So drywall and then I started framing. So I just started learning more trades. That's kind of where we went.
So you first started out way back then. What was it that you desired? What were some of the things that were keeping you from reaching the ultimate goal where you are now, where you have all of these different facets that you offer?
Tyler Fox (02:49):
I think the biggest thing was multiplying myself because I relied on myself and my own labor. Right? And so developing a model so that I could count on others that I'm, that I employ to do the same quality effort that I've put into what we're doing. Yeah.
And how did you feel about being stuck in that situation?
Tyler Fox (03:19):
I don't know that I felt stuck, but I wanted more. And so I feel like it's more of a progression. And so just the more we've learned, the better we've got at being able to delegate and inspire others to do the same that we do.
So what were some of the things that you tried to do to fix this problem?
Tyler Fox (03:44):
It's still a problem today, but just hiring employees, finding employees that either want to learn the trades and they want to work hard and they're not just here for a paycheck. They have a buy in, they care about T Fox Construction and our image to the client and to the general public.
So what are some things that you've done as far as trying to hire the right people?
Tyler Fox (04:16):
Don't get me wrong. We've gone through a lot of employees, but I mean, obviously pay helps, but that's the main motivator, but finding kids that have a desire to learn it and wanting to stick around, and then not being so hard about teaching. They're going to make mistakes. And, sometimes those are expensive mistakes, but those are teaching opportunities as well. And as long as they kind of see what goes on behind the scenes of what that cost and things like that, then that mistake won't happen again.
Great. What was it that made you decide to start expanding and hiring other people rather than just being the one man show?
Tyler Fox (05:16):
I'm getting older, not younger. And also, I'm the face of T Fox Construction, right? Like people call me to hire me. And so I can't, I can't do all the bidding process. I can't do all the managerial stuff and still be able to accomplish what I want to accomplish at the job site every day. So I, I need, I need help. Right.
Yeah, definitely. All right. Well, what are some of the obstacles that you face when you are bringing on new people?
Tyler Fox (05:53):
Our biggest obstacle right now obviously is keeping employees right now. I've got three really awesome boys that are in for the long haul. They're going to be here for awhile. But the biggest thing is, in my opinion, just keeping people safe and keeping costs like insurance, workers' compensation, low and managing costs. Like we don't need to throw away a handful of screws just because we have more in the trailer or whatever, but just managing some of those little detailed items that cost money.
I want to go back to the multi-faceted aspect of your company, which is amazing. What are some of the obstacles you had to overcome to go from the dry waller and the framer to the guy who kind of knows how to do everything.
Tyler Fox (06:55):
Obviously there's a learning curve to every trade. You want to hire professionals that know what they're doing in that specific trade. And so I took time and I offered to a client to do their tile for free. So the labor was free and I brought in a buddy that didn't want to do tile anymore. He knew how to do it. His knees were shot, so he taught me how to do it. So we worked on several showers together and floors together and taught myself and my crew how to do it. And from there, it's just mileage, just putting a lot of tile on floor and on walls, and finding out what's good. What's bad. What's a better product, things like that.
Where do you think you'd have found yourself if you hadn't expanded to the multi-faceted version of your company?
Tyler Fox (07:56):
Well, the biggest thing that I saw of value during the multifaceted situation was like during the recession kind of 2008, 2010 time period, we were able to do a lot and offer a lot. It wasn't just finished carpentry that went away. We could, do your tile as well. We could frame, you know, we could do whatever you wanted. And so we were able to keep ourselves busy during the hardest of hard times in construction.
So you were forced to expand and do more things and that helped you be able to survive those?
Tyler Fox (08:39):
Yeah, for sure.
I know that you've had some key people that have come across over the years. Who are some of those key people that have helped you to be able to grow your company?
Tyler Fox (08:54):
I mean, obviously, my employees, but mainly the subs I trust. I'm able to send my clients their phone number, my subcontractors phone number, and know that I can trust that they're going to do a good job for them, whether I'm going to make money on that portion of the project or not, simply because that'll really help give me referrals. People will come to me later on too, to get more, because I offered a good referral. So good subs is probably my biggest key, good people around you to help you make smart decisions, even though you're not smart in those particular areas.
Right. So you've already talked a little bit about some of the things that you did in order to expand. How do you go about implementing this multi-faceted approach for somebody. Like somebody comes in and they want their basement finished. And how do you go about incorporating all these different things that you can do and the different things that you can oversee?
Tyler Fox (10:11):
Well, so with remodels and basements, our crews are in with people that live there, they have their families upstairs or in the same space that you're working. I bid like any other job, like probably like any other general contractor would. The difference is when they find out that myself, my business partner and my employees that I am in charge of are going to be in their home, 70, 75% of the time, as opposed to a subcontractor, several subcontractors coming through the door that they don't know, that they don't have a relationship with that, makes the biggest difference for my clients.
Okay. Why is it that it's so important that you're on the site so much? Why is that important to the client?
Tyler Fox (11:04):
They trust that I care more about quality because I'm there. In construction, the biggest thing that I think that most people fail at is communication with the client. So usually it's that you find out on the back end that it's going to be X amount of dollars more than what it was bid. And there was no communication in the middle of what was happening.
The other biggest thing is like, my wife hates it, but my phone will ring at 9:30, 10:00 at night because the client thought of the question they have. If I wait until the next day to answer that question, it's an emergency. They don't think I'm going to respond because I'm like every other general contractor. But if I respond at a good time or say, I'll get to you tomorrow, let's chat about this tomorrow. Then, they feel a lot better about their situation. Even if timeframes get stretched out due to uncertain circumstances, things like that. Then as long as I communicate that with them, they're good. So if they see my face and I tell them what's actually going to happen, instead of telling them what they want to hear, they're happier with that.
How does implementing this strategy help you personally in your business?
Tyler Fox (12:33):
It takes a lot of headache away. Disappointed customers are the worst to deal with, right? Because to a certain extent they become irrational and they expect more than what they should even expect, no matter what. And so by communicating well, by implementing good, I'm there all the time. Communicating with them often, we have a lot less upset customers, misunderstandings, things like that.
That's definitely great. Because like you said, upset customers are the worst, right?
Tyler Fox (13:15):
Well, in today's market too, with social media, I feel like it's so easy to just take one bad experience and ruin the company. Right. Whereas there's a hundred other clients out there that have had good relationships that they just, you don't see those, you only get angry people on social media.
How have you seen your customers change over the years from the typical dry wall customer to the person that you have now? Because of the multi-faceted approach and because you're on the job site so much?
Tyler Fox (14:05):
I don't know that the clients changed a whole lot, but I've learned how to manage them better and do make sure I kind of take care of their concerns before they know that they're a concern. So that's been kind of the biggest thing I've learned is just managing concerns before they're concerns, by knowing what's coming next, things like that. So, yeah, that's been the biggest changes, I've been able to manage clients and their expectations and their concerns better.
Do you have a specific example you could share with us of a particularly difficult customer that you had to be able to manage very well and had a lot of success with?
Tyler Fox (15:00):
Well, when I go into a home for the first time, for the most part, I can tell what kind of personality they are based off of. Are they going to be super particular about us taking off our shoes? When we come in, are they going to be super particular about different thing, different products that go into their house, they want to know what kind of quality goes into it? Do they want to make sure that all the paint's perfect? So I'm kind of able to see, once I walk into someone's house for the first time, what kind of clients they're going to be, how high maintenance, how hands off they're going to be. If they really just want a really good deal and they don't really care about quality or anything else. So, I deal with a lot of different people. I think the hardest is people that have unrealistic expectations. They want their $300,000 house to look like a million bucks and have all those nice products, but they don't want to pay for it. Right. Managing those types of things are the hardest part it's like, you just, you don't want to afford that. So, right. I don't know what else I could do for you. I can do the million dollar house, but it's going to cost a million dollars.
Just a couple more questions here. What has changed from the very beginning when you started until right now, what is, what has changed about your business and the way you run it and the way that projects go for you?
Tyler Fox (16:57):
I think the biggest thing that I've changed is that I try to be done at 6:00, 6:30 every night. Whereas in the beginning that there was no such thing as that, you know, and I worked there until either they kicked me out. Kind of managing my time better has changed simply because I have good employees. Now we can rely on different things. So I would dare say that's been the biggest perk of owning your own business. It still calls at all hours of the days and weekends and things like that. But managing those types of expectations of how long we'll be there, when the job gets done, things like that. That's probably been the biggest thing I've been willing to change and fix.
Gotcha. And what's the biggest thing that's changed about you personally?
Tyler Fox (17:58):
I'm older, I'm more out of shape, right? I've always been a people person, but I just think I know how to manage people a little bit better. To be honest, I would, I would let things get under my skin more like I would, I would probably lose my temper more when I had a bad angry customer. Now I just, it just doesn't matter. We'll fix it. If you're going to be angry, fine, but just know that I'm going to fix it. It might not be in the middle of the night, like you want it, but I'll fix it on Monday.
All right. Fantastic. Well, thank you very much for being on our show. We've talked a little bit about your unique solution and kind of the story behind that and correct me if I'm wrong. It sounds like it's been that multi-faceted company where you can wear many different hats so that you can spend so much time onsite and ensure the quality of the service you're providing. Does that sound correct? Alright. And maybe introduce yourself one more time here and then we'll call it good for today. Awesome.
Tyler Fox (19:14):
Yeah. I'm Tyler Fox T Fox construction. Thanks for your time, Jeremy.