The Alimond Show

Ben Carpenter of Carpenter Beach Construction

November 09, 2023 Alimond Studio
The Alimond Show
Ben Carpenter of Carpenter Beach Construction
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Can the secrets of success in the construction industry be found in the heart of Northern Virginia? We promise a deep dive into the latest trends, from the shift from McMansions to environmentally friendly modern farmhouses to the rising popularity of outdoor living spaces. We also share an intriguing tale about a renovation project at the historic Waterford Mill, highlighting the unexpected discovery of a spring in the mill race. 

Special guest, a renowned local construction expert, joins us to discuss the crucial role of collaboration and effective marketing. We explore the vast potential of maintaining a robust web presence, local SEO strategies, and the impact of hosting events to attract customers. Our guest reveals how specializing in historic renovations and adopting innovative techniques like drone footage and time-lapse videos can give your business a significant edge. 

As we round off our discussion, we emphasize the power of personal connections, and how transparency can create a sense of trust with potential customers. Learn how the use of voice-overs and on-camera interviews add a personal touch to project updates. Our guest shares his experiences with prompt communication and responsiveness in dealing with clients, attributing much of their success to this. Tune in for a thought-provoking conversation that offers valuable insights into the dynamic world of construction business, marketing strategies, and more!

Speaker 1:

So tell me about how you got into. I know you said it's a family business, but was there anything that happened, or a class that you took, or just being around it for so long?

Speaker 2:

Mainly just being around it. I always had an act for construction and, like building things, the gratification of you know, you work all day and you've put something together. Of course, I was a big Lego person as a kid, which seemed kind of a natural fit. I ended up going to school for construction at Virginia Tech and they have a very well-known building construction program is actually what it's called and once I graduated I went and worked for a bigger builder in Washington DC called Skanska. They're a global company. They do tens of billions a year and in construction worldwide. But I worked on local projects American University, Virginia Hospital Center, the borough in Tyson's Corner and then after right, when COVID hit in 2020, I ended up. It kind of worked out. I parted ways with that company and just joined our family business because we were taking on some more projects that needed additional help, for we didn't really set up from technology end to handle them, so I kind of what on that?

Speaker 1:

I went in there with that young brain and started, like Exactly, systemizing and technologically updating everything.

Speaker 2:

Yes, you know very much. I move away from pen and paper to yeah. Computer programs, software, cad, a lot more 3D rendering, you know just things. That is technology advanced in construction businesses, which is usually a business that's behind in technology. People are expecting that. So I was able to kind of bring that to our business and along with just other processes and procedures that were needed to kind of help expand it.

Speaker 1:

Where do you see the construction business specific to our area in Northern Virginia, Because I feel like construction it's so much faster here in Northern Virginia. I'm from Indiana.

Speaker 2:

Okay.

Speaker 1:

In Indiana it would take things like years to get built, Whereas here it's like I'll go on vacation for a month, come back not really a month, but you know, I'll leave for a month somewhere, come back, and it's like I don't even recognize this place. Sure.

Speaker 2:

Well, there's just such a demand, you know, due to the area we live in, the higher incomes, the more wealth that's concentrated. There's just a demand for, you know, from public construction to private, you know, more amenities, more roads, more, as we always see the data centers going up so fast. So there's just a lot of money involved in the area that I think helps inject, you know, a certain kind of speed and efficiency to getting done.

Speaker 1:

That's right.

Speaker 2:

You're right when I talk, so I would say that's probably the major factor in this area.

Speaker 1:

So where do you see, where do you see things shifting now, like, do you see any types of changes from like construction, from like 20 years ago versus now or anything?

Speaker 2:

Yes, you know, from a residential standpoint, I see a lot of folks. Back in the 90s, early 2000s, there was a big push for people to build McMansions, five to 7,000 square foot homes on, you know, one acre lots with 24 foot four year ceilings. You know 10 foot ceilings all throughout the main level. And now people are becoming, in my opinion, more green and more they're building to the land, better they're looking for the modern farmhouse which is a very popular building style right now One level living, because there's a lot of older folks moving into the area building their dream home or just wanting to downsize where they can. You know 2,500 square foot home is still larger than the national average and they're looking to build that size and be able to live on one level, be able to have a house that doesn't it's not such an albatross with the lay of the land that it's set on.

Speaker 2:

Have more definitely, since COVID this is a more recent trend more outdoor living space has been a very big push to have three season rooms, covered porches, patios. A lot of our landscaping partners have seen a huge growth and construction of pools, patios, outdoor fireplaces and I think that's all in response to one the beauty of the area we live in and to COVID, and the idea of being outside is good for you and I think that's a fact. So we're seeing that, at least from a construction standpoint. So, even if it's not new construction, even renovation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so you said that you renovate like historic properties.

Speaker 2:

We do.

Speaker 1:

What's been like your favorite project.

Speaker 2:

My favorite project, which was one of the most recent projects we did, was restoring the Waterford Mill in Waterford. So we did a partial restoration, did a lot of masonry work, timber framing, carpentry. We renovated the roof. We also rebuilt the historic hearst frame which was in the basement of the building that actually housed all the milling equipment and absorbed all the vibration from that operation instead of the building itself. So that was a really fun project. It was a county funded project but there was a lot of trades that were involved that aren't typical with just building a new home like timber frame. There was a mill right involved. There was an architect that did a lot of studies on the mill to help give us insight on what some of the practices were back in the day. That's awesome.

Speaker 1:

Did anything happen that you guys weren't expecting, because it's such an old, historic property?

Speaker 2:

We're not expecting to find that in the mill race, where the actual mill wheel sits, there was a spring. We're not really aware of that information until we started actually pumping the water out of it and it kept just refilling and refilling. Part of the scope was to actually build a little retaining wall to prevent when the creek at the end of the mill race, the Catoctin Creek, rises due to rain or flood, it'll come up back up the mill race and then it'll flood the basement of the mill. So we're gonna build a wall to kind of keep water out of it. But we determined you know fairly quickly that that would have been ineffective because the spring itself was at the bottom of the the wheel pit.

Speaker 1:

So it's not like at home when your toilet floods and you can just like turn a little knob to like.

Speaker 2:

It could be millions of gallons of perched ground water. That just keeps coming in. You know it would. When we got drier in the spring we had, you know, a little bit of a dry spell, you know it slowed down but then when it started raining again, you know that would. Eventually, you know, the more water would be coming in from the spring. So that was probably the biggest.

Speaker 1:

What you guys say. How did you navigate that?

Speaker 2:

So we just dug some pit holes in there and we put some pumps in there and had them run 24-7 and All we really needed to do in that area was kind of clean out the bottom. There was a lot of muck and mud and we had to repoint the wall stone walls in that area. So once we got a pump, the the stone masons were waiters, so they were like knee deep and mud, but they got their work done, oh my gosh. And then we let it dry overnight for a few nights, just Because they had to do it in sections, kept the water pump down and then eventually, you know, once it was dry, we just let told, pulled the pumps out and then it it meant its equilibrium once it filled in and then the water, eventually, you know we're draining away down to the creek.

Speaker 1:

That's like awesome, like a fun, you know like it was a very fun job. Navigate that back in the day.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and they didn't have, you know, modern equipment.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So it was maybe buckets.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's right. Oh my gosh, that's crazy. So for you personally, where do you see yourself fitting into the equation? Over the next 10 years or so, you're gonna stay with the business, family business, are you gonna?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I hope to certainly stay in it. I would like to grow it some more, focus on perhaps niche commercial construction work like historic restorations, such as that. I we do some development projects. I'd like to see us pursue some more of those. My dad and his partner, I believe, will you know, at least over the next 10 years, will definitely stay in it, so hope you know to help working with them and, and you know, eventually when they may retire, you know we'll see how it goes from there.

Speaker 1:

How do you guys currently get all your business? Is it word of mouth, is it? It sounds like you guys do a lot of maybe like county bids or any type of so.

Speaker 2:

I would say 90% of our businesses referral word of mouth.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

Speaker 2:

It's just in the construction business, it's just the most Effective way yeah to to generate more leads and more business.

Speaker 2:

Now, the county work. That is Because it's public work, it must be bid. Sometimes it's the lowest responsive bidder, sometimes it's the lowest bid. Sometimes it's a negotiated contract, which is more rare. But you have to. You have to present a proposal bid. Anyone can bid if as long as they meet certain qualifications. Okay, a lot of it has to do with bonding capacity, which is basically your financial strength. Okay, they don't want, you know a company that can't handle a job bidding on it. So they mean that may not have the the financial resources to actually finish and complete the job.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's huge with the construction line of work right.

Speaker 2:

Yep Cash flow is very important.

Speaker 1:

Here are a lot of horror stories.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

So marketing-wise word of mouth I always like to ask in these podcasts because a lot of business owners listen in and they want to know, like it could be a photographer who's listening and who's like, take a little nugget from something that you share and apply it to their business. So, besides word of mouth, are there any other ways that you're bringing in business?

Speaker 2:

So I started in. We've always had a Facebook page, probably started that in 2010, 2012. When I joined the business in 2020, one of the first things I did was start an Instagram page and I just construction's all about pictures, right. So an Instagram was based around pictures. So I figured that would be a good way just to even if they're not potential customers now, friends of mine or other people that may not have the funds to do a project just to show people what we do and be constantly in front of them so they always know they do historic work, constantly have pictures of mill projects or other historic renovations and then eventually, if you're consistent with that, I feel like people will reach out. I mean, that's how this. We got connected here and a lot I follow and, like a lot of other construction companies, a lot of designers feel like collaborating with competition and other people that are in the industry not necessarily exact customers really help you on Instagram like, especially liking and following for us interior designers.

Speaker 1:

You know that, lydia, I just I should have connected you because she's one of the best in the area.

Speaker 2:

Okay, do you?

Speaker 1:

know her Lee.

Speaker 2:

Lee, you know. No, I don't know. If we're okay, I'll send you a something later. Because they always have customers of theirs but they need a contractor to do the actual work. They work on such a job yeah, so, and that of course, we have a web presence and do some local SEO marketing, but nothing crazy. I've never found that like Google, ads are super effective for the construction business, at least what we do.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

If you're maybe a service based construction business that like a plumber doing repairs or electrician, that may be better.

Speaker 1:

but Now have you do, you guys, so do you? Specialize in historic renovations.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's probably 35% of our work. Okay, a third of it at least Okay.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I wonder if, like, you guys held some type of not conference, but you know, like get-togethers where you're bringing in the designers and you're bringing in the people, that be you business, but then you're also collaborating and working with. But if you guys were the ones, or like when you guys complete a project, if you do like open houses or kind of like you know real estate agents will do, and really why real estate agents do that is because they're getting more clients and they're building their business. It also helps show the houses, but really it's so that they can get more business in the future, or at least that's the experience from what I've been told. But for you guys to do something similar to that, like when you guys finished the Waterford property, like having like a grand reopening where you guys are hosting it and inviting the community and specific partners that could refer you additional business, Sure, I mean the county.

Speaker 2:

for example, we had somewhat of that with the mill. We invited the Loudentime's Mirror to come in. They did a little article about it and then some folks from the county that were managing the project invited, like the county administrator, some other folks that worked in the both elected and unelected officials, and they were, you know, fairly impressed with the work. So they, you know they've asked us to bid on other projects, because they don't always just because they post a bid solicitation doesn't mean they're going to get the best contractors to actually bid on it, because there's so much work out there they may not know of it. So it's led us to have a better relationship with the county and they're actually asking us to bid on certain projects that they think would be good for us, which to me is a compliment to you know the work that we do.

Speaker 1:

So doing good work always brings in more work.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and being responsive.

Speaker 1:

There we go, being responsive. That's a huge one.

Speaker 2:

There are inquiries that I've put out and to this day I have not heard from them, and I followed up, so yes, that's, I would say, is one of the biggest things I hear from potential clients is I've called several people and no one's called me back, and I try my best to call. You know any potential lead back within 24 to 48 hours, even if it's someone that I, you know. It's not a good fit, you know, just to let them know that. Hey, I thank you for calling, but that's not what we do. Perhaps refer you to this person or, you know, I would just maybe do some searches on all the different resources we have through social media or, you know, at local advertising.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, no, no, that's great. Okay, so video have you guys started exploring video yet?

Speaker 2:

We have Okay Video, typically in the form of drone work.

Speaker 1:

Okay, have you considered doing like, especially with the historic pieces, just like a time lapse of the work being done, or even like that story you're sharing about the whole? You know, the water, the spring like that would have been such a cool video story.

Speaker 2:

Yes, so we have done that with the mill. I was I had our photographer out there doing drone work, say, four times to try to get somewhat of a time lapse of it. I'm working on through that with an on another project, a new custom home. I had them out there when we were excavating, had them out there when we were pouring the concrete, then framing and then I hope to have another time where we're actually 80, 90% complete with the outside of the house. Just to kind of tell the story of you know the process of what it takes to build.

Speaker 1:

And something that you could do, and I share this with you, but obviously we're recording it so other people listen to it and they're like oh, that's a great idea, or it's a horrible idea, I don't know.

Speaker 1:

So taking your phone and knowing what it is whether it's you or somebody else on site, knowing what it is that they're photographing is actually talking through what's happening. Because to me, I just see a whole bunch of dirt right, like the excavating process is just a whole bunch of dirt and bagel machines. But then, if it's, it's comparable to like when I post a picture of us doing a photo shoot and it's like oh, I love working with Sally today. It's like it doesn't really provide the viewer much context of what they're watching. So then for you guys, if you're like okay, this is what's happening, this is why we use these pieces of machinery, this is why we dig in this way, here are some things that most people don't know about that people in the construction business know about. So you're really using that picture or that video piece or that aerial drone as a way to educate the consumers and you're just talking through like a conversation maybe you'd have with somebody on the team.

Speaker 2:

Sure.

Speaker 1:

That way you share that piece on social media and it's not just a picture of the excavation, but then you're really giving them a deep dive into why you do what you do or how you do what you do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I've done that a couple times and I've you're like I already done that. Well, no, it's just. You know, I'm not a big, that's all about me. You know personally, and so I've like always been hesitant to post my voice over. Oh okay, but you know I know potential customers, customers. You know anybody enjoys that, because I enjoy that when I watch other people do it. I'm, you know, I'm curious about other things and you know other work and I learn from what they're describing.

Speaker 1:

Especially when they call and you pick up and they're like Ben, is this you? Oh my gosh, I heard your voice.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so it's. It's a good idea to probably continue to do that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, continue doing that, because I don't believe it makes it about you. When you're the one who's doing the voice over, or even if you're on camera, what you're doing is you're helping people feel comfortable with you because you will be the person they're gonna work with, right. So that's why I do a piece of why I do these podcasts as well. The more people see me and see the studio and see all the stuff, when they come into the studio they're gonna be like oh, I already know you guys, I know how you work, I know your thought processes, I know. That's why I came here. It's because I like you guys, sure, and so you can see it like that, versus making it all about you, because I promise people other people won't take that.

Speaker 2:

That's good. Yeah, because I mean I'm. It's not what I am, I'm not always like a modest man. I try to be yeah, so awesome.

Speaker 1:

All right, any last words that you'd like to share with our listeners, about either where you guys are headed or any special project that you guys are working on, or just general life advice?

Speaker 2:

I have found in my short career that again and I reiterate this because I've dealt with so many people both my age and adults older being responsive is so important and it's just so I feel like rude or disrespectful if someone reaches out to you, to not at least acknowledge that and try to engage with them, whether it because you never know who's a potential client, or you never know who they may talk to and say, yeah, I reached out to them but they didn't answer and unfortunately, of course, a few always slip through the cracks, email gets, get in the junk folder or you know voicemail gets deleted or something.

Speaker 2:

But I feel like that's been a really big goal of mine. You know is a professional and it's paid off because I try to. You know, once I go out, do a quote, get that quote turned around within at least two weeks, depending on the complexity of it and people. I'm usually the first one to get back to the potential customer and, honestly, the quicker you get back to the customer, the quicker they can say yes, here's my deposit check, we're ready to go. And I feel like that's been one of the things leading to our recent success is just responsiveness and that communication.

Speaker 1:

I think that is one of the best pieces of advice I've heard in a very long time. Thank you so much for being on the. Alalan Show. I appreciate you sharing so freely and openly with the audience and I'm so glad you're here.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for having me Of course.

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