How This Small Business Has Survived Changes for 60+ Years
The General Manager at CG&S Design-Build, Dolores Davis, discusses how company culture and systems can help you get through difficult periods.
May 28, 2021
6 min read
May 28, 2021
6 min read
It's exciting to grow up in a business-oriented family as Dolores Davis—the General Manager at CG&S Design-Build—did. Back in 1957, her parents started a remodeling company. Her father was a contractor and carpenter, while her mother was a book-savvy homemaker.
Dolores and her brothers would spend their summers and evenings working for their parents. In 2018, Dolores and her husband—Principal Architect Stewart Davis—bought the company from her brother, Billy Guerrero, and that's how they began their entrepreneurial journey.
A little over a year later, the pandemic hit.
In this episode of the Small Business Blueprint podcast, Dolores talks to us about the challenges of running a business in the middle of a pandemic. She also discusses the importance of having a flexible business model, prioritizing company culture, and establishing robust processes to ensure business continuity.
Listen to the full episode here or watch it on YouTube! You can also listen on Apple or Spotify. Drop your email below to subscribe to the Small Business Blueprint Newsletter for more insider tips, tricks, and future episode releases.
How to Navigate Uncertainty
Here's how Dolores guided her team through the unprecedented challenges and obstacles brought on by COVID-19.
Find a Flexible Business Model
When Dolores and Stuart took over CG&S Design-Build, they decided to develop a new project delivery system based on the agile business model and called it, “The CG&S Way.”
While older business models operate with rigid hierarchical and specialized processes, an agile business model takes a people-centered culture approach instead. It also allows businesses to make changes without disrupting stability.
Some of the main components of an agile business model include:
Teams with strong communication and transparency across groups and levels.
Continuous learning, automation, and implementation of new technology.
Diverse, top talent with a growth mindset.
Flexible resources and fast decision cycles.
Fortunately, the shift they made led to unexpected results—an increase in leads by 120%. According to Dolores, even though production was struggling, ''design was off the charts and crazy busy.'' But even though CG&S Design-Build was scaling during the pandemic, they still came across some serious obstacles.
Focus on Scalable Growth
''We're a big construction company that has an architecture firm. The way we generate our income is mostly through construction. If that went to almost a halt, we have all these leads, and design projects, but that takes momentum to pick up and get going. There was a period where it was a big struggle.''
One of the things they focused on was hiring new people and making sure they have a staff to manage the workload. They also worked on an advanced dashboard to ensure they had a clear sight of projects coming up. This meant creating a backlog of projects—sometimes up to four months in advance—and setting clear expectations with their clients.
"We're a construction company first, and if we're not building, then we're not creating income." Even though the team had a strong forecast based on the leads they had for design, Dolores and Stuart recognized that the construction side of the business needed to function to stay afloat.
Rely on Company Culture
''Sometimes I think, as owners, we get distracted, we want the client to come first, but the client will eventually come first if you take care of your team, who takes care of [your clients].''
CG&S Design-Build has built a reputation of having a responsive, friendly, and reliable team. They have been able to do this by acknowledging that people are the most valuable part of any business. According to Dolores, taking care of your employees should be the number one priority of every business owner.
Dolores also acknowledges that slips can occur, but as leaders, it’s imperative to look at the process. “If we have employees that are dropping the ball, it's not our job to look at the employee, it's our job to look at the process… if we can address that, then we get people in their groove.”
Make Use of Technology and Systems
Nowadays, technology makes things easier. Therefore, CG&S relies on different tools and software to make sure everything stays in order. They implemented project dashboards to better prepare and manage workloads, financial dashboards to have a clear view of design and construction financials, and communication tools like Microsoft Teams.
Think Proactively for Your Community
Working from home and homeschooling have changed the way we look at their living space. People want their homes to be not only beautiful but also operational. "The design elements that we see have changed a lot; almost every single one wants some place to work at home. What used to be a makeshift place now has to be integrated into the design of their homes."
Dolores also points out the importance of educating clients on how to maintain their homes. Her company doesn't typically offer consultative services, but she thinks those approaches should change. "We could do a better job at educating our clients about how to manage their homes. We can be more proactive in that way."
Work With Experts and Clients
CG&S Design-Build focuses on different marketing methods to stay in touch with existing clients and attract new ones.
Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses can take you places. Dolores and her team know how significant online presence is, so they collaborate with people who are the best in their field. ''We work with a PR firm here in Austin, Lookthinkmake. We're not a fit for everyone. We're only a fit for some people, and so we want to get those people."
Lastly, no matter how good your marketing strategy is, nothing can beat recommendations. Just like Dolores' parents did back in the day, CG&S Design-Build continues to take good care of the people they work with.
''We know that our referrals are the best lead source that we can get. So, that's super important to us.''
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This article is based on an episode of The Small Business Blueprint podcast to help small businesses, namely service ones, transition from offline to online.