Dustin Seidel, owner of Seidel Construction, says the challenge of being completely transparent is sometimes telling his clients what they don’t want to hear.
Seidel says he’s had clients come to his company full of ideas about the kind of building they want, without considering all the additional costs of new construction like the foundation, drainage, paving and utilities, even though those parts of construction can amount to thousands or even millions of dollars.
By giving an accurate appraisal of his clients’ proposals, not only is his company providing better customer service, but it has helped to build its reputation as a good, honest business.
“Sometimes I have to be the bad guy and tell them, ‘I know you want to hear that this is all possible, but it’s not true. This is the real cost and I want you to know this up front because I don’t want you to be surprised when it turns out it’s not something you can really afford,’” Seidel says. “I just want what’s best for the client.”
As a full service general contractor based in New Braunfels, Texas, Seidel Construction works in commercial construction building everything from doctors’ and professional offices to warehouses for manufacturing facilities.
Seidel admits his honesty may have cost his company a job in the past, but ultimately he believes it’s a winning approach because it’s the reason so many of his clients become repeat business.
In fact, nearly 100 percent of the company’s business is off referrals from satisfied clients, which is important in a community like New Braunfels.
“It is a lot harder to keep a good name than it is to lose one it a town like this,” Seidel says.
Maintaining years of integrity
Seidel is the fourth generation of his family to live and work in New Braunfels.
His great grandfather first arrived to Texas from Germany in the 1920s and made his living with a photography studio. During that time, Seidel says there wasn’t a wedding or a high school graduation that wasn’t photographed by his great grandfather.
After Seidel’s grandfather sold the business in 1978, he used the money to start developing properties in the area, which is how Seidel’s father became interested in the construction business.
Seidel got his own start in construction working for his father’s general contracting company, building homes and eventually moving into commercial construction. When his father retired in 2009, Seidel took over the business and eventually renamed the company as Seidel Construction in 2014.
“This town has given us a lot of opportunity. All of us, including the previous generations, have been blessed to live here. So I try to view each project as if I were building it for myself,” Seidel says.
For instance, if a potential client shows Seidel a cheaper bid from a competing contractor, often that means that the general contractor is bidding the project “at cost,” which doesn’t include any overhead for the general contractor or subcontractors. To make a profit, the contractor would either have to add expenses throughout the construction phase or use cheaper subcontractors.
“I’m going to tell you exactly what it is going to cost and my fee for doing it. You can try going with someone who is cheaper, but ultimately you’re probably not going to be as happy and you’re going to end up spending more money to realize your goal,” he says.
Preparing the next generation
In the seven years Seidel has been at the helm, his company has gone from annual revenue of a few hundred thousand to over $25 million as of 2016.
Moving forward, Seidel says finding the right employees is crucial to the continued success of Seidel Construction.
Because the company works in commercial construction, its projects generally represent a clients’ livelihood, such as retailers or doctors’ offices. Seidel’s says his employees understand that any delays in the construction schedule could seriously affect their client’s business.
“I like to hire people that are self-motivated and care about what they are doing. They’re not just punching the clock, they take ownership and take pride in what they do,” he says.
Even Seidel’s eight year old son, who represents the fifth generation, has already begun to inadvertently adopt his father’s work ethic.
A few years ago, Seidel remembers hiring one of his subcontractors for some fence work around his house, and at the end of the first day, his son approached the project’s foreman about an employee, the foreman’s own son, who appeared to be slacking on the job.
“He’s kind of lazy,” Seidel’s son had told the foreman. “He stands back and talks on the phone too much,” recalls Seidel, laughing.
Seidel looks at this instance as unexpected proof that the values he learned from his own parents and grandparents— those of high expectations and honesty— are successfully being passed on to the next generation of owners.
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