HUSKER HUMMER SIDING, WINDOWS & ROOFING
An Interview with Matt Cradick, President at Husker Hammer Siding, Windows & Roofing
By Ashley Weaver and Charley Yu, Creighton University MBA students
Can you tell us about yourself and your background?I
was born and raised in Lincoln, and went to school in Kirksville MO at Truman State. I went there on a baseball scholarship, and it is one of the top business colleges in the Midwest. When I graduated, I went to Aldi Grocery Stores and moved all over the US for the job. I then left Aldi to go to Target in Lakeland, FL and then I got promoted and moved to Houston, TX. The retail industry involves moving a lot, and I have three young girls, so I wanted to settle down and put roots down somewhere for them. Because of this, I started looking for businesses to purchase and I knew that Omaha had strong potential. I looked at about half a dozen businesses and then chose this one.
Why did you choose this company over the other ones that you looked at?
I wanted to buy a business that I was somewhat familiar with. I have never been a roofer or anything like that, but construction is a necessity and I knew a little about the type of industry. For me it was more about the stability of the company, history of the company, the background of the company, the reputation of the company, and the financials. All of that came together. I looked at a landscaping company, car dealership, etc. and none of them matched up as well as this one did.
How has the company grown since you bought it?
I got here in May 2014 and the agreement I had with the previous owner involved my working under the previous president of the company for 9 months until we officially transitioned. He left and we officially closed in February 2015. The ebb and flow of this business is if there is a hailstorm, etc. it can skew things. We have had consistent growth and expansion, we brought in some new product lines, new employees, changed some of the theories up while still sticking to the core of what the business stands for (to build peace of mind for our homeowners.) Construction can be intimidating. A lot of people don’t know much about it and they do not know how to file an insurance claim if there is a storm, which can make them uneasy. The reputation of the industry as a whole is not great, so there is a lot to be said about having a strong company that has been here nearly 20 years. We have completed nearly 10,000 jobs. We are a BBB Integrity Award winner, we have an A+ rating, and we have been accredited since 2000. Now we are doing some neat things with the media, we built a habitat for humanity house the last three years, we are just continuing to get out there and make a presence for ourselves in the community. Reputation is key.
What do you enjoy about the industry?
I love my team and interacting with them. Right now we have 15 on payroll. All of our work is subcontracted out so we have another 2-3 dozen subs that we use from time to time. The best part about it is helping people. It is a rewarding feeling helping someone repair or replace their house or roof or windows, etc. knowing that you have done a good job and built it correctly, and knowing that the customers can trust you. Even with advertising, our number one source of business is referrals and word of mouth. That tells you quite a bit right there.
What do you like the least about this industry?
It is inconsistent. If you do not have a hailstorm, it can be tough. From a staff and install perspective, you have to ramp up in a hurry in events like that in order to manage the work. Once the event has passed, you may need to lay off some people. I have been lucky where I have not had to do that, but it is always a risk. The goal is to make yourself less hail reliant so you can hopefully never have to lay anyone off.
Contractors can have a bad reputation with shows such as “To Catch a Contractor” that does not paint the industry in the best light. Is there anything that you do, other than your actions, to instill trust in your customers?
I don’t know that you really need to do anything other than your verbal promises and actions. Those go a long way. If anyone does pose that question, I always think about what I would want done if that was my home. I do not want to be perceived as being too driven on profitability, but there is also a fine line because it is important to bring in profits as well. That is also why you see so many businesses fail in the first year or two. They do not know how to grow at the right pace with the right ethical background, which is so important in an industry driven by customer referrals.
Can you define ethics and tell us what ethics means to you?
I am a simpleton by nature. To me, ethics means if you say you are going to do something, do it knowing that it is built around integrity, good will, and in the best interest of all parties. There should be no ulterior motives to it; I am giving you the best price I can with the best products that I can, in the best time frame that I can with the best installation methods that I can. We only partner with the best suppliers and the best vendors; we try to do it with the best install crews. There will always be a bad apple here and there, but the key is that as soon as we find it, we remove it and we repair whatever damage they may have done. Ideally this would never happen, but when it happens, we identify it, say we are sorry and fix it.
Do you have any formal ethics programs?
I am not a fan of corporate bureaucracies and games, that is not who we are here. We do have an employee handbook that says how we are going to be good to each other and our homeowners and we will not do anything maliciously. If that ever does happen it will lead to termination. I do not think it needs to be over drawn out or overthought. You know when you wake up in the morning when you have done something that you should not have done and you also know when you have done the best that your heart was telling you to do.
Have you ever had any ethical mentors?
Yes; my parents, grandparents, and pastors that I have had in the churches I have gone to as I moved around the country. I would like to think that bosses and employees treat each other with a mutual respect and decency so my employees can also be mentors to me in that respect. Nothing would get me more excited, even if it would cost the company money, that if one of my employees came to me and said ‘I just spot checked the installers work and he missed something. We are going to have to go back in and tear that window out and start from scratch and it will cost us $2500. What should we do?’ Or if they suggest ‘I think we will just need to do it and eat the cost,’ rather than them trying to pretend that they did not see that as it could be very easy for them to do that.
Please describe a time your organization demonstrated an ethical decision.
One dilemma that was presented to us was when a vendor asked if he could work for us without all of the proper insurance coverage he needed to be covered in case of an accident, by not carrying worker’s compensation insurance. During a massive storm it is hard to find skilled laborers to manage the amount of work that is out there, and our competition hires those without proper insurance to get higher revenues. This is a cost that falls on the vendor and if they don’t have any accidents the vendor will view it as a wasted cost. The truth is it protects us as a corporation and them as a sub-contractor, but if there are no accidents then it doesn’t help the corporation and it is much easier to find labor without the proper insurance. We consulted with local experts in both the insurance and legal departments to ensure we were not missing something that made our competition believe this is an acceptable practice. We absolutely did not hire the noninsured vendors; we stuck to our morals and did not get tempted by the almighty dollar. We believe in who we are, and know our outstanding reputation will gain us a stronger trust with our customers knowing that we only partner with the best of vendors, suppliers, and employees. We believe in running our organization the right way and revenues will come based on those principles, not just making a quick buck.
What does it mean to your organization to win a BBB Integrity Award?
We at Husker Hammer are extremely proud and humbled to be recognized with this award. We have worked very hard as an organization to separate ourselves from the competition. We know this industry can be a little intimidating and we try to take that feeling away from our customers. Our goal is to literally build “peace of mind” in what could be a stressful situation, and to protect in most cases their most expensive asset.
What do you think are the biggest ethical challenges that face young business professionals today?
When I look at the different generations, my grandparents knew what a good, hard day of work was. They understood that you always had to start at the cashier level before working your way up to the manager level. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but today’s generation comes in to a job after school without real world experience without having done any sweat equity to be there. You may think you know how people should be treated, but you still need to be in situations in order to grow and practice what you think you know. Don’t get greedy and think you deserve the position that you have; you need to earn it and treat people the right way. People don’t usually quit the company, they quit the boss. Put people first and that will happen less.
© 2017, Kracher & the Business Ethics Alliance