RIVER’S END CONSTRUCTION BUILDING A SUCCESS STORY
By Gary Milliman
Attention to detail in both workmanship and customer relations is how general contractor Brent Hodges of Brookings has grown his business.
A Brookings native who left town after high school to pursue an engineering degree, Hodges worked a variety of jobs in the building trades for several years before returning to Brookings to purchase a cabinet shop in 2006.
“I worked on laying out subdivisions, building houseboats on the Columbia River, building and remodeling houses, excavation…just about every aspect of construction while attending college,” Hodges said.
“I got married and moved back to Brookings just as the recession hit,” Hodges said. “Business survival was a whole new learning experience.”
When Hodges took over the cabinet
shop he and two employees were
doing mostly custom pieces and accents. To survive the recession, Hodges
expanded his business…Rivers End Construction… to include remodeling.
“Remodeling served us well and was pretty much all that we did for several years,” Hodges said. “And remodeling projects often expand after you get into the project and develop a good relationship with the client,” Hodges said. “Small stuff, like just fixing a drawer, can lead into larger projects.”
Hodges said he survived the recession by managing his business conservatively. “We went into this with minimal debt and I don’t owe money on any equip- ment,” Hodges noted. “My vehicles are older but serviceable. I’m always thinking about being ready for the next downturn.”
With two employees, Hodges was developing his own business experience. Experience with estimating and developing relationships with other local craftsmen. Experience with financial management, employee relations and suppliers. “If you are not good at finances, you’re not going to make it,” Hodges noted.
“Estimating and scheduling are the toughest aspects of the business,”
Hodges said. “As you see the numbers each day, you learn it by doing.”
Securing supplies and materials on the
southern Oregon coast can also
be challenging and Hodges makes at least one trip weekly to Medford or Eugene to pick something up he does not want to wait another week to have delivered.
Hodge’s reputation for quality workmanship began to grow, and when the economic upswing began to materialize, Rivers End Construction was ready.
“We moved into building custom homes,” Hodges said. “We were in a unique position to offer general contractor services along with specialty work that we could produce through the cabinet shop.”
In his most recent project, a 7,000 square foot custom home in Harbor, accent work included converting wooden boat propellers to ceiling fans and constructing several large custom light fixtures.
Rivers End works with clients from design through all phases of construction. And they have expanded beyond residential construction. Projects have includ- ed construction of a truck shop, offices and remodeling a medical center.
Over the years Hodges has developed relationships with subcontractors
working on the coast. “We pretty
much use the same tradesmen on every job, and we periodically check prices,” Hodges said. This working relationship has helped with scheduling and keeping the project moving along.
As the River’s End crew grew from two to 10, Hodges retained the services of local business consultant Rich Hayashi. “Rich help take it to another level. We went from taking notes to implementing a paper flow that documents our relationship with clients from when they walk in the door until we get paid. Rich has helped me think things through, plan ahead and become more methodical.”
Hodges credits Hayashi with helping him manage and retain employees. “It’s important to convey to employees a clear understanding of the job, their role in the job, and your expecta- tions for them in helping to complete the job,” Hodges said.
“I’ve been able to keep a good crew with varying levels of experience,” Hodges said., noting that compensation at River’s End included offering a retirement plan.
Hayashi attributes the success of Hodge’s business to providing great attention to detail and following through with what he promised the client. Hayashi also said Hodges picked the perfect time to engage with a business consultant, noting that many business- es wait until they are in trouble.
An electronics engineer by trade, Hayashi became a process engineer
because he found helping businesses
improve productivity more rewarding. After moving to Brookings he volunteered for a while with SCORE but now helps individual clients as a consultant.
“For Brent it was all about the basics. What’s your vision? What services do you want to provide? And then developing internal processes that enable you to manage the business while delivering the service,” Hayashi said.
Hodges said he believes his business has a bright future as he plans on building 3-4 new houses annually. In July, his crew started work on three new houses. “We are always open to other projects as well.”
“Further expansion of the busi- ness brings a whole set of new considerations, like having sufficient working capital to carry the projects until the client pays,” Hodges said.
Hayashi said that Rivers End Construction is at a key juncture in its business development. “Brent is a true craftsman and needs to find that balance between practicing his craft and being a business manager,” Hayashi said. “It’s a tough balance to find and only
Brent can decide.”
“We are now at a place where all of our business is by referral,” Hodges said, noting that he does no advertising and the company is not listed in the telephone book. Hodges has an on-line Facebook presence @riversendinc .
Hodges said he and his wife moved to Brookings because “It’s a great place to raise a family. We wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
430 Mill Beach Rd Brookings OR 97415 Phone: (541)412-7037
Gary Milliman retired as City Manager in Brookings after a 45-year career in city
management and currently provides real estate and
developer advisory services.