Remodeler Q&A: Ben Jackson
Founded in 1980 by Ben Jackson,
Ben’s General Contracting Corp. Ben’s General Contracting is now headed up by partners, and brothers, Ben and Tony Jackson.
A: Service, price, and a human on the end of the phone. Service is most important. It doesn’t pay to have men waiting on a delivery. I also find a supplier that will fit my schedule in a jam is critical. Price is also important. Clearly, the less you spend, the more you make. One of my pet peeves is “press one for this two for that.” I just hang up. I value my time and won’t waste it pressing buttons.
Q: Describe your favorite lumber and building materials supplier.
A: Contractor Express in Oceanside, N.Y. They’re local, family owned, and offer good service. If I need something in a jam, they usually pull through. They are also pretty accurate in their orders. There is nothing worse than starting a new house and not getting sill seal (the first thing you need). Then you have a pile of useless lumber.
Q: When was the last time you changed vendors and why?
A: I use many suppliers, and each has their own value. Suppliers stock different products. I recently sent some orders elsewhere because one item was half the cost. You need multiple suppliers to have everything you need.
Q: When and why would you accept a meeting from a new supplier/vendor?
A: Only at my office, and only by appointment—only if it’s something new and interesting. I am not usually willing to entertain a walk-in salesman. I sometimes will meet them at a trade show or NARI dinner. I usually will cut to the chase and ask how they will make our relationship different. This often scares them away.
Q: What do you wish LBM suppliers understood about your business?
A: I wish they understood the importance of timely and complete deliveries. The main supplier I use for lumber is also in the contracting business. They understand my needs better than most. They are also understanding about cash flow issues I often encounter and they work with me. These are important issues suppliers should understand.
Q: What products (if any) do you buy installed?
A: We are a general contracting company. We have a concrete division, a painting division, and a carpentry division. We also hire subs to do all of the above so we can manage a greater workload. We often will have subs purchase materials, so at that point, we buy installed.
Q: What is the number one problem that keeps you up at night?
A: Money/cash flow. Money always seems to be a struggle and juggling bills can be quite difficult. I hate owing anybody money, which helps with my success, I guess.
Q: What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
A: Growth, learning, and teaching. Growth is important for survival. Costs are constantly increasing and we adjust for it by focusing on volume. Learning is one of the most important aspects of this business. Very early on, an old timer told me, “the minute you stop learning, get out of the business.” This is so true for many reasons. One reason is to keep up with the times, new products, new tools, new ways of doing things, new regulations. Teaching fuels growth. One person can only manage so much. Finding people to replace yourself is paramount to success. The only thing beyond teaching is teaching people to teach. If you can achieve that you can take over the world.