Not So

I suppose many things can be blamed on the past decades economy. Loss of employment, loss of stock dividends, selling that vacation home (at a loss), loss of a spouse, Hair loss… But have you ever taken a moment to think of all we have gained?
During this recession a lot of people in America had to change the ways and means by which they did business. My name is Jim Churray and I have been in the residential construction and remodeling industry for the past 20 years. I have lived in the highest highs and lowest lows of this economy driven business and would like to share my views on past success, failures and current trends. I have dedicated my life to this trade and am happy to share with you, my journey…
My first experience in the trade was as a tender at the age of eighteen, and I will tell you, having a brick tender position will teach you one thing, How to work. From there I moved into residential flatwork with a progressive local company that gave me a chance to develop and grow. I started as a laborer, moved up to finisher and finally crew leader. Being a carpenter at heart and having a lineage of woodworkers in my family this next move was natural. During winter downtime I worked as a finish carpenter, mostly new construction and some custom work as it came. I was approached by a home builder to do all the finish work for all of his homes. that changed not only my position in the industry, by my future as I knew it. So I set the trowel down for good and never looked back. Churray Construction Company was born…
The booming 90’s…
I started out as a one man show and driven. After all, I had all the tools, connections in the field and enough work for 10 men. Back then all the trades were divided, a “niche” that they provided. Framers, roofers, tile setters, drywall, and my job, finish carpentry and decks. And I was busy. I eventually hired two friends to help and we were trimming 4 to 8 houses a month and the work was non stop. I kept thinking, where are all these people coming from, buying all these houses? But that thought faded as the checks came in…there was validation to my thought. And a change was coming.
The new millennium…
I had six years under the company belt and although outwardly the industry seemed fluid, there were indications of change. The new decade brought with it Global unrest, NAFTA in full swing, and questionable financial practices. At one time we had work booked out 3 months. Entire neighborhoods were built on “spec” Imagine being so powerful you could build a sub-division without having one house sold and your banker asking you to play golf in the afternoon. You were the “big man” in town but hey, all those houses sold, and some very quick, many before finish or within 30 days. But also imagine going into that same neighborhood and rather Subcontractor Taxes Rules than seeing moving trucks in the driveway moving the new owners in, you see houses having no cement whatsoever. The “big man” is now known as the man who overbuilt and his banker is now repossessing his golf cart. This happened to hundreds of builders who had been around a lot longer than me. Greed and temptation swayed them. I can imagine being a mid sized builder and having a bank approach you and say “do you want to build another, you can start tomorrow, sign here” Of course you would be tempted but I will tell you the builders that are still here and thriving said, “let me sell a few of these and we will do a couple more.”
During the demise of the housing market I noticed a change in companies who used to be in their “niche”. Some very strange collaborating and mergers were happening, be it out of desperation or having the “oh, I’ve done that once” disorder, it was ultimately their down fall. Imagine calling a framer who also does drain service, or a roofer who also builds fine cabinetry. Although completely possible, it is different than being a general contractor with knowledge in all aspects of homebuilding. However, I am sure there are some really nice cabinets out there with really nice roofs on them.
Joking aside, I believe that a lot of companies had to merge or learn new ways of surviving, myself included. The new millennium brought a lot of change, and concerns about the environment brought new opportunity that some shied away from.
Affordable housing and going green…
My first experience with affordable housing was less than thrilling. The builder that I had started out with had a brilliant idea and became quite the leader in affordable housing design, building techniques, and maintaining. I was not able to contact him to obtain permission to use his name here but his book Building an affordable house has been a best seller. I almost felt ashamed having been in custom carpentry for so long and now having to do more production type work, made me uneasy at first. Within one year we had trimmed 40 plus houses thinking wow, this is the quietest housing boom in history. I would imagine simply because it was not glamorous but it was filling a “niche”. Green building brought with it new incentive, not only for new construction, but remodelers as well. The replacement window industry has tripled in the last few years and growth is expected to continue. Government incentives are driving the market too. Tax breaks, high efficiency rebates and energy loans have opened up a whole new market.
Things seem to be on the up…
My outlook for this industry is very positive. I have seen an increase in remodeling and land sales which are good signs. We are busy and booking now into the winter which is a drastic change from last year. We have also brought in family member Barbara and let my youngest nephew rename the company Jrox llc. Jim rocks….
My advice to anyone who is struggling in the current market is to learn as much as you can about how the light switch the electrician put into the wall, that you built, that the concrete men poured the foundation for works…Knowledge is power, I learn everyday however trivial it may be, I learn. We can all be more responsible, better timed, better looking but nothing is more important than taking your knowledge and career to the next level to ensure your stability and success in the future…
I hope you enjoyed my rambling, below are a few How To Renovate A House Yourself of the rules I do business by. Hope you enjoy,
1. Respect your customers. Without them you have no title or company
2. If you have employees, be kind, they provide your livelihood, if someone makes a mistake due to lack of training. It is your fault.
3. Respect yourself. Dress accordingly; drive a clean vehicle, small things that show you to be reliable
4. Don’t tell a lie. If the scope of work is impossible for you don’t convince yourself all will be okay for the sake of a check…I charge double to fix mistakes
5. Be on time. If you make an appointment make it a point to be early (see rule one)
6. Enjoy your work everyday and be thankful to have it

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