Ariel Hartman, President and Project Manager and Chuck Harman, Design Manager
AJH Renovations, LLC is a family-operated full-service design/build company that offers remodeling, additions, and whole-house transformations. Founded in 2005, the company is located in Greenville and provides services throughout the county, the majority being in and around the downtown area.
What are the keys to your company’s rapid growth?
Chuck: At the beginning of the recovery in 2010, the principals of AJH Renovations, LLC determined a marketing plan that targeted what we believed would be the growth sector in the Greenville residential renovation market—the downtown neighborhoods of North Main, Augusta Road, and Parkins Mill. The City Council of Greenville has maintained an aggressive and well-considered renaissance plan for the downtown area over the previous 15 years, and we believed that this emphasis would continue to be maintained by the current mayor and council. Greenville’s downtown has become a model of urban redevelopment, with its mix of retail, corporate, service, and multi- and single-family residential, and this excellent planning has created a healthy environment for value-added residential renovation.
We also focused on branding our logo—AJH—through a combination of site signs, truck labels, website, and high-quality print media. We emphasized the design/build distinctive of our company model, and saw almost immediate results in brand recognition and word-of-mouth advertising among the close-knit neighborhoods downtown. We developed both our field supervision staffing and our in-house design studio personnel apace with market growth, and have therefore been able to respond quickly to requested quotes and to new work. We now have a full-time staff in the office to manage both marketing and design, with a four-man field superintendent staff in the field to manage our construction projects and crews. This has positioned us to handle the growth that we have experienced, while anticipating further growth to come.
In addition to our market focus, we developed a detailed project process that sets forth the path from design to contract to final completion. We utilize several computer and Internet based platforms to estimate projects, select, purchase, and track materials inventories, and facilitate communications on a real-time basis for every member of a project team. This fine-tuning of the process has greatly improved our capabilities, enabling us to handle more active projects at any given time than we have ever been able to do.
What do you see as your company’s greatest opportunities in the future?
Chuck: Due to our successful branding of the AJH logo, we have been able to expand our company listings to include AJH Custom Homes, LLC and Designed for Downtown, LLC. These affiliate companies have enabled us to branch out into the specific residential and light-commercial design field—from concept renovation or new construction drawings all the way to interior lighting and finishings design. The custom home company enables us to actively pursue the relatively few in-fill lot opportunities still available in the downtown Greenville market, and to also expand our construction capabilities to the surrounding communities, without detracting from the downtown focus of the renovation company.
What are your biggest challenges and how do you plan to overcome them?
Chuck: As with the overall construction industry (and it seems many other industries as well), our biggest challenge at this point is qualified staffing. This applies to the design side as well as the field production side of our business, as the labor market is incredibly tight, especially in skilled and experienced positions.
What advice can you offer someone just starting a business?
Ariel: Someone starting a business needs to understand the entrepreneur-to-established arc taken by most businesses. It is normal for a business owner of a new entity to need to wear many hats, but this should be a temporary situation and should give the new business a financial edge to allow growth within the chosen market. As that growth is achieved, the margins should also be growing, which in turn allow the business owner to hire people to do a better job at the individual tasks he was once performing all under one hat. As the owner transitions through that arc, he or she should take care to hand off the processes in keeping with the company’s core values in such a way that the employees excel at the same and truly represent the company. This is the only way sustainable growth can be achieved by a company and it requires the owner to understand the importance of these changes and when they can be effected.