2016 In Review

Just like that, another year is in the books and we are already almost through January of 2017. This past year has been the best year to date for the company on many different accounts. While there are many metrics to base this hypothesis off of I think the biggest thing we have acheived is figuring out exactly who we want to be as a company, a brand and most importantly as people. As I usually do this time a year, sit and reflect on the past year, I am very proud of all we have accomplished as a company.

It’s hard to believe that this time last year in January we started doing framing prep and blocking for what would become our larget project to date as a company, the Orchard Ridge project. More on this project later in this post. This prep work that would ultimately make for a more efficient install when we would start our trim package install in March.

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Throughout the month we would also start and complete a few other great projects. One of which was a complete theater room renovation for the GM of a local professional sports team here in Detroit, as well as a full trim and stair remod for a great repeat client. While both of these projects were not simple or quick jobs we found a way to get it all done while while completing the shoe and hardware punch out out list on a 5,000+ we completed in late 2015.

Late January brought the start of another custom residence located in Bloomfeild Township. From the upgrade trim package, to stacked crown molding, custom archways, office built-ins and a custom contemporary glass panel stair case this project was enough work to bring us through the first quarter of the year.

Throughout March, we would start another series of projects one of which would be a renovation of a historic home built in 1880. This project included an entertainment unit, coffered ceiling and replicating some of the original casings, which was a ton of work. While most of our projects are residential new construction this was a nice change of pace and brought many challenges as many of these older homes do.

In March, we also accepted a First Place Detriot Home Design Award with Arteva Homes for the best Contemporary Foyer. Some of our other work received some recognition as well that I wasnt expecting with the submissions from other builders and architects. Attending this event with my wife made for a enjoyable night out and felt very good to have all our hardwork as a company be aknoweldeged.

Speaking of built-ins, coffered ceilings and new construction the next project would be just that. These homowners couldnt be better people and with a great eye for design, it allowed us to execute these project efficiently while allowing us to hit our deadline in time for the start of what would be a crazy remainder of the year.

In the blink of an eye April was here and as mentioned at the start of this post, that meant the start of the Orchard Ridge Project. This project would turn into more than the homeowners, builder or us as a company would anticipate. At 12,000 square feet this home truly has it all in terms of custom trim and millwork. This project has been one of the most challenging projects I have designed and ultimately would have to execute. I would say this was mostly because of the scale of the home as well as our heavy schedule that we would try to maintain throughout. The next several months we would spend on the project executing the what felt like non stop trim, wainscoting, paneling, distressed beams, coffered ceilings, tounge and groove ceilings, built-ins and radius arches, this project I think summarizes what an who we are as a company and craftsmen. Projects like this seem like a dream project to other fellow tradesmen and they are, but not every custom trim and millwork company could execute a project like this. After months of being on the same project it is easy to get complacent, to miss the details and to want to start to “just get it done”. Thats not who we are as a compay though. While we push hard to get every project complete we also promise one thing, craftmenship.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things of being on a project for months at a time is finding ways to not shut down to the outside world, to other builders and clients who you have promised to work for through deposits and past relationships.

When this project is complete it will truly show what we are able to do as a company and if nothing else. Through every challenge we have persevered through and have stayed dedicated to delivering a product we are proud to put our name on.

Throughout the last quarter of the year we would also start another large custom home located in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. This project as most of ours included a full custom trim package, staircase, built-ins, ceiling details and cabinetry. While juggling another large custom project with another home as detailed and time consuming as the Orchard Ridge Project, brought many challenges but again we made it happen and found a way to hit our deadline.

Before we knew it December was here and we would start another project for some very patient and truly fantastic homeowners. This was a trim renovation that would grow from a living room ceiling detail into a full re-trim of the home in order to bring a more transitional feel to the home as well as a octogon shaped coffered ceiling and living room ceiling detail that originally brought us out to the project.

To say I am excited for all 2017 has to bring is an understatement with that said I also realize with continuous growth brings continuous challenge. With the continued concentration and focus of building a great team of craftsmen as well as staying true to our company mission statement, I feel that this year like last will be one to remember.

If you are interested in what we are doing as a company be sure to follow us along on our social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Houzz and Youtube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you like to join our team?

Do you have a passion for finish carpentry?

Do you want to be part of something bigger than yourself?

Are you willing to push the boundaries in your own skill set?

Are you willing to put others before you and empower people through servant leadership?

Our Mission Statement: We are committed to setting a standard in our craft by the projects, relationships and people we create.

Probuilt Woodworking is a Michigan based finish carpentry and custom millwork company. Throughout our company structure from the Apprentice, Support and Lead level carpenter roles, we are looking for great people to live out our Mission statement as company and want to build leaders at all levels. In order to be a good fit in our company you must posess OUR 5 CORE VALUES: Respect, Integrity, Teamwork, Dedication and Collaboration.

OUR BENEFITS

Paid Time Off – After 6 months of employment holiday pay is available at all levels of the company (This includes New Years Day, Memorial Day, $th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day). Additional paid time off can be accrued at the leadership levels of the company.

Overtime Pay – While it is not required, overtime is available to all team members on work weeks over 40 Hours.

Quarterly Profit Sharing – Performance bonuses are dispersed quarterly at all levels throughout the company (*eligibility and restrictions apply)

Apprenticeship Tool Budget – All apprentices will be given a yearly tool budget to invest in their standard tool kit. This budget also helps with our apprentices having the fundamental tool kit to take on carpentry tasks while giving them an opportunity to advance within the company.

Apprentice Training – This formal training will allow the apprentice level carpenter get information that otherwise would take years to learn trough experience. This formal training is paid and will take place in our Clinton Township  based Shop.

Tool Program– While we expect ALL team members to be equipped with a standard tool kit. We do provide some speciality tooling as well as the maintainance of saw blades, as well as providing all consumables such as nails, glues, adhesives, screws and sandpaper.

Summer Flex Hours – While the summers are too short here in Michigan we have implemented a flex summer work week of four 10 hour work days allowing for a three-day weekend to enjoy with family. (Due to the nature of construction some exceptions apply)

Advancement – Because of the tiered structure of our company this allows our team members to advance within the company with very clear expectations and mile stones. Click the link to learn more about our Apprentice, Support and Lead Carpenter Roles.

Technical Training Program – In the pursuit of always becoming more efficient and effective as a company and always striving to deliver a better product, we offer technical training at all levels.

Company Apparel – Every employee is provided with company apperal to wear daily.

Company Outings and Events – Throughout the year we have several company sponsored events such as annual golf outings and charity events, BBQ’s, Team lunches, Summer Picnic, Fall Family get together, and our annual Christmas Party.

Available Positions

Apprentice Carpenters – entry Level skill set with a deep desire to learn the craft of finish carpentry. While many apprentices come in with limited carpentry or construction knowledge you must maintain these non-skilled required characteristics: Being on time, Work Ethic, Effort, Body Language, Energy, Attitude, Passion, Coachable, Do Extra, Be Prepared.

Support Carpenters – The support carpenter makes up the majority of our workforce and though skill set will range, all support level carpenters should be able to work effectively and efficiently on almost all carpentry tasks with very little to no oversight or guidance. All support level carpenters are required to have a standard power and hand tool kit.

Lead Carpenters – Should be able to effectively start any carpentry task from start to finish while managing other support and apprentice level carpenters. This position is not to be taken lightly as our lead carpenters must posses professional skills to deal with customers, builders and superintendents. Most importantly our Leads must possess leadership qualities to manage their teams while keeping projects on schedule and to a certain quality levels. All lead level carpenters are required to have a standard power and hand tool kit.

HOW TO APPLY

If you have what it takes to become a part of our team and would like an opportunity to live out your dream as a finish carpenter with Probuilt Woodworking and can answer YES to the following questions:

  • Do you have experience or a desire for high-end finish carpentry?
  • Can you pass a drug test?
  • Have reliable transportation?
  • Pass a background check?
  • Have a professional attitude and appearance?
  • Desire to live out OUR MISSION STATEMENT?

Please send us a one page resume and one page cover letter to info@probuiltwoodworking.com (Please note: If you cannot execute this portion of the hiring process per the directions you will not be considered for the position.)

Your cover letter should include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your cell phone number
  • Your email address
  • Your Finish Carpentry Experience
  • Describe your tool kit (Applicable to finish carpentry both hand and power tools)
  • Describe your formal education

Your Resume Should include the following:

  • Your employment history
  • References (We will not contact references until we have your written consent to do so)

NOTE: Please know that we highly value our culture, reputation and team members, as they are our most important asset. We have a very high standard to who we hire into the company. If you do not meet all the criteria or are not serious about the position please do not apply.

Dear, Potential Customer. What every good contractor wants you to know.

From the moment I entered the trades, I have always thought it was facinating how other tradesmen, homeowners and builders viewed labor pricing, and how many of them have this view that it is “negotiable” and comes with no substance. I almost got the impression in the first few years of working in the trades that you basically just priced things based off of going rates, not determined by your operational cost like overhead, insurances, taxes, employees and so on, but instead by what others thought you should be working for or what they should be paying.

I could never imagine walking into a department store and saying to them “Hey, the store down the street has something very similar (not the same) and they are 30% less, will you take that?” Something tells me it would probably get me a few funny looks and directions to the door. I could also never imagine walking into a Mercedez Benz dealership and tell them “I love your cars but I cant afford it, how much will $15,000 get me cause thats my budget?” After I get my reply from the salesmen that I am at the wrong dealership, I ‘d asked him “What if I do cash?” As if your employees will take a big paycut if you pay them cash too!  Maybe these homeowners think us contractors can put it in our secret stash where we hide all of our extra money we make on our jobs (still waiting for that day). The reason that neither scenario would work is cause both the department store and car dealership both have an operating cost, they know there numbers and bottom line. Quite simply neither the store or dealership could stay in business, service a product or have employees if they opperated this way.

So here is my question, why are these skilled trade businesses different?  I dont blame these uneducated homeowners and builders for having this mentality. Afterall, we the contrators did this to our selves. How can “them”? More than likely they have never touched a tool or do not have the skills or knowledge to execute the very work they are calling us to bid. If they had this knowledge or skillset they would probably do it themselves, right? They dont know the hours a project will take, after all they watch a 30 min episode on HGTV and they build a entire house in that time frame. How can they not feel that what we do is a not a “get rich quick” scheme?

This isn’t a homeowner or builder problem, this is a skilled trades business owner problem. We as tradesmen need to step up our game. We need to understand we are running businesses. Businesses that need to sustain our families. Businesses that we can hire, train and build quality people. Businesses that can afford to do good quality work and make sure we are still in business to service our work in the future.

This year I decided to hire Shawn Van Dyke, a skilled trades business coach who not only understands what running a successful skilled trades business takes, but has years of experience as a CFO of a finish carpentry and millwork business very similar to what I am working so hard to build. I strive to want to build an amazing company. I am not looking to get rich. I have 3 beautiful children and a loving wife, in my opinion, I already am. If success in my business and financial prosperity follows, I am good with that.  After all, if any of the skilled tradesmen got into this business to get rich and not work hard, all I can say is good luck and I could think of 100 other things you could be doing that would take far less hours, skill and energy.

Long story short, if you are a fellow tradesman or skilled trades business owner, value your self and your time. Stop running your business based off of assumptions, build a great business, price your jobs to do them right, if you need help ask for it and always find ways to get better.

Dear Potential Customer,

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to bid your project. I realize you have had many other guys (most of which are not qualified) to bid your project and I am sure far cheaper than my company, but I hope you give us a shot.

All I ask is that you carefully review the estimate they are giving, know the right questions to ask, understand what is and isn’t an extra, see there work and ask for referrals from past customers.

Demand respect of your home with proper floor covering, dust prevention and quality craftsmanship. However, please respect the fact we are going to work very hard in giving you exactly what you want from design to the execution. While we can’t do this for free or at discounted rates and expect to run a first class business, realize by doing this will allow us to give you a wonderful customer experience. Hold yourself, project and your expectations to a high standard. You see, you guys are the reason us skilled trade businesses are in business. If you have any questions or concerns call me at any time. While I try to make every effort to answer my phone during business hours,  just know that if it is 8pm on a weeknight, holiday or sunday mornings,  I might be spending time with my family but just leave me a message and I will get right back with you. Because that is all part of running a world class skilled trades business, communication and accessibility. Something those bargin tradesmen probably wont offer.

Know your budget. We understand our costs as a business, and while I know if you compare work apples to apples we will be in the same pricing zone. Please understand many owners of these skilled trades businesses do not understand this. So this is up to you to decide and figure out, but know that again, part of my service is helping you understand this. I realize that the project you are having us quote regardless of price is very important to you and I value that. Oh, and if our numbers come back higher than expected, just ask why. Just know I might ask you what you are comparing this to or what your reference for coming to this conclusion. While we cant do $30,000 worth of work for $10,000, understand we will be around for many years and we can always take your project in phases. Because we run our business like a business, we will be also able to service our work if you should ever have any problems. However, we are pricing our work to do it right the first time so this shouldn’t be a issue.

So I hope you make a educated and informed decision on moving forward with the project and really compare apples to apples. The saying “You get what you pay for” is very true. Though if you’re a more for less kind of person, the other guys should be just fine, just dont let them think you are getting a deal. Oh, if the other guys’ too good to be true price is infact just that, feel free to call us, we would be glad to take over the project. Just remember its cheaper to do it right the first time.

Sincerely,

Anthony Vitale

Owner | Probuilt Woodworking

 

Social Media; The Death and Re-birth of our blog.

In 2011, I officially formed Probuilt Woodworking LLC. To that point, my experience growing up in the trades and already having plenty of experience in not only working for, but growing up in, our family Stair and Millwork company. I had a vision to build the “best” finish carpentry and custom woodworking company out there, we would be something different. I knew as long as I could keep work steady, the passion and love I have for my craft would shine and people would take notice. While this goal or motivation I have still hasn’t changed, there was a lot I never and couldn’t have ever considered.  I didn’t realize all the long work days I would eventually encounter, sacrifices, taxes, capital needed to maintain good cash flow, oh yeah, and employees (at this point I still thought I could do it all). Nope, never thought about any of it and with our first child (of three) due early in 2012, fatherhood would bring a whole new meaning to life and work.

In October 2012, I started this blog with a very simple purpose, I wanted to give my customers, potential customers, friends, family and other tradesmen an inside look at not only our projects, but how much love I have for what I do. I thought it was a way for a potential customer to view the way we work and think throughout a project and give them a chance to experience the process. It was a platform for me to talk about jobs, techniques and I guess share what I thought might be interesting. Most importantly, I thought I could fill a void in the craft of finish carpentry that I wasn’t seeing anyone else do with maybe the exception of Gary Katz and the thisiscarpentry.com website.

Growing up in a successful family business, one that was built on the foundation of treating your customers right, hard work, long hours and dedication, I already had a great roadmap for what I would need to do if I was going to grow and achieve this kind of success. However, what I also noticed was that I was going to have to do it completely different. With a deflated workforce and a slowly rebounding economy, I knew I would have to brand and market my business differently than my father did or didn’t. Before I had an employee I already had a business name, a logo, shirts and a a vinyl decal on my truck. Every time I would pull up to a new project, the builders, tradesman and customers thought I was a small part of something bigger. Much like the Wizard in the classic movie  “The Wizard of OZ” I wore all the hats in the business, like the wizard behind the curtain. I was the guy who handled the books, walked through the projects, designed the projects, built the projects and even sent the invoices. In that first year or two, what I got most when I pulled up to a job site was the veteran tradesmen who much like the economy, took a beating and was just plain defeated, bragging to me how in 30 years they never had a logo on the truck, never had company shirts and never spent one penny on advertising either. I didn’t have the heart to tell these guys that it was probably the reason why I never heard of them or their company. Oh, and to tell them they could advertise for free on social media and a few other platforms, I figured that would be impossible to do being that they also thought smart phones and computers, like advertising, really served no purpose. The real kicker was I also didn’t want to tell them that it’s not really about getting new customers, my passion for my craft and my business was my driving force and if someone stumbled on one of our pages and wants to do business with us, than great! Lets be honest though, in our company’s niche market, most our customers don’t build multi-million dollar homes and find there trades on social media. Overall, I knew this “experienced” advice they were giving me really didn’t mean much cause I knew I wanted/still want to be something different. I didnt want to be who “those” guys were and still are.

Before the birth of the blog, in 2011 I came across an app on my iPhone called Instagram. Little did I know in the coming few years this app would not only change the way I share my work but in 2016, help me build a better business by connecting with other amazing individuals and passionate tradesman who otherwise I would have probably never met or heard about. Around those early years in 2012, I would start our company Facebook pagewebsite and houzz.com accounts. While all these platforms have been great, Our Instagram account has allowed me to give a view into the business and projects that this very blog was intended to do. Through video or a simple photo, our followers whether homeowners,tradesman, past customers, new customers, literally anyone can view our projects in real-time without me having to spend hours uploading photos and drafting blog posts. However, with our social media followers growing, I am starting to get a lot of questions on technique, tools and insight that I was hoping to address and help other finish carpenters answer back in 2012 with the start of this blog. While these platforms have been great, the blog is a place I can share plenty of information without bogging down our other non-trade related followers, family and friends feed.

While we still push everyday to grow better as a company and craftsmen, I feel like in the past 5 years this very blog has come full circle. This was something I started in hoping people would find it helpful or inspiring, and now in 2016, I have people asking daily to share more details about our projects, techniques and business in general. I just hope those grumpy worn out veteran tradesman are following us or at least figured out how to turn on there iPhone, cause this is the new way of referrals, this is the new way of doing business. 🙂

 

THE GOOD, THE BAD and the lack of blog post.

One of the reasons I started this blog was not only to share my passion and love that I have for my craft, but also to be able to document past projects and allow clients and/or potential clients to get a better understanding for what we do and how and why we do it. The one thing I never considered is that the blog would become a place I could come to reflect on growth and change in business and look back at where we were then and now. With 2014 being our best year to date it, it came with plenty of sacrifice, long hours, many 7 day work weeks and well…..no blog post! However, 2014 brought plenty of reward such as the opportunity to hire some great employees and be a part of some incredible projects such as the 2014 Homearama, the completion of a 7,000 sq. ft. custom trim job and the start of another trim job nearly the same size. I couldn’t be happier than where things are going with the company in 2015 as we are already off to a start that will rival 2014. In the coming weeks and months I am going to commit to getting back to the blog and keep sharing all the great stuff we get to be a part of.

Our 2013 In Review

I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever remember a year flying by as quick as this past year. I think this was due to several large jobs that spanned several months each. Here is a look back at this past year at Probuilt Woodworking.

January of 2013 started with the Romeo Project. A nearly 9,000 square foot home located in Romeo, Michigan located on 350+ acres. We were contracted to trim the home, hang the 60+ solid core brazilian mahogany doors, staircase install and build a full custom basement bar/kitchen. Needless to say we were at the home for 5 months. The tricky part with jobs this size is fitting in other jobs in the schedule without holding up the current job. Some of the “other jobs” included two full oak tread staircases in a summer home in Caseville, Michigan. “Trying to make everyone happy” seemed to be the saying for 2013, but with many long workdays and even sundays, I can honestly say I think we succeeded.

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With the Romeo Job complete, we subcontracted the stair work in a 23,000 square foot home located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. This included several large straight and curved walnut full tread staircases. This was a great opportunity for the company and allowed us to showcase our work, in a spectacular home. Starting in June, we spent the majority of the days at the home and had the job complete in October. I will hopefully have a more in depth post about the this job, including pictures and details in the coming months!

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P1040323In October we also completed the Staircase in the 2013 Idea Show House built by Arteva Homes. The Idea Show House is 7,000 square feet of inspired architecture and cutting-edge design. The home features the newest in decorating trends, finishes, construction methods and technology for your home. This is our second Show House we have been apart of and hope to do more in the future. For more information on the 2013 Arteva Show House check out the link at http://www.ideashowhouse.com/.

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November was a great month for the company as we were able to wrap up a few of our smaller jobs. Some of these included distressed maple counter tops and floating beam shelving for a customers finished basement. We also completed a beautiful coffered ceiling detail in our customers kitchen. The detail was designed to mimic the island dimensions and was furnished with a beautiful chandelier hanging from the center coffered. It turned out beautiful. I hope to get finished pictures soon. We also finished a beautiful distressed cherry mantle beam. The beam will be finished to match the customers dining table and receive custom Iron brackets that we are having made by San Marino Iron, A local Iron company here in the Metro Detroit Area.

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In December we closed the year out in Clarkston, Michigan were we took on the first phase of a large remodel trim job. The job included the removal and installation of all existing casing and base throughout the home, several poplar jamb archways, Full maple tread stair remodel, a distressed mantle beam, shaker style wainscoting and a full floor to ceiling panel detail in the foyer and fireplace wall. The job turned out great and we look forward to working with the customers in the coming year in the next phase of the project. With the job complete just days before Christmas, that was a wrap for 2013!

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We wish you all the best in 2014. If this year is anything like last, we welcome it with open arms and look forward to all the opportunities this year will bring. Thank you for your continued support, we look forward to the journey ahead!

Woodworking in America 2013

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Well, Another WIA is in the books. For those who don’t know WIA (Woodworking in America) is a weekend long conference that is put on by Popular Woodworking Magazine. With a variety of classes and other events like, the hand tool olympics and a banquet saluting the craft of woodworking. Being a veteran conference attendee, I’ve come to have a certain expectation for the conference and this year was no disappointment.

As usual, the Marriott/Northern Kentucky Convention Center did a great job in hosting the event. Other than the over priced market place food, though the Philly steak and cheese sandwich was to die for and at $55 I was hoping for more than lasagna at the banquet dinner….where was the filet? All nit picking aside, all the staff was great and the hotel as usual was very hospitable.

Popular Woodworking and its staff did a great job in delivering a conference well worth the price of admission.  From the Hand tool Olympics, the great vendors in the market place and the informative classes taught by guys like Roy Underhill, Peter Follensbee and Chris Schwarz, I guess that’s no surprise. One of my favorite classes was the online woodworking round table. It was nice to see these guys get some recognition cause honestly, these are some of my biggest idols in the craft.

Like normal, I am coming home excited to get in the shop. Being one of those who are able to do this kind of work for a living is just a small reminder how lucky I am to do what I do. Well, most of the days!