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Staying Flexible in Interesting Times: Homes and rebuilds made to order

Pocono Business Journal - December 5, 2009, Susan Jorstad

On-your-lot custom homes and renovations, as well as knockdown and rebuilds, are all components of Richard Henry (RH) Construction’s success. But it’s also their attitude and personalized service that repeatedly result in word-of-mouth advertising.

Richard Henry“Everything Richard Henry Construction builds is custom.,” says RH’s director of sales and marketing. “If you see it in a magazine, that’s what people come to us with. People want to be able to customize their homes. They’re looking for quality over quantity, for a personal level of service, and it’s our job to make that happen. We like to look at more upscale communities and form a relationship with a Realtor who is the market specialist in that development.”

The in-house drafting team, Richard Henry Professional Services, designs plans for other contractors as well; RH also handles permitting and provides interior design services. “We’ve started (with) the concept of outdoor living – outdoor kitchens, bars, tied into outdoor landscaping.”

“We’re very fortunate building up here in Pocono Pines, because we specialize in the second home market as well as primary homes. In the Lake Naomi community, disposable income still exists. We’re not dwelling on the market. We sell more of a lifestyle, and obviously custom homebuilding follows.”

A greater number of clients have opted for remodeling this year compared with last year, and additions and renovations are keeping contractors and subcontractors employed in the slow economy. It’s also how the company got its start. When Rick Sutliff founded RH in 1990, after learning the carpentry trade on the job, he specialized in remodeling existing homes. Five years later, RH was named among the top 500 remodelers in the U.S. by “Qualified Remodeler.”

Service skills are “absolutely the most important thing right now,” he stresses. RH seeks to create “raving fans” and a five-star resort style experience. “If I walk into a house we built four years ago and I see a nail ready to pop or needing adjustment, we’ll get our guys out and make sure we get it fixed.”

Commercial construction is up this year for RH, with a number of projects in the pipeline. Among their commercial credits: an interior build-out for John Mann, D.M.D., of Pocono Pines Dental in the Blakeslee Medical Professional Complex; and a build-out for St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Hospital, which will open a physical therapy and primary care facility in McAdoo by the end of 2009 or early in 2010. RH will handle renovations at the facility, designing and constructing the ground floor of a very old building in McAdoo.

Regardless of an unpredictable marketplace, management believes customer satisfaction keeps a business healthy. “We have never looked at potential obstacles as road blocks, but rather opportunities,” says Sutliff. RH has taken advantage of the slower economy to focus on expanding its marketing and re-examining its PR, branding, Web site and logo.

RH was recently named one of only three preferred homebuilders at Pocono Manor, a 3,000 acre resort, and the company has turned to Sara Cramer of Realty Executives. Looking ahead to 2010, “We’re looking to do some really nice homes there.” RH has also established a relationship with Century 21 Select Group’s Lake Harmony and Brodheadsville offices, which manage property sales in Kuehner Field Estate in Kunkletown.

“We’re looking for other opportunities to … have more of a presence in the commercial market,” explains RH’s director of sales and marketing. “We’re not waiting for things to come to us; we’re going out there and trying to make things happen.”

Networking and Partnerships Critical

Richard Henry Construction (RH) has initiated strategic partnerships as part of its “Local Businesses Working Together” plan.

“We’ve created alliances with local partners, such as Hutton Metalcrafts,” says RH’s director of sales and marketing. “We’ve had them come in and place some of their exterior lighting in our office. We’re trying to help one another, to share ideas and make this good not only for us, but for them as well.”

E-Z Rest Rustic Furniture in Tannersville, another partner, has some of its Frontier Log furniture on display in RH’s offices. “It’s a way to display the rustic feel for the homes we build. We can actually incorporate log and log railings into the exterior and interior of our homes, which ties in with the design.”

When a new homeowner moves into one of its new constructions, RH’s welcome gift is a custom-designed sign by yet another partner, Signs & Calligraphy – bearing the homeowner’s name and the RH logo.

“Networking is the key – word of mouth in the business is by far the best advertising tool that exists.”. RH’s biggest source of referral business is the local real estate community with local Realtors.

“We tell everybody, including staff, if you want to move forward, make things happen, stay focused. Enthusiasm, energy, follow-up – do all the little things that you did early in business that made you successful, like returning phone calls. The other thing is persistence. Don’t lose your drive.”

– Susan Jorstad

Photos: President/owner: Richard Henry Sutliff

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