Creating a one-stop concept for floors and counters
It takes courage to start a new business.
It takes skill to build it into a $1.2 million enterprise in just four years.
It takes heart to market like you mean it.
“About six months ago I was on the road and stopped at Rudy’s in Round Rock, Texas, for some barbecue,” says Saber-Concepts, LLC partner, Paul Jacks. “There was a builder sitting there eating lunch and looking at a set of plans. I introduced myself and said, ‘Call me and I’ll take care of your floors and countertops.’ ” Thirty minutes later, Paul’s phone rang. It was Roger Conant, a prominent California developer—and the man who was just eating lunch at Rudy’s. Roger told Paul he was impressed that he had stopped and introduced himself. He wanted to talk some more. He wasn’t sure what direction he wanted to go with the floor and counter designs for his Riverbend at Northwest subdivision in Georgetown, Texas—the very city that Saber-Concepts calls home. Paul immediately drove to meet Roger, then put together a budget for the floors and counters for the 50-home development. “Here we are, eight months later, into color selections and finishes for all countertops, tile and luxury vinyl tile (LVT),” says Paul proudly.
Success Over Time
While Saber-Concepts, at first glance may seem like an overnight success, it was forged through the fire of time. Both Paul and his business partner, Greg Smotherman, spent many years building up to the founding of their business. Paul honed his skills during his time as a sales representative for Master Tile. Greg spent 30 years managing construction and developing custom homes. Their individual skill sets blend to create a solid business foundation. “I’m good at sales and estimation and in creating relationships with builders and developers,” says Paul. “Greg is great with crews and construction scheduling.”
The secret sauce this duo brings to the table is their ability to value engineer. In this case, value engineering is about reducing costs. It’s about bundling products and receiving preferred pricing through their longtime, trusted relationships with multiple product suppliers. It’s also about reduced construction schedules because Saber-Concepts brings in teams that work in tandem, providing seamless services for floors and counters.
Paul sends out specs to several vendors, looking for the best blend of product quality and cost. “It’s bad practice to simply look for the lowest price. We look for bargains across the board so we can be more efficient and combine projects in order to achievethe best price and service for our customers,” Paul explains.
This attention to service pays off in many ways, as their clients affirm. Mike Michaux and James Watts are the co-owners of Michaux/Watts Builders. They have been working with Paul and Greg for a year and a half, primarily on two major condominium projects. Interviewed separately, each owner echoed the opinion of the other, saying that Saber-Concepts works as part of their team, something that is extremely important to them. They also both appreciate the way Greg and Paul manage budgets. “They’re great guys to work with and are always on time and budget; they keep up easily with our workload,” says James. “Having a contractor/supplier as part of our team makes our job easier,” adds Mike. “They help us manage the budgets and give us product options.”
“They’re great guys to work with and are always on time and budget; they keep up easily with our workload.”
James Watts, Co-owner, Michaux/Watts Builders
With about 80 percent of the company’s business coming from repeat clients, word-of-mouth is the best advertising the firm can enjoy. Still, the diversity of its client base also makes it resilient regardless of the economy or a slowdown in a specific market. In addition, The Blue Book Network sends the company about 20 bid options per day. Greg and Paul look at each company, and, if they’re interested, they talk to the company first, before offering a bid. “We want to find out about them first, not just bid a job,” Paul adds.
On the residential side, the company’s client types range from custom homebuilders to remodelers to apartment, condo and subdivision developers. That is not to discount the individual homeowner. “Sometimes we’ve done three or four jobs on one family’s house; then they move and we work on their next house,” Paul adds. “We’re loyal to them and they’re loyal to us.”
Paul also points to apartment and condo buildings as a very hot market in the greater Austin area. “Multifamily is big business,” he says. “You can’t build them fast enough.” He says that five multifamily developers have come to him in the past few months to request bids.
Housing in all its forms will continue to be a significant market for Saber-Concepts. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 400,000 new people moved to Texas between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016, and estimates that more than 1.3 million people will migrate to Texas in the following five years. The 2017 Texas Relocation Report, released by the Texas Association of REALTORS®, shows that Dallas-Fort Worth had the largest number of new out-of-state residents, 117,982, followed by Houston with 101,604 and Austin-Round Rock with 46,598. The Texas growth trend is expected to remain strong throughout the foreseeable future.
While the residential market remains hot, Saber-Concepts continues to see strong growth in the commercial market as well. The firm has handled the floors and counters for restaurants, memory care facilities, offices, shopping centers, churches, municipal buildings and more. Its current work includes projects in The Domain; the Round Rock Premium Outlets® shopping center and in various municipal buildings. Its commercial market reach also extends beyond its roots in the Austin area. The company does work in burgeoning Texas cities, like Houston to the east, Dallas to the north and San Antonio to the south. The firm also has customers in Arkansas and Louisiana, with plans to expand into New Mexico, Missouri and other states throughout the southwest U.S.
Strength in Remaining Small
“My wife will tell you that the business owns us, we don’t own it,” quips Paul. And there is some truth to that too. The owners intentionally keep the company small, bringing in subconsultant installation crews with whom both Paul and Greg have worked for many years. The staff remains lean. Paul’s wife, Tammi, helps with the accounting side of the business and Greg’s wife, Holly, does design. “Our wives are vital,” Paul adds. “We wouldn’t survive without these ladies. Paul and Tammi are in their 27th year of marriage and Greg and Holly are celebrating 28. The family business is rounded out with two additional and very key employees. Lead estimator, Barry Moody, has 15 years of experience in construction and Beth Dalton heads up accounting. Paul’s nephew, Justin Miller, serves as their sales representative in Houston, where he sells floor coverings, and Saber-Concepts provides all materials and installation.
Our Favorite Things
As Tammi so aptly states, owning a small business can sometimes feel like it owns you; but the team truly enjoys the challenge and the hard work. Paul says that their favorite jobs are those in which they are brought in as consultants from the beginning. Being able to help define the spaces and the needs of the facilities can save money, improve value and bring expert advice to the builder’s team. Paul underscores this value through examples. For 46 homes for homebuilder Michaux/Watts, Saber-Concepts helps them decide which products would work best for their needs. They also recommended 100,000 square feet of luxury vinyl tile, a relatively recent concept that is economical, durable and provides a higher-end look than traditional vinyl. It is available in popular finishes, such as hardwood, tile, stone and bamboo. The Saber-Concepts team has high hopes for the future. Their short-term goal is to be the go-to team for developers throughout Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Their longer-term goal is to be the preferred provider for flooring and counters throughout the southwestern U.S.