When it comes to building a quality home, Direct Build Inc. owner Lori Anderson gets straight to the point.
WHEN LORI ANDERSON started Direct Build Inc. in 2008, she brought to the marketplace a distinct attribute that had been lacking in the homebuilding industry for quite some time – a feminine touch. Sometimes new clients have a hard time believing she’s the owner. “Many men would ask, ‘Well, who carries the license?’ and I’d smile and say, ‘That would be me,’” Anderson says with a chuckle.
“It’s hard for some people to believe a female can run a construction company,” she remarks. “People want to test my knowledge and know who I am or what’s my story. But when they see me out on the site, they’re like, ‘Oh. Wow.’ I find it kind of funny when people are amazed by it, but I’ve loved construction my whole life. It’s what I enjoy doing, and I try really hard to get across that I care.”
Working with a female contractor has its advantages, Anderson says, and the steady growth and success Direct Build has experienced these last seven years is proof of that. What’s more, she started the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based company during the height of the economic downturn, initially focusing on remodeling jobs until the market picked up and new construction projects were once again on the rise.
Being out in the field left little time for marketing and public relations, so Anderson let the quality of her work speak for itself. As a result, Direct Build grew via word-of-mouth.
“It takes a lot of time to get your name out there, but I have great references and great customers,” she says. “Most homebuilders have investors, partners or some type of stash of cash somewhere. I’m proud to say I did not have any help. I just went out there and told people, ‘What you see is what you’ll get, and you’ll learn to love me because I’ll take care of everything from pricing to quality.’”
It’s in the Details
One advantage to female-led construction projects is that women tend to be more detail-oriented, which bodes well in this industry, Anderson says. “I always tease my customers and say, ‘I need to sit down with you, ask a thousand questions and get in your head to find out not just what you’re looking for now, but what you’re looking for in future,” she notes.
“For instance, if I’m building a house and I know you’re going to finish the basement later, I’ll make sure all the [mechanical, plumbing, etc.] is already in place,” Anderson continues. “So when it comes time to finish the basement, even if it’s not [Direct Build] that finishes it, the homeowner and [the next contractor] are going to be happy I was the one who built it. Wouldn’t it be nice if all builders were that considerate?”
As Anderson puts it, “Women have the gift of the gab.” During consultations, she tends to speak from the heart and make thoughtful suggestions based off personal experience. For instance, she might recommend homeowners go with epoxy grout because it won’t turn black or fall off as quickly, or she’ll suggest they choose a specific color of caulking because it doesn’t magnify the presence of dust.
When it comes to quality, Anderson doesn’t cut corners. Her mantra is you can opt for basic finishes and still have quality. “Instead of starting with the fancy finishes, let’s start with better insulation, better windows and a high-efficiency furnace,” she says. “These are more important because they’ll save you money in the long run. I’m looking over numbers, always. I don’t mark anything up. I charge one flat fee for every job I do, so you’ll hear all my customers saying, ‘Lori really kept me in budget.’”
All about Teamwork
Direct Build is not a cookie-cutter builder, Anderson attests. The company doesn’t limit itself to a specific type of house, and its portfolio reflects that.
Direct Build projects have ranged from basic remodeling jobs to million-dollar-plus homes. No matter the size of the project, Anderson takes a consistent approach to teamwork.
“I believe in working together with the homeowners and the subs,” she states. “If we all work together, we can produce a beautiful product."
When it comes to managing subcontractors, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with. “Believe it or not, the guys out in the field listen to me quite well,” she says. “I’m very persistent. I look for quality, honesty and competitive pricing.
“I want people who stand behind their work, and I can’t handle people who lie,” she adds. “I’d rather people admit when they’ve made a mistake. I don’t want my clients to have a false perception. I’m not perfect, and neither are my guys. We’re human, and if there is a problem, we’ll come back and take care of it.”
As far as Anderson is concerned, “Once a customer – always a customer,” she says. “I’ll have people call me and say, ‘I need a new roof and don’t want to go to a phone book. Will you help me?’ I’ll say, ‘Of course I will,’ and I will send my roofer over there. I like giving them peace of mind that the job will be done right.”