What Makes Us So Great Anyway?

Today we are sharing the secrets that make our company a standout choice in the industry. In this episode, we will describe our unique process, meticulously designed to provide top-notch service to both our valued team members and cherished clients. Our track record speaks for itself, with clients spending less than 5% on contingency after project commencement. We share the incredible journey of how we reached this level of success, the valuable lessons we learned along the way, and why we chose the lump-sum contractor approach.

Transparency is paramount for us, and we emphasize the importance of honesty about budgetary constraints from the very beginning. When you collaborate with our team, you're not just another project; you become an integral part of a meaningful relationship. Your voice matters, and we prioritize active listening and understanding your unique needs. Trust and safety are at the core of our interactions, recognizing that emotions are an inevitable part of every journey. To ensure smooth communication, we provide our team with extensive coaching and education, equipping them to handle client interactions with empathy and expertise.

This Episode Will Cover: 

• What a contingency is.
• The importance of planning for unexpected costs.
• What a lump-sum contractor is.
• Why you have to be honest about your budget from the beginning.
• What sets us apart from others in the industry.
• The importance of managing our emotions.
• Why it is essential to manage expectations.

Learn More About Ashley, Michelle, & Simply Home: 
• About Ashley & Michelle: www.simplyhome.co/about
• Website: www.simplyhome.co
• Podcast: simplyhome.co/podcast
• Instagram: @simplyhomeaustin
• Facebook: @simplyhomeaustin
Episode Transcript

This is the Simply Home Podcast - Ladies who build, a podcast for women by women.

This is Ashley Wainscott and Michelle Mullins.

After spending the last 10 years revolutionizing the construction industry and raising the bar of the contracting world.

We are inviting you on our journey as we continuously learn how to be extraordinary and thrive in this industry.

Now, come hang with us.

Welcome to Ladies Who Build episode seven.

We are talking about what makes us so great anyway. What basically our process and what makes Simply Home a really great choice, obviously, but the work that we've done to offer the service, the type of service that we offer, and to be able to support the people on our team to offer really great support for clients. So, yeah, we're gonna dive into tooting our own horn a little bit.

Toot toot!

I didn't know what you were about to say.

You're gonna get right into tooting.

We're tooting today.

One of my favorite things to talk about is the contingency. This is such a hot topic.

I stand behind the stats.



What's the stat?

Well, oh, let me tell you.

Oh, okay.

The stat is that all of our projects historically, on average, always spend less than 5% on their contingency after a project has started.

Which, oh, that's our stat.

That's our stat.

Oh, we own that stat.


We created a stat.

Yeah, we did. We were kind of a big deal.


And I will say, for those of you who don't know what a contingency is, we're going back to the dictionary here. A contingency is money you have set aside for the unforeseen and things that are going to come up once you start your project.


So it is all of the things that we cannot see in the walls or…

In your slab

In your slab, if you have, I mean, we were literally just working at a house the other day that has rats, and they knew they'd have rats, but what they didn't know is the damage that was done in the walls. And so again, that's a, that's a contingency, right? Because we're not gonna build and fluff into an estimate of something we don't know until we see it.


We can only plan for what we see. And I will say we do plan for some of the unsane, right? We do plan for, well your, if your panel doesn't have enough room or…

Your electrical panel.

Your electrical panel, yes, your electrical panel doesn't have enough room or, you've had a leak somewhere before, and the client notifies us. We are able to actually put a plan together for that. But again, I'm obsessed with this stat because most contractors, you will spend 15 to 20% more in your contingency once a project has started. So all of those change orders that come through to you as a homeowner, once a project has kicked off, then, that's what a contingency is. It's that sum of change orders from beginning of the project to the end.

So what's our contingency? What do we tell people?

You'll spend under 5%. So whatever the total project is, so let's say you're spending a hundred thousand dollars with us, right? Set aside $5,000 for your contingency, just in case things come up. That's what we tell clients. But 15 to 20% is a lot.

It's a lot.

That's 15,000 to $20,000. That's almost a fourth of your project total, right? And it's like what is happening there? Like why aren't contractors thinking through? Things initially and really investigating and going in and you know, trying to understand the home and what's actually going to be impacted. Because to me that means that there's not enough planning that's happening.

Also, going back to this stat is I know why you're so excited about it, because it has taken us so well. Okay. That makes us sound like really, it's like taken us so long. It's taken us a long time to get to this point because if you know anything about construction is that it's constantly changing, and especially with remodels, it becomes more difficult to price out appropriately because you are tearing down an existing structure, so you technically don't know how the plumbing is run until you see it. You don't know what electrical wires are used until you see it behind the wall. Whereas a new build, you're running all new pipes. You're running all new wires. It's very simple, very easy, and it's all in your control.

It's all, it's to an extent, right?


You can, you can build something from scratch a lot easier than piecing together an old house with new technology. Right.

And most builders say like, say, that we have it a lot harder than them.

We do have it a lot harder than them. So be, for us to be able to come into a 5% contingency framework is huge and speaks to our process of what we've taken over the years to your point is, if other people are so much higher, are they learning the mistakes that they made along the way? Because I think for us, we're very honest that you know, of course we're not perfect today, but we were not perfect starting out. And so the mistakes we had to make to get here, we take note of them. And so everything that we've learned, we say, how do we not do that again? What do we need to account for? What do we need to educate the client on about this, especially if we continue to see it happening? So, that's like a pretty big deal.

It is. It's taken us a lot of hard work to get to this stat, but we wear it proudly because a client's budget and their investment, it just means so much. I mean, I know how much a hundred thousand dollars means to me and it means so much to everyone, no matter how much money you have or don't have, you earned that money, right? And that's your money. And we treat it with respect. So if we're gonna tell you something from the beginning, it's so important to us to keep our word and to really honor that. And really, I mean, us building out these matrixes that were, that allow us to hold all of our pricing together and to keep track of all of our pricing is what allows us to keep that contingency number at 5%. Because really, if we didn't understand the market, if we didn't understand our vendors, if we didn't know how we were pricing things out, then that couldn't be honored either.

And it's just so important to us when we build estimates for clients, we literally,,. We spend hours on hours, and we literally think through every single detail what is gonna impact this? How is this gonna tie in with this? Right? And that's so vital to us because when we give a potential client a preliminary estimate, and we say it's gonna be within this range, when we deliver you that final estimate or wrap up your project at the end, our goal is to be aligned with everything that we told you.

Yeah, I think so. The change orders that we see come up is, majority of the time it's just clients wanting to add on things. So they might say like, oh, we're, since we're in here, do you think we could just like take down this, I don't know, shelf or something? Like just random things, right? So change orders are typically with clients add, but on that note, I'm very proud to say this on the the project management side, is that we are so thoughtful with our change orders before we present it to a client. So there's typically a phone call that happens with myself and the team for us to discuss, “ Is this change order legitimate to send?” If so, why? And can we get the cost as low as possible? So if we're presenting you a change order from something that was found from something that was unforeseen or that we legitimately was not part of the scope, there are discussions that happened before we just released pricing to you. So it's not like, “Hey, we found this, here's the cost. Hey, this, we ran into this, here's the cost.” And a lot of times what clients don't see on the back end of side is if it's something that we did goof on, we eat the cost. So we're not presenting everything that we run into along the way. That might be a surprise. There's a discussion happen and majority of the time it's, that's on us. We should have known that. We should have seen it. Now we know for future reference go ahead and cover that cost and move on. So we're very thoughtful for what we present to a client.

Yeah, we're not looking to nickel and dime.


And when Michelle and I had heard that from clients in the very beginning of Simply Home, I don't really know that people felt that way, but that was something that they brought up that they didn't want to feel.

And so we've always made it at the forefront of budgeting and everything we do with client investments is making sure that people don't feel nickel and dimed. I mean, and on top of that, we, we always call clients before they get a change order. We notify them. It's no surprise when they just are receiving a change order.

Yeah. They know it's coming.

They know it's coming and they know they have options.


There's usually a set of options and, you know, every scenario is different because of course, if it's permitted, you have fewer options.

Well, that's a good point.

You know, if an inspector, that's, that's, yeah. Cuz if you, if you're inspecting, if you're permitting a project, an inspector can walk in the house and he can technically look through the whole property, even if you're not working on certain parts of the house and call something out that he wants upgraded and he becomes, The God of inspectors at that point, and you have to bow down to what he says. So it's annoying.

Or she.

Or she. We've had one she inspector.

We have, yeah. So it's annoying, but you have to do what they want. But, like Asha said, we always, part of the change order conversation that we have in the background is I always ask the team, okay, if you're presenting this as an option, what is another option you can give them? Because we never want a client to feel pushed into a corner with like, here's the cost, sorry, too bad. Figure out how to pay for it. We wanna say, here's what's come up. You have this option to do it or we could do this. And it could be like a realignment of scope. It could be maybe your, whatever, whatever it is, we're gonna present you with another option so you don't feel like you're stuck in a corner.

This kind of ties into another thing that makes us different, which is we call ourselves a lump sum contractor. And most of our potential clients don't know what this means until, of course, we take the time to explain it. It is a very unique thing here in Texas where if you are a lump sum contractor, you don't have to charge a client sales tax.

So we have specifically chosen this route because as you could imagine doing a large remodel and adding sales tax on that, that gets very expensive. And we want every dollar to go. towards their remodel that can, so what that means is we can't break apart labor and material in a lump sum contract. How we break things out is by room, right?

So a kitchen remodel, is this cost a bathroom remodel? Is this cost, et cetera. And it is transparent in that if you have specific questions about, well, I was kind of playing with, if I wanted to do this in the kitchen, how much would that be if I took it off right? Or, “Hey, I'm actually looking to spend 55,000 on my kitchen instead of 70. What would I have to do to get there?” Right? And in some capacity, things like that can happen and we have options and we can make adjustments. And in other times we can't because it's based on the square footage. It's based on just actual labor. Right. So we have options, but we will always work to whatever the end goal is and whatever the mission is.

That's what we're working towards with you. Right. We're on, we're on this journey with you. And I think it's important when clients are working through this, that they're being open and honest with that whole budget and with the whole process of what they're looking for. Being a lump sum contractor, because all that pricing is pushed together. It's not gonna be broken out by individual line items. But this is a good thing, right? Because you're, it pushes a lump sum contractor to think through everything that's in the scope. Literally everything, because our goal is to include. It has to be all inclusive and it, and to keep the change orders low, and the contingency low on the other side, it really pushes contractors to think through everything because we're not itemizing everything, so we have to include everything.

It only. The who's us and the clients, you know, it, it's only gonna hurt us if, if we don't include something because it is all lump sum.


But the other thing I'll say about that is it really does protect clients in that way where it's all lump sum, the service is all included. You don't have to worry about something not being included. We are so detailed with our contracts. The scope of work is so black and white, specifically so that clients understand what exactly they're getting, right? And it makes it worth it.

Yeah. I think there has to be, you know, we do a lot of education on the forefront, but there has to be trust from the client and the way that we can create that trust is not only showing you in the past, like successful projects. And, but I think also the contingency part of where we stand with that, because I think some people might say, well, because you're a lump sum, you could just kind of throw in any number you want or throw in any detail you want. But if one of our true values and what we pride ourself is, and to stay within that 5% contingency amount, like you said, is that, we have to be, we have to think of every single tip. Like that takes a lot of time and effort to get that close to a number without even swinging a hammer, because there are, like we said earlier, there are so many things that we try to forecast.

Of course there are things that come up that we just totally can't, but it just takes a lot of effort. So, no, the last thing we're doing is slapping a number and a scope on a price and be like, here you go, bud. You know?

I mean, the only thing that would bite us in the butt, because say a client takes it off, they take this electrical component off and then they take these other components off and then they add these things and we go through that revision. Imagine if we were just throwing numbers together. Imagine the chaos you would feel if they just added all that back on or they added some pieces back on. I mean, the math would never add up. It would absolutely never make sense. Right. So the pricing matrix that we have keeps track of all the linear footages, the square footages, the quantities, how much of everything, and then that guarantees, it keeps everybody honest, right?

We have. 47 square feet of this, because that's what was in the plans. And if the design plans change, then that changes. And then the numbers change and so it keeps everyone on the same page and it's just, you know, it's just lovely.

Yeah. That's great.

So our next big thing of what sets us apart is, part of it is the software that we provide, the client portal. And it's not just the software in of itself because the client portal allows us to share. We build out calendars for clients so that they understand the moment they sign a commitment contract with us in the very beginning, they get a calendar to see all of the deadlines leading up to a project start date. And then from that project start date, they're gonna get a construction calendar. We all know these calendars. Our living breathing document, we all know that they fluctuate, but it is the deadline, the end deadline that we're always trying to stick to for each phase, and then we'll communicate accordingly, right?

So if a materials list isn't ready, or CAD plans aren't ready, or something isn't ready, or the client needs more time for each of these things, then we could always communicate how that's gonna shift a deadline. Because if certain deadlines aren't met up to the big deadline, of course that's gonna shift. And so that's one of our biggest perks though, is you have the visibility to understand what you're working towards for each phase of our work. And the calendar is one of the biggest things. Communication and then invoicing in the software.

Yeah, and I think, you know, we have a team of what, 14 now. And I think besides maybe two people that are on the backend, every person on the team works with the client in some way. And I guess really people on the backend too. But even if you don't see them or ever talked to them, every project, every single one of us has touched and will touch because there's so much that goes into it, but that there's so much care. Like you're not just another number. It's legitimately like we're entering into a relationship with you. And, and with that, we wanna make sure that we're listening to you and we're giving you a voice and we're making sure you have options. And we're hearing what you're frustrated about, like, you know, so all of the things that take to make a really good relationship, it takes time and effort. And so all of us in the company, have a touch point with the client in some way, shape, or form. And we like to say on the project management side, we're like the construction counselors, although we're not licensed.

But it's fun because, you know, you go through a remodel and there's emotions that come up. And so we like to be here for you and just wanna make sure that you feel really heard. And it's not like our, our way or the highway, it's, it's what makes you feel comfortable and are you uncomfortable with this decision? And if not, let's talk about that.

Yeah. And that that is truly one of the greatest things that we offer, is being that guide along the way. And it, there's 14 of us, right? So you have so many guides along the way, and if anything, that's comforting and reassuring because you have 14 minds working on your project in some capacity.

And, I mean, that just leads to ultimate greatness. Because everyone gets to specialize in some capacity where you are in your project, they're specializing in that thing. So if you're working with a sales estimator on the front end, right? They're specializing in making sure your budget aligns with what you wanted it to, and that your estimate aligns with the plans that you have.

And then you're working with CAD and they maybe you know, working on the vision even further, then you're gonna work on materials and they're ensuring that all your materials are feasible for your project. And on top of that, you have takeoffs that are correct, and on top of that, that you have materials ready to go and checked in before a project's starting.

And then that's just the forefront of the planning side, right? We have to make sure all vendors are on the same page. We have to communicate clearly, and then you move to project management and they have to set up the entire project and make sure everything is crystal clear. The job site is, you know, quality control. The job site is set up correctly in that everything, everyone is getting what they need to be a well-oiled machine, right?


We're, I mean, we're a team and a really strong team in it. Working with a company like us that has a reputable, credible reputation.


I mean, we're, we have worked so hard to build a brand. When you think of Simply Home, you think of a company that you feel safe with and that you trust to get you from the beginning to the end.


In an enjoyable experience, right?

Yeah. We, so one of our new employees told me the other day that we had one of her review, their reviews.

You exposing them.

She had made a comment, I mean, we have mostly women on our team, so I'm just gonna say she, but made a comment of how she's never, she's worked in construction before in different contracting companies and how this company, she's never seen anybody have such very distinct roles like each person's responsible for something very specific part of the client experience, but yet somehow we all work in such a collaborative, cohesive way. And she said, sometimes I've seen that and it's very polar where you work over here and you work over here and you kind of do your own thing. And she's like, you have very specific roles, but yet everybody is working for the collective good of the health of the client and the health of the team.

And every person is hands on deck and it's not chaotic. It's very structured and intentional. And anyway, it made me feel really good because I was..

Pass me a Kleenex.

I know. I was just like, yes, that is what we've been building and that's so cool that she can see it. So I'm like, well if you can see it on the inner workings, surely we should be able to like show that to the client too.

Oh yeah. The clients have to feel that too.


Which is everything we've always dreamt of not having to feel chaotic. And that's something you really strived for in the early years of why does construction have to feel like chaos?

Right? It doesn't have to be.

It doesn't have to be.

Peace. Peace, peace, love and happiness.

Yeah. That's all! So simple. But I remember you used to say that like we're construction with the soul. Remember that?

Oh yeah.

We wanted that to be like our tagline.

Oh yes.

Because, and like obviously men have emotions. Yes. But I think women are more prone to being open to them and accepting them and allowing them in a space because we are feeling emotions at every second of every day and they're inevitable.

And so we need to make sure that we're properly managing those emotions. And a lot of that's done through expectations and communication. So, I think that's what makes us stand out is that, like, we're not like coaches, right? But at the same time, we do a lot of coaching and we do a lot of education for our team to know how to have conversations with clients, to know how to listen to them, to know how to ask the right questions instead of, well, this is just what it is like, to me, that's not good enough. And I don't need to, I don't need an excuse and I don't really need a reason, but I just need you to make sure that we're on the same page and you're listening. And I think that that's such a big part of it, like, I don't know how many times a day we have these conversations with the team and my team of this is going on with this project or this client or this vendor.

Okay, well, how are you gonna manage it? And what questions are you gonna ask? And what's the desired outcome for them? Right? Like, so we're always in that mindset. And I think that's honestly what makes us stand out because we're so addicted to growth and change and betterment of ourselves. And so we want that for every single project and for every single vendor and client.

I have nothing to add.


I just think that was great.


I'm over here clapping for you.

When I, so like when I think about our company, when people ask me that, besides being women owned and run, that's what I think about is like, man, if only clients knew how much interpersonal growth and development we do for our team.

I mean, it is true. You're hiring a team that we take care of ourselves. We take care of our teams so that when they're working with you, they can be in the best place possible to get you through that project and to get that project to the finish line. Because if. If we had chaos or if we had a company that wasn't well runner, not set up properly, you would see that through the, through the project. Right?


And that it speaks volumes when a client can, when we can shield them and set them up for success, they don't have to feel the chaos. They can see the beautiful relationships we have with our vendors. They can see how things are properly executed. Right? And then how we communicate all of that, because expectations are key.


That's what's gotten us through every single phase of a project. And that's what clients feel safe in.


They said, I mean, if you think about clients will say, yeah, you did tell me this was gonna happen, or yeah, you did predict that this was gonna happen and I appreciated you letting me know because then I could expect it. Most people don't know what their… They don't know what they don't know.

Mm-hmm. Yeah. So we have to educate them. You know, we always ask the que like, most of the time people like whether it could be anybody, right? It could be us, the Durst clients, but like, if they're upset about something, it's usually because an expectation wasn't met or an expectation wasn't given.

And so I actually just had this conversation with our PM team the other day, is like, if you're running into some friction, it's because you didn't, you didn't communicate that that was gonna happen and you knew it. Or we just didn't know and we didn't communicate. Right. Right. So I think it's, if you know, you know what to plan for, you know what to keep an eye out for.

And honestly, every project we learn something new. And so we're like, oh, we learned that that's gonna happen and that's a possibility. So I'm gonna make sure I go tell this to this new client over here so they're aware. And so we just continue building.

Because every home is so different. There's not one home that's the same.


And every situation is so different, right? Because it's full of different individuals. There's never one project that's the same, which is why most people in remodeling love it. Because it's never the same, right. In every really good way. And then each project is an opportunity for us to set someone up with a really beautiful home transformation. Right? And we take that very seriously. So, I mean, we do, we, it's important to us and you can see, like you were saying, the mission that everybody is on every single day to work collectively to get to that end goal. That's what we're all doing.

We, we see it and we feel it through our mission of like, we, we want that for homeowners in Austin.

We want that for homeowners everywhere to have the opportunity to feel that and to like go through a remodel that leaves them with a space that they love. And then when they look at the space, they don't think, oh my God, that was the worst experience of my life.


But I have a beautiful kitchen, right? And most people don't even get to say that I have a beautiful kitchen.


So at least there's that. But we want people to say, I have a beautiful kitchen and I had a great time with this team. And I had a great experience and they looked out for me and they advocated for me.


So those are all great things. I mean, another standard though is insurance, right? A remodeling company should always have insurance insured depending on the size of the project. We'll have builders risk insurance for each project, and we always advise homeowners. We have a list of to dos and a checklist for homeowners in the planning phase, and we'll say, you should consider getting builders risk.

This is how it covers you. These are things you should know, but again, a remodeling firm doesn't have to tell you that. They don't have to tell you that you need builder's risk insurance. But we are an all encompassing company that we want you to know as much as you need to know. We're not gonna tell you anymore or any less, but we want you to know as much as you need to know to cover yourself.

Yeah. I mean, yeah, you're entering the boyfriend-girlfriend stage of a relationship.

Go on.

Well, you know, it's like I'm educating you. Here's who I am. Here's what I can offer. Do you like me? And people say, yes, we wanna get in a relationship with you. So we build the relationship.

Oh, and then when, what's the engagement phase?


Is that like after they're committed?

Yeah, like they're committed. They're in, now we're engaged. And then the project, and then you get married. Project is getting married.

And then that's when it gets real.

And then you go through marriage counseling.

Yeah. Because then you realize that you're living with them and they do things that you're thinking, I didn't know this about you were, I didn't know that you didn't put your dishes away.


Or that you put them away like that.

Yeah. So then we have to educate and communicate and we have to, you know, let her cry out or something. And then, and then, we live happily ever after.

It's amazing. I've never considered that our process is exactly like that. We're basically bumble, but for construction.

Oh my gosh. Yeah.

You know.


We should have a construction dating app.

You should date us. You should start dating. Resume. Okay.

Now that sounds even weirder because we're a team. All of what?

That's true. We are all women.

But don't actually date us. Like just in a business way, right?


We're not interested in the rest.


The other thing I'll say that makes us stand out is quality control. What is our goal, Michelle?

What we, our goal is to be the cleanest job sites in Austin.

Boom. And I've said, and we like work every day to do that and do that. And we don't wanna have a messy job site because, you know, it's not fun to walk into vendors think that you can, if that's how it is, that that's how you treat the job site.

Like once one guy makes a mess, they all look at it and they're like, oh my gosh, we can make a mess here.

And then they just, and then they go ham dropping water bottles, all at the same.

Or tools or trash bags. It's like, “Whoa, bro. Like, take that with you.” So, if you keep it really clean, then they, the expectation is like, oh, I better take my stuff.

Yeah. Respecting the home.


The other thing too, of course, is vendors for us, I feel like we stand out a lot in our vendor relationships and how we manage vendors, how we communicate with vendors, and the quality that we expect from our vendors.

It's very high,

Very, very high.

We've a very high bar.

We do and on purpose, right? We only want people that do good work.

Yeah. And if they don't do good work, we make them redo it until it's good. Wasn't gonna say perfect, nothing's perfect. But until it's like our standard and our standard’s very high.

It meets the standard.


Cuz they're not robots doing the work.


But handcrafted hand completed and does it meet the codes and standards construction standard? Yeah. Right. The other thing I think that stands us apart is the construction manager and project manager process.

Oh yeah.

It's a little bit different in that I feel like some people have a construction manager or a superintendent, but we completely divided that role into two roles. So for each project you have a construction manager and a project manager. But you have the construction manager that manages vendors and the onsite quality.


Project manager that sets up the project, manages the scheduling, and then manages all client communication.

Client meetings. Yeah. So they're the ones in communication with you daily, and then the construction manager is in daily communication with the vendor. And then those two people are constantly in communication with each other, because obviously they have to be super cohesive and in alignment in order for a project to be really successful. So, yeah.

And imagine how that helps you as the homeowner, like you have. two, those are two very different people.


That who would be successful at that role. Right. So that means you have a dedicated person that's able to communicate with you terms and in situations and things that aren't necessarily construction terms, but you get to understand it in layman's terms. That's the project manager and they're managing everything you're feeling and, you know, remodeling can get really uncomfortable cuz you're either in your home and it's uncomfortable. Or you're out of your home and that's uncomfortable. Right. So they're also managing you and, and all that you're going through.


And a construction manager's focused on the work, right?


And the construction and the vendors. So that is, that is what allows us to deliver a successful project.


And I think that is everything.


I think those are all the reasons why we're really great. I mean, all in all, I would say, you know, we're deadline focused. We have a clear proven process, and we've spent years and years building this experience and journey that get clients to the very end of a project, and they're thankful that they went with us.


Humble brag.

Yeah. I mean they truly are very grateful in the end. And, you know, we're construction of the soul, so what more can we say?

Okay. Well, until next week. I bid you a do.

Okay. Bye-bye.