If you have your residential clients often asking if you know a handyman or provide home services, you may be considering taking on these services yourself. This was the case for Krisjan Berzins, founder of Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape, based in Alexandria, Virginia. He started offering painting services for his clients over 10 years ago.
“I finally was just like, ‘You know what, we have some really loyal clients that love us and really want us to provide the service,’” Berzins says. “‘We should try and find a way to fulfill that demand.’”
Berzins reached out to his good friend Pablo Martinez, who had a lot of painting and renovation experience from a previous job, to see if he was interested in working with him. Martinez loved the idea.
He says it was a combination of having the demand and having someone with the knowledge and ability to do these things, and the right personality to grow it, versus just going through the motions that enabled them to offer the service.
While Kingstowne originally started out only providing external and internal painting services, Berzins says he quickly discovered was there are a lot of people who do painting and a lot who do it extremely cheap.
“You basically need no equipment whatsoever,” Berzins says. “I mean, a bucket of paint and a brush or roller is about all you need. You can literally Uber to the job or bike to the job if you want, so you wouldn’t even need a vehicle. After a while, I started to realize that yes, we had this core of really loyal customers that loved us, and they weren’t necessarily price shopping, but our pricing was not very competitive early on. I was just shocked at what other ‘companies’ were willing to charge.”
Because of this, Berzins reassessed and decided they need to add other home services that were in demand because they couldn’t survive on painting alone. Based on Martinez’s experience and capabilities, they added on kitchen and bathroom remodeling, tile and hardwood flooring installations, drywalling and carpentry.
Berzins says their service offerings have evolved along with customer demands. They also do pressure washing, deck sealing, staining, gutter cleaning and other small handyman tasks.
“They would continue to come back to us and say, ‘We love you. We trust you. We know you guys are great. Can you do this?’” Berzins says. “And so if it was within Pablo’s comfort level and his experience that he had, we’d say, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’”
He says they’ve been careful not to become a jack of all trades and master of none. He cautions claiming you can do everything.
Originally, Berzins thought there would be some overlap with his landscape maintenance employees being able to work over the winter, but he found that the home services require an entirely different skill set. He says gutter cleaning is the one task that his landscape employees can take on as it doesn’t require a ton of experience.
Aside from Martinez, everyone who does Kingstowne’s home services are subcontractors. Berzins compares Martinez to a general contractor as he manages and oversees projects.
Currently, the home services make up around five percent of the company’s annual revenue and Berzins says around 80 to 85 percent of their home service customers are existing clients. He hasn’t been promoting or trying to grow the service.
“I still think that a lot of our customers have really have no idea that we do it, but it’s kind of intentional because we don’t have the bandwidth,” Berzins says. “If I really put a lot of effort into trying to scale it and grow it, eventually we probably could but it’s a tough business.”
Berzins says from a profit margin standpoint it’s not the most lucrative business, but it’s nice add on to provide customers. He says he likes being able to offer it to their VIP customers who are looking for that turnkey, white glove type service who aren’t interested in getting 10 quotes from 10 contractors for the cheapest option.
“They’re willing to pay a little bit more for to have someone like us that they trust provide a service,” Berzins says. “Being able to do that, I think helps us keep those customers happy, and they’re less likely to be looking elsewhere and potentially we lose them on the landscape or on the maintenance side.”
Berzins says it helps them reduce their turnover rate from a customer standpoint because they’re pleased they have one less person to deal with. It’s all about making it easy for the client, just like how a general contractor smooths out the homebuilding process.
“I think that’s how some of our customers look at it,” Berzins says. “‘You guys are so easy to deal with and I just I don’t have time to deal with chasing down other random contractors, and I trust you guys,’ if we’re going to be in their home. That’s another level of trust. I think that people want to have is they want to feel comfortable. They say, ‘We love Kingstowne. You guys have been taking care of our property for years. I feel comfortable having your crew come in the house and work in the house.’”
Tips for Success
While most of their clients come from their landscape business, there are others that find their home service offerings first. Berzins created separate branding for his home services division. He didn’t want it to dilute their landscape brand and have people thinking they would do pretty much anything, but they weren’t good at anything.
“As attractive as it may seem to have landscape crews or maintenance crews doing this kind of work when things slow down, I’d be very cautious about assuming that there they’d be able to do that and at a high level of quality,” Berzins says. “It may seem very convenient, but I think in many cases, if it backfires and the quality isn’t there, it actually is going to erode the confidence that your customers have in the core business, which was the maintenance or design build.”
Berzins says having the proper insurance and licensing is another big consideration when looking into offering home services. Kingstowne already does holiday lighting so providing gutter services wasn’t a problem as far as insurance coverage. He adds that using subcontractors means they must also carry their own insurance.
He suggests looking for someone who has experience in the services you’d like to offer, like a small business owner who is maybe burnt out with running their own business. By joining your established business, they can still apply their skill and make money without being overwhelmed with backend matters.