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Who we are, we are our soul. And how does that play out to the rest of our organization?
Everyone, I’m Taylor Poole with Rocky Mountain Forest Products. And this is Bryce Ballew from TradeCraft where we are today. And this is today’s The Mill. Before we get started into the topic, I wanted to talk about our special guests. Jeffrey is back this year again for another round of keeping an eye on all the boys and girls over at Rocky Mountain Forest Products.
Once again, we’re doing our toy and food drive to help out with some of the different non-profits in the area. If you want more information on that and you can check it out on our Facebook, Instagram, or website. So what we’re going to be talking about today is we’re going to be going through, you know, the importance of brand.
So TradeCraft is more of a startup that has been around for about how long? Right around two years, two years. Okay. And Rocky Mountains have been around for 45 years and then kind of the difference of looking at a brand from how a startup goes from nothing to something. And also how a 45 year old company, the brain has evolved over time.
So let’s kind of get to your story. What is Tradecraft industries? Let’s start there. Just so that way, everybody kind of has some context for who you are and what we’re doing in this building. And then we’ll go from there. So Tradecraft industries is the first of its kind, shared workspace and incubator for the construction and design industry.
So essentially anybody within the built environment. So that’s property managers, designers, subcontractors, GCs, and what we do is enclosed within this building. And then with the rest of the resources that we have, we help contractors or our members scale their business up or down, depending on market conditions, depending on where they are in their business development cycle, things like that.
Awesome. So, and then, like I said, you guys started about two years ago, so I would love to know the story of where tradecraft came from. Its name came up with its logo, kind of where everything came from the wrong side of the cup, man. That was bad product placement. My apologies. We tried to get that on the right side, right there.
Here we go. I honestly thought it was on both sides. So I failed, placement is everything hashtag location, so this was pretty interesting. This was my third or fourth go around. I’d started up a couple of companies beforehand. And so how to get an idea of what it was like to do a logo.
And I did it poorly a few times beforehand before I really started understanding and looking at other logos and really seeing not only what does that brand, but what do they do? Do I visually simply see what it is they do, but then it also goes to how it gets placed on, what negative reliefs.
How, how does it get placed on clothing? Yeah, it’s different. Like all the different variations of how it’s actually going to play out in the modern placements and then everything from the C K and Y color codes and, and whether or not, you know, you’re different sizes and you’re patting where, you know, cause most big brands.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a brand guideline for a large company, actually, they’re quite intense and they’ve got the do’s and don’ts standards and everything. Yeah. You know, we have to have a pattern here. You can do it these seven ways, but if you ever do it this way, you’re going to get in trouble.
Right. All those different things. We do not have that yet. We’re not that that’s in year three where we’re going for that. But what we did for this one is for Tradecraft, how did we come up with the name first, this was going to be construction incorporated. So incorporating the construction industry.
I actually use that for my general contracting company so that one was already taken, got the.com on that. So I don’t know how I did that, then this place was going to be called the workshop. And we wanted something synonymous with, hey, this is where you work, but it’s also a place where you can come and possibly make things and wanted it to have the maker-space kind of feel okay, the more that this developed it, it was more of a building your business, building your office. And we realized that people were getting confused as they said, Oh, can I go, are you going to have band saws and routers and welders? We said, no, that’s not what we’re doing.
I realized pretty quickly that we were sending mixed branding messages just with the name. So they were thinking it was going to be somewhere where this shop has got 17,000 different tools and they can come down and work on whatever they need to when they want. But then at that point, you’re limiting your market as to who you’re going to be reaching out to because you’re just working with actual people like woodworkers.
So at that point, well, it could be, but also if you have to explain what it is you do after you say your name, it’s not a clear brand. It’s not that it’s not very clear unless that’s part of what you want to do. But I started to realize that the workshop was fairly ubiquitous. It was, there are workshops for this and workshops for that.
And yeah, and so it’s an arts and crafts thing. It can mean many different things. And so I started to just write down all of the words of what I am thinking of with construction and industrial? And is it modern? Is it, is it raw? Is it well, we want to incorporate or incorporate the trades because that’s really important to us.
And we liked the idea of a craft because it’s a devotion to a long period of study and paying attention to quality on anything that you do. So it’s not just the woodworking, but it’s how you do your business. And so when I started putting those words together, I think I was actually watching Bourne identity or Bourne supremacy. Yeah. Born one series. And there was some time where he switched a phone or he did, he did something, Jason Bourne, you know, spy fish. And one of the lead people at the CIA was like, that’s, that’s textbook Tradecraft, and I was like, what, what is that? And so started researching up what that term was originally and then how it could be combined to be something unique, true to the trades and to the construction industry.
So what does Tradecraft do? Let me do that. So I try to come up. This is a pretty close definition. So I don’t think Wikipedia is going to be quite the same, but what Tradecraft is, is the set of skills gathered over a long time or over a long experience in the field. Very specifically, it’s kind of some of those life hacks, it’s the nuances of any industry that a master of their trade learns about?
Yeah. Yeah. Pretty much that, the real clear thing that I got from it was that it wasn’t things you learned from a book. Yeah. You can’t be in a classroom and learn tradecraft and learn all of these little nuances and tricks of the trade. And so I really liked that because that’s in its essence. It’s the construction trades industry and passing it down and the mentor relationship and apprenticeship relationship passing down a skill set of. Why do you do it like this? Well, here’s why it’s not just because we’ve done it this way forever. It’s because it took us a long time to figure out the most efficient way to do it.
And so that’s why we do it this way. Yeah. So that’s where he came up with the name. Okay. And then we had to come up with a visual image. So the color. Yeah. So before we jump to that, I want to hit on a few specific things of what Tradecraft brand is like, as we walked through these things.
So the brain in its basis is a company’s reputation. That’s really what it is, your reputation. A lot of times people focus only on the logo aspect of a brand, but a brand is much more than that. It’s the internal field, the culture inside how people feel from the day to day in, within the interior culture.
It’s how you make your customers feel no matter when anybody sees your organization. How’d they see it, they feel it, they touch it, they smell it, they engage with it. There’s lots of different touch points there. So, the first thing that people always sit on is just the logo, but it’s much more than just that we’re sitting in this warehouse, every single thing in this warehouse, you picked out for a specific purpose because it pulled together.
The essence, the ethos is you’d like to use this entire company. So as we talk through the different parts, I would love to know everything from just the logo, but also like what you guys were thinking, what you wanted your consumers to feel when they engage with you. And it is also the environment with your employees, which you want to foster as well.
Yeah. A lot of thought went into pretty much every single material in here and why we did certain things and why not? What I wanted to really showcase is the materials and trying to collectively bring them together in a way that said, this is us, that everybody in here, whether you’re a general contractor, subcontractor designer, whatever you walk in and say, I identify with this.
And I want my customers, as soon as they walk through the door, say, Oh, this is who you are. And we didn’t want it to be like we were trying to do something we wanted to be genuine and authentic. This is the way I explained it is that you can use raw materials as long as it’s done intentionally.
So where materials in how they joined, how they superseded as long as there was thought about what the fasteners were, what color schemes kind of go together? Why did we use plywood, oriented strand board? Along the top. You’ll notice when it’s up there. All of the ink stamps all go vertical and they’re all right side up. I have not noticed that, but okay. It’s a little near that the guys installed it to Hayden before, because what’s the difference? People will notice maybe, not everybody maybe, but I’ll notice, that’s kinda my OCD, but when, when people walk in the front door, it’s actually a term that Frank Lloyd Wright expanded on where, , it shrinks your vision down.
So it’s a small opening and then it widens up and there’s a specific feeling. And I don’t know, I don’t know quite what the word for it, but when you walk in through the entrance, the first thing you notice is the doors. So the doors are essentially their regular doors, but we clad them to make it look like shipping container doors.
So you get that heaviness, that feeling. But it’s very smooth when you open it. It’s not clunky when you grab it, know what is this? And you, and you pull it, but it’s still easy to open. Well, then it looks like we’ll put a picture of that on there so that they do not look like they’re going to be light.
And all of a sudden it’s like butter when they open up. Yeah. And as soon as you walk through that, you see the Tradecraft, the first logo and you’re like, okay, I wasn’t expecting this. And then you sort of look up and look around and you start to notice some of the duct work and the different nuances of the space.
So jumping back to this building, I know the building was like, well, correct me if I’m wrong. Did you start with the name or did you start with the building first? Which one did you do first? Because they influence each other. Yeah. So I started with the building first and the building started out the workshop.
And so you’ll see some of the old drawings. It’s still the workshop and the logo of how we were going to do it and on the front, and I honestly kept looking at that when I was on the drawings and I was like, there is no way I can see of doing the workshop with a T and a w and anything to where it’s like I’m trying too hard.
And yeah, I started looking for something else. So when you jumped into the logo and if you’ve seen one of those brand books, my guess is you’ve actually read a few things on color theory. I haven’t actually, I asked a lot of people and I noticed, but no, I’d, I’d love to know.
So color theory on your will of colors, every single color has actual feelings and emotions and adjectives that when you look at those things that people feel subconsciously. So when all the fast food joints are yellow and red for excitement and for urgency, fast read excitement, the yellow, it’s fast, food needs to be quick, easy, and we need to go like, and we need to be happy that we’re getting it basically. So you’ll see a lot of financial firms will either have blue, which is trust, or green, which is money. Yeah. I’m less likely to spend my money with something that has Brown in their logo. That’s more show-me or yeah. Rather than the place that you know, pushes out, like, no, we’re good at this one thing. Yeah. So, you know, and there’s different industries that have their nuances with debt.
When you were picking out the maroon for Tradecraft, what was kind of your thought like where did that come from before we got into it? Yeah. So the first place that came from was the actual shipping containers. And so I started looking, cause I knew I wanted to build the building out of containers, at least for the first floor.
So I started looking at all the containers that are out there as I really just liked the red and the white on that. I’m a Nebraska fan, so it might come a little bit from there, doc, come on. It was rebuilding decades. But no, I really liked how the white stood out from the red and how the lettering on the front of the containers.
I thought, you know, we should probably do our logo, like what we’re finding in the building. And so that’s a natural part of the building materials. So you’ve also got a red iron, so that’s what you’ll see in the main beams and that’s a slightly different read than the containers. You’ll have yeah, structural members, stuff like that. We’ll also have it, so do you know the adjectives for maroon? Take a guess: strong masculine, strength. Yeah. In warmth, warmth. Okay. And when I walk in here, that’s the environment that I feel like you’ve created. You’ve created a place where businesses can come in, feel like they’re part of a community, but it’s also in the strength portion of it because they’re contractors.
I like that. So it kind of happened by accident. But I thought, I honestly, in my opinion, I thought it was completely intentional, whether it was or not because of the way everything pulled together sometimes, or just that intuition, I guess. So, all right. Let’s jump into your logo. So we’ve got some ruler stuff going on here.
This looks like a battery to me is my guess. I’m not really sure. So how we came up with it was going to be, we didn’t just want to T and I was, I was thinking of how we would have it if it was boiled down and we had to put an app, what, or what do I think? I think of Facebook with the F and I think of tumbler with the tea and, you know, just a periodic table.
That’s just very, very simple. Okay. Tradecraft, even though it’s one word. Yep. Those are the two that sold it too hard. Yes. And so, okay. So we’ve got TC. How do we not do it like a gear and a hammer? You know, in the foot, cause you can go too far with, with how you pull in we’re a construction company.
So we’re going to use a hammer in our logo or something. So when I hear ‘workshop’, I automatically think of a cog or something like that. Like how do you not blend into everybody? Else’s similar concept whether, whether the business model is similar or whether it’s just the same industry, how do you kind of set yourself up?
Yeah, we’re trying a little bit more subtle, but, but things that people in the industry would recognize. And so one of the first ones when I was coming up with things that I wanted to do in the building, I was looking at different symbols that are on engineering drawings, architectural drawings, you’ve got detailed call-outs and all the different symbols and abbreviations that are on drawings that everybody who’s looked at drawings for a long time.
So on the C, you’ve got the center line. And so that’s an AutoCAD. That was where I first started out as okay. That’s the center line of where the circle would be and there’s, you know, the outer edge of the C and then the inner edge of the C. And so it, it kind of came together as centralized it, and it was again, a little ubiquitous, but engineers would know it.
Architects would know that’s your center line. Yeah. So it’s just basically you try to find a few little nuances within the industry that the guys who are your clients would feel comfortable with. And they’re like, Oh no, I get this guy. He’s actually from the trade. He didn’t just create something for the sake of creating something.
Yeah. And then the T was something that I had the guys add right before we were finalizing up the logo. I said it needs something else that one little plus isn’t going to isn’t gonna do it. And so I said, we gotta use a T-square. And so they said, okay, well, what’s a T-square? So I had to go on Google and here’s the image.
And I brought him down here and said, here, get one of the drywall guys here, come on over, show him your T-square. And so we went through what’s the spacing, do you want eighth inch? Do you want a quarter inch? Do you want, you know, how many there? And so there was, there were about five different iterations where it would come back.
They made it either too big or they made too many of them, or it was too small before we actually got it’s funny. I didn’t even think about that, but now I’m sitting there going, I’m like, I got three different versions of it that are sitting in my pocket right now, actually. So that makes sense. I honestly picked it up as just part of a measuring tape, you know, but I didn’t even think about a T-square, but that’s definitely, yeah.
So I met, I missed your t-square and I missed your lines on the wall, but you got the adjectives. There we go. So, all right now, when you were doing this, when you were starting everything from scratch, one of the common things, the common discussions in the marketing and branding world is do you develop a brain from the beginning and do you stay strong to it or do you, or do you let it kind of build and change and progress over time?
Because where I get with this is, it just depends, like my opinion on it depends on your goal. It’s like a company like Rocky Mountain, it erupted, we’ve had three different names over the 45 years now. We’ve been Rocky Mountain Forest Products. The longest. Probably almost three decades, but we’ve actually had multiple names. So originally we were a fence company. The original owner purchased a fence company from one of his clients. He was a CPA. He was doing his taxes, and realized the guy was Brooke. And so he’s like, I’ll buy your business from you to help you get out of this tax scenario that you’re at. And the guy was like, cool, I’m out of here.
So that’s how it started. I don’t even know the original name of that. Then what ended up happening is when we started moving into a materials company, it took like year five, year eight. It was about when that happened. They rebranded it. Dennis took on a partner skip, who actually owns another lumberyard up in Fort Collins.
It still exists, and the two of them were partners and they created a company called Cedar supply company. Okay. Cedar supply in Fort Collins still exists. We still exist too. They were partners for a while. And basically when the business got big enough for it to stay in each location, he’s placed to stand on its own.
They broke off, skipped Marine in Fort Collins, and had a nice little handshake with Dennis. You leave my zone alone, I’ll leave your shit alone. And we’ve been off of 44th since the original farmhouse that he bought with the F with the fence company. And that was the moment where we became Rocky Mountain Forest Products even legal.
Name is still Cedar supply company, DBA or DVA, but has been a DBA for a while. Yeah. So it’s just one of those ones, those things where it’s kind of developed over time. Our slogan that we use nowadays, building relationships, was developed probably 20, 25 years ago. And it was developed on a whim.
They needed something to put on the business card. Yeah. I was like, what are you guys about? And then it was like, I don’t know. I think this sounds good. Let’s put it on there. What’s ironic though is over the course of the past couple of decades, it started to become our motto all the way through and through.
If we build the relationships with our vendors, which allows us to be competitive on our, on our pricing. If we build our relationships with our contractors, that gets them to come back and we build relationships with our employees, we’re going to have a successful company. So we’re our core and then a nice little play in the construction industry of building, but it was never thought through.
It was just, it just kind of happened. It ended up on a card and then now it’s literally like, it’s amazing how that happens though, but we got to come up with something. Well, yeah. And so now it is literally in everything that we do, every sales meeting that we have, it’s preached, you build those relationships through contractors, you know, like new sales guys.
One of the biggest things they get taught is asking questions about their family, finding out how they’re doing, and finding out what’s going on in their life. And what’s crazy is because of that being kind of the core of what we’ve done for the last two, two and a half decades, since that slogan’s been around, I’ve got customers buying for us for 20 years.
I’ve got sales managers who’ve been around for over two decades. She knows my average middle level manager has been around for over a decade. It might be like my yard stops muscles. Guy’s been around for four or five years. My sales guy’s been around for four or five years and we just are continuing to grow.
And so it just kind of adapted. Most of it was never really right. Well, but, but back to your point that that brand has evolved into being now, that’s, you know, 30 well, 45 years, 45 years next year. And with that, so, yeah. Got it. So it’s just kind of an interesting thing on how all those things take place.
And so when you were going through setting up your, like back to what I was saying it comes down to what your goal is. So when you’re doing a startup, you know, there’s today’s startup world. I don’t know what your objective is with this place. Long-term but startup role, lots of companies are like, we’re going to get in, we’re going to create a startup.
We’re going to make it look good from the outside package. It dresses really nice and then sells it to the highest bidder. Right. So it needs to look nice from the get go. So that way we’re good. Yup. The other side of it is companies like ours. Well, sure. Or we need to, we need something to put on the car who might as well figure it out.
And it was, you know, Dennis, his whole thing was he was building a business, this longevity to take care of his family. There was really nothing to it past that point. It just happened to work, and so that’s where I get down to the point of what are you trying to do?
Sometimes brands evolved just out of necessity. Sometimes they are involved from the start and finish. I would love to hear different points of view because the sickle, while I think you told me it was a nine year journey to get here. Yeah. It took a while to get there. I would love to hear the different points of view that you received.
When I selected the name tradecraft, I immediately went and the.com was taken. It’s a tech training company, I think, or, or staffing. So some kind of company in San Francisco, and they got the.com, the.net that, you know, everything. And I said, well, I have to come up with something.
Yeah. What’s, what’s my website going to be? And so I looked up and you can get a dot anything. Dot ninja.ai dot. It could really be dot anything. There’s everything out there. Yep. And so the.com is less important, I think. And I was scrolling through must have been hundreds of these. And I, I looked at industries, tradecraft industries, and I started to think, you know, companies like just breaks.
They kind of limit themselves in what it is, what it is they do. They say what they do, and then they have to re describe, you know, no, we do. We do this too. And when we do, I don’t know, are they now brakes plus, or is it, not quite sure. There’s still just breaks. Just breaks. Okay. but they do tires and then they do all of them.
Bravery. Everything else we want to do is create. Okay. So tradecraft industries, there could be multiple offshoots depending on where that brand went. Where are we just going to be a shared workspace, incubator environment as galvanizes done? Are we going to incorporate some of the educational pieces with it?
Do we see something as far as putting contractors in touch with building managers and property managers and creating that dynamic? So we didn’t want to be a construction company. We didn’t want to be a niche of anything, although we could have niches, you know, off of that main mothership, we were thinking of it as more, not to use the token word nowadays, but as a collective, it didn’t limit you.
And if they want to sell books, now they can have a similar idea. You didn’t want to limit yourself from the get-go, but you also wanted her to make sure that it tied into what you’re doing. Right. And so you’ve got trade, you’ve got craft. And you’ve got industries, and those are three words that all identify with construction could also be manufacturing. It could be a lot of different things, but it’s not collective. As you said, nobody would confuse us with you know, we work or doing those are similar models.
So that’s kind of, you know, that’s a good precursor to the conversation that I kind of wanted to dive into today. Why does brand matter? Wow. That’s a big one. I’d like to hear from you first. And so there’s you could throw it back if you, Oh, no, it’s cool. It’s it’s. I get such a kick on this.
I talk about this all the time. So when I hire marketing people to come into our department over at Rocky Mountain, I can’t, I come from an agency background. I worked in an event marketing agency and I also worked in a digital and branding agency. So I’ve got my background in the agency world.
And I do this because every industry has got their little nuances about it. And in the marketing world, it’s like when you’re a part of an agency, it’s like, you’re part of a club. You’re part of this group where you’re like, Oh no, you don’t get it. Cause you’re not a marketer.
And I don’t have a marketing background and I didn’t go to school for, and I kind of fell into it, way back in the days of MySpace, I played in a band and I started doing social marketing, a MySpace to book our shows and to get people, to buy our CDs and do our tickets. And it was, I didn’t know, it was marketing.
I was jacking around trying to make some money. So I made it with sales, but we were actually marketing. And then what happened over time? Is it just kind of involved to where I was like, Oh, I guess, I guess the proper term is marketing. I guess the proper term is brand, I guess. So I learned all these things, you know, from a little bit different standpoint than what most people did.
And the part that I got a kick out of in the agency world is people who go to marketing school to get their degree, and now they feel like they understand how everything’s going to work. But the problem with marketing is that we don’t actually control the sales. If I’m marketing something that either the open community or the open world doesn’t want to buy, that doesn’t matter if I market something that my sales team doesn’t want to sell, and that doesn’t matter.
Right. And so it’s, our job is basically the way I look at it is to bring and basically portray our brand, our reputation to the world and find those like-minded people. So when I hire people, I have to go through and explain this one point, this point here, there’s two different worlds in marketing, there’s sales and conversion, which is you got ClickFunnels.
And you’ve got your door things where everybody that goes and knocks on doors, it’s just direct marketing, which is also another term for sales. You’ve got pay-per-click, you’ve got funnels, you’ve got all these different things. And the whole point of it is somebody walks through this path and they just buy.
Then you have the other side of things, and this is where most of your fortune 500 brands lie and where the big brands enter. It’s all creative. I create the one masterpiece that just hits right and goes viral. We’re set. I lie right in the middle. If the distribution sucks and you made the best freaking thing in the whole world, guess what?
It doesn’t matter. Cause nobody knows how to see it. If I have the best distribution. But the creative, which is the variable of success to find those like-minded individuals sucks. Guess what happens? Nobody still buys. Yeah. So I’m a little bit of a different bird in the whole kind of setup and how that works.
Basically, most of the world looks at it as one or the other in the construction industry. I would say the majority of companies fall on the sales and conversion side or branding. Yup. We’re going to go through, we’re going to get our quotes. We’re going to put it up and we’re going to sell jobs. And the most brain really comes into it is the craftsmanship of what it is, the final end product.
Yes. And if the final end product is good, if the process of how the interaction with the customer was good, you called them back. You did all those things. Then the word of mouth plays on. And that becomes the brand, the reputation of the company. Very few people in the construction industry focus on this, but when you go and you buy peanut butter in it, You know, you didn’t go on Jiffy or Peter pan and website, and then it cookie your ass to get you to buy a thing of peanut butter off of Amazon, or go into Walmart.
It was commercials, it was product placement. It was log-ins slogans, choosy, moms, jingles choose. Yeah. All the different little things that kind of pull into that. One of the things that I find super interesting in our world is sales and conversions. Great. And it’s become more and more and more popular.
And I’m modern air with all the technology that exists, but it has this limitations there’s brand can live through recessions rank and live through multiple decades and shifts in culture shifts in markets shifts in the economy and you content can continue to function because you know who they are, your close people don’t go to.
Like Nike’s just because it was the best, you know, or because it just happened to be like on the end cap. They bought Nike because they want the best shoe BMW, the ultimate driving machine. So that’s like, my thing is you have to have the balance of both. This has to be good, but I feel like the brand is right, you’re actually creating a long term vision for the company and creating long-term sustainability for what you’re doing.
Right. So that’s kind of how I look at it and why I think it matters is you need to know how all this functions, but if you can start here, this part gets a hell of a lot easier. If I market the way to my tribe. There’s another marketing. Find your tribe. If I’m setting, use that one. If I build my nuances of my company around the core demographic who I want to sell to, I can market to my tribe.
Well then guess what? They see all of mine. All of my collateral from what we’ve produced from a marketing standpoint. And then when they call up, it’s kind of a pre-qualification. So you get to go through less steps on this side and it makes closing a hell of a lot easier. And lastly, with the brand, the other thing I like is it’s always fun to compete with yourself.
Oh yeah. That’s I’m glad I put that question back on you before I answer that. I’m sorry. That was really, no, that was, that was great. I’m actually learning a lot here. So as I was building this, I come from the world of general contracting and so there’s two sets of that. There’s the hard bid where you’re bidding a set of plans against everybody else and lowest price usually wins.
That’s a tough way to do business, especially nowadays with. Change orders and what other people do and everything else. If that’s your one differentiator, you’re a commodity. And you’re, it’s really tough. I feel like a lot of the construction companies get the kind of just get plugged into that.
Fortunately, that’s sometime that that’s been where the industry has been, but it’s really starting design build isn’t isn’t anything really new, but the ways of doing design build and forming teams is really gaining traction and it’s starting to evolve. Owners are starting to realize this is a better way to do it than just hammering on them.
The lowest bid let’s build the right team. Let’s keep everybody accountable. There’s specific ways to do that. This isn’t a kumbaya moment. We’re not just, you know, handshakes and trust. There’s teeth in this and there’s checks and balances. But if you look at it from the building, it can go a lot better.
And so that’s the way my mind, as a general contractor approaches the sales funnel and then the marketing and the branding. And that’s the way that I said to former companies that I’ve worked at a site, guys, we need to just play in this. Well, let’s look at our most profitable projects, you know, for how many times are we beating our head against the wall in order to get a project that really isn’t all that profitable, but we got it.
And there’s pluses and minuses. I see where I’ve been at former companies. You need to have a little bit of both in order to do it, but if you want to brand and really correctly market as a construction company, you’ve got to play in this space over here and you’re right. So this year I’ve had 2,400 different contractors from the state of Colorado buy from us different businesses.
And what’s interesting is some of our largest accounts are on the actual branding side design build companies. So we got a company, Burke builders, who run a fairly large operation. They work all the way through Boulder County through Denver, fairly large. I think they run four or five different crews and who run multiple projects at a time.
They are typically booked out a ton. Luke man, we had him on the other video. Last time we were here, Luke man, typically I know he books out about a year in advance usually. And then we’ve got another company who’s doing the scrape and rebuilds down in the different Highlands areas, workshop Denver.
They build these workshop carpenters. You pretty much religiously for all their Tianjin stuff that goes inside their carpenters come and pick that stuff up from us. And then some of their stuff they’ve used some of our granite slabs as well. But in actuality my old video videographer, she’s the number two marketer over at dry dock.
Her brother owns a workshop in Denver and the lead designer is her twin sister. So as I was looking at this and I had this as the workshop, I looked those guys up. I was like, this is too close. And they’re doing something really, really good. It’s going to look like I’m trying to knock off. And that was, that was the actual minute I was like, okay, I got to find something, the little side sidebar, Denver small.
Well they do a wonderful job, but there’s a, but once again, those companies they’re there, they’re actually set out in their schedules for quite a bit. Then I’ve got the other guys andand this is the stuff that is just from the relationship standpoint that just hurts for these guys.
We’ve got guys in this great economy right now who are using things like Thumbtack or home advisor to bring them their leads. And they’re getting picked up against two or three other guys, and they’re scrounging for work. So we’ve got one fence guy and he’s without a doubt, one of our best guys and he stays busy, but he always is the lowest bid.
And it seems like one of every three projects has some sort of problem that comes up and is constructed. And because we live in the real world and not on a computer. And then, you know, every third project, he ends up eating a fair amount of stuff because he went in at a flat low bid and didn’t protect themselves.
And he had to pay for this leave, or he bid on four different jobs and only got one of them and it hurts him. And he’s a great fence builder. His projects are amazing and his craftsmanship and he’s, I have seen him. Install a product that the customer agreed upon after they came back and saw that they didn’t like it.
He split the costs on the upgrade because the person was on a fixed budget. Wow. He’s got one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. It can get you into trouble. And he’s one of those guys. I’m like, if you would just pull more into who you are as an individual, into the face of your company, you would have less of these issues.
And so to your original question, what did we really start out as? We started out from the get-go as a brand and marketing and we are this ethos. We appreciate authenticity. We are genuine in our design and who we are and how we do business. And that runs through with everybody who fits in the community really kind of abides by that, by that the craft mindset of things, they pay attention to what they do and they like what they do.
They love what they do. And they’re not just doing it for money. Money is always, you got to make money. But wait, is this money important? I know that I must have, I must have missed that. I missed that in school. Sorry. Another part that I saw is that as the construction industry, as a whole nationwide, we’re doing a horrible job of branding ourselves to younger generations.
And as we work kind of, they’ve outsourced company culture. For Bank of America and for Duracell and all these large companies, they can house workers there and the workers can be a part of a culture. That’s definitely not Bank of America or, Oh, Hey Mark. How’s it going? You want to be part of the interview?
Mac is the, what, what do you guys call him? The director of first impressions. So you guys will get to see much more of Mac because we are sponsoring Mac for the next, at least 12 months. There we go. Putting a bandana on him. He’s a, what kind of dog is he again? Full-blood Labrador retriever punished.
It’s okay. Not a big deal.
He wants to say hi to everybody.
So that’s part of our brand, exactly, dog friendly environment. But it’s actually really great to come in. And that’s your first, when you’re getting a cup of coffee, you have a Mac, right there, you know, trying to knock it out of your hand.
We’re not, we’re not digging ditches. This is technical work. It’s fun work. It’s exciting. It’s very challenging. You get to work in teams, problem solving and build tangible, cool things. There’s a physical aspect of it. I can point to, I can go and eat dinner in the restaurants that I’ve built and watch everybody else enjoying a great time, because I worked so hard because I use my hands to create what we’re literally sitting in.
And I feel like that branding hasn’t really come across, it hasn’t really stuck yet with the younger generation. And so I’d really like tradecraft to be on the forefront of redefining what that, what that means, what that looks like for the unstructured and exactly. So, like I said, like I was saying, so back to why does branding matter to people in the construction industry or in the building materials industry?
Why does it matter to me? I walk through my whole thing. As far as like my belief in it is it’s going to help you build the longevity and it’s gonna help you find that tribe from what you were just telling me, you created your brand name upfront, and you just said without necessarily a hundred percent coming out with it, you said pretty much everybody in this building views business in a very similar capacity yes.
That you do, you like-minds attract. So you’ve been in business for two years now. Most startups from what I know of your company do not have this level of success that you do. So out of all of your offices, how many of them are rented out right now? Right now we’re at a hundred percent occupancy. And how long has that been going on?
We’ve been running between 95 and a hundred percent since three months after opening. Okay. So now, here’s a question for you. Are you profitable in two years? We’re right there. Damn near close. And that can happen just based upon finding those right. People who catch the vision of what you’re searching for when you’re building your base.
Well, it’s one thing of finding the right people that attach to the vision, but it’s also being able to adapt. Yep. There, there are certain things that I started out thinking we’re going to offer the best of this and we heard crickets. So why does nobody want this? This is the greatest thing.
Right? Other things that we did I was right with, with the storage and the offices and the community and all of those things. So it’s really been about sticking with what works and then pivoting based on. What tenants and other folks in the industry are telling us, Hey, look, if you guys would just do this, now you’re running on this.
So it’s not about that. I started out and everything was all right. But it really is about redefining the brand from what I thought it was to what it really is based on who is all buying in and telling me the same thing, reflecting back what it is that I thought it was and think it is continually.
Yeah. So you started with a core idea and then you did make some adjustments to it. Yep. That’s one of the things I’ve seen time and time again, we work with startups at the marketing agency and they’d come in and they’d have their budget and they’re like, this is exactly what we want to do.
So it’s just great. So we built up their stuff exactly the way that they wanted. Yeah. And then 12 months in. They’re like that ain’t work. And then I’m like, great. So what are you going to do? And they’re like, I don’t know. I feel like we’re stuck with this. And I’m like, yeah, you probably are for a little while.
You know? And it’s just, one of the biggest things is that going through branding exercises with newer companies, older companies typically plead. They, whether it was meant to be men on purpose to develop the way that it did, usually have a decent grasp of what they want to portray across the board.
Do they want their employees to fear them inside? Absolutely. You know why? Because we get more work done that way. Do they want them to feel like it’s a big family? Absolutely. Because we get more work done that way. Everybody has their own version of what they want in startups. A lot of times come in, would come in and they would have their, you know, their here’s exactly what it’s going to be.
And then when they would get out and put it out into the market, the market was like, Hell now, like, like we’re not buying from me. Why? Because we’re not getting it. So then they start to develop this weirdness. I don’t know what I would call a disbelief, not like, Oh, wow. We’re so far ahead. We’re we’re we’re over the top of everybody.
It’s like, no, you kind of just suck. You created friction and who you were, you know who you were as a person. They, one of the companies we work with, I won’t go into tons of detail about it, but they were, they were a startup in a kind of part of a supplementally healthcare space, chiropractor and massage and stuff like that.
It was three older women. They were all in their sixties and they wanted a brand that was cutting edge and tech friendly and all the stuff. Okay. Problem is, is that they were all basically like when you met with them, they were grandma, nice, warm, cozy, all of these different things. And so they, the name they picked was warm and cozy.
But the execution of the building and the collateral for the marketing and you know, everything from the ropes to the bottles, all that was super futuristic. It sounds a little confusing. Yes. It created the customer disconnect. They knew that the service was good because what they were offering was good, but it didn’t make them want to sign up over and over and over and over again.
So now that it’s been a few years, they actually went back through, it’s been another, over $120,000 getting rid of everything that they bought, everything that they did and they’re leaving the name and they’re redoing everything else, all because at this point they’re too far too deep and they can’t turn back now.
And they’re probably year three or year four into their business and they’re nowhere near profitable. And what was difficult with that one was like, we lined it out for them sitting down with them. We were like, your name speaks who you three are, but your execution of what you’re trying to set up, it’s not like it’s going to create that disconnect because you’re trying to attract a certain type of clientele that doesn’t fit who you are.
So it’s conflicting with your ethos. It’s not your tribe. Right. And so that, you know, that’s what, it’s not genuine or authentic. It’s trying to be something that you’re not. Yeah. That’s what I feel like with the tech companies that are trying to do the industrial look as if they’re saying no, we’re raw.
We’re hardcore. I was like, no, you’re not. You’re picking this stuff because you think that’s what it’s going to say about you. You think that’s what somebody wants to hear, but it’s not. One of the biggest things has been a debate in our organization for multiple decades.
So we’re a lumberyard. Okay. But we primarily sell specialty products. We did offer commodities two decades ago, but two different things. Number one, the margin on it was super low. So for a smaller organization, it was hard to basically take up room on our, like, yes, we’ve got probably 12 acres of yard space between, between all of our locations, but commodities take up so much extra room and you’re only running five to 8% margins.
The other side of that is with commodities. You also have to have guys who know how to read schematics on a consistent basis, who have looked at their blueprints, you know, for decades, they really understand how a building’s being built. So that way, when they go through everything that an architect SPECT, they’re able to pick out every single little piece, like a build like framing structures, there’s way more that goes into it.
We still have our sales division that works on those things. But they’re the guys that have been around for five plus years who have a background in construction, most of them, most of those guys actually worked on crews or worked for companies as PMs, prior to jumping out of the install phase to the internal phase.
So what, what we kind of stuck upon was our specialty products, you know, so we do fencing siding, decking, timbers, and beams, and then, you know, a few more specialist things along those lines, because it was something that we could consistently produce. It was something that most, everything needs to go in there.
You know, those are the finishes, there’s the things that look nice. But it’s also something that I can bring in a newer account rep. And I can teach him about these products, for the most part. They’re never going to put somebody in danger by speaking by selling somebody the wrong XYZ.
Right. And so technical. Yeah. And then, and then the other side of it is, when we did try to break into things like that, that we thought we wanted to sell you make mistakes because you can’t always be everything to everybody. Right. And when you’re everything to everybody, a lot of times you get yourself in trouble.
So interestingly enough, we started to offer classes here, cause everybody said, all right, we want classes playing, reading, estimating, you know, some of these things. So I spent a lot of time developing curriculums, bringing in experts, and doing things. And a lot of those classes, nobody attended.
Nobody showed up because we had it either at the wrong time or it wasn’t something that they were after. Right. Then at that point in time, it wasn’t solving a problem they were having. Right. Then there were a few different things that you just, you don’t think about. And so what I realized is we were trying to solve somebody’s problem rather than just being a solution when they had a problem.
Yeah. And so we, we, we changed our mindset and say, we’re the place you go. If you need, you need a route, you need a guy that does this, or do you know somebody of this, or have you ever experienced this? They can find all of those resources, not only, you know, the offices and the storage and all of that, but when they have a problem we can provide.
Or the community can provide that solution exactly. Rather than trying to anticipate. Well, every contractor is going to want to know QuickBooks. Well, not everyone does, and not everyone wants to know it at the same time. Not everybody needs it at this moment, at this time in this space. Right. So yeah, those are, those were some of the pivots.
It’s just there’s so much to learn about how branding is, you know, since it’s one of the biggest things with Brandon, you’re telling your story and you’re creating your reputation with it. And for companies who are trying to actually build a long, you know, long-term thing, you gotta have that consistency, there’s tons and tons of contractors who have the ability to be in business for years to come.
But just don’t understand that if they can’t communicate their message, they may not be. Yeah. And that back to your original question with that, you know, why is brand important? For us, it’s kind of creating our North star. Our North arrow is what we’re trying to do in line with where we want to be and who we say we are and who our community says that we are.
And if it’s not, and I’ve been caught by this, cause I think nobody knows my brand as well as I do. Here’s where we’re going and I’ll take a step back and I’ll just third-party it, where are we going with this? Where, where will this path lead? Why do we think it’s going to be successful?
Have we seen a path like this before? Is this going to be different? And is this core to who we are and further developing and refining who it is we are. And I think just going through that exercise of there’s a lot of times that I couldn’t tell you, we don’t have a mission statement. We do, but it’s continually being developed and our values. And we have those, but we’re so early that it’s almost those words. We haven’t grown into what those words are yet, but there is a feeling and there is our ethos and our pay, the identity of who we are and who our community is, is very strong.
And it’s palpable. It’s a physical building. It’s a structure and it’s everything from the colors and what it is that we do. And just having that as a compass, for that exercise every once in a while, just step back and say, all right, we’re where have we gone?
Where are we going to, and does this align, or do we need to adjust it? And what’s funny is that was where I wanted the whole conversation to get sweet. We didn’t even talk about this before. So at Rocky, we have our brand pyramid. And at the top is building relationships.
And then we have our five core things that matter to our company. And in every aspect of what we do as an organization, if we’re not able to at least touch two of the five at any given time, we’re doing something wrong. And when we look at any decision, whether it’s carrying a product, whether it’s looking at a sponsorship opportunity, by the way, we’re sponsoring Tradecraft craft industries, we’re going to be sponsoring the classroom over here.
Because one of our things that matters to us is being a part of the community. Pressing into where we are in a much bigger way than just with our contractors, pushing back into our local communities over in wheat Ridge and Arvada and in Lakewood, and also in the construction industry as a whole, that’s one of the kinds that lead to what we do.
And also educating within that. One of the other ones is our knowledge or knowledge of this. And so with the education on the classes, it falls right in the line of, we don’t do everything. We don’t do everything for a reason, but we’re experts in the things that we do. And we’re very proud to know that.
No, I can tell you, I can tell you the seven different ways your board’s going to cop. If you don’t install it this way, I can tell you the seven different ways your board’s going to break the crack cup. If you install the wrong type of species in this environment, like we are stuck, you know, in part of it we study and part of it’s 45 years of doing the same thing.
And so that’s how our organization has experienced in the field of just doing it, the Tradecraft guilt. So it’s like I said, I wanted to get through these different parts, but it’s it really, where are we going? Long-term it’s that most companies, they’ve got a vision statement and a mission statement, and a lot of times what happens, people get those confused.
A vision is where you’re going. Most vision statements you typically can never actually reach the goal because business is a constant thing. It’s always moving. It’s always continuing. The 80% of the Dao companies that are traded on the doubt are less than 30 years old. Businesses are an infinite game.
Yeah. Industries will continue to exist much longer than the companies that play in those worlds. And so a vision statement is where your, your entire organization should be pushing to the long term. The mission statement is how we’re going to get there. Yeah. And so that’s ultimately when you sit down and you go through your brand, everybody gets so focused on the look and feel and the logo and all these different things.
And it actually is more, should be focused on who we are. We are our soul. And how does that play out through the rest of our organization? Yeah. So we’re gonna wrap this up.
So I’m Taylor pool with Rocky Mountain Forest Products. This is Bryce Ballaw with tradecraft industries, and that was today’s well, every time with the hands, it never failed.