The year 2013 was tough going for many in the construction industry. With the housing and the labor markets still in recovery from the recession, activity lagged. For C&R Remodeling, it was one of the lowest net years for the third-generation Salem business.
But they say adversity awakens greatness.
It was at this low-point that Doug Lethin made a decision that has paid dividends, even though it wasn’t popular at the time.
Lethin’s adult children, Andrew Lethin and Beth Rhoades, already worked for the family business when their dad insisted that they join a national organization for remodeling professionals that shows businesses how to grow.
Belonging to a business roundtable was something Doug Lethin had always wanted to do, but never found time for. Rhoades recalls how she and her brother were first reluctant to join Remodelers Advantage.
“My dad forced us into it,” she says.
But looking back, it was a turning point for C&R, a move that helped to prepare the company’s third generation of leadership. And in 2016, as part of the company’s strategic plan, Beth Rhoades and Andrew Lethin purchased the company from their father.
Doug Lethin still works in sales, while his children share a co-CEO position with Beth specializing in design and Andrew in sales. Sam Rhoades, Beth’s husband, also works for the business as production manager.
Over the years, strategic planning has allowed C&R to focus on where it is most successful. The most recent evolution resulted in some operational changes. The company ended handyman repairs and restoration services and now refers those projects to former employees. C&R does most of its work in design + build: kitchens, bathrooms, additions and outdoor living spaces.
“We don’t want to do everything,” Rhoades says. “We looked at what our sweet spot is, where we can do our best and hit our margins."
That means working through budgets three or four times a year to adjust staffing and overhead. Rhoades says the plan for the future is for conservative growth. She says it’s important to maintain a worklife balance for the owners, and their team, so C&R can continue for the next generation.
“We have an action plan so that we can be sustainable,” she says.
C&R started out as a remodeling company in 1961, then added a hardware store to broaden the appeal to do-it-yourselfers. Doug Lethin managed the store for his father, Ron Lethin.
“It’s an industry where your reputation is going to make or break you,” she says. “Our No. 1 source of business is our past clients.”