Virginia Builder Attracts Attention After Local, National Honors

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Tuckahoe Creek Construction not only won the Better Business Bureau’s local Torch Award in Richmond, Va., but also garnered honorable mention (second place) in the small-company category of the national competition this year.

November 01, 2003

 

Quaker Oats senior vice president of law, general counsel and secretary Thomas Ryan, chair of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, hands Tuckahoe Creek Construction president Gray Stettinius a Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.
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Tuckahoe Creek Construction not only won the Better Business Bureau's local Torch Award in Richmond, Va., but also garnered honorable mention (second place) in the small-company category of the national competition this year. That earned the small custom builder (four employees, $3 million a year in sales, average price of $700,000) valuable repeat exposure in the local newspaper.

"I was surprised at how much interest it attracted," Tuckahoe Creek president Gray Stettinius says. "People stop me all the time now. Just recently, a guy pumping gas into his car next to mine at a service station asked me, ‘Aren't you the guy who won that ethics award from the Better Business Bureau?' I'd never met the guy, but he saw the company bumper sticker on the back of my truck. Everywhere I go now, somebody seems to mention it. I think it's a good thing for our whole industry. We've had a black-hat image for a long time, but what we don't realize is that business in general is fighting a really bad image because of Enron and the Wall Street scandals over excessive CEO salaries."

Torch Awards draw positive attention to good companies, Stettinius says. "When you think about it, there's a high percentage of companies in our industry founded on very high ethical principles. A number of my trade contractors are the same way. And yet the general public seems to think all of us are fly-by-night operators. We need something like this to get the word out that many of us believe the Golden Rule isn't just the right way to treat people, it's also very good business.

"It's amazing the number of people who think that to be successful in business, you have to cut corners and get the better of customers and competitors. I guess that's why they're so surprised when they read about a company founded on fairness. I bend over backward to give my customers service they don't expect. It's a collaborative process, not combative."

Stettinius runs an open-book operation. He gives clients a line-item breakdown of all costs, using the NAHB chart of accounts. "Just as I have to realize that my trade partners need to make a fair profit, my clients must agree that my business has to make fair margins to stay in business," he says. "That's how it becomes a partnership to build the house."

Stettinius says he doesn't want to grow his business because that would force him to abandon his close, collaborative process with each client. But winning ethics awards locally and nationally just might create enough demand for Tuckahoe Creek's services to let him push his margins on the houses he does build.

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