Meet Richard Warren
Why do you love building?
“Good design is its own reward and I take great pleasure in creating something lasting that is beautiful, functional and improves the quality of people’s lives. To fulfill the basic human need for shelter underscores the value of my work. I enjoy the strength and physicality involved in building.
When we design a space for a homeowner, we’re building not just for that client, but deliver a quality of construction that will stand up to future home owners as well. It’s so important to do it right the first time. We’re not about being the lowest price, but delivering the precise solution for that homeowner at the best value.”
How are you able to maintain employee longevity in an industry known for high turnover?
“At Hands-On, every member of the team is accountable for delivering client comfort and peace of mind. We take pride and ownership for doing things right the first time, I always say, “Pretend that you’re doing this job for your grandmother!”
Quality translates to every aspect of our work, such as the cleanliness of the work site. Keeping things in order, always safe, returning items to where they belong. All of these things create a workplace that makes building and designing satisfying for the whole team. Going to a project everyday where you enjoy who you work with, take pride in that work, and have a smile on your face is much different than just getting up for a paycheck.
The men and women of Hands-On have families to support and need health insurance. This may make us a little higher than another builder with a more transient workforce, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It benefits the client as much as the staff, because we are able to deliver continuity from project to project within the same home. And of course with our warranty, every client is guaranteed a quality construction.”
Tell me about your warranty.
“Our warranty states that we own our work 100%.”
“Once a project is complete, it naturally takes time for everything to settle in. So, we visit the client anytime they ask us to come by, but always about a year after the job. We like to touch the work again and hear about the homeowner’s experiences living in the new space. If something isn’t right, we’ll fix it. This is never a burden because we want to know what’s happening in order to make sure our clients are fully satisfied.
After 30 years of this work methodology, we’ve built up a level of expertise that is uncommon. You find that you’ve earned the client’s trust such that they are happy to refer you to their friends and family and hire you again for their next project.”
What happens during your first meeting with a homeowner?
“Building something great is a process that is composed of many elements and multiple steps. My role is to find out exactly how Hands-On can help the client achieve their goals.
I want to learn the story behind the project and how people intend to use the new space. I ask lots of questions, like “Where do you sit to relax?”, “Where do you start your day?”, and anything that will give me a detailed understanding of their vision for the renovation or new space.
This is how I start the process of scoping out the project so that I can be sure to deliver a realistic appraisal for the solution they need and at a budget they can afford.”
Talk to me about how you set up the project budget.
“Everyone has a limited budget and my job is to understand the client’s needs so that I can offer them a cost benefit analysis for their project. My job is to educate the client on the value of the work so they understand what they are getting. I take lots of notes during the first meeting, collect as much feedback as I can, and then get back to the homeowner with a detailed estimate.
A well done estimate is the foundation of the project and prepares the client for what to expect. I find this curbs anxiety for clients and they appreciate our due diligence to prepare an accurate quote. We’re also very agile and can adapt during projects. You’d be surprised how new opportunities for design can emerge after a project kicks off. We are always listening and continue to share.”
How do you handle client communication during a project?
“We have weekly meetings and the project manager asks the client each week, “On a scale from 1-4, 4 being the highest score, how would your rate our performance this week?” Anything less than a 4 is unacceptable. We want to know every little thing to make sure we are all measuring up.”
How do you define a successful project?
“A client must be delighted and believe they got a great value. But that’s still not enough. We need them to be so happy that they say to others, “If you have a project, you’ve got to talk to Hands-On because they’ll take care of you from start to finish.”
In what ways has construction changed in the last 30 years?
“Overall, the quality of construction has improved.”
“Homeowners are more cost conscious, but increasingly understand value better. As an example, their aesthetic leanings have evolved from being satisfied with a surface like Corian to a desire to make the extra investment in materials like granite and other premium counter surfaces. I attribute this to the Internet.
The Web gives people a way to complete in-depth research and study many options closely. Consumers know more details about products, design methods, and can access a referral network that once was simply unavailable.
Other changes include:
- The aging population is causing people to stay in their homes longer. People are thinking more long-term in their construction projects and aiming for universal, lasting design.
- New technologies and advances in quality materials now offer lower maintenance for homeowners.
- Energy savings is on everyone’s minds, so we have lots of conversations about conservation and insulation.
- And, we’re slowly moving in a direction of houses being built smaller where homeowners need their spaces to be fully functional as they consider in-law suites and adult children returning home to live.”
What’s the most challenging aspect of your industry?
“The hardest part is the perception that professionals in the construction trade are out to fleece the customer.
I named my business Hands-On and have a logo featuring 2 hands because I want to reinforce the idea that homeowners who work with us are in trusted, capable hands. We really care about the project and are committed to clients’ full satisfaction.”
Talk to me about your connections to the Concord community.
“It started when my kids were young and my interest to be a role model. So I volunteered a lot so I could encourage them to work hard and excel. I was an assistant Scout Master, Sunday school teacher, and coached t-ball, little league, soccer and softball.
I’ve also tried to use the platform of Hands-On to give back to my community. I took a lead role in the development of two town playgrounds, provided the materials, labor and tools to put siding on a Habitat for Humanity project, and helped provide the foundation and roofing for the Sugar House in town located next to the old Thoreau homestead.
Once a year, we try to find one local opportunity where the whole team at Hands-On and their families can come together to give back. An example of this is the work we did for Gaining Ground Community Gardens.”
How do you relax?
“On our honeymoon, my wife Nancy and I discovered a magical rustic fishing village in Mexico that we’ve come to adopt as our annual retreat. It’s a beautiful, protected oasis with birds, turtles and whale sharks. After the kids were born, we just kept returning.
Believe it or not, I pack my tools and probably work harder there than I do back home in Concord. I love finding ways to give back to this special spot, whether it’s putting in a door, window, deck, or staircase.
There we’re embraced as guests, not tourists, and enjoy spending time with the villagers sharing meals and soaking up the poetry of their special language.
Our visits remind me of our blessed lives in Concord and serve as a reminder of the joy in my life’s work. I’m a very lucky guy.”