Featured In: Qualified Remodeler Top 500
No. 52 BOWA focuses on developing employees as well as satisfying customers to construct a trustworthy brand.
While attending the University of Virginia, Larry Weinberg and Josh Baker started a friendship before entering the corporate world as an accountant and a chemist, respectively. Not long after, they decided to pursue their own business venture and create a remodeling company. Weinberg had worked as a roofing laborer during high school but, otherwise, the pair lacked a background.
“We had no experience at all,” says Baker, who admits he had never toiled with power tools. “We actually worked in the field ourselves just to get [familiar] so we knew more about what we were doing.”
The two men relocated to Northern Virginia, where they labored on remodeling crews during the summer of 1987. Weinberg and Baker each invested $5,000 the following January to incorporate BOWA, a design/build firm that specializes in luxury renovations ranging from master suites and kitchens to whole-home and condominium remodels in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
“We had to bootstrap the company because we didn’t have any capital, so there were limitations on where we could start,” explains Baker, a native of Great Falls, Virginia. “Being able to start it by living at my parents’ house was part of [the draw]. It’s a very different market now, but at the time the whole idea of a professional organization doing remodeling was certainly not the norm.”
Weinberg and Baker organized BOWA as if they had already established a $1 million company, which constituted a bigger business at that time, Baker says. They quickly bought a computer—expensive and highly unusual for a company just starting out 30 years ago—and by the close of the first year they had hired four people, completed 27 contracts and earned $309,732 in revenue.
“The two of us were thinking in terms of a larger company, so that meant [enacting] processes for accounting, processes for production, processes for marketing and all the things that go into running a good company,” Baker says. “When we grew into a $1 million company, we didn’t have some of the growing pains that other companies went through because [of our approach].”
After several years of bidding jobs and listening to client feedback, Weinberg and Baker realized an opportunity to stand out in the industry. They acknowledged the client experience had become just as important as the finished project and revamped their infrastructure, processes and policies to support a customer-first system and ensure accountability throughout the design/build process.
“The bar gets set higher and higher because there is more and more information available—and clients are more and more educated about all of the different options and selections,” Baker says. “What do they need to make decisions? It’s not necessarily to have every single option open to them. Sometimes it’s to guide them through the myriad selections and make their time efficient.”
A focus on employees as well as customers has allowed BOWA to consistently deliver quality craftsmanship and excellent service. Weinberg and Baker aim to provide both a home and a career for their workers, not just a job. As a result, many of their employees have stayed at the company for more than 20 years, and 90 percent of their projects come from returning clients and referrals.
“Culture is something that’s discovered more than it’s created,” Baker explains. “Our core values are not a marketing [or public relations] thing. They’re actually who we are and what we believe. We’re in the communication business; we’re not just in the construction business. Understanding that we’re in the customer experience business was, I think, critical to our [continuing] success.” | QR
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