Custom Solutions Construction Inc.
Michael Rogers started in the building trade when he was 13, growing from a bricklayer’s helper to being his own boss with three commercial/residential remodeling construction companies he’s founded over the span of 40 years.
The 55-year-old entrepreneur started his current venture, Fort Worth-based Custom Solutions Construction Inc., in 2008, just when the recession was beginning to ramp up. New construction crawled and home sales shriveled but Rogers fared better than many contractors and builders. His company not only survived but thrived during the downturn.
“Everybody else was closing their doors. Somehow or another we stayed busy through it all and are still busy today,” Rogers said. His company today averages about a dozen rehab projects, both commercial and residential, across Tarrant County each year.
With the economy back on a better course, Rogers expanded his home construction company last year and began flipping houses. House flipping involves buying a fixer-upper with the intent of selling it for a profit. Custom Solutions Construction also evolved into a family-owned business with the addition of Rogers’ daughter, 35-year-old Natasha Morris, as chief financial officer.
Morris grew up watching her father run his business.
“He tried to recruit me when I was 18 but I wouldn’t have any part of it,” she said. “I worked for him one day, helping prep a house, and decided it was not what I wanted to do.”
Morris, who has experience running a couple of her own enterprises, had moved back to the area with her two children and decided it was time to learn her father’s construction business.
“Last year in July my life totally changed,” Morris said. “I separated from my husband and needed a job, and he needed help. It’s turned into something so much bigger. It’s changing the legacy of our family. One day I hope to take this business over from my dad.”
Morris threw herself into learning every facet of the business, from managing the office and handling all the paperwork to working alongside her dad on several remodeling projects.
“Once she got in here and started learning a little bit about the business, it got a hold of her just like it did me when I was a kid. It gets in your blood,” Rogers said. “We’ve bumped heads, of course, but it’s been pretty good. She’s taking care of the financial side and that’s taken a lot of pressure off of me. It’s been great working with her. It’s brought us closer together. She’s learned a lot about dad – she’s seen all sides of me and the business.”
Building for the future
The father-daughter duo had invested $25,000 in a real estate investing education company, California-based FortuneBuilders, to learn how to flip houses and how to build a company just when one of their renovation jobs turned into their first flipping opportunity.
“We started working with a client on a rehab and then bought the house for $30,000,” Morris said. “We got a loan from a silent partner and made a cash offer. That got us going. We are literally in the early stages of the flipping business.”
The pair sold that first house in January, making a $17,000 profit on it, and recently closed on their second flip.
“The market here for flipping is phenomenal,” Morris said. “We’re successful because of the many years of experience my dad has.”
Morris also credits the company’s growth and success to another investment she and her father have made in their business.
She was spending up to 60 hours a week “slaving at a computer” trying to create a new website for the construction company and to develop an online marketing campaign that would include the newly expanded flipping business. For her first open house, she did everything manually, sending out emails one at a time and collecting phone numbers by hand. It was tedious and time consuming, she said.
Realizing she needed a quicker, more efficient solution, Morris turned to Yodle, a Manhattan-based advertising engine for small businesses. The technology company helps drive traffic to smaller local businesses with mobile-optimized website listings on search engines, paid search advertising and search engine optimization. Some 50,000 small businesses in 250 industries around the country pay Yodle an average of about $400 a month for its services, which include ad placement, email marketing and tracking.
It paid off. Business has jumped at Custom Solutions Construction. The company, which has nine employees, recently hired its first marketing manager, Lynette Hicks, to handle all future email campaigns. Morris now spends a few hours a week on the computer, efficiently organizing all her contacts and sending email blasts about coming events and special renovation offers to hundreds of prospects at once.
“What Yodle brought to the table totally transformed our platform,” Morris said. “I was having to do it all. It’s now made us more professional. It’s streamlined our operations. It created a job opportunity for another person. We now have time to buy other houses to renovate and flip.”
Morris is working on obtaining her real estate license and already has been accepted with broker Keller Williams in Weatherford and Granbury.
“When Natasha gets her real estate license, I hope that will make a huge difference, too,” her father said.
“It’s about family. When I get too old and can’t do this anymore I’ll hand it off to her. I want her to get enough experience that she can step in and take over,” Rogers said.
Story updated to reflect Yodle price clarification.