Design, construction key to Goodroe success

By Scott Nishimura

David Goodroe remembers his first job leaving the corporate world and going into the construction business 25 years ago: fixing a bathroom sink and toilet.

“I think I charged $11 and made two dollars and 24 cents,” he says.

These days, things are little more flush at Designs for Living, the Near Southside business in Fort Worth that Goodroe started a quarter-century ago and runs with his wife, Melissa.

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The business moved from handyman repairs to make-readies for houses going up for sale and rent, to full-service residential general contracting today, building and remodeling homes. The company has done more than 1,440 projects, the couple estimates, and has a staff of six.

The Goodroes have relied heavily on technology, implementing a database in the 1990s of thousands of items locally they use to bid jobs. That cuts down on change orders – bids are detailed down to the type of crown molding in a room – and makes the construction process run smoothly, the Goodroes say.

“What we try to do is remove those things that can be points of contention,” David Goodroe said. “Our subs use that scope of work when they’re out on the job site, and it cuts down on all sorts of communications issues. It takes the ambiguity out of the room.”

Says Melissa Goodroe: “They know pretty much everything when he walks in the door, except for what he’s going to find when they pull that wall down.”

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The couple were both coming out of time-consuming corporate jobs at the beginning. Melissa Goodroe joined her husband a year after he started the company. They owned rent houses and both knew construction from family businesses, triggering interest in their own venture.

“I decided I was going to open a construction company,” David Goodroe says. “I went out and printed some black and white business cards, came up with a real quick name (Property Partners), and a week later, I went out and started on calling on real estate companies.”

Just to make sure he knew what he was doing, Goodroe invested in a Time-Life book on home repair.

Things changed after Melissa Goodroe, whose background was in marketing, showed up in the business.

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“Being in the real estate business, I kept telling him the handyman thing is not the way to go,” she says. “If you want to get your name out there real quickly, let’s make their houses ready for sale, and let’s start doing that for rental properties. So that got his foot in the door.”

The name soon changed – to Designs for Living – as the company quickly moved into contracting.

“We changed it when I got here,” jokes Melissa Goodroe, who does the firm’s marketing. “He was getting bigger and he was not doing property management repairs.”

David Goodroe remembers their first $5,000 job – the repaint of a home in Colleyville with a friend from church. Years later, Designs for Living did a major remodel for the same client.

“There’s been a lot of history with our clients,” David Goodroe says. “We have grown to where we do stay in touch with them,” and many become friends.

Designs for Living likes to maintain relationships with its subcontractors, using the same framing contractor, for example, for 18 years, the Goodroes say. And they hold certifications in remodeling and lead paint abatement, among others, to keep up with industry standards.

The couple has long overlaid technology across the business, for bookkeeping, estimating, and design.

Their database for estimating contains more than 12,000 local items with pricing, updated regularly.

“We consistently run within one, one and a half percent of actual costs when we quote a project,” David Goodroe says. Melissa Goodroe was the one who sold her husband on use of the Internet – eventually – when it was in its nascent stages.

“He says, ‘Why are you wasting your time on all of that; that’s just a flash in the pan,’” she jokes.

Many of the firm’s clients have multi-year timeframes for the improvements they want to make, which shorten and lengthen with economic cycles, but have also helped the company maintain business, the Goodroes say.

Today, many of their clients are investing in lifestyle accoutrements like swimming pools and outdoor living spaces, open-concept rooms, home offices, and fitness rooms.

“Families are nesting more, and friends are nesting with friends in the evenings, with dinner parties,” David Goodroe said. “The kids are hanging out back, they watch TV and play games.”

The Goodroes serve on several boards, which has become an extension of the friendships they’ve made through the business.

David Goodroe serves on the boards of the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth, James L. West, and Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth, and is a member of the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate. Melissa Goodroe serves on the boards of the Texas Boy’s Choir, Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, Texas School of the Arts, and Women Steering Business group that raises money to buy steers at the Stock Show that were raised by young women.