United Home Experts Preserves Historic Architecture in New England
Sponsored by: Allied Building Products Corporation
When he was in high school, John Dudley Jr. started working for a close friend’s father during the summers and on the weekends, doing general contracting and eventually roofing work. He then went off to college to pursue a finance degree, and within about a year he was picked up by Student Painters, a business that trains college students to run companies. Dudley quickly rose up the ranks to regional manager, where he ran about half of the New England division, and when he finished college he combined his construction background with his management experience to make a strategic career decision.
“When I was coming out of school, I said to myself, ‘Do I want to go into finance, selling life insurance and all these financial products — many people make a living that way, but to me it was kind of boring — or do I want to do construction and see things happen right in front of my eyes?’” Dudley explained. “That’s when we launched. I grabbed my dad, who was an engineer and enjoyed trades, and our third guy who came in, David Lamoureux, was a top sales guy. He came over, and that was it. We’ve kind of grown ever since.”
Located in Ashland, Mass., United Home Experts has now been in operation since 1998 and continues to serve the Eastern New England area. Dudley became the sole owner when his father retired in 2008. The company does windows, siding and painting work, and on the roofing side it specializes in residential re-roofing projects. While there are several divisions, the company functions as a cohesive unit.
“We are ultimately one team, but we have project managers that tend to handle projects in their particular expertise,” Dudley said. “For example, we have a project manager that has been in the window industry for over 22 yea s, so he handles a bulk of our window projects if the schedule permits. Same goes with the roofing portion of our business. But each project manager has to have enough general knowledge about our four main service lines to be able to direct and support our field crews on a project. We’ve found that we’re able to provide a better customer experience when our customers have one point of contact on a multi-service job.”
Due to the company’s location, every division at United regularly encounters extremely old homes and buildings, and everything that comes with them.
“For us, what’s unique about this area is everything is old,” Dudley explained. “You open up everything and find 100-year-old barn board — that’s the sheathing more than plywood up here — and everything is rotten, and there are humongous gaps. Nothing comes apart and goes together easily.”
“We specialize in long-term, low-maintenance solutions particularly on older structures, as is dominant New England,” he continued. “We are often replacing parts of homes and buildings with modern-technology building products, while saving critical historic details that give the buildings their original character.”
United prides itself on preserving the architectural beauty of these structures. In addition to many homes, which on average are 80 or more years old, recent notable projects include the First Congregational Church in Shrewsbury, Mass., where the company updated the siding, insulation and paint as well as re-roofed a good portion of the building; the First Congregational Church in Melrose, Mass., which involved stripping and re-roofing the flat roof; and the Fay School Administration Building in Southborough, Mass., which was a large sheathing replacement job.
The Right People
When asked how the company ensures quality workmanship on all of its unique projects, Dudley’s response was simple: “Hire right, train right, manage right,” he said. “Right off the bat, we start by hiring the right people. I’m not looking for mavericks; I tend to hire by attitude first, ability second.”
According to Dudley, keeping these people safe, well trained and well educated once they’re hired is a top priority. “From the first day we bring on a crew, we try to get everyone to embrace a culture of safety — not just think of it as putting up caution tape or putting on a harness,” he said. “We send out emails periodically with video or audio links with a little training nugget. We also sponsor EPA lead-safe certifications, and OSHA training and certifications periodically. Project managers look for safe practices on site.”
“Our leaders are always learning and improving,” he continued. “I kind of like people who are a little nerdy about the technical aspect of the trade. I think if there is a genuine interest in it, they want to learn about it.”
Dudley hires based on United’s core values, which include: being positive, energetic and fun; telling the truth and keeping your word; creatively finding solutions; knowing your stuff; and making customers happy. These values were derived from key attributes of the people who best represent the company, and he now looks for these characteristics in all potential new hires.
According to Dudley, United’s niche is “beautifying and protecting homes through long-term, low-maintenance building-envelope solutions.” When it comes to building relationships with the owners of these homes, it’s all about honesty and education.
“One thing we’re always trying to do is teach them that they’re only looking at less than half of the roof when they’re on the ground,” he explained. “Only the top layer of roofing is ever seen, but that’s only part of the roofing system. We have a very detailed scope that shows exactly what they’re going to get. We’re trying to educate people. It’s all valuable to homeowners if you make it valuable.”
“Roofers need to stop thinking in terms of dollars per square, and start thinking in terms of the value of the problems they are solving for people, or the value of the solutions they provide,” he continued. “We’ve taken the path of trying to really figure out why a home is leaking, then adding value through quality roofing systems properly installed by our teams, maximizing ventilation and adding insulation when possible.”
Along with providing creative solutions, United also has the highest level of manufacturer certification and offers flexible payment options — but when asked what makes his company successful, Dudley was quick to respond. “This one is always easy,” he said. “It’s by far our great people, and their dedication to our customers, and to each other.”