Ending Rip-Offs

Cleaning House

By Richard Poe, Success Magazine, June 1990

Richard Connolly found a way to capitalize on the poor image of the construction business. "We protect people from getting ripped off," says the founder of Cornerstone Consulting Inc. in Weymouth, Mass.

Connolly’s company relieves homeowners of having to deal with wily contractors. A cornerstone rep will help you determine if you really need work on your house, what materials you’ll need, and much it will cost. Cornerstone will even negotiate with subcontractors, coordinate the project from start to finish, and inspect the work.

"Before any purchases are made, we’ll specify what’s needed right down to the model number of a light switch," says Connolly. "Instead of giving the money to a contractor and turning him loose to spend it, we hook our clients up directly with wholesalers, where they can get discounted prices."

Although Connolly charges up to $300 for an initial consultation, he claims that his service more than pays for itself in savings on unnecessary construction expenditures.

"We don’t cost the homeowner a dime," he says. "What they save on materials alone covers our fees. We can save $485 for three pieces in a bathroom: a toilet, tub, and sink. If you went the usual route, buying at the retail level through a contractor, you’d pay a markup to the subcontractor and then another markup to the general contractor. We bypass all that and go directly to the supplier."

Connolly claims his business has grown 250 percent annually since it started two years ago. He recently signed contracts with three prospective franchisees.

You can run a Cornerstone Franchise out of your house. Franchisees pay about $22,000, mostly for a computer and Connolly’s proprietary software. "Our computer system leads you through each step of the process," he says. "If you tell it you’re installing a heater, it will tell you exactly what wiring you need to put it in.

"There’s an incredible need for this service," says Connolly. "Most homeowners have heard horror stories about the industry. Many of them would like to do work, but they’re afraid to get involved until they hear about us."

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