"Win-Win Construction" From the Ground Up
Hard Hat News, March 27, 1991
When a business in the construction field is realizing 30 percent growth from 1989 to 1990, through 1991, and into the bottomed out market of the first quarter of this year, the people behind it must be doing something right.
The first step on the road to success is realizing a need and fulfilling it. And that’s what Richard Connolly has done.
Steeped in the fields of high tech and contracting, Connolly set out to combine technology and construction, and put it to work in the field of building and remodeling – a place more often than not, a battlefield between contractor, owner, and architect, not to mention the maze of subcontractors, and code officials. Often, it’s an area of business where customers are easily ripped off.
The result of Connolly’s efforts was the formation of Cornerstone Consulting, Inc., founded in 1988, in Weymouth, Mass.
As a consultant, it is Connolly’s job to make building and remodeling jobs proceed smoothly. But that is only half the story. As an advocate of the consumer, Cornerstone is paid only by them. The real result of the service is a higher quality product for less money. Today that can run into thousands of dollars!
On researching this story, I cite an example of a couple whose dwelling sustained extensive fire damage. A contractor was found and desires expressed. Work proceeded. Several weeks later, the job was completed and the couple was presented with a bill for $80,000 in cost overruns. A minimum of planning and discussion resulted in a hefty second mortgage.
In contrast, a couple that hired Cornerstone realized $20,000 in savings on a project they initially estimated would cost them over $60,000.
Connolly’s goal is to create a "win/win situation," where the contractors and subs know exactly what services they are providing at what cost and the homeowner knows the same. Cornerstone has not only done that, but has saved the consumers up to an average of $3 for every $1 spent in consulting.
Cornerstone provides the following services:
Initial Consultation – Where the company helps consumers to determine what they want, what they can spend, and how they want to proceed.
Material estimates – Determining what materials are needed and negotiating directly with suppliers for the client to buy them.
Project specifications – the company then helps the consumer evaluate bids and negotiate the final contract with the chose contractors and checks on unknown contractor’s work, assuring quality from the start.
Detailed work plan – Established for each of the project’s phases.
Work inspection – By Cornerstone as each phase is completed.
Cornerstone can help the homeowner act as the general contractor, hiring all the subcontractors and coordinating all the work, or can work with a general contractor hired separately by the homeowner. They can help the homeowner hire a general contractor, help the homeowner be the general contractor or help the homeowner as project coordinator.
Though contractors and subs material profits are cut, without their material markups, a growing number feel that proceeding with a job without the hassle and risk allows them to do what they do best – build. It also facilitates their entrance into the growing market of owner-contracted projects. In addition, though contractor profits are cut, payment from the owner is timely.
The savings realized by Cornerstone clients could not be achieved without Connolly’s experience in the high tech field. His system for selecting a contractor and architect, specifications, bidding and contracting is systemized and fully computerized. In our interview he stated that it allows him to obtain from consumers information which he would have once given his eye teeth to know.
When you have a service that works, you’re going to get calls. Connolly has received inquiries from homeowners as far away as North Carolina and Washington. This has prompted Cornerstone Consulting, Inc. to test the water in franchising. Three are already in the offing while Cornerstone is putting the finishing touches on the software and database that will allow the company to standardize its operations.
Success cannot be maintained without consistent quality. While cornerstone Consulting, Inc. handles that with ease at present, I asked Mr. Connolly how he can assure himself and others of that same quality in a franchise that bears the name of his company.
He stated that he plans to build on a solid foundation of totally qualified prospects, with a strong structure of training and "total company" concept, held together with networking, meetings, continuing education, and details such as newsletters.
Franchises may be purchased for about $22,000, most of which is spent for a computer and Connolly’s proprietary software. For his hardware, Connolly has chosen the Mac because of its ease of operation. As for the software, Connolly stated, "Our computer system leads the franchisee through each step of the process. It’s intelligent software.
For example, if you tell it you’re installing a heater, it will tell you exactly what wiring you need to put in." For the consumer that means every potential cost is detailed right down to the model number of the light switch – before the purchases are made.
For a contractor looking for a new way to use his expertise, an office is just as near as his home, his company back-up as near as his computer.
"There’s an incredible need for the Cornerstone service," says Connolly. "Most homeowners have heard horror stories about the industry. Many of them would like to do the work, but they’re afraid to get involved until they hear about us.
For the franchisee, there is all the benefits of being a contractor with none of the headaches because the consultant is an ally, not an adversary, of the homeowner.