Listen, Solve and Educate: David Mack of Founder's Choice Cabinets + Countertops
David Mack of Founder's Choice Cabinets is an example of how listening, solving problems and educating your clients is a critical element in business development for companies in the building industry.
Dave Mack considers himself to be in the feel-good business.
“When you walk into your newly remodeled kitchen or bathroom,” says Dave. “I’m not just interested in what you want to see, but more importantly, how you want to feel.”
He considers his job is to listen intently and guide his clients to make the best decisions to fit their four top remodeling needs. With every project he asks himself, ‘Is the final solution functional and ergonomic so they can access everything safely and easily, will it help keep them organized, does it fall within their budget, and does it complement their life story?’
“We all have a story to tell,” says Dave. “It becomes part of the working relationship as we rebuild your kitchen and bathroom together.”
Dave’s favorite thing about being a designer is getting to know interesting people. He enjoys asking probing questions to dig into his clients’ sensitivities. For instance, one spouse may be more linear and systematic while the other might be right-brained and abstract.
“My job is to blend their individual sensitivities and preferences along with the best form and function into a solution that mutually benefits their lifestyle.”
Being a cook himself enables Dave to ask smart questions based on his own experiences and preferences.
“Design is prone to subjective opinions and preferences, but functionality should rise above all. A spice rack on the wall might be pleasing on Instagram but is not as convenient as a pull out drawer on the side of the stove.”
He applies his industry knowledge (sometimes acquired through trial and error) to provide smart guidance about the pros and cons about cabinets, backsplashes, accessories and even lighting, to avoid any regrets after the project is completed.
“One of my clients was considering using 2700K LED lights in an all white kitchen,” Dave says. “I advised them that it would cast a yellowish color to give it an antique white feel, which was definitely not what they were going for. That saved a step for them down the line.”
He explains, “there are four basic visual textures in a kitchen or bathroom that say everything about the homeowner. The horizontal surfaces including counter and floor, along with the vertical surfaces like the cabinet faces and backsplashes, united by the perfect hardware accessories, must work together, provide a visual balance, but also create a sense of comfort, pride and satisfaction every day.”
After 17 years in the distribution logistics field, Dave started business cleaning cedar shake roofs and painting houses. He quickly realized that it was wiser to hire contractors to do the labor while he handled the logistics. He found his calling doing commercial and residential remodeling, eventually becoming a full time designer for a major regional kitchen company.”
“In the beginning I had no idea about how the design build process works or even how to run the software,“ says Dave. “But my passion drove me to hone my skills and develop a system to become one of my company’s top salespeople.”
While he has mastered his design skills, Dave believes his attention to customer needs he acquired over decades running his own shop that makes his projects so effective.
He is proud of the solutions he provides as lead designer for Founder’s Choice Cabinets + Countertops, a cabinet and countertop company in Tacoma, Washington, specializing in kitchen and bathrooms, however they have also completed some interesting entertainment center and wet bar projects lately.
“I’ve worked with a variety of top cabinet and countertop companies in the Northwest and Founder’s Choice is by far my favorite,” Dave reports. “Their products are superior and the showroom does a great job to represent the different options.”
Dave reports there are three levels of cabinet construction, each providing a specific value to its audiences. You have to understand the goals for each tier in order to help them make the right decision.
The first is a commodities box. The best example is what you get from Ikea. They are pre-fabricated and static with very little opportunity for customization. The biggest value is that they are affordable and accessible for a customer who wants to install and possibly flip the home quickly. This isn’t a good option for someone who wants to stick around in their home for more than a decade, because they will have to be replaced eventually, and they can quickly make the home look dated.
The second option tier is working with semi-custom shops like Founder’s Choice. These companies build their products to conform to industry standards in a production setting, then work with their clients to customize their solutions to fit their visions and specifications. This is the ultimate option for the majority of homeowners because the results are cost-effective yet personalized and high-quality appearance.
Full customization from scratch is a possibility, however Dave says to consider this option clients have to be patient and willing to pay a premium these days.
“My son works at a custom cabinet shop that produces fantastic products,” says Dave. “However they are easily booked out for over a year and they demand a high price to keep up with materials and labor costs.”
Dave believes that in this industry, the best business development tool is education. He provides workshops and demonstrations on certain Saturdays, where prospective customers and community members can learn about the best products and techniques.
“Knowledge is king,” Dave says. “I don’t tell them what to do, I share with them what to think about as they consider reinventing their home spaces.” Although there is very little selling involved, he can expect up to 70% of attendees to come back and purchase some kind of product soon after the event.
He considers his in-person seminars to be successful, but he notices younger audiences are difficult to attract, no matter what the subject or incentives.
“The under 40 crowd is difficult to draw into a physical workshop,” says Dave. “They would much rather tune in virtually. While this sacrifices the opportunity to touch and feel the surfaces or hardware for themselves, they are more interested in learning on their own time.”
Armed with vast knowledge and experience in the cabinet and countertop industry, Dave is a big advocate of online education as a business development tool.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable around the camera,” he says. “But if you can present interesting and relevant information about your industry, you are doing the best kind of self-promotion by bringing value to your current and future clients.”
He shares that he has had a few TikTok videos go viral with thousands of views and over 500 followers. The interesting thing is it’s never predictable. The subject you’re sure to be popular never gains traction while videos that you don’t put too much thought into end up exploding.
“The shorter clips are more impactful,” notes Dave. “We all value our time. A video that shows that it is a minute long is much more enticing than a 20 minute option, even if the longer video has much more valuable content.”
Dave advises that the best way to start a video library is to focus on answering questions you regularly hear from your customers, and be yourself. Make them meaningful as if you were having a conversation with them across the kitchen table. Don’t worry about making them too polished. Be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously.
“The more you do, the more fun it gets!” Dave says.
Rusty George leads a branding, website design and marketing agency serving Seattle and Tacoma area construction companies, subcontractors, engineering and architecture firms, material fabricators and suppliers. His goal is to help the building industry become more attractive to the skilled workforce of the future.