“We do what others promise,” is the theme that 4 Seasons Home Crafters displays in all of its literature.
Russ Christensen, owner of the Dalton Township company, says honesty is what guides him and his crew of 20 workers. He says the home improvement business has been tarnished in some cases by shoddy work and poor customer service.
“It’s put itself in a bad position with people,” he said. Christensen said his approach is, “Show them you’re honest and you want to be their friend.”
Christensen, 42, started his company in late April 2001 after spending more than 20 years working in the home improvement business. At the same time, he completed construction and moved into his 5,800-square-foot home at 1390 E. Lakewood.
Building a home and starting a new business – which he operates out of an adjacent, two-story garage – was a big gamble, he admits. But after the first year, the outlook was positive. And this year, he says, his business tripled. “I didn’t expect to be at this point until 5 years down the road,” he said.
Christensen and his crews do everything short of constructing a house. They do roofing, siding, windows, additions, doors, shutters, and sun rooms. They build garages and decks and remodel basements and recreation rooms.
“I want to be able to do anything a customer needs done for the house,” he said. “If I can’t do it, I can get somebody that will.”
The bulk of Christensen’s work is installing siding and windows. But no matter what the job assignment is, Christensen says he and his crews enjoy their work.
“We’re all good friends,” he said. “We’ve all been in business a long time, most of them longer than I have. My guys are happy. I’ve never had so much fun in business. Before, it was just a job.”
About 40 percent of Christensen’s customers are older people, whom he gives an automatic 10 percent discount. He also offers discounts to former customers. “We don’t want work to stop at one job…we want repeat business,” he said. “It’s like your doctor – you don’t go to a different doctor every time.”
Christensen gives lifetime warranty on all work done by his crews. “Any of my new clients can call any customer we’ve had (for reference),” he said. “When we leave a job, they’re 100 percent happy, or they don’t have to pay. I want them happy.”
His formula seems to be working. While many home-improvement projects have been put on hold during the tight economic times, Christensen says his company has been busy.
“In 18 months, we became the largest (remodeling) company in West Michigan,” he said. “My suppliers tell me that everybody is out of work this year.”
Indeed, Christensen and his busy crews do jobs as far north as Ludington and as far south as Battle Creek. “I don’t think there’s any way this thing would ever take a reverse course – the calls are phenomenal,” he said.
At age 12, he got a job with a local grocery store, where he ended up working for eight years. Along the way he became an assistant manager, counting money and making deposits among his tasks.
But the young age of his manager persuaded him to look elsewhere for his life’s work when he turned 20. Although home remodeling was foreign to him, Christiansen said it had appeal, and he decided to give it a try.
“I didn’t even know what siding was,” he recalled. Christensen said he spent 60-hour weeks learning the business and eventually found steady work with a Muskegon area home improvement company.
What he learned during more than 20 years with the company is the importance of having a pleasant personality and gaining a customer’s trust.
“Obviously, quality is the biggest thing, but personality is big to me,” he said. “You can have the best siders in the world, but if they don’t have personality, you’re not going to make that customer happy. Customers are too important – they’re your lifeline.”
Christensen lives in his spacious new home, on 10 acres of wooded property, with his wife, Kenda, a teenage daughter, and his father, Frank Williams. He credits his father, late mother Sandy Christensen, and his general family for providing the impetus leading to his success.
“You have to have roots somewhere,” he said.
Originally published by Muskegon Chronicle on September 3, 2003
By Dick Davies – Chronicle Staff Writer