Are You Looking For A One-Stop Renovation/Remodeling Company Serving Manhattan and Brooklyn?
Brooklyn Local Review recently had a chance to interview the General Manager/Founder of KnockOut Renovations Keith Steier. I actually met Keith at a BNI meeting when his business was still in the infancy stage. He shared with me the secrets of his business success and challenges he overcame.
What is "KnockOut Renovation"?
KnockOut Renovation is a full-service remodeling firm. We are a combination of an interior design service with a retail store that sells all the cabinets, countertops, tiles, sinks, faucets, light fixtures, etc. for renovations and we are also a licensed contractor. We handle every aspect of a renovation for our client(s).
When did KnockOut Renovation start?
KnockOut Renovation began in 1992. We are going on 25 years. We evolved into an all in one firm over the last two decades. We found that as much as we were organized and created a step by step process for doing renovations, we could not control the timing of the project as long as we weren't handling the product end of it regarding orders, deliveries and changing things out.
The homeowners would buy things that had long lead times or perhaps finish quality or color that they didn't expect and it would often throw projects off by weeks if not longer. Learning from experience, we have evolved into a design build to the extreme service. Our goal is to renovate one's home without many of the difficulties that people often encounter.
What is the standard time for a project to be done?
The timing will vary depending on if it's happening in a building like a condo or a co-op, or whether in a private home. There are variables that affect the renovation. A kitchen, for example, in a private house can often get done in just a few weeks using stone countertops and nice cabinets like Merillat Classic or Dura Supreme or similar brand. If you are doing that same renovation in a high-rise building apartment, you have a lot more restrictions and limitations regarding working hours, hallway protection, elevator access, parking, deliveries, etc. so the project will take longer.
A kitchen in the suburbs might take three to five weeks to do if you are gut renovating a kitchen. Replacing the floors and the cabinets and the counters and replacing the appliances and light fixtures and everything. Whereas if you are doing it in a co-op building or a condo, it can easily take eight weeks.
We create a timeline for each project based on the logistics and product lead times for that project.
What was it that made you want to start a renovation business?
I was in the Navy for a few years. I did sheet metal fabrication, welding, plumbing work and things like that. Even in high school, I did related work. I was in the metal shop, wood shop, automotive shop. I always worked with my hands and had an interest in how things worked.
Then after the Navy, I became the superintendent of a large building in Brooklyn for some years. There I learned how to do many of the house repair type things that eventually became part of the knowledge-base that I use toward Knockout Renovation.
As a superintendent, once everything was working properly, meaning leaks fixed, doors closing properly, and making sure the heat was working properly, etc. there wasn't a lot to do except to talk to the residents and meet with the property manager from time to time. I had a lot of extra time on my hands and started doing after hours work in Brooklyn where I lived and worked.
I found that there was a significant demand for reliable people to home repairs and renovations.
What was the toughest thing you went through when opening KnockOut Renovation?
Not only when I was opening, but through the years, many people who go to start-up a business does not realize there is a huge difference in knowing your craft and running a business that provides your work. It is a tremendous learning curve in getting a business going and getting it set up in an efficient, effective way.
The system that we have developed is still a work in progress. We have been honing it and developing it for 25 years using best practices across our industry and other industries and technologies. Many of the step by step processes we now utilize can be accessed online so that we can do updates and provide updates over the web, and in each step of the renovation process. It helps us to stay organized. It has been a long time in the making. Even after these years, there are always new features to implement and new challenges to come along the way that we have to figure out how to mitigate.
If you had to start over from day one what would you have done differently?
Good Question, if we had to start over from day one. I can't think of what I would do differently except maybe go to work for someone else who has a similar type business to give me a little more of a background before I jumped in myself. The learning curve in running a business, providing a service versus providing that service yourself is entirely different.
Keith Steier Advice for Newbies
KnockOut Renovation mainly works in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Those are the two areas we currently serve.
Some of the biggest challenges are:
A lot of the day-to-day things are the big challenges like parking and deliveries, and coordinating with buildings when we are working within apartments where people live in the building. Also, getting permits and getting signed-offs on the permits final inspections.
There are so many components to renovations. When most people think of an apartment or kitchen renovation, I don't believe that they think of it as a big deal. There are many dozens of considerations. Each issue should properly be implemented and addressed for that project to not only go smoothly but to result in something that's functional and beautiful and serves the person for whom the renovations were done well. You can do great improvements that turn out not to be the best suited for (i.e., a family with little kids, or a senior citizen, or single person).
There are many things to consider not only the design phase, but also in product selections, and in the implementation itself. It always has surprised me for what I felt was a relatively simple business to be a lot more complicated than I have imagined.
If a customer was to choose between your business and three others just like it why would you suggest they at least give you a try first?
The TOP THREE things that make us unique:
#1 - Our all in one approach, RENOVATIONS MADE EASIER is the core and positive benefit that we provide. If a prospect comes to us for improvements, we will make it as easy as possible for you to make your home what you need it to be and what you want it to be. I'll be asking you a whole bunch of questions that will drive the design and drive the products and the renovation that you might not have even considered that will result in something that is custom tailored to your particular needs.
#2 - Our designers are also our project managers. The person who first envisions the design then goes to work with the homeowner to hone down that design to the measurements and the specifics. The designer is the same person that leads the team that implements the renovations. This person also works with the carpentry crew and with the plumber, the electrician, our tile guys, and our suppliers. Moreover, the designer is also the one to leads the team in implementing the renovation so that things do not fall through the cracks between the design phase and restoration phase which alleviates a lot of the issues that people run into with renovations.
#3 - We provide an industry leading Seven (7) years labor AND product warranty.
So if the tile cracks inexplicably, or the cabinet doors is squeaking or has some defect.
If the faucet is dripping or the light fixtures just burn out, and it's not the bulbs, of course, we'll come back, and we will fix it for seven (7) years. It's not only on the labor but also the products themselves.
The only exclusions we have are the kitchen appliances which typically have a one year warranty which we'll service during that one year period either ourselves or more often through the manufacturer of that device.
In other words, we'll arrange the servicing and meet the service tech at your home, so you won't have to take a day off from work for it.
Certain things like reglazing bathtubs and prefinished engineered wood floors we don't guarantee nor do we recommend it because they aren't durable and long lasting.
Recap: So those are the top three:
What is the number 1 way you bring in new customers?
Being in business for 25 years has now resulted in REPEAT clients. In this industry, I don't believe that too many people renovate and then re-renovate. Since we only serve Manhattan and Brooklyn even if they do re-renovate, they may do it in a place that they move to which may be outside of our coverage area.
But, in the last few years, we have been seeing more repeat clients than in the previous 21+ years. So, this is fantastic. And a lot of people find us through services like Franklin Report, Google and Angie's List. Places that pre-screen and have reviews posted. And we also get referrals from buildings staff, supers, property managers, real estate brokers, and people in those industries.
Has the Internet played a significant role in your business as it has become more prevalent?
We had a website in the 90's. I was skeptical about its benefits. Here now in 2017 and it's become essential of course, but also in the running of the business because our project management system has been custom created for us on a virtual website so that our team can access a client information from anywhere in the world. If they need to look something up, (i.e., product order, delivery date, carpenter's phone number, any information related to the project or just check the schedule and just where they stand on the timetable) that can be accessed from any computers that are connected to the web anywhere.
If you had to take a look six months to a year into the future, where would you like to see your business be?
I like to see us reach an ever higher level of satisfaction. We have been increasing our level of client satisfaction year after year. We now have many testimonials. The greater level of satisfaction to more people you can provide, ultimately the better the business will do. So, there's nothing that I could aim for as a business manager and owner than to increase our client satisfaction rate.
Is there something in the works that you plan on rolling out in the next six months to a year?
Well, recently we implemented one of the new online aspects to our project management so that our staff could follow a step by step process for ensuring that nothing gets left out in the stages of going through the renovation process. So actually, we are constantly upgrading and improving. For example in the last couple of weeks, we have increased our quote sheets that we send out to our vendors, to include some more information requests like for components to products we order. If we miss something on the quote sheet as far as entering a part for (example a light fixture, or a plumbing system that the supplier will mention to us what is needed to go along with what we are ordering. There are also other triggers on the form itself. We are constantly innovating and always upgrading. There is nothing major we expect to roll out in the next 3 to 6 months. We are better every day than we are before.
What do you love most about your business?
I love developing something that is truly world-class. I have a passion for being great at what we do. I think everybody that I work with has the same desire to excel at what we do. I get to facilitate and make that happen and improve things all the time. Since we are not a large company, these improvements don't get bogged down in bureaucracy and take forever to roll out.
We can roll out improvements sometimes in minutes if we have something. I love having the control over growth and coming to work every day and knowing that I am helping a lot of people. Many of whom will be kind of timid to have a renovation done. We get to satisfy them and when we get to the end of the project. They are telling us how much they love their place and how happy they are. It's gratifying.
What Are The Hobbies and Interests of Keith Steier?
I have lots of interests. I am a family guy. I have three little boys at home that are an absolute blast to be around. They drive my wife and me crazy and we also have a splendid time with them. Every day it's something new, and it's always an adventure. Sometimes a headache of course.
I have a lot of hobbies. I love music, and I love to travel of which I don't get to do much of these days. I love sports, love to run and work out. Play baseball and bowl and I like to ski. From volleyball to football. Of course, with a family and business, it's a challenge to make time for everything.
Where can people contact you?
47 East 34th Street
New York, NY
(Between Park Ave. and Madison Ave.)
Call (212) 599-5060 to speak to one of our staff.
Tell them what kind of work you need to have completed. We can arrange for one of our Designer/Project Managers to stop by your home, take a look at the space and talk to you a little more about what you are seeking to accomplish, and then we go from there.
Interviewer: Benson (a/k/a Brooklyn Local Review)
Interviewee: Keith Steier of KnockOut Renovation
Written By: Benson (a/k/a Brooklyn Local Review)
Edited and Proofread By: Keith Steier and Precious Taganas of KnockOut Renovation
Images Provided By: KnockOut Renovation - Keith Steier