Blueprints for Success: The Mitchell Construction Story With Mike Mitchell

April Edwards 0:25 Welcome back to the we love deck builders podcast. I’m your host, April Edwards. And today we have a very special guest, Mike Mitchell from Mitchell construction. He’s the trailblazer in this industry. And we’re really excited to have you thank you so much for joining us, Mike. How are you doing today?

Mike Mitchell 1:00 I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on here. This is this is such a great opportunity.

April Edwards 1:05 For sure. Well, we’re all interested in hearing your story. So I’d like to just start from the beginning. Share with us how Mitchell construction got it start?

Mike Mitchell 1:15 Sure. So my my dad actually started in 1978. And he started the company out doing all different sorts of building through the years, you know, built build houses did remodeling, and through different recessions had to change gears, things like that. And when I got into the picture, it was mostly framing of homes. So I started out as a framer and learned a lot there’s

April Edwards 1:44 And how old were you?

Mike Mitchell 1:45 I was 18.

April Edwards 1:46 Okay

Mike Mitchell 1:48 I should backtrack a little bit actually started in the summers, you know, when I was like 14-16, but full time right out of high school, I was that was my first first real job, I guess, was in construction. So but so much to be learned in that train, you know, there was you learned about bearing points and how to cut roofs and learned about stairs and things like that. They were all great things to learn. And it’s definitely helped my career out. As I started getting further into the company, I I wanted to change the direction a little bit. And we started steering more towards smaller projects more in the backyard and niching down a little bit to kind of be able to focus in order to to grow up. So like we went smaller, and we’re, since

April Edwards 2:40 I can relate to that.

Mike Mitchell 2:43 And what’s really cool about the starting in the framing thing, or a framing aspect is is all of the other trades, you learn about all the other trades, you learn what the electrician needs, you need you learn what the plumber needs, you know what the roofer wants, you know, so all of these things translate into the deck you know, when you’re when you’re adding covered roofs or heaters or, or gas lines for fire pits, things like that. So it’s really cool to have that background.

April Edwards 3:13 So was it a, like an a natural or organic transition into backyards? Or was there anything in particular that really made you want to shift to just focus on decks and outdoor living?

Mike Mitchell 3:26 Yeah, so my, my elder brother worked with us, as well. And he didn’t really didn’t really all work together. Well, you know, so he, he loves construction still and broke off did his own thing. And he’s actually he started in the decking industry. So that was kind of our intro to go in that direction and seeing what’s available and, and the cool projects that can be made. And, and that’s where we started leaving leaving that way. So we kind of had like, a nice, easy transition since there was already some some of that work going on. And

April Edwards 3:58 very cool. Very cool. So you family business, I’m sure that that has its pros and cons.

Mike Mitchell 4:08 Yeah. That’s for sure. It looks more pros than cons.

April Edwards 4:11 Yeah, at least it’s not husband and wife only. That’s a whole different story. Right? Right. So tell us a little bit more about the type of projects that you do, or that you prefer to do and really what makes Mitchell construction unique in that aspect.

Mike Mitchell 4:28 So we really focus on low maintenance. So pretty much every project we do we tailor everything to be able to just enjoy the space instead of instead of working at it. So when basically like when we’re done, you shouldn’t have to do anything to the to the project except for clean it. There are still some some cases where there’s a little bit of a little bit of maintenance, but we really focus on getting rid of the maintenance, enjoying the space and then making the space usable for what you’re planning to do with it. We’re also looking to do more in the backyard. So you know, it starts with the deck but we also do pergolas and louvered roofs and, and covered roofs, all which we focus on all of that being low maintenance or maintenance free, for the most part.

April Edwards 5:16 Yeah. Are you seeing any trends in your area this year?

Mike Mitchell 5:23 So I just mentioned the covered roofs and pergolas, things like that, that has been a big shift we’ve seen to get a lot more requests for like a shaded or covered or, or waterproof area to be able to enjoy that space. You know, how many because the spaces are becoming a little more expensive. Let’s try to use them more than more than just the nicest days.

April Edwards 5:45 So yeah, awesome. Do you have like a memorable project that stands out that would be interesting to hear about

Mike Michell 5:55 memorable memorable project. So I’ve got two that kind of stand out in my mind. One. One was on a lake and it had as like every bell and whistle you can think of with these motorized retractable screens that that came down underneath the deck. Some of them were dual tracks where you could have a TV projector screen or you could roll that up and have an inside screen. That was a really cool project multi level. Really cool view, nice, nice place to work. And probably like my most proud project that was actually something we donated to our local park district. They had a fishing pier that they actually had to tear down because it was so unsafe, but they didn’t have the funds to necessarily rebuild it the way they wanted to. So we donated our time. And we’re able to build a low maintenance projects for the park district. So that was probably one of the coolest things.

April Edwards 6:54 Oh, very cool. I think so you’re like the Hugh Hefner of the Chicagoland area that sounds a little wild. About that. Do you know where I’m going with that?

Mike Michell 7:03 Oh, no.

April Edwards 7:04 So Hugh Hefner’s, the one responsible for redoing the Hollywood sign. It used to be Halloween. Okay. And I found out recently that he did that two times. I think he did it earlier on maybe in the 60s 50s 60s or something and then and I could be completely off so somebody can Google that shit. But I think in the 90s or something, you redid it too, so. So yeah, you’re the Hugh Hefner of Chicagoland area. Giving back to the community. I love it. Awesome. So I’m from a business perspective. I mean, I if you’re anything like me, I’ve learned everything through trial and error seems like, you know, what do you think has been the biggest learning opportunity that you’ve had in your business?

Mike Mitchell 7:54 Like the thing that I guess, that I learned the most I would say probably learning that I don’t have to do everything myself. Being able to delegate being able to train somebody or guide somebody to be able to do something that you would only typically think you could do yourself coming from the carpentry background that I know, that’s a big thing. You know, being being a carpenter and producing the project is one thing, but you cannot you can’t do enough with that. And that took me a long time to learn that I can step back and guide somebody else to do it. The way that I envisioned it and do multiple of those at the same time. So yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing that took the longest to learn from

April Edwards 8:49 Yeah, yeah, that’s good. That’s really that’s hard. Especially I mean, I’m, I completely understand that I started my own business from the ground up and with my own hands, working nights and weekends, and it’s still even a struggle, you know, that, yeah, people will make their own mistakes so that they can learn to you know, and then I think, you know, I have an example that came up where, you know, a team member made made a mistake, and she just felt so bad about it, you know, and I was like, Hey, we’re a team, you know, we’re in this together. And I just thought about the early days when it was all on me, you know, and that’s a lot of pressure. And it still is being a business owner. But it is very nice to have a team where you could bring certain people on that excel in areas that you know, maybe you’re not so good at to, which is nice.

Mike Mitchell 9:39 And sometimes you find out that they’re actually better than you were at it, which is Yes. Which is really cool.

April Edwards 9:45 Yeah, so the theme is, you know, letting go the vine as we call

Mike Mitchell 9:51 it, I’m still I’m still learning that I’m still trying there’s still some things that I’m that I’m holding on to that I had to let go of.

April Edwards 10:00 Yeah, for, sure, for sure. So, um, so I know that you that Mitchell construction has served past your sales goal early this year. What What’s your secret to that?

Mike Mitchell 10:14 So I guess first and foremost, we had, we’ve always had these goals to grow, you know, and growth has been pretty consistent over the years. And in order to do that, you need more, you need more leads coming in, you need more systems put in place to follow up with those leads. And also, at the same time, you want the projects to entail more items. So there’s more that that goes into each sale and the projects get bigger. But I think one of the things that helps us as we, we really make sure that the customer is a good fit for us, and we’re a good fit for the customer. So so we spend a lot of time on the front end, making sure that we’re not wasting each other’s time, like, we don’t want to go out there and go through a whole process and find out that, that they don’t want to work with us, or we don’t want to work with them. So I think that’s helped our sales calls a lot. And, you know, in order for that to work out, you need a lot of a lot of leads coming in, because you’re gonna lose some leads. By working it that way.

April Edwards 11:26 Yeah, I spoke with another builder earlier today. And it’s so interesting how your business evolves, and how, you know, obviously, the problems are different, but your goals kind of change, too. And so a really good example is this deck builder I was speaking to earlier, he wants his close rate to be lower. And it kind of is what you’re saying where you don’t want to work with everybody. And so if your close rate is actually lower, it doesn’t mean that the leads are bad necessarily, it just means that you’ve earned the privilege of being selective is what I like to say. And that’s a good thing. So you know, I live in a world of data and metrics, and you can’t look at it at face value, I’d tell you that.

Mike Mitchell 12:11 And it goes the other way, too. You don’t want a customer that’s going to be unhappy with you, too. So you know, that’s what also leads to success is making sure that they’re going to be happy.

April Edwards 12:22 Yeah. So I know a little bit about your estimating process, too. Do you want to speak to that at all? And how you approach that?

Mike Mitchell 12:32 As far as

April Edwards 12:34 so some builders, this is a conversation I see going on in the Facebook groups a lot where people want to know, do you charge for estimates? Do you not charge for estimates? And it’s something that I’ve heard kind of 50/50, whether one way works or the other? And so it’s just always interesting to hear people’s take on that.

Mike Mitchell 12:54 Gotcha. Yes. So so we do what we’ll do a free estimate over the phone. And you know, sometimes that’s 10 minute conversation, sometimes that’s an hour. Usually it entails getting some pictures sent back and forth, and maybe getting a copy of a plot a survey, something like that. But during that process, we can give a free ballpark estimate. And they’re usually pretty close. And I mean, as long as it’s not a really chopped up situation or, or something where you can’t see all the angles, we can get pretty close. But then to set up the on site consultation, yes, we do, we do have a consultation fee, we currently are putting that towards the project. So if the customer pays the consultation fee, we would apply that towards as like the first payment in a sense. So it’s not like any money out of their pocket if they’re moving forward. But yeah, there is a little fee in order to come out for the initial consultation.

April Edwards 13:50 And how long have I mean, have you seen that that’s made an impact in the business or changed in any way by starting to do that? And how long have you been doing that?

Mike Mitchell 14:01 I want to say it’s been about two years, once we when we first started that a little over two years. And yes, it’s what it does, it’s freed up our time to better help the customers that are actually our customers. So so we’ve been able to lower our prices in a sense because we’re not spending all of these hours chasing leads out in the field that that are not our customers.

April Edwards 14:29 Yeah. And when you say we do you want to talk about your sales team.

Mike Mitchell 14:35 So yeah, this this year, we did one of one of the lead carpenter Foreman wanted to expand into a little bit more of the company and so we we do have him doing some sales and he’s been doing really good.

April Edwards 14:49 Yeah, that’s a big leap wouldn’t you say

Mike Mitchell 14:35 it’s a huge leap. I’m super pumped about it because it’s like that’s, that’s something I’ve, I’ve always looked for somebody that wanted to grow within the company and have other places to go.

April Edwards 15:06 Yeah, I think that’s, at least in my opinion, that’s the hardest component of your business that let go up. You know, I think that I think that US business owners, you know, we understand our customers better than anybody. And it’s, I think that’s kind of the last thing, you know, to hand off, I kind of look at it is your operations, you know, that the construction, or sorry, the admin, you know, get rid of the admin type of stuff, first, get rid of the construction tasks, get rid of your marketing tasks, and then the sales is like the last thing they go, yeah. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s amazing. So with all of these changes, and just your success this year, with, you know, reaching your sales goal or early, how is that personally affected your, your life, your, your personal life.

Mike Mitchell 15:56 I mean, so first of all, I’m just, I’m so like, so happy to be able to provide a space for all of the employees to be able to, to grow and, you know, support their families under our umbrella. So it’s cool that it’s really cool to have that. As far as my personal life, May, maybe it’s been a little busier this year, and then in the past, but I still definitely set aside time for them. So I’m constantly volunteering at the school. And I’m always, I’m always there for games and, and competitions and things like that. And also unfortunate enough to work from home a lot. So a lot of the time when I’m working, I can take little breaks and make sure I’m spending as much time as I can.

April Edwards 16:46 Awesome, that’s so good to hear. It’s, there’s so many sacrifices that we have to make as business owners, then, you know, sacrificing your time with your kids, when you only have them this short period of their lifespan is a really difficult one to do. And it’s always nice to hear, when people can show, you know, be present in those areas. I have a friend that is a pilot, and somehow he has managed to fly or crawl around the world for many years and never miss his kids games. I don’t know how, I don’t know how he’s able to do that. But so perhaps, that’s great.

Mike Mitchell 17:21 And I’m not saying I mean, I still get up in I have to get up at four o’clock in the morning in order to make all that happen. And, you know, there’s there’s definitely some downsides to it, too.

April Edwards 17:31 But yeah, adulting. So getting up at four in the morning, that’s a good segway. I mean, how do you, you know, running a successful business takes a really strong mindset, how do you take care of yourself in order to maintain that?

Mike Mitchell 17:50 So I recently went through the legacy decks experience, and that has kind of changed my my way of taking care of myself, I used to not take care of myself, I should say. And I’m not perfect at it either. But I’ve got in a much better routine of eating healthier exercising, and putting the time into into the family and making more time for that. So part of getting up early is knocking some of those things out before before I start work.

April Edwards 18:28 So yeah, that’s good. And so what is Chris say? He says, take care of the business man before the business plan. That is correct. All right. I love it. I’m so glad you’re following that. And so has your family noticed any difference? Since you’ve started? You know, taking care of the businessman before the business plan?

Mike Mitchell 18:47 Yeah, for sure. It’s, it’s really cool. Some of the things I noticed the most is like when I get notes back from the kids or something, you know, and it’s like, it’s really just so satisfying to see that getting passed on to them without actually having to like do anything. They just learned by example. Right? So right,

April Edwards 19:07 it’s more about what you do, then you say, right, that’s awesome. I do the same thing. I guess I didn’t realize all of the things that Chris was, you know, recommending. And some of those things I was doing from, you know, recommendation from my own business coach. And I have to say the other day, I looked in my son’s drawer because I was stealing his Halloween candy. And I noticed that I noticed that he had all of my notes tucked away and I thought he was just throwing them away. And that just meant so much to me. And I haven’t told Chris yet, but I started a Facebook group for my husband. So I saw awesome cute little videos every once in a while. I don’t do that stuff as much as I did in the beginning because I felt like so I’m talking about notes of gratitude for anybody that’s listening. You know, you send little notes of gratitude to your kids or your significant other, you know, just anybody in general, and doing it every day I felt took away from the, the what’s the word I want to use? Like? Authentic, authenticness of it. I don’t know if that’s the right word I’m trying to say. But so now I do it less frequently, but still frequently. And I feel that, you know, everyone really appreciates it.

Mike Mitchell 20:27 So it’s a good thing. Well, what, what I think is really cool is that it makes you look for the gratitude. So you, you you actually, like, are more proactive in noticing, which is just huge.

April Edwards 20:42 Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I think that it’s easy for us to focus on the negative stuff more than the positive. But if you really stop, you’ll notice there’s a lot of beauty in the world. And just the small little things, you know, like my dog is sticking her head out the window and enjoying the breeze in the car. Living her best life. So what’s next for Mitchell construction, can you give us a sneak peek in the next year and beyond.

Mike Mitchell 21:14 So so we are still we’re still expanding. We recently got a another vehicle it is wrapped and built out. So next year, we’ll be adding a crew. But also, I’m looking to try and take on more more of the backyard. So that’s kind of my focus for 2024 is to take over more of that, that space. And really, really let people know that we can do the covered porches and pergolas and, you know, kitchens and fire pits and things like that. So that’s, that’s where we’re, we’re, we’re kind of hadn’t always want to keep it still in the low maintenance category. So I want to focus it on that. But yeah, so hopefully we can we can keep growing and

April Edwards 22:03 love it. Love it. Love it. So I have to ask you, um, would you have any words of wisdom or advice to give any of our listeners

Mike Mitchell 22:20 I mean, one of the ones that sticks out is know your numbers. And that’s that’s I’ve learned over the last year that that’s not just your profit and loss. But but know, know, your close rate know, your leads coming in know, how many of those are qualified? And where do they come from? Where are you spending your money and things like that? So yeah, I’d say knowing your numbers all around is, is not an easy thing to say. But but it should be adapted early.

April Edwards 22:54 Yeah. Awesome. Very cool. Well, um, do you have anything else that you would like to close out with any anything else about your journey or anything coming up that you want to share?

Mike Mitchell 23:11 I mean, we saw I do write a column in the deck specialist magazine with my friend Andy from hen house decks. That’s been a really cool. So it’s just a kind of a way to give back to the industry and share some some products and technologies that we use in our might be coming out. And it’s, it’s really been a lot of fun. And with within some of that same circle, we have a panel discussion or two coming up at the deck Expo in Las Vegas. So if you if you’re there, come check that out.

April Edwards 23:56 Did you say a panel or two others?

Mike Mitchell 23:59 We’re gonna be in two two roundtables. Yeah.

April Edwards 24:01 And you and Andy are doing that together?

Mike Mitchell 24:05 Well, there’s some others.

April Edwards 24:07 Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Cool. And then if, if can you tell our listeners the best way to get in touch with you and where they should go to follow your journey?

Mike Mitchell 24:20 Yeah, absolutely. The best is @ mitcondecks. A lot of people know us as that. So any of our social handles is @ mitcondecks.

April Edwards 24:29 Cool. All right. Well, thank you so much for sharing your stories and your insights with us. For our listeners, make sure that you tune in to our next episode, and always keep moving forward. Thank you.

Mike Mitchell 24:45 Thanks for having me.

April Edwards 24:46 So good to see you. We’ll see you next week.

Mike Mitchell 24:51 Yeah, that’s right.

April Edwards 24:52 Okay. Thanks, Mike.


April Edwards

Owner & Lead Marketing Strategist
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