Building Solid Ground: Craftsmanship and Connections

April Edwards 0:42 Hey, welcome back to We Love Deck Builders your go to podcast for mastering the business side of decking. I’m April Edwards, CEO and growth strategist at deck builder marketers and I’m here to guide you to help you build the business you truly deserve.

Now, we recorded this episode before and we had a little bit of a technical glitch. So I owe it to Tara and Tommy to give them the best intro possible. So I’m really recording it today to give them the props they deserve. So in this episode, we have Tara and Tommy from solid ground. They are the dynamic duo, who has built a standout company specializing in custom deck building backyard patios, outdoor kitchens and luxury pergola serving the vibrant communities of St. Louis and St. Charles. What sets them apart, though, and I’m so excited for you guys to like, feel this, when you listen to the episode. It’s what sets them apart. It’s not just their unparalleled craftsmanship, but it’s their deeply rooted values of honesty, dependability, and trustworthiness, and I’m telling you, you’re you’re going to, you’re going to see this, you’re going to hear it, you’re gonna see it, you’re gonna hear it.

So listen, stay tuned. But they are a Duralife deck specialists of the year and they were voted best deck builders in St. Louis, they’ve not only set the bar for high quality, but have also mastered the art of turning clients into family friends, through exceptional communication and service. Being a veteran owned business, adds to their strong foundation of integrity, and excellence.

So listen in, we’re gonna dive into the journey of solid ground, we’re going to talk about the secrets to their success, you’re gonna get to know Tara and Tommy, what their future visions are, and more. So what I’m excited for you to learn is what their personal touch is that makes working with them feel like joining a family there.

So why don’t we start by just talking about the beginning? What you know, motivated you guys and inspired you to start this journey?

Tara 3:00 Of course, you said that, I’m sure. I mean, I guess the journey really started when he was younger. Yeah, your mom and dad in new business, the family business that you own, if you want to talk a little bit about that? Yeah,

Tommy 3:14 I mean, I think I started like a lot of builders, like just tinkering with stuff. I mean, as a kid building a fort or playground type stuff was just commonplace. You know, I think statute of limitations has passed, but like stealing scrap lumber off the job sites and building forts and ramps and, you know, whatever. But I think I learned at a young age that I really liked. Liked, being outside I liked the, I like to build. And I liked working with people. I really, you know, working in the restaurant industry, I love like the, just the, the camaraderie you had in the kitchen, the the, the fun banter you would have with certain clients, and it was just, it was fun. And I think a lot of that experience, both in the restaurant world for both of us. I think that melded me into who I am for sure. And the building side of things, you know, working with my dad, my, my dad was, he was good at everything. Anything he did. He was like, when I say he was the best at something. I mean, he works so very hard to become the best at something. And if he didn’t know how to do something, he just, he researched it and he figured it out. He built the house that I grew up in and as a kid, that was just that was just the norm like everybody build stuff. I didn’t think that was out of the ordinary. And I was literally I was probably in my late 40s Before the Um, I guess the, the impact of that really hit me, I realized at, you know, well in my 40s, that my dad who I just thought he was just a carpenter his whole life. Well, he built a 4000 square foot story and a half cathedral ceiling home, we had 20 foot ceilings in my bedroom, like that. I mean, it was, it was insane. And when he built this house, he’d never built the house before. It wasn’t like he was in the construction world. And he built that, you know, he just, you know, and when asked people, you know, like, how do you know how to build a house, he’s like, Well, I saw one before. And that was really his kind of take on everything. So growing

April Edwards 5:47 My grandfather was exactly the same. Like, almost to the tee, the same story was my grandfather. He built his big great room, that, you know, replace the old family will actually turn the patio into a, what they call a great room, you know, and stuff so.

Tommy 6:02 And it’s fascinating, like, you see something like that come together, especially as a kid. It’s just normal, like, my grandpa built a great room. So what doesn’t everybody do that. But then you become an adult. And I think the world tries to teach us that we can’t do things. But my whole life, I was told, not only that I can, but like, I’ve watched somebody do everything he set out to do. So it was just, it didn’t even seem like that big of a deal building.

Tara 6:36 It was natural. like, so natural. And we both have fathers that were, you know, they just they did things and they excelled at it. My background, my father, he entrepreneurship. You know, he was in the union, he worked H back. And one day I was about 15. And he’s like, Tara, I’m going to own my own company. I need your help. And I’m like, let’s do it. And he’s been going strong for over 30 years. And now he’s opening up his own training facility. So yeah, it’s really deeply rooted between the two of us and where our, our passion comes from. And it just was handed down to us, I think.

April Edwards 7:10 Amazing. So did you did you guys meet in the restaurant industry?

Tara 7:17 Well, kind of not in it. I was on it. And I was going to restaurants adjacent adjacent. Yeah, I was I was still bartending and I was going to school. And he would, he would wait for me to get off work. So sometimes two, three o’clock in the morning. Yeah. Yeah, it was. It was such a lifestyle.

Tommy 7:38 But it really blew me off for a long time. He broke it out.

Tara 7:40 I I didn’t care for home, right.

April Edwards 7:45 Oh my god, what is going on here, this is the same story with me too. And my husband. I was I was a bartender, and he would pick me up at two in the morning. And one time he picked me up in his pajama pants, the had polar bears on him. And he ended up getting pulled over, You can’t make that up.

Tara 8:02 Great love story.

April Edwards 8:09 I love that. But it’s interesting. I so also, same story, I worked every position in the back of the house, I wanted to be a culinary chef at one point, I worked every single position since I was 13. And then back of the house in front of the house, and I feel that that molded me a lot too. There’s a lot of independence, especially when you’re living off of tips to provide good service and be a hard worker. And then I think you also learn how to multitask and put up with a lot of shifts. And so

Tommy 8:49 feel it gives you the like, in the restaurant world you see every every walk of life, every personality, every attitude, Oh, yeah. And, you know, it teaches you how to communicate without just, you know, just losing your temper and like shutting down eating or I use that term loosely, but leading from a dictatorship, rather than leading from a position of leadership. And you know, I’ve I’ve had some great leadership in my life that has shown me how you bring people with you. You don’t tell people what to do you show them how you know how to be successful with whatever you’re doing. If you’re the dishwasher, I want to be the best dishwasher, you’ve got, you know, and if you want me to whatever, like anything, any step of the way, I want to I want to be successful in that career path or in that position, or whatever it is, and and it’s been awesome. I mean, we’ve been able to kind of instill that. I mean, definitely instill that in our kids. I’m so sure. As well, as you’ve been, you know,

Tara 10:04 I think ,I think that’s one of the main reasons why we are so close with our clients is that we, you know, we treat them like human beings, we treat them like friends and family. We grew up in the hospitality industry, and everyone was just connected. And yeah, I think a lot of dealing with service servicing the public that definitely teaches you how to manage conflict as well. So, definitely,

April Edwards 10:29 When to say things and when not to say things?

Tara 10:32 Yes. Oh, yeah. Or when I grabbed his leg?

Tommy 10:38 I can struggle with that a little bit.

April Edwards 10:40 Yeah, we all have our own communication styles. And then there’s those people like I used to say that, you know, they would, sometimes you’re like, did you just come out to eat just to complain? Like, do you ever actually go out to enjoy yourself? And there’s, you know, in business. So,

Tommy 10:59 Yeah, you can always I think you can. People that have worked in that industry, they just carry themselves differently when they’re out. They know what it feels like to be busy and not be able to catch up. They know what it feels like to not be busy, but to mess up. And then it’s like a snowball effect. Like you messed up this tables, drink order, and then their appetizers didn’t get out. And then there, whatever. And it just keeps going. Yeah. But the people that have experienced that can kind of sit back and be like, I mean, we’ve been out before. Tara, grab a waitress, or waiter or waitress and be like, just take a breath. You’re good. Just go reset. Yeah. And they’re just like, oh, my gosh, and, and then you see, like this huge transformation in their, like, their persona or demeanor. Yeah. And it’s because we’ve been there. Yeah. You know, and, you know, if you take that in every aspect, I mean, just take a breath, slow down. Gotta be fine. Yeah,

Tara 11:59 I think it’s taught us a lot how to forward think. Because you’re, you’re trying to plan. Yeah. So that has a lot to do with our foundation and our companies, knowing the next steps that we need to take, you know, internally and externally product wise, employee wise. So there’s also the, what I call the bartender’s peripheral vision. You just, you have like, this intuition that needs around you. And you know, like, something’s going on over here that I need to take care of. I know exactly how to take care. So yeah, you develop that, and turn that into a skill set for your company. Yeah,

April Edwards 12:32 yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting. I know that. I mean, now that you say that, I feel like I’ve probably battled that a lot. Because it’s that it’s that multitasking personality where like, you’re kind of doing something right now. But you’re knowing what needs to be done next. Oh, that’s interesting. That See, I love these conversations. That’s crazy.

Tara 12:50 I didn’t think it was gonna go here, but yeah.

April Edwards 12:54 Well, um, so tell. Tell us a little bit more about how Solid Ground started, when, and kind of what those initial years were like.

Tara 13:05 Of course, we started, it was probably around. Oh, 08-09 Tommy and his dad was working on our deck for our home. And at the time, you were in sales, right? Yeah, you were in sales. And I was in corporate finance was my my background. And I come home from work and I just watched this build happen. And I was just amazed at how much they would put into it and how detail it was. And one day I’d come home and it’s done. And I’m just like, big, this is what you need to be doing for a living. Like seriously, this is so good. And it kind of started from there. We started a company barefoot decks and yeah, that was I guess that was that was the trigger that

Tommy 13:48 It evolved from that. It and it was it was a gorgeous deck it I mean it was multiple inlays it 45 From the center about 1000 square foot deck. Or I guess the original deck was about seven 700 plus all picture framed in I mean the things that were the most deck builders are doing today but you know, it was just it was fun. It was I really enjoyed the build it was an all cedar deck. I was you know, I love wood. I can geek out over the wood grains and patterns and colors of wood. We don’t do any wood decking, no wood framing anymore like everything on our job site is all steel framing, all composite decking all metal rail, but I do love the beauty of wood it just unfortunately has no place outside anymore and that just doesn’t last but but you know she she said like the origin is really all her she kind of said hey, this is this is what you should be doing and I’m like you’re nuts. Like you’re like, I thought she was completely out of her mind. Because, again, backing up to, you know, my childhood or growing up, like, if you wanted a deck, you just built a deck, if you wanted anything, you just built it. You didn’t hire somebody to come out and build a deck and I didn’t even I couldn’t wrap my head around that being a profitable business, which I’m glad I listened. But I really felt like, you know, how do you hire somebody to come build it? Didn’t you just go build it? So I didn’t see that as a marketable thing.

April Edwards 15:38 am sorry, I just I love how most you deck builders are so modest. Right? Here you are, it’s your first deck, you put in every level of creativity possible to push the boundaries, like even to build a deck, you did all these extra things. And your wife saw the magic happened. And you’re like, still?

Tommy 16:00 Yeah, yeah, but I think it’s, um, so I think a lot of the deck builders that that we kind of associated with are like the circles that you and we run in there more than deck builders, they’re artists. And I think that’s probably the hang up that a lot of us have, like hypercritical of our own work. You know, people throw around the term impostor syndrome a lot. And it’s almost getting cliche, like you want to say that you have it even if you don’t, and, but I think in in the artists realm and in the, you know, the deck builders that are truly artists, I think they 100% suffer from that and struggle with that, because you just, we take for granted what we can do all of us what we can do well, Tara can run a business like no other like, business side of things. It’s all her. April. I don’t know, I don’t know what my house payment has been. The last 25 years

Tara 17:07 Don’t admit this

Tommy 17:07 none of it, I don’t know what, you know, people always say, you know, Chris Breen talks heavily about know your numbers, know your numbers, know your numbers. I don’t mind numbers. I know what my closing percentages are. I know what my, like how many sales I need. I know what our profit of profitability is. But like money in the bank, I don’t need to know it. Like she’s got that. That’s, that’s her realm, if you will. And it works great. Because she is, I mean, I do. A lot of just, you know, she got me to get out of my way. Yeah, I did. And that was 2021. Yeah, it was huge. Like, so

Tara 17:50 we had a plan, we had a plan in 2021, we still had five years of this plan. And we had the idea that we were I was going to retire my corporate career, and just help run the business. And in 2021, I started seeing the changes. And it’s unfortunate, because it’s during, you know, COVID, but I was seeing the changes of people wanting to invest more in their homes, wanting to invest more outdoors. And I’m like, You know what, this, the move needs to happen now, because there’s an opportunity, I just, I feel it. So in October 2021, I retired my my corporate side and went full on into the business, and basically told him, you’re gonna have to step out of the way, you’re gonna have to allow us to work together, and you’re also gonna have to allow others to come in and work for us. Otherwise, we’re not going to we’re not going to grow, we’re not going to be anywhere. And our ultimate goal is to leave something for our kids and our grandkids. So, and it’s happened. Yeah, it’s happened. We did I think we did at a great time. I don’t regret not doing it sooner, because I feel like everything I learned along the way, being in finance operations I’m able to put into the company. So it’s been a great journey. It might have been a little bit slow at times. But yeah, every step of the way we’ve enjoyed and I have to be surprised I enjoy working with him.

Tommy 19:13 Oh, I’m a lot of fun.

Tara 19:15 Let me die. Whoa, do we have another hour?

April Edwards 19:20 It works. It works surprisingly well. For some people. I cannot work with my husband. He’s a client. And now my team works with them. And I don’t have to work with them. Yeah. So interestingly enough, there was a post that Brendan Casey put on NADRA connect last week or this week, just talking about a one man band, you know, and, you know, just interested to see how many people are, you know, running their business in that way. And I think that a lot of people struggle to let go the vine is what we say because it’s is hard. I mean, it is, you know, and I’m just like, Look, you got to know that you’re never going to hire somebody that’s as good as you. I mean, you will eventually, but you need to step into it with the expectation that you’re only going to get 80% out of them that you would do, you know, and it’s so much just, it’s so much personal training to be able to let go. And then to have your processes and all of those things down in a way that you can hand it off. And other people can rinse, wash and repeat. And it’s not like, inefficient with two people doing the same job. But I, I feel like that’s one of the hardest things for business owners to do. Is that initial step of letting go the vine? Yeah.

Tara 20:44 Right. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think one of our, our golden rules, especially when we’re hiring, whether it’s in house or out in the field, is I’m hiring my replacement. So to me, I’m looking at this person as myself. So I’ve got to give them the tools, the education and skills to be able to do it. And I think going into that, with that mindset really, truly helps keep the confidence, keep the trust, and eventually allowing you to let go. Yeah, so hire your replacement. Yeah. Yeah, whether is out in the field or inside, hire your replacement.

Tommy 21:21 And even, you know, we, our teams are taught that, like, each person on the team is taught, they need to train their replacement, because they’re not, they’re not long for that position, like, yeah, their goal should be to move up, and whether it’s move up with this company, or to something else, don’t stay here, wherever here is. And, you know, it doesn’t matter what the income level is, or the expertise level or whatever, but just improve get better. And, you know, we certainly hire on hoping that someone makes a career out of this, and, you know, they retire from our business one day. But you know, the reality is, a lot of these guys are wrong, and you know, wish them the best we got, we’ve got a great opportunity to get people introduced to the trades, we have, we have such a shortage of, of people that are willing to go out and do the work that was, quite honestly looked down upon for so many years, you know, the ditch diggers of the world, you know, is how we’ve always been looked at and treated like I swing a hammer for a living, but I swing a hammer on your $2 million home, want to come in here and swing a hammer with me. Like, that’s really that’s where we’ve got. But for many years, and even for me coming up in the industry, it was, you know, as a kid, I knew I had to go to college to be successful. And that’s just not the case. There are a lot of kids out there, like me that, you know, did fine in school, just don’t want to stay in school, you know, don’t want to be in an office setting, even though I’m in an office setting. But swinging a hammer, I’ve never had so much enjoyment out of a job than building be able to step back and look at a project and say, You know what, I built that. That is a feeling that I mean that. Literally, it gives me chills just thinking about that. And we’re able to give that to the people on our team. And when you when you kind of see that, that fire in somebody, they’re like, they step back, and they’re like, Oh, yeah. And they’re like, look at this, you know? It’s awesome.

April Edwards 23:45 Yeah. Well, that’s a good segue way for, if you could undertake any project without any limitations, kind of like your dream project, what do you what do you think it’d be? What would that look like?

Tara 23:56 It’s in my backyard.

Tommy 23:59 It’s funny. So that changes. That changes with the as the seasons change, you know, like, welI remember when the thought was man, if I could just land a $30,000 deck, like, oh, my gosh, a $30,000. Can you imagine what we could do with a $30,000 deck, you know, and now you’re going back 15 years, but you know, now 30,000 is about where we start, usually little north of 30. So the projects have gotten bigger. The quality is good. Quality has definitely gotten better. But what would be an ideal, like a dream job? I like the jobs that people kind of allow themselves to dream a little bit but not those are incredible. Yeah. As you know, you, you pull away the limitations in their mind’s eye, and teach them that, you know, I talk to people about this a lot like anything that you’ve talked to another builder about, and they say, No, you can’t do that, throw that out, let’s just start fresh, because I promise you, if you can, if you can imagine what something will look like, there is engineering available to make it a reality. Now, it may not fit their budget, that’s a completely different story. But allow something else to be the limiting factor. Don’t let your imagination be the limiting factor. And that’s why you’ve got guys like Brendan Casey that are slamming out beautiful projects, you got guys like John Lee, that are slamming out beautiful projects that are just, they’re incredible. They are pieces of art. That is that that is just fascinating to be able to create something like that for someone. No, I can’t. I don’t know how I can be any more thankful, just for the opportunity to be able to do that in someone’s backyard. It’s, it’s awesome. It really is.

April Edwards 26:16 I mean, I think the best part of it is like, yes, you’re building things. And yes, you’re, you know, swinging a hammer, but you’re creating experiences for people to enjoy, you know, it brings families together, it allows, the platform for that were we to connect with the outdoors, like there’s so many wonderful things that come from not only just having a beautiful deck that, you know, impresses the Joneses, or whatever, but it’s something you know, people really enjoy. But based off of that, I would, I would think that maybe what you really enjoy the most is solving those problems and putting the puzzle together based off of the pieces that your client gives you.

Tommy 27:00 See, so that’d be accurate.

April Edwards 27:02 Yeah, love that. So, um, you guys are a family run business, I checked out some of your video testimonials, which they have a really good resource for getting all their video footage, I definitely recommend that you go on the website and check it out. Because it really it’s kind of one of these things where you need to spend almost as much time on promoting and documenting your work as doing it. And I think it’s been pretty impressionable to see the video work that you have. But they have video testimonials, which are really great. And I’m saying that in a way for our listeners to understand how the extra step and to get things like that. Because it’s like real, tangible social proof of what you guys can do not just looking at the pictures, because in my opinion, 50% of what we do is the service that we provide in the field, the way that we make people feel in my business, it’s eliminating anxiety about their investment, you know, and helping them understand some of these nerdy things that we do. And then the other 50% is in the results. And that’s just how I approach things. But a couple of your the sense that I got is that you guys really build long lasting relationships with your clients, and you don’t look at them as just clients. But as friends and I, one of your clients say, a family friend, I mean, that is a hell of a testimony. So I guess like just with all of that said, What, what’s on your mind? What what do you think would be helpful to…? You know, to pick out of that and tell the audience?

Tara 28:53 Yeah, I think you touched on it a little bit, the last conversation, it’s about experience, you know, this is not just, we don’t go in and just build something for someone, we want to make this a part of their life, they want it, we want to make them a part of the experience as well. We want them to be the dreamers. We want them to be part of the building. And we like to make sure they understand what they’re getting and their education and of the product. But I want them to feel comfortable through the whole process. You know, I don’t want you know, my crew just to be there. And they hide in their house. You don’t peek out a little bit like they literally will go outside and hang out with them. Sometimes they’ll bring them lunch. Yeah, we have kids. You always say it’s a babysitting gig sometimes because the kids will sit there and just watch you know, watch the crew order. But it’s just it’s keep it’s putting it’s taking them putting them into our lives into the project you know, so it’s just a lot of sharing a lot of experience building. Yeah, yeah, it’s

Tara 29:54 it made some great for him

Tommy 29:55 You really do have the opportunity to meet. You meet a lot of people and The guy that I know which video you’re talking about, and he was, he was a great guy, he passed away a couple years ago. And, you know, like, you stay in contact with these people, you’re, you’re part of their lives for like this, this little blip of time while you’re building. And like, even our crew is like, Man, I don’t want to leave like this is I love this family, you know, or this couple, or oh my gosh, the dogs, like, the dogs, just they become our crews, pets, you know. But you know, you do like, you get invites to barbecues, you get invites to, you know, family parties.

Tara 30:43 You know, negative side, you do get information, if something happens to the family, we get told, like there’s a passing and there’s funeral services. And I hate to make it dark, but it means a lot, it means that, you know, they care about us as much as we care about them.

Tommy 31:00 Yeah, it’s, it’s tough, you know, and, like, from a business standpoint, like you’re you’re there to, to make a business to run a business. But you can’t do this job without the human side without the emotion and the connections. Not in the way we do not in the way that builders that are building at this level, do you, you just automatically have a connection with these people? Like you have to get to know them, you have to know. You know how they want to use the space? You know, do you have? You know, do you have a two bedroom home? That it’s a vacation home that you’re wanting to do something on? Or is this a six bedroom home? You’ve got you know, kids or grandkids? Who’s going to use this space? How are you going to whatever. So you really take a deep dive into their lives a little bit. And find out what their what their use is going to be. You know, and then years go by, and you’re just still sharing Facebook messages or whatever. Yeah, like, and a lot of times we call back, you know, the, to do things, we’ve got a project coming up that it’s our third time back to this home. And it’s each project is their substantial projects. And they call us when they need an HVAC person or electrician or roofer or a sighting. And I think that is

Tara 32:41 Proof of our integrity.

Tommy 32:43 Yeah, like that shows that that says,

Tara 32:46 They trust our judgment. Yeah, they come to us for advice, even beyond the outdoor living space.

April Edwards 32:53 Very similar in my court, I love how our businesses are the same. I mean, whenever we have a two hour on planning call with our clients, and I always say we need to understand you intimately. If we are going to put a solution together, it’s based off of your vision, and you know, what makes you different. And so it’s the same with you guys like you, you have to understand them on a personal level, what they like, what they don’t like, what they you know, what their family situation is, like, if in order to build them something that maybe they didn’t even think about, you know, and you could bring those ideas to the table if you have that information. So pretty cool. I love the sharing of the Facebook posts and stuff is really cool. Do you think that you have like a process in terms of communication touchpoints to really nurture the relationship as you go? Is it kind of more of an organic? You know, maybe you haven’t thought about it? But I bet you guys, I bet you guys check in and do certain things that are stand out?

Tara 34:00 Yeah, we I think it’s more organic, we don’t really have a process. We have a journal, like we need to make sure that we’re having these communications these conversations at these points in time. But we don’t have it laid out we do a checklist talking about it’s Well, it is organic. And then we just kind of remind each other like, hey, we need to make sure we tell tell tell them about this process. And we tell them about this. And a lot of times it’s just how, how would we want communication as a customer, like, I don’t want to be left in the dark. So all the time, it’s like hey, let’s send them a quick text or an email or you know, through our CRM

Tommy 34:38 and now yeah, you know, to give a quick plug to Job tread Yeah, that that’s been a game changer. For me. keeping things organized. You know, I the, again, this was her thing that’s, you know, the business side of things. She felt that we needed that. I’ve got a notepad, I’ve got a phone, that’s all I need.

Tara 35:08 So don’t even get me started with a notepad oh my gosh,

Tommy 35:16 but you know, I’m using using anything that any type of system like everybody develops their system, they know what works well for them. Yeah. But that was just more of a getting out of my own way. Trying something new and being, we’ve been very successful with it

Tara 35:31 Communication with our customers. Yeah, they feel like they can get to us anytime a day. And we make sure they can like we tell them like it’s okay. If you text us at night or on the weekends, we’re here for you. If you have any questions or thought, you know, if we don’t get back to you right away, it’s fine. We’ll get back to you the next day. But, you know, we, I don’t know, I think it goes back to our hospitality. Yeah, like, we’re just one of those servers and those bartenders, I want to make sure that you’re taking care of Do you need anything else, how’s your meal going? It’s kind of like that, I think that’s where it comes from?

April Edwards 36:01 Well, we work with our clients for years, you know, and so we have kind of a profile for everyone in terms of what their communication preferences are like, because some clients don’t want you to talk to them all the time, and other people do. And some, of course, we have all these different ways to communicate text, phone call, email, all of this. So we document all of that, so that when anybody when ever anybody from the team reaches out, we know how many times to how to, you know, even, like, do they need a lot of information or a little information, and it’s very white glove and kind of organic, and that standpoint, we have a CX rep, that’s her sole job is just to make sure that our clients are happy. And I tell her I’m like, you’re kinda like Santa Claus. I’m a little jealous of your job. Yeah, give them gifts and you know, celebrate wins with them. And

Tara 36:57 Oh my gosh, that’s the deal, Sicilian mother of one of the restaurants I worked at, she’d walk around and make sure everyone was okay. Like she was making sure everybody was alright.

Tommy 37:12 the sage, it does, you know, that set the mood of the ambiance, whatever, like, and that’s what people are coming for, you know, it’s that, that personal feel that personal touch. They don’t want to be a number, they want to be treated, like they matter,

Tara 37:28 They’re investing in us, they’re not just investing in the product they are investing in us as humans, as people and we want to make sure that they get they get their money’s worth.

April Edwards 37:39 Yeah awesome. Well, every business has its ups and downs and challenges. And so having done this for so long is there, like a particular obstacle that you think would be beneficial to, you know, talk to the audience about, you know, you overcoming it kind of a hard, hard lesson to learn that maybe somebody could benefit from

Tommy 38:02 I mean, so, I mean, I kind of touched on getting out of your own way. Yeah. But I think that is that can be at so many different things, not just, you know, not just growing to, you know, from one truck to 12 trucks, but, you know, just any growth is uncomfortable. For me, it really getting out of my own way should have happened years earlier than it did. But I was, I felt like, no one’s gonna, like use it, no one’s going to do it as well as I did. And that’s just not true. If I, if I teach the way I like things done. And I teach that to the people that are working with us on our teams, and we keep working at tournaments and giving them the tools they need to be successful, you’re going to have a successful business. And I think we all have our talents. And just because you can build a beautiful deck doesn’t mean you have any business being in business. But you can build a beautiful deck and hire somebody that knows how to run a business. And you know, and create a very successful business it just, you know, not trying to wear every hat but I did for so long. You know, just and it was my baby you know, we started this business, but it became my baby and there was very much a control exactly, but like the fear of of it not being right not being told the customer it was going to be.

Tara 39:52 we were so scared about being judge. Like someone wasn’t call you out and say, Oh, this is the work you do.

Tommy 40:03 Yeah.

April Edwards 40:05 It’s your reputation, It’s everything I mean everything. So that’s Yeah, completely understandable for sure. And I think, um, I think it takes like really evaluating the tasks and things that you’re doing and putting them in quadrants, you know, like, what do you love to do? What do you hate to do? What are you good at? And what are you not good at? And then you can kind of figure out how to delegate from there.

Tara 40:33 Yes, SWOT analysis. Yeah,

Tommy 40:36 I think giving our, you know, we’ve empowered our employees. Our teams are empowered to make decisions that, you know, decisions that they know to make. Yes. If you know, they know that if a board was cut, and it’s not right, it’s not perfect. It’s not a question, take the board out, put a new board in, I don’t care what the expense was. Learn why that happened. Why was that cut the way it was? Sometimes it’s just an error, like we all can make a bad cut. But it doesn’t pass muster, it doesn’t go on the deck, it doesn’t go to the clients build, you know, we’ve talked extensively about people will notice how much work does not go into something, but they rarely notice how much work goes into something. So I mean by that is, like if if you’re working so diligently to make this perfect cut, or this perfect detail, they’re just like, yeah, that looks really good. They don’t know if it took you the first try. Or if it took you, you know, 10 hours to make this just right. But when you don’t make that perfect cut, they know you didn’t take any time they know that it was an imperfect cut, and you just allow that to happen. Yeah. So you know, our teams know that. Whatever it takes make it right.

Tara 42:03 We encourage them to, you know, yeah, they might have questions that come to us about it. But we asked them, What are your thoughts? What would you do in this situation? Don’t just come to us with a problem. Come to us with some options, you know, solutions, so that way it helps them develop their their themselves professionally, too.

April Edwards 42:23 Yeah, yes, good. You are Family, man and woman, you’ve got grandbabies, right? We do. Yes. So how, how do you balance, you know, personal life with running a business?

Tara 42:41 Stop my calendar. Yeah, everyone tends to make fun of my calendar, because it is a fairly large widget on my phone. And everything is color coordinated, but for a reason. And if it’s not on my calendar, a lot of times it won’t happen. But I’ve gotten used to calendar sharing and showing him how to use it. So that’s one thing I think that keeps us on task for the most part. But we make sure we have our time. I like to plan every month, a date night or a date day. And make sure that our planet six, seven months out in advance, and it makes sure that we have that time together. We have specific times that we you know, do enjoy with the grandbabies. It’s our days. But there’s a lot of times you like last minute calls, like, Hey, you want to babysit? Absolutely. I will change everything. family first? Yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s, it is challenging. But there, there’s times that we have to be able to tag each other in and out. So I have to go to him and say, Okay, I need a minute, I need to tag out I need to work. Can you take this over. And we don’t expect each other to solely do a you’re just gonna take care of this part of the family. And I’m going to take care of this part of the family, we share. We share you duties, we shared responsibilities. So there’s no expectation like, I feel like I’m stuck. Or if you’re feeling stuck in that we can tag to each other and say, Hey, I need you to take Riley to football practice. And I’ve got to work on this. And yeah, so it works. It’s nice. Yeah, yeah,

Tommy 44:19 I think the calendar for sure. The calendar is my bet is if it’s on my calendar, it doesn’t exist. And I mean, that will hardly

April Edwards 44:28 Wait, hold on is my husband listening?. Do you hear that? Isaac, do you hear that

Tommy 44:35 Should we call him really quick?, the live chat. It does. I mean, we were we were laying in bed the two nights ago probably and I just, you know, realize I’ve got some time on Friday. I want to plan a lunch with my daughter and you know, I want to go see her and do I’ve got some stuff to do at her house. So it goes on my calendar. So, I texted our daughter and said, Hey, I got an hour here or whatever, and I’m gonna come over, let’s grab lunch. And but it immediately has to go on my calendar. Because if it doesn’t, Friday will come and go. And she’ll be like that we still doing this, and I’ll be in, you know, a job site somewhere, whatever. So there’s that the, but we also do a lot together. I mean, she and I will, you know, whatever, if she’s going to the grocery store, I’m going to the grocery store, like we’ll run together. Even if it’s only 15 minutes, like, dating, like, I’m old, what do you want. But it’s, you know, I need that time I need that decompression with my wife. And she’s not my business partner. At that time. She’s, you know, she’s just my wife. And it’s fantastic. You know, doing things like going to yoga together, like, Yes, I do yoga. And it’s great. Like, I don’t want to do it, you know, I don’t want to work out or do yoga, or do a lot of the things that I do. But I have to for my own health that has to be scheduled. If I don’t schedule time to go to yoga or whatever, it’s just not going to happen. You know, the chiropractor, whatever. It’s just, it’s got to be on my calendar. And it’s pretty much everything on my agenda is on my calendar.

Tara 46:34 And I think also be, we allow others to help. So if we can’t do something, you know, we allow our crews to take care of something or our kids take care of something. It’s, it’s been, it’s been able to say, You know what, I can’t take care of this all on my own. I gotta have the help. I gotta have that village, because it really does take a village, for sure.

April Edwards 46:58 Do you guys, uh, by the way, it was sounds like you are wonderful life partners, business partners. And I think that’s really key. Yeah, I mean, hey, this is real life, right?

Tara 47:09 I know, I know.

April Edwards 47:10 But it’s interesting, because my, my husband and I, we run our own businesses, we don’t run a business together. But we spend a lot of time talking about business together, because it just makes sense. I mean, it’s hard. It’s not easy. And we run into problems every day. And so I I, I understand about going to the grocery store together and having those 15 Just pick out food together and how I feel like a little bit of a date. He wanted me to go to the carwash with them the other day to wash the RV, I had to decline but it’s similar situation. Um, so I guess, do you have any advice for the trade anybody that is looking to, you know, move their business to the next level, um, anything outside of what we have already talked about today.

Tara 48:09 I mean, I think for the most part, just trust yourself, I have some, surround yourself with like minded people. I mean, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it doesn’t matter what job you’re in. If you surround yourself by the people that you want to be and aspire to be. It will make you more successful. You want to be successful without it. But being around the people that you are like minded definitely helps with your success. And it really helps with your confidence. It helps with your encouragement helps you be motivated. It helps you competition like me competitive like, oh, I want to do that. So it’s nice, it definitely surround yourself with the like minded successful people.

Tommy 48:52 Yeah, for sure. Yep. I, so we were not there this year. Will it’s a annual event for us. And I’m sitting there and it’s like you’re surrounded by the best of the best. And, you know, you’re in this room and like you’re watching some of the wild builds that have been done. And like in your little bubble of the world, things are built the same way. Like nobody in St. Louis is building anything different than anybody else in St. Louis. They might be bigger, smaller, might have more details, whatever. But it’s, it’s pretty much it like you’re not going to evolve into bigger if you don’t venture outside of your own bubble. When we were first introduced to NADRA you meet people that struggle with the same things you do. You realize that no matter how big their businesses, they have the same challenges. They might just be exponentially greater because it’s an excellent As a larger business, but it’s, it’s the same thing trying to schedule time with your wife or your husband is just as difficult at different levels until you figure out how to do it. You know, there’s, there’s guys in different parts of the country and different parts of the world that I am able to pull inspiration from, that I never would have seen, had I not been in a group of like minded individuals and NADRA is a type of organization that gave me that. So yeah, and this year, I think I was talking to Lainie, about she was asking me what I felt about NADRA, and like, the impact that it’s had on our business. And I said, you know, Lainie, I wish I found it 15 years ago when we started, because we would have been further along in our journey. You know, I love where we are today. But if you want a cheat sheet, go to NADRA, join NADRA and and learn from the people that already cut the path.

Tara 51:05 And don’t be prideful. Yeah, connect, make those connections, even if you feel like they might be competitors. I think our best I guess motivators is our competitors. Yeah, the more that we we learn from each other. And don’t be afraid to connect with those individuals and, and learn from them and give them support and ask for support back. It’s, it’s very hard to think that way. But there’s no reason that we can’t, there’s so much out there, there’s enough business for us all. But there’s just no reason that you should act like you’re in this alone, because you’re not

Tommy 51:37 and I think everybody that I know, in this industry that I know, on a personal level, they truly want to see us successful, and I too want to see them successful. You know, I talked to Jason, this morning at 4:30 -5 o’clock this morning. We all of our framing is Newcastle’s deal. And I had a question specific to his product. And I’m like, Hey, man, like a quick thing. And it was just an email, and it’s 4:30-5 o’clock in the morning. And he’s like, Hey, what’s up, you know, and therefore, you know, like, with advice, and not just advice, it’s specific to his brand, you know, he’ll help with other things. I’ve reached out to Scott Kelly, a few years ago out in Colorado, with Precision, you know, really picked his brain on some things that that really helped get us comfortable where we are with working with steel framing. You know, we’ve talked to John Lee extensively. And, you know, I, I look at the way some of these guys do the day to day job of swinging the hammer, I look at the way some of these guys run their business. And I want to take what each of these people are great at, and I want to emulate that in our business in our life.

Tommy 53:03 Just keep learning?

Tara 53:06 I hope that we’re able to pay it forward. Yep. You know, Speaker 3 53:09 we get calls from people that are, you know, looking at specific products that we use. You know, Duralife decking is something we’ve used for years. And I get calls from all over the country about, you know, hey, how do you guys deal with this? Or what do you think about that? And when it first started happening, you feel like, man, who’s this guy from Canada calling me? Like, dude, I just swing a hammer? Can you really feel that way? You know, like, there are so many people that are greater at whatever than than I feel like I might. But then you wake up one day and you realize like, Man, I belong in this room. Yeah. And that’s It’s a humbling feeling. But I think once you let that reality set in, I think you can be a greater asset to the people around you. And then you can pay it forward. You know?

April Edwards 54:08 Well, I think we got to end on that note, that was beautiful. Seriously, like the microphone just dropped. And I really hope that everyone enjoyed that as much as I as I did. So, thank you so much for being here. I could probably talk with you guys for another hour.

Tommy 54:25 See you in the next show

April Edwards 54:31 Yeah, for sure. If any of our listeners wanted to get in touch with you or follow you what would the best way

Tara 54:39 They can go to our website at solid ground I think you’ll find us on Facebook as well.

Tommy 54:45 So all of our socials are “at” solid ground STL

April Edwards 54:51 Awesome. Cool. Well, thank you for sharing your insights with us to our listeners. Make sure that you tune in to the next episode and as well always keep moving.

Tommy 55:03 Thanks April. Take care.


April Edwards

Owner & Lead Marketing Strategist
About the author:
Building Solid Ground: Craftsmanship and Connections
Building Solid Ground: Craftsmanship and Connections

In this episode of "We Love Deck Builders," April Edwards interviews Tara and Tommy from Solid Ground, exploring their journey from hospitality to leading a deck building empire in St. Louis. They discuss the importance of values like honesty and trustworthiness in their work, their recognition as DuraLife Deck Specialists of the Year, and how treating clients like family has been key to their success. Tune in for an inspiring look at building a thriving business while maintaining strong community ties and personal connections.

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