Santa Maria Sun / Biz Brief
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 10
Spotlight on: Halsell BuildersJames and Joe Halsell, owners
BY ANDREA KANG
It’s been a whirlwind of a journey to weather the storm of an economic downturn. While many contractors must suffer from layoffs and lack of clientele, James and Joe Halsell of Halsell Builders have managed to keep their family business alive and kicking.
Halsell Builders is a full-service design and build company with a background in business, finance, and technology. It began as a branch of their father’s business, Halsell Construction, in Concord, where Joe managed its business and finance and James took charge of design. In 2002, they packed up to move the business back to Santa Maria, their beloved hometown.
“My dad’s arthritis was really starting to set in,” explained Joe of their decision to move back home. “He needed help keeping the business moving. We kind of merged both our businesses into one, and that’s why it became Halsell Builders, and we really grew from there.
The brothers cherish being back in the Central Coast, James said.
“We just missed the Santa Maria hometown lifestyle,” he said. “We’ve always been dedicated to serving the community that did so much for us growing up. Business keeps growing [for us] in an economy where a lot of builders keep going out of business; we were able to persevere and weather the bad economy.”
The business thrives almost 100 percent through referrals, James said, but it wasn’t easy to keep the business up and running. The two had to make changes for the sake of their long-term success. One of these changes was starting an energy-efficient remodel division of the company through emPowerSBC, a government program that helps homeowners in the county handle finances to make energy-saving improvements to their homes.
“This was one area we believed would open up more work for us,” Joe said. “It’s actually been pretty successful, not only because it was based on new financing, but because energy standards are getting tighter and tighter in our state. It was a good long-term move for us.”
Despite the hefty investment needed to transition to the energy efficiency program, the company became one of the major contractors to do work for emPowerSBC, Joe said, and it gets a lot of workload with the program’s help.
“We got probably 200 more leads last year than we would have if we had not been a contractor through their program,” he said. “It gave us a huge amount of interest, and also let us become experts in the energy efficiency realm.”
The new division repackaged the company to shift focus to energy efficiency, including changes to windows, furnaces, insulation, water heaters, and drafty ceilings, to name a few.
In addition to the new energy program, Halsell Builders also created a restoration division to respond to fires and floods through a small insurance company. Although it was the most challenging and complicated division to open, Joe said it provides the most stability for the business.
Now with the business doing better than ever, Joe’s childhood dream is a reality.
“My dad was a handyman, and by the time I was in sixth grade, I loved working with him; doing repairs around the house, crawling under the house,” he said. “I just really loved, from an early age, working with my hands and physical work outdoors.”
The brothers have doubled business every year since opening doors, doing anything from bathroom remodels to large custom homes to commercial work, James said. Much of the credit for their success is due to the family name; many clients worked with their father with in the past.
“Most people come to us looking for something unique,” James said, “for a product they know is going to last for generations. There’s not a specialty our company focuses on; we’re a full design-build firm that’s very well seasoned. We can do small jobs and we can do big jobs.”
A big part of the dream-come-true is the staff, added Joe. At least one good thing that came out of the suffering economy was the ability to hire talented people in need of jobs. The company started with 12 employees and now provides jobs for 40.
“I never would have imagined I would have had this team six or seven years ago,” Joe said. “That was the upside of the downturn,the quality of the team we were able to attract.
“We love building, love the satisfaction when we’ve changed somebody’s house, the way they live, and add value to their life. That’s the most rewarding thing for us,” he said.
To find out more, visit halsellbuilders.com.
Intern Andrea Kang wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.
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