All in the Family: WINSTON BROWN REMODELING
REMODELING A BUSINESS: WINSTON BROWN REMODELING
Instead he found a business that had been gutted back to almost bare bones, brought on by the need for his father to scale back because of health concerns.
Jake, owned his own small business in Lawrence at the time, knew he was going to have to rebuild his father’s business and redesign it to maintain growth in the future.
“I wasn’t handed a big, fat silver platter of a company,” Jake said. “It was a business I had to build from scratch.”
While working for Wickes Lumber Co., in Lawrence, Gary Winston Brown started taking on side projects for customers who wanted to do home remodeling. That demand grew until Gary realized he could create a business doing what he loved. He laid the foundation for Winston Brown Remodeling in 1974 and built it to a 55-employee company in the 1990s, creating one of the largest remodeling firms in Northeast Kansas at the time.
The company was known for its historic remodels, winning several awards for its restorations. Growth was good. Then that foundation began to crumble.
Gary was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and the housing market was already beginning to see a decline. Faced with uncertainty in his ability to maintain the business, Gary looked to sell the company to an individual in North Dakota. He told his employees to find other jobs. He quit actively marketing the business. So it steadily dwindled from 55 employees to four.
As good sons are known to do, Jake stepped in to help keep things running and quickly decided the business was worth rebuilding to keep it in the family. They didn’t create a transition plan. They didn’t involve attorneys. They just worked out the details with a handshake. Jake purchased the business from his father and became sole owner in 2008.
Then the real work of rebuilding began. Jake had to slowly re-educate potential clients that Winston Brown Remodeling was still in business. One job at a time, word-of-mouth began to spread and the business once again organically began to grow.
“I fell on my face a few times,” Jake said. “However, each time I had a step back, I learned from it and took two steps forward.”
That forward progress includes a design-oriented approach to building and remodeling. Jake, together with his designer, Monica Parsel, work closely with their clients from the initial planning stages all the way through to project completion to take the stress and uncertainty out of the equation.
“We want to take the ‘rough-gruff’ out of construction,” Jake said. “People think about home remodeling and all they can envision is the mess they will have to deal with. We come in and build that space they have dreamed of in a way that meets their vision.”
The circumstances under which Jake took over the family business might not have been ideal, but he is grateful in the long run that he was able to rebuild the business in his own way. Jake’s vision of turning remodeling and building into a fun and rewarding customer experience has paid off. The company is now larger than ever.
“We spend a lot time getting to know our clients,” Jake said. “In a way, we become married to them for the duration of their project. A lot of our customers become really good friends and those relationships continue long after the work is complete.”