By Heidi Sampson Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — Ron Boelter, owner of Ron Boelter Window & Siding Inc. of Madison Lake, started work in the siding trade in the 1970’s. Throughout the years he developed his craft in siding and windows and in 1990 decided to start subcontracting under his own name.
By 1994, Ron’s wife Jodie, a recent graduate of the accounting program at South Central College, was also eager to begin a career in her chosen field. So when the opportunity presented itself to purchase the United States Seamless franchise, Ron and Jodie, craftsman and accountant, were ready to begin.
“I was kind of her guinea pig,” said Ron as he chuckled.
“Yeah, he was,” said Jodie. “But it all worked out in the end.”
MVB: Describe how you divide up your time and duties?
Ron: We have approximately 16 fulltime employees. Jodie does all of our books and accounting.
Jodie: Yeah, I pretty much do everything he doesn’t do.
Ron: I do sales and the ordering of materials, which is actually also spread out amongst three production managers, too. I guess the rest is delegated out from there.
MVB: How has business been for you throughout the years?
Ron: Business has gone up and down but it has been fairly steady. When the building industry really boomed, that wasn’t necessarily the best thing for us because we do mostly older retro homes. If homeowners are buying new or upgrading, they aren’t fixing up their current home. So when the building market slowed down, people went back to fixing up their homes and making them their homes to stay in for a while, which is where we come in. I’m not into the new construction as much. Our newest home is five years old but we get a lot of eight- to twelve-year-old homes too.
MVB: What areas are your clients generally from?
Ron: On average, we work within a 45-mile radius of Madison Lake. However, we also complete jobs as far away as 85 or 100 miles, too.
MVB: Is there a drawback to working out of your own home?
Ron: I’ve been working out of here for 32 years. Well, 33 years come this spring. I guess a drawback of working out of your place of residence is that you are always here.
Jodie: I don’t have to drive into work when the weather is bad but then I don’t get out of work either if it snows.
MVB: Is there a time of year when you are unable to work due to weather?
Ron: We try to work year around. Unless it gets really cold or it is really snowy, then there isn’t much we can do. Sometimes people believe they don’t get as good of a job done in the winter. I tell them you get just as good a job in the winter. It just takes us longer because of the cold weather. But we do try to keep the crews busy year around. These guys have families, they want to work.
MVB: What’s unique about your showroom?
Ron: Our customers enjoy coming out here and seeing all of our products in a real setting. All of our steel roofs, the siding, windows, and patio doors are available for them to see and touch in a real setting, rather than in someone’s show room.
Jodie: I guess you could say we have a live showroom.
MVB: What is the best part about owning your own business?
Ron: I would say the best part is in being able to work with the guys you want to work with. In particular, I’m fairly fussy. I want to make sure that I have guys like that on my crew, guys who care about the quality of their work. I feel it is very pleasing to go and look at a job my company has done, to be able to take pride in the finished product.
MVB: How do you handle the competition of this market?
Ron: I think this goes back to quality and name recognition. When I first started, there was only one other company doing seamless siding, now there are numerous companies out there. I’ve also seen a lot of bad work done over the years. It seemed like during the building boom everyone who had a tool belt or hammer was a carpenter, roofer or a contractor. Some of those guys shouldn’t have ever been in business. In today’s market, it’s not easy becoming known and the other thing is becoming known for good quality.
Jodie: And doing what you believe in.
Ron: Yes, that too. Our customers also speak for us through referrals.
MVB: How do you give back to the community?
Ron: Well we are members of the Minnesota River Builders Association. We donate to be a sponsor of Partners for Affordable Housing. We’ve also donated to the American Cancer Society.
Jodie: We try to do as much as we can for a small business.
MVB: What are your future plans?
Ron: In April, I’m going to be 65. But people are working longer now days, hopefully not because they have too but because they want too. I really enjoy what I am doing. I love meeting the people. If I had a choice, I would only do sales and not be in the office at all. I really enjoy going out and talking with the people, helping them find what it is they are looking for. We’ve gotten to be real good friends with many of our customers over the years and that’s good, too.
Jodie: For us, it’s all about treating your customers well, knowing your products and being known for quality work.