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There are so many locally owned businesses in the Hampton Roads area and it’s refreshing to hear about the successes they’ve had. I had the pleasure of being able to sit down for a few minutes with the owner of WHE Construction, Bill Etheredge, who operates his business in Virginia Beach, VA and he had some interesting facts to share about his business.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
Bill: We started the business in February 1999. I was working as a general contractor for my dad and I was a superintendent/field supervisor for his company. We had a big contract with the naval base doing window and door replacements and renovations. I was working in the field and had to answer to my dad. I was basically doing quality control for the business. It was a 6-year contract and I really started to work it halfway through.
Since I knew how to do it all myself and I knew the contract wasn't going to last forever, I decided to start my own company.
At first, I was sub-contracting a lot of the work but then I decided to move into more residential work, doing things like siding, roofing, remodeling, room additions and garage builds. Today, we have several crews that handle everything from new construction and remodeling to other projects.
That sounds interesting. What was the toughest thing for you when you were starting the company?
Bill: Keeping busy and having enough work to do would have been the biggest challenges. That, and finding good help and workers. I don't just hire anyone. I prefer to hire people that I know or through someone who was referred to me.
Sounds like you have found a way to make it work for you. If you had start it all over, what would you have done differently?
Bill: I don't think I would have done anything much differently other than perhaps done more advertising, early on, since we were such a new company in the area at the time and people didn't really know who we were. You could be the best business in the world, but if nobody knows who you are, it can be hard to get new customers. You’ve gotta get your name out there.
Very true. What is the toughest part about owning a company in today’s business environment?
Bill: Well, getting and keeping good personnel would probably be the toughest thing. Scheduling the work can get challenging, sometimes, especially when you run into construction issues that take time to fix. You can't predict the weather, either.
If a customer were to choose between you and 3 other companies, why should they choose you?
Bill: I feel like I'm very honest with people. I treat them how I'd like to be treated and give everyone a fair price.
Fair enough. What do you feel is the #1 thing that's bringing in business today?
Bill: That’s an easy one - referrals. We also get some work from our website and other advertising, but about 80 percent is from referrals. When someone refers you, it almost feels like you know that person already. There is immediate trust is there.
That makes sense. So, Bill, as a local business owner, has the internet played a role for you as it has become more prevalent?
Bill: I would say, at one time, the phone book was used more, but it has faded away over time. There are still folks out there that don't used the internet and prefer the phone book whom we still get calls from here and there. I had a guy last week call me, who found us in the yellow pages and he doesn't even use email. I asked him “How will I get the quote to you?” He said “Just call me. I don't do any of that internet stuff, no faxing, no email, nothing.”
Wow, interesting. If you were to look out 6 months to a year into the future, where would you like to see your business and why?
Bill: I'd like to just see the work keep steady. I don't like to see it getting too big because you lose the one-on-one side of the business. A lot of times I'll go out and estimate the job and am also the same one who works on the job. I don't want to get so big where I lose the client contact and only get to see a finished job.
That’s great to remain humble. So, what exactly does WHE stand for?
Bill: Oh, it's my name, and it also stands for We Handle Everything.
Fantastic. Thanks, Bill. It was great speaking with you and thank you for your time.
And there you have it. WHE is another hometown business making a BIG mark in the Hampton Roads area.
Bill has done all he can to maintain personal contact with his clients, while keeping his business humble.
If there was ever a reason to shop with a local-based business, Bill has given many reasons why it can be a huge asset for not only the business owner, but for the customer, as well. They get business and you get one-on-one customer service.
With a company like WHE, you will never be ‘just another number,’ but you will be a face with a name they will remember.
1828 Legare Ln
Virginia Beach, VA