Author: Radka Barter, BSU student
Jan Hanzl, the owner of GDI Homes, Inc, is a custom home builder who focuses on building or remodeling unique, high-end custom homes. I asked Jan to tell me about his construction company and what sets it apart from other construction companies in the South Shore area.
Jan, let’s start with: Are you from this area?
I am from the Czech Republic but have lived and operated my business for 18 years in the South Shore of Massachusetts. I just recently moved my business from Weymouth to Marshfield.
Tell me about your business. Why did you choose this line of business?
GDI Inc. is a custom home building company established in Weymouth, MA in 2001 to construct single family housing. It is a family-owned business, operated with pride, ethics, and concern.
I originally started making and exporting furniture. I always liked working with wood, creating quality furniture for people to enjoy and maybe pass down to future generations.
When did it start? What Year?
It started about a year after I migrated here from Czech Republic in 2001.
What was it that made you want to start this business?
When I came to America, I had a difficult time making money building and selling furniture. I spent a lot of time looking at beautiful homes built between the mid 1800's to the 1920's all throughout eastern Massachusetts. The workmanship in the wood details was very similar to the quality level in the furniture I built. I felt that I can be successful in restoring these homes, so I started a carpentry finish business.
What was the toughest thing you went through when opening?
Well my English was not as good as it is today so that was the most difficult because you need to communicate clearly with customers. I spent a lot of time watching tv with subtitles which helped me the most. The other thing is getting yourself known. I had no finish carpentry pictures to show new customers. I had to sell myself based on my furniture work.
What inspired you to keep going as you were getting the business off the ground?
I enjoyed the work. I knew if I worked hard, produced quality work, and was good to my customers I knew I was going to be successful.
If you had to start over from day 1 what would you have done differently? Or what was your most difficult challenge?
My most difficult challenge was learning the business administrative part of running a business. Knowing what I know now taking business courses would have made operating a business much less stressful.
What is the toughest part about having a business in 2020?
Finding good quality people. There is a plenty of work but not enough qualified labor force to keep up with the demand.
If a customer was to choose between your business and 3 others just like it, why would you suggest they at least give yours a try ﬁrst? What makes you stand out?
I spend a lot of time with new customers driving them around to see my finished work along with current projects I am working on. I enjoy selling myself to the customer because I enjoy what I do, and I think the customer sees that in my enthusiasm when I talk about their project. I also limit the number of projects to a select few each year. This allows my company and my team to provide hands-on management of each project, guarantees the quality of costumers’ homes, and affords a level of customer service unmatched in this market.
What is the # 1 way you currently bring in new customers?
Word of mouth. I do very little to no advertising. My years of networking with customers, suppliers, and subcontractors has thankfully kept me busy all these years.
Has internet technology (website, online ads, social media, etc) played a big part in your growth and making your company more successful?
Not at all but it eventually made it much easier. Instead of carrying photos, the internet made it more accessible to any potential customers to visit my website and view my work.
Do you feel that internet technology could play a bigger role in your business if you had the
Absolutely, I would like to see if it helps me to find more quality sub-contractors, employees, and potentially grow my business.
If you had to look 6 months to a year into the future where would you like to see your business be?
Well I went from furniture maker, finish carpenter and now a General Contractor. I want to someday get into building small size condominiums or apartment buildings.