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Old school quality

image Shawn Herring

AUSTIN - Shawn Herring admits he was more than nervous when his father Bill Herring handed him the family business and retired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

    “Absolutely terrified,” to be exact.
    Bill started Herring Construction in Austin in 1976 and they moved to Bastrop in the late ‘80s. Shawn grew up in his dad’s business, on the job and at home when he was building things.
    “I grew up on the job sites starting probably when I was eight years old,” Shawn said.
    This continued with Shawn working summers and odd jobs, helping throughout his life. After school, he did work at a few “regular” jobs for a spell, but returned to the family construction business around seven years ago.
    Bill was intentionally slowing down, such as telling his son that he wouldn’t be in at certain times, and grooming Shawn to take over the business. Bill officially handed off the company in 2014 by simply saying, “You got this.”
    Shawn had big shoes to fill. The telling quality of how well Bill ran the business was the fact that there never were calls to the house from angry customers, because there weren’t any.
    “He always seemed to know what to do,” Shawn said.
    Watching his dad deal so well with people left a powerful impression on Shawn, who thinks he, in turn, has mastered the skill “pretty well.” Shawn considers the people skills perhaps more important than the construction skills.
    “It’s about spending time with the customer,” he said.
    Herring Construction is a two-man operation, consisting of Shawn and “an employee that worked for my dad for 15 years and stuck around.”
    Sometimes the two can do the job by themselves. Sometimes Shawn might act as a GC and subcontract out the entire work, or at least parts of it, like foundation, electrical, and plumbing.
    Shawn likes to stay in a 25- to 30-mile radius around Bastrop, but will, for those faithful and dedicated customers, go wherever they are at to work for them, like Rockport on the coast.
    Shawn works hard to find that delicate balance being both labor and management. He spends the time needed to answer phone calls, reply to emails, and take care of the company from the business side.
    “It comes down to multi-tasking,” Shawn said.
    Like his old-school father, Shawn also claims to be old school when it comes to dealing with customers and what they want.
     “It’s all about finding a way to communicate with the customer individually because nobody communicates the same,” he said.
    Instead of using fancy CAD programs, Shawn says he is kind of a “pen and paper guy” when it comes to drawing up designs for customers. He also learned this old-school style from watching his dad. What he likes most is what he calls “the fun stuff people enjoy,” like decks and patios.
    For now, Shawn prefers to work sequentially, giving his full attention to one customer at a time. In the future, Shawn wouldn’t mind having two or three trustworthy crews that simultaneously work on jobs. He doesn’t have to be hands-on for 100 percent of the jobs, but he does want to stay 100 percent there for the customer. Shawn has seen contractors get spread too thin, thus losing the handle on everything.  One thing Shawn learned from his dad was to not lose the personal touch or the quality thereof.
    When Shawn took the helm, he didn’t inherit his father’s jobs, but his father’s customers. The last advertising Bill did was 25 years ago in Austin, in the Yellow Pages. He ran Herring Construction strictly by word of mouth, with no unsatisfied customer ever calling the house to complain.
    Ain’t nothing wrong with old school, y’all. –dsz


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Dan Zulli dan@constructionnews.net