The age old real estate saying is Location, Location, Location. While that may be true for some, one builder in West Michigan views their business a bit differently. While location is a big factor, for the Boverhofs it’s all about relationships. Since 1955, the family owned and operated business of Boverhof Builders, Inc., founded by brothers Al and Will Boverhof, has been synonymous with custom homes within the West Michigan area.
From an early age, the second generation of Boverhof gentleman have known the importance of building and maintaining relationships. Back then, Dan Boverhof (now President) remembers watching his father manually place the bridging between floor joists. Through hands on learning by observation and emulating, Dan learned at a very young age about hard work.
“Our dad and uncle taught us that along with hard work, meaningful relationships were key to maintaining your business,” said Dan. “On any given job, he knew all the contractors. He would sit down and enjoy lunch with them and treated every one with respect –which is something we work to continue through our business today.”
What started between a father and his brother has blossomed into a three generation business that includes 8 family members. The Boverhofs recognize that valuable experience can be gained from an outside perspective. One of the brothers, Jim, spent 20 years in the trucking industry and learned a lot about account management that he applies to the business today. Brent (part of the 3rd generation) graduated with a marketing degree and has since applied his education to successfully bring the company into the 21st century through online marketing.
While the family has a bond throughout many facets of business, which has made them a stronger unit, one thing that everyone agrees upon is a deep rooted faith. The Boverhofs’ faith has remained key throughout the business and relied upon even when there was uncertainty about how to move forward or where to go next. “He gives us the way, even when we don’t know it,” said Jim Boverhof. One of those times happened shortly after the 2008 recession.
When asked about the economic downturn, combined with the steep decline in real estate demand from 2008 to 2011, the Boverhofs note that they relied on their connections, a conservative approach and hard work ethic to make it through those years. They did the majority of work themselves; from 5am to 9pm on a few of their job sites, they accomplished everything from concrete to painting. Even though those were long days with hard jobs, they were able to really step back and improve their processes, products and, in the end, make the business stronger.
“We really got to know what worked, what didn’t work and why, well enough to explain it to any customer,” said Jim. “We also took a conservative approach, which meant we weren’t in over our heads when it came to completing jobs.”
“One of the other factors in surviving the economic downturn was the risk that Chemical Bank was willing to take on to finance our projects. Something that many people don’t see is the sacrifice that goes into making the choice between not defaulting on a loan and not taking a paycheck. Our dad knew the importance of keeping good credit, which he passed on to us. There were months where we did not take a paycheck in order to stay current on our loan, because that was a priority for us. We were able to keep that relationship with Chemical Bank and it has paid off,” remarked Jim.
While 2008 and the next several years were tough, eventually the business made it through, using their outstanding work ethic, financial partners and relationships, which have now formed into second and third generation partnerships.
These generational relationships have seen a lot of changes over the past 60 years. “When our dad was running the business, there were not cell phones or laptops. All of your phone calls were made between 6am and 7am and if you ran out of something, it had to wait until the next day,” recalled Dan. He also reminisced about when they first installed a land line phone on site back in 1974, which provided them access to their suppliers and same day deliveries. Since that time they have also seen advancement from the use of traditional hand tools to pneumatic and cordless tools.
“Now, we still focus on those relationships and maintaining them,