Did you know that November is National Entrepreneurship Month? When I was growing up, the offices of Cutter Construction were based out of our family home, and I feel lucky to have had a front-row seat to the daily ups and downs of my dad running his construction company. In honor of this, the 20th year of business for our family company, as well as National Entrepreneurship Month, I wanted to take a few minutes to sit down with dad to learn more about what motivated him to become an entrepreneur in the construction space. Here’s what I learned.
Why did you want to leave your job to start a custom home building and remodeling company?
Well, Seth, after I graduated from Northern Kentucky University, I worked at Ryan Homes and then in the Aircraft Engine Business Group at General Electric. During several of my eight years at GE, I would do some remodeling and construction jobs on my way home from Sharonville at night and on the weekends. By 1993, I recognized the growing demand for quality and service in the construction field here in Northern Kentucky.
There were two things that gave me confidence to start. First, I knew construction and woodworking was something at which I could excel. When I was growing up in Newport, I had a desire to learn how to put things together. While I was at Newport Junior High School and later in high school, I took great pride in the things I could make.
The second reason I began this company was because I knew that, for as much as I could build things, one thing I wanted to do really well was the way I delivered my services. I wanted to renew the industry with a sense of professionalism, trust, and integrity through the way I treated our Cutter Construction customers.
Why Northern Kentucky? What is it about this community that gave you confidence to start a business here?
When you’re starting out, your reputation matters a great deal. I had the chance to play baseball at a college in Florida, but I decided to stay here in Northern Kentucky and go to NKU to stay close to my mother and family. This region, and my hometown of Newport, is so important to me.
To be honest, the network of people I knew here in 1993 was strong, and I had some first few customers willing to work with me because they trusted me. That’s something we’ve emphasized at Cutter Construction over these past 20 years. People matter, and I knew this company could provide a more personal touch than bigger builders. I am so pleased that each of our employees shares in the pride I have taken in this work and deliver a quality product with great customer service. Trust matters so much when you’re making one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make—your home.
What advice would you give to young people, or anyone for that matter, who are exploring starting a business?
There are three things that I think helped make me successful that I would share with anyone starting out.
- You have to have a deep passion and knowledge for what it is you want to do. Look for various ways to gain experience and don’t reject opportunities on your path to learn new skills. I learned a lot about building growing up, at the NKU Construction Management program, and when I worked at Ryan Homes. But I was also involved in efforts to build lean business processes at GE, which was more a manufacturing setting. Those skills in business and thinking about efficient service delivery all contributed to Cutter Construction’s early (and ongoing) success.
- Starting a business requires a confident opinion for what you bring to market. This isn’t about being arrogant—not at all. I’ve always believed (and now have years of experience to back this up) that you will stay busy if you know what your customer needs and treat people well. At Cutter, we build quality, enduring homes and remodeling projects. But it’s how we do it that sets us apart and has earned us the honor of building some customers’ second homes.
- Don’t hold back. A common thought mistake people make when starting out is that you will “own a company” and have more control over your schedule, life, and so on. Companies and organizations stay successful because they serve others at any hour of the day or week. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes. Your passion will help get you there, but you have to be willing, from day one, to make the sacrifices and take risks.