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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

Full Bloom

Don’t expect to find Moty Ginsburg, chief executive of Treeium Inc., swinging a hammer at one of his clients’ home remodeling projects. You’re more likely to spot the 52-year-old one-time computer executive handing out solar backpacks to clients’ kids or talking up his company’s partnership with Beverly Hills nonprofit TreePeople, which plants a tree for every completed Treeium project. Ginsburg acquired the business, then called Green Home Remodeling Inc., in 2010 from Noah Lev, who now works for Treeium in the field, overseeing the firm’s bathroom updates, roofing jobs and room additions. The two met when Lev brought on Ginsburg as a management consultant, but neither worried about Ginsburg’s lack of construction expertise when he decided to buy the business. “Treeium is a customer service company,” Ginsburg said. “We just happen to remodel homes.” The company’s emphasis on environment-friendly, energy-saving home upgrades – boosted by Ginsburg’s marketing know-how – has driven growth at the Valley Village company. The business, which has 30 full-time employees, has seen its revenue skyrocket 1,418 percent between 2012 and 2014, putting it at No. 2 on the Business Journal’s list of fastest growing Valley companies. The firm brought in just $1.6 million in 2012 but last year saw that figure spike to $24.6 million. In the fiscal year that ended last month, Ginsburg said, revenue hit $31 million. During that time, Treeium added two satellite offices in Northern California to its existing L.A., Orange County and San Diego offices. Ginsburg hopes to expand into Riverside, Ventura and Sacramento next year as well as establish a presence in Austin, Texas. While its prices are “not the cheapest,” Ginsburg said, Treeium works in middle-class as well as more-high-end neighborhoods. It also refers potential clients to financing options and makes sure they know how to leverage state and federal tax credits available on jobs such as energy-efficient retrofits and solar panel installations. Upward trends Along with an emphasis on marketing and customer service, Treeium boosts revenue by relying on the latest technology to streamline jobs, manage workflow, estimate project costs and respond to customer inquiries. On a recent workday, the company’s on-site call center staff, wearing black Treeium T-shirts and headsets, pursued sales leads with the help of newly upgraded customer relationship management software. Requests for quotes on remodeling jobs come into the company’s Valley Village headquarters and then are routed to project managers based in the firm’s satellite offices. Once a job is booked, the company sends licensed contractors to perform skilled work, such as plumbing and electrical. All the contractors undergo background checks and company training before they are hired to work with Treeium, Ginsburg said. Customers sign contracts with Treeium and pay the company directly. It takes a varying percentage of the revenue from each job. The company’s bright offices, located on the second floor of a small building on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, look like an IT firm’s headquarters – a far cry from the familiar one-guy-and-a-pickup-truck contractor. Most of this unconventionality can be attributed to Ginsburg, a native of Argentina who grew up in Israel before immigrating to the U.S. 25 years ago. After a career in the computer hardware industry, he set up shop as a management consultant, drawing on his expertise in hiring, corporate culture and how to scale up businesses. “I used to manage much larger companies than this one, so when I (bought the company), I knew I wanted to turn this industry into something completely different,” he said. In that respect, Treeium is on the cutting edge of a national trend, said Judy Mozen, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry as well as president of her own Atlanta remodeling firm, Handcrafted Homes Inc. “We’re finding a huge change is happening in our industry,” Mozen said. “We used to offer classes on in-depth carpentry, electrical and plumbing skills. But now, our owners of remodeling companies are seeking out training on how to look at profit and loss sheets and understand insurance.” Along with riding the trend toward business sophistication, Treeium has also benefitted from good timing. Over the past five years, the remodeling industry that took a major hit during the recession has rebounded strongly, according to research firm IBISWorld, as a result of favorable mortgage rates, rising home prices and an improved employment picture. The firm’s Remodeling in the U.S. annual report, released last month, pegged industry growth from 2010 to 2015 at 7.7 percent annually. The research firm expects the $66 billion industry to continue to grow through 2020, albeit at a slower rate of 3.6 percent annually. “Dramatic decreases in the unemployment rate have also recently led to improvements in consumers’ disposable income levels, causing homeowners to undertake more professional remodeling projects, thereby benefiting industry demand,” the report said. Eco-friendly Ginsburg knew when he bought into the remodeling industry that he wanted a unique brand. “Everybody has a name like California Remodeler or California Home Remodel,” he said. “We wanted something we could trademark. Because we’re a green company, we thought about using ‘tree.’ And we liked the – ium ending, like on titanium. It represents strength, so we came up with strong tree: Treeium,” he explained. While some might find it difficult to pronounce (it’s “tree-yum,” according to Ginsburg), most customers love the name and the story it represents, he said. It certainly stands out from the pack. “If you Google that name, it’s only us on the results for 15 pages,” Ginsburg noted. He is particularly aware of the company’s online presence and its social media brand, often taking to the comments sections of sites like Yelp to respond to negative feedback or thank positive reviewers. “We are all about listening to our customers and doing what they want, versus coming in and telling them what they need,” he said. Of course, keeping every customer happy is a huge challenge in a business that is inherently disruptive and fraught with emotion. Carefully vetting subcontractors is key to keeping jobs running smoothly and customers satisfied, Ginsburg said. While the company prides itself on its eco-friendly priorities, installing sustainable materials and recycling demolition debris, it’s not mandatory on every job. “We don’t require it with customers, but we suggest it,” Ginsburg said. The green niche, once a big differentiator for remodelers, has become less potent in recent years as more municipalities across the country are requiring energy-efficient appliances and practices and homeowners request them to save on their bills. “A few years back it was a very up-and-coming area but now state and municipal codes require remodelers to use many of these techniques and systems, so it’s less of a niche,” said Mozen. In the long run, Ginsburg said, he will need to hire more employees and continue upgrading his technology to accommodate Treeium’s projected growth. He envisions an online platform that would allow customers to sign contracts, get updates from workers and view real-time photos of their remodeling jobs in progress. “No one wants to get a phone call anymore. We’re using more email notification and texts with our customers,” he said. As the firm continues to expand, Ginsburg said he considers his employees his greatest assets and he strives to listen to their input and follow it. “I want to keep hiring the best people and learning from them,” he said. “The person in the smallest position can come up with a better idea than even me sometimes.” The company’s partnership with TreePeople arose from an employee suggestion, he said, as did another idea he’s pursuing to donate solar panels to local schools. “I have an open-door policy so they all feel at home and like they can always talk to me.” He’s a long way from retiring, but Ginsburg said he is thinking about finding a way for his employees to share in Treeium’s ownership – and success. “I would like them to be part of the company,” he said.

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