The Growth Years

First Publicity ShotAMEK’s “stormy” history of growth continued when in 1998 another large storm dropped hail across a wide swath of the south metro. Remembering their frustration with being overwhelmed during the similar storm two years earlier, Andrew and Matt made a call to one person they both knew who could help and whose opinion they both trusted: their father, Mark.

Mark Schmidt had a lengthy history in business management and ownership, including owning and operating auto body shops and building a network of consumer products sales people. Mark joined his sons and began commuting to the Twin Cities from the family home in Gaylord. Based on his wise advice that “you either run your business or it runs you,” AMEK moved from operating their business out of a truck to an office complex in Bloomington.

With the office as a base, Mark began selling new roofs where hail had hit in the south metro and the projects began flowing in. AMEK quickly moved from being subcontractors to fulfilling jobs for their own direct customers, a change that opened up the eyes of Andrew and Matt and afforded them both new opportunities.

Matt fulfilled his growing passion in construction by earning his general contractor’s license and moving into design-and-build projects. This created an entirely new line of business for AMEK. At this time Andrew and Matt’s younger brother, Paul, also joined the growing company bringing his siding business experience learned in Chicago and creating yet another line of business for AMEK.

With Mark, Matt and Paul all bringing expertise and growing their specific lines of business, Andrew moved into the CEO role to create a common support system for all of the growing business lines. AMEK’s ownership was structured to give each family member a share and a new era of growth began.

As AMEK galvanized around family ownership, the housing boom was taking off. AMEK developed a sophisticated telemarketing operation to successfully identify families seeking home improvement and AMEK’s sales and support staff began expanding. By the mid 2000’s the company photo taken out in front of their much larger office, still in Bloomington, sported more than two dozen employees, including a finance team to help customers pay for their projects.

Growing Company PhotoBut as AMEK rapidly expanded and grew so did a sense of discomfort among the Schmidts. AMEK Construction had been built on creating personal relationships with their customers… where their integrity and honesty led to trust and friendships.

With leads pouring in and deals closing quickly, soon the speed of job processing had replaced one-on-one customer conversations and an attention-to-detail. The reduction in these two important areas led to a uneasy feeling among all four family members that the hyper-growth of the business had taken them in a direction away from their core family values.

“We had gone from a 90 percent referral business to a 10 percent one,” Andrew said. “We wanted to get back to being a face-to-face business, where 90 percent of our business came from our happy customers telling their friends about AMEK. That’s where we do the work we love. We consciously decided to become smaller.”

So they slowed the sales process, shifted away from telemarketing and focused on deepening the core lines of business. AMEK coalesced with design-build led by Matt and exterior renovation and mold remediation led by Paul. Mark continued selling and managing projects and Andrew continued supporting and organizing AMEK’s burgeoning new mission.

Next: The New Mission Years