Every Friday, Matt Hullander sends a short, informal video to his entire team, calling out successes, updating them on the highlights of the past week, and offering glimpses of what's coming next. On a Friday in late March, as the coronavirus crisis grew, that message had a new tone.
"In a situation like this, there's fight or flight, but there's also a third option: freeze," Hullander says. "I have a peer in Illinois who closed and laid everyone off, another one who closed for two weeks to see what would happen. I've seen freezing and flight, but my team know that's not what we're doing."
Instead, HullCo plans to fight through this crisis, Hullander says, closing its showroom to walk-in traffic, shifting to virtual presentations, and sending out crews to focus on outdoor home improvement work that allows them to work safely.
"We'll figure out what we can do to get stronger during this and find opportunities coming out of it," Hullander says. "We have a big backlog of work we can do, so that helps with cashflow."
The business his father founded in 1977 as the Buck Stove Center in the Chattanooga suburb of Apison has evolved and expanded, becoming a home improvement firm that covers all of East Tennessee from its offices in Chattanooga and Knoxville. But the foundations of the business are immovable, and that's what makes HullCo a place people want to work, Hullander says.
"The culture is so hard to explain, but I think we've always been one big family, and when we hire people, we welcome them into the HullCo family," he says. "You won't be on the bus or work at HullCo if you don't have honesty, integrity and dependability.
"I'm proud and appreciative of our team, and I think because of our respect for one another is one reason we have the culture we have."
The company's core values cover everything from delivering a 'wow' customer experience to being quick to adapt to changes in the market. One of those core values — no negativity — has become even more essential as the country fights through an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, Hullander says.
* Founded: 1977
* Employees: 32
* Why this is a Best Place to Work: It is so easy to be negative at a time like this, but being negative doesn’t help at all. When all this is over, and it will be over, at HullCo we will look back and see that we got stronger and became better.
* Online: hullcoexteriors.com
"It is so easy to be negative at a time like this, but being negative doesn't help at all," he says. "When all this is over, and it will be over, at HullCo we will look back and see that we got stronger and became better."
Another core value — when in doubt, act — is behind Hullander's decision to double down on promoting his business and the work of his team at a time when so many companies are in retreat. He recently bought 60-second television spots to promote the company's virtual and phone-based consultations.
"Some people are afraid to advertise right now," Hullander says. "I'm going to use this as an opportunity to get our name out there more to explain our new virtual consultation where they can quote without interacting with a salesperson."