Partners Joe Thomas, left, and Brad Pompilli, share a vision, but divide management responsibilities.
Credit: Photo: Tracey Kroll Partners Joe Thomas, left, and Brad Pompilli, share a vision, but divide management responsibilities.

Brad Pompilli and Joe Thomas used to work for an operation Pompilli describes as “a company that wasn't really a company.” You probably know what he means: “No training, no methodology, and the company never made any money.”

So when the partners — Pompilli is 39, Thomas, 47 — started Tri-State Home Improvement 10 years ago, they had the advantage of knowing what not to do to be successful in the home improvement business.

They proved to be good students of the failures of others. “We did $265,000 net business our first month,” Pompilli says. “At the other place, our best month ever was probably $325,000.”

From a standing start in 1996, the co-owners have driven annual volume to some $10 million last year. That's a big jump, even from 2003's $8.2 million.

Their complementary skills underlie that success. Pompilli handles sales and marketing; Thomas oversees installation. Both are hands-on managers and wear many hats. Pompilli is amiable and outgoing, with the can-do attitude of a natural sales personality capable of generating, as he once did, several million in volume on his own. Thomas, for his part, has proved to be an astute production problem solver. Probably most important, the co-owners of Tri-State appear to share a thoughtful, commonsense approach and an enthusiasm for the business that carries through in the way they manage their company.

Long Haul Early on, the partners decided they were going to be in the home improvement business for the long haul, and they built a team with the same vision. Throughout the organization, they favor “turtles” over “hares,” a distinction Pompilli explains as follows: “We look for somebody who is going to stay here, do it our way, which we think is the right way, and not someone who already has all the answers.”

The same thinking applies to products. Tri-State carries products exclusive in the market Tri-State sells in: Soft-Lite windows, Royal cedar-core vinyl siding, Gutter Cap gutter protection systems, and, most recently, sunrooms by Thermal Industries. Tri-State expects to be around years from now and wants the satisfied customers that will enable it to cross-market its menu of products via repeat and referral business.

The company's approach to selling is similarly methodical. Everything about the sales process is intended to separate Tri-State from the image of the unreliable home improvement contractor. Sales reps, for instance, not only must be neatly dressed but must wear laminated photo ID cards. The contents of Tri-State's prospect information package include: a money-back guarantee certificate, a no-nonsense glass replacement warranty, a life- Kroll time warranty against defects in material and workmanship, a certificate of liability insurance, a lien Tracey release guarantee, the company's mission statement, and a list of contact phone numbers. The phone numbers of everyone from Pompilli and Thomas to the telemarketing coordinator and scheduling coordinator appear on that contact list.

In addition, there are more than a dozen copies of letters from satisfied customers and 20 printed pages containing some 650 customer names and phone numbers, for those who wish to check references.

“We want them to be comfortable, so we put everything in writing,” Pompilli explains. “There is no risk in doing business with us. We give them a warm fuzzy feeling about doing business with Tri-State.”