Buying and maintaining a fleet of vehicles has always been a costly component for most residential construction businesses. And especially during the past couple of years, rapidly rising vehicle prices have led many business owners to reluctantly put off upgrading their work vehicles — even if they were long overdue for a new set of wheels.
But for James Morley, CEO of Charlotte Plumbing in Port Charlotte, Fla., delaying a much-needed vehicle purchase has never been a risk he's willing to take. Even at the onset of the pandemic when business operations were less predictable, he recognized the value in maintaining a high-quality fleet.
"We knew that we could not simply stop re-investing in the company," said Morley, a member of the Charlotte-DeSoto BIA. "Things like new vehicles, for example, are planned purchases that are necessary to keep the company running at its best. Even in those periods of uncertainty, you still have to bite the bullet and make those capital investments."
When Morley and his wife, Harriet, bought Charlotte Plumbing in late 2019 from its previous owners who had decided to retire, they inherited the company's fleet of 30 cars, trucks and vans. They would ultimately replace nine of those vehicles within their first two years of owning the company.
A key factor Morley cites for helping reduce his expenses has been the GM savings program available to NAHB members. The program offers $500 toward the purchase or lease of eligible Chevy, GMC and Buick vehicles.
In addition to utilizing the savings program, Morley knew that sticking with a single brand and establishing a rapport with a nearby Chevy dealership in Fort Myers, Fla., would help him negotiate the best pricing over the long run. So he met with the dealer's salesperson and candidly reviewed a breakdown of his existing vehicles and business needs. This not only helped him identify which vehicles he needed to replace in the near term, but also demonstrated his brand loyalty and illustrated how often he intended to do business with the dealership moving forward.
The extra savings came in handy for Morley's company, especially when the availability and pricing of other items his business relies on became less predictable.
"As soon as our suppliers told us about potentially significant delays for water heaters, PVC and other plastics, we decided to deploy the extra capital to stock pile those and other materials," Morley said. "We've been fortunate to build up and maintain about a one-month supply of key products and supplies, which we've run up and down about three or four times now. That's really helped us avoid the impacts of further supply shortages and price increases."
In addition to vehicles, the NAHB member savings programs can save members thousands on business services, travel expenses, building products and more. Visit nahb.org/savings for more details.