Pat Noonan has been building for over 20 years. And with more than 2,000 deck projects under his belt, it’s safe to say he’s one of the premier deck builders in the Twin Cities metro area.
Noonan’s business, Deck and Basement Company, is family-owned and operated and has grown exponentially over the last 15 years. Starting with just him and his wife, Deck and Basement Company now employs five teams of builders and an office staff to support them.
We sat down with Noonan to discuss how he grew his small business to the juggernaut it is today. With Deck and Basement Company averaging four to six decks a week, we couldn’t wait to pick his brain.
Q&A with Pat Noonan
Thanks for sitting down with us. Let’s jump right in: How did you get started in the building industry? Was there a moment when you knew you wanted to be a contractor?
Pat Noonan: When I was 13 years old, I asked my dad, who was a contractor, to build me a skateboard ramp. He laughed and said it was the last thing I needed. I asked if I could do it myself. He scoffed and said, “Go for it.” I charged all my buddies $50 upfront, hired the neighbor with a pickup to haul supplies home, and built it. Then for spending money, I sold admission to ride it all summer long. I was a precocious kid.
It sounds like your dad was a big influence in your life. Is there anything that he taught you that stuck with you as you built your business?
He told me, “There is nothing that cannot be fixed if you are willing to admit a mistake.”
That’s great advice that must have come in handy when starting a business. How did you get started in this industry?
I cut my teeth framing houses – and loved it. But, after 10 years – and getting to the top of the heap – I was ready to move on. With rough framing, there is only so much you can achieve, create, and design. In the end, it got to be all about production, speed, cost. I needed more.
From there Deck and Basement Company, your business, was born, correct? How did you get into custom deck building?
Yes, that’s correct. I got started with decks the same way I have learned to build everything I build for the first time: By having the confidence and courage to say, “I can build that” and then the ability to pull it off.
Learning by trial and error is great. Why did you choose to focus solely on decks and basements?
With over 25 years in this industry, I have built nearly everything, but my passion is decks. They’re clean and straightforward with minimal surprises. Plus, you’re not invading someone’s personal space. Taking the kitchen away from a family of five is much different than not being able to use the backyard for a week.
Sounds like there’s a story there! But, we’re curious. How did you grow your business? How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?
I think it boils down to the fact that I do what I say and say what I do. I don’t mislead – I don’t even sugar coat it.
Plus, I always try to remember that while this is a job to me, it’s a home to them. It can be hard to do sometimes, but the clients you want to work for will appreciate it in the end.
We felt it became a disservice to our clients to continue to install wood decking, with the composite technology advances and declining lifespan of wood decking — not to mention the cost of maintenance or replacement.
It’s great to see straightforward communication payoff. Was there anything behind the scenes that grew your business?
In 2014 it became apparent that we needed to have a focus on the office side of the business, if we were to grow to the next level. Even though my wife, Julie, has been a part of the business since day one, it became clear that if Julie left her successful career and came onboard fulltime to handle the business administration aspects of the business, the company could make it to the next level.
That’s a smart move. So, is the secret to growing your business successfully in who you hire?
I’ve seen caustic people breed negativity within any team, regardless of how skilled they are. It’s integrity, work ethic, attitude, a desire to learn, and willingness to be a part of a team that are valued above experience and skills.
A true recipe for success. What has your dad said about the business you built and where you’ve ended up?
He tells me every time I see him how proud he is of me.
That must be wonderful to hear. It’s great knowing there are people out there rooting for your success.
It is! And knowing I have a partner in a manufacturer that has my back – if ever needed – has been unbelievable. I’ve been installing AZEK®/TimberTech® since it launched. In fact, we installed the first AZEK deck in Minnesota ever and it has been our main synthetic product line since.
Out of curiosity, do you build any wood decks still or are you a full TimberTech convert?
Frankly, we felt it became a disservice to our clients to continue to install wood decking, with the composite technology advances and declining lifespan of wood decking – not to mention the cost of maintenance or replacement!
Speaking of, what’s your favorite project you’ve built using TimberTech?
I am always striving to be better; it’s that internal drive that has allowed me to reach where I am in my career today. I have never thought that I reached the pinnacle of my career with any project – there are always grander projects to tackle. That said, opening day at IBS 2019 (the International Builders’ Show) – after three months of blood, sweat, and tears – is probably the proudest moment of my career.