“‘Thank you for teaching my kid how to work!’ This is what I frequently hear from moms,” Darryl Rose, founder of Get Dwell, declares early in our interview. Those statements are just one of many examples that confirm that Rose grew his Chicago- and North Shore-based remodeling and handyman business on great values — adeptly creating opportunities that help others while providing outstanding service. His grin and twinkling eyes attest to the pleasure this brings him too.
Rose is the prototypical 21st century entrepreneur; he builds win/win scenarios for customers, employees, partners and the community. It’s no surprise that Get Dwell has been voted “Best Of” by our Make It Better audience four out of five years.
Ironically, Rose still acts surprised that he became an entrepreneur working with his hands at all. With a good job in corporate sales, a wife, two young children and a Wilmette home, Rose thought his path through life was set. But, he was happiest helping neighbors’ with their handyman needs and being a volunteer designer and builder of stage sets and other projects for his kids’ schools. His true calling was obvious to everyone else.
It took his wife, Beth — the person most likely to miss the security of his corporate life — to convince Rose to give it up and start a small home maintenance business out of their kitchen in 2005.
“Just leap and the net will appear,” Beth promised.
Not only did the net appear, but it also quickly expanded. From routine home maintenance, Get Dwell rapidly morphed into small construction and remodeling projects. But, when the market crashed in 2008, he needed a quick new strategy. Rose sagely reframed Get Dwell as just a handyman — rather than remodeling — business.
“Even in a down market, North Shore homeowners still needed simple repairs.” He adds, “But winning Make It Better’s ‘Best of 2010’ in the Handyman category is what really put us on the map!” Get Dwell has grown steadily ever since and was recognized in 2014 during Remodeling magazine’s Big50 awards.
Ten “People First” Rules That Develop Strong Businesses
Rose cites his “people first” rules as a driving force for the business. They ensure that his staff knows how to interact well with customers (as well as develop good work habits for teen summer employees). These 10 rules will develop good employees for other businesses too:
- Show up on time.
- Communicate effectively.
- Work efficiently.
- Leave the project site clean and ready for use.
- No cell phone usage on the job.
- No swearing (and yes, they have a “swear jar” for money donated to charity every time an employee breaks this rule).
- Lead where you are strong. Team where you are weak.
- Do what you say you are going to do.
- Treat others as you wish to be treated.
- Give back to your community.
Giving back is a core principle at Get Dwell. Rose is particularly proud of his firm’s long history of working with Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit that helps low-income home owners repair and stay in their homes.
Sharon Riley, executive director of Rebuilding Together North Suburban Chicago, says, “We have worked with Darryl Rose for years and his firm, Get Dwell, is one of the finest contractors we know. Darryl and his wonderful team are always ready to assist our applicants who have fallen on hard times with outstanding skilled work delivered with the highest degree of respect and professionalism.
“Darryl’s immense generosity and compassion in giving back to our neighbors in greatest need, from Evanston north to Waukegan, is inspiring.”
Building the Geek Squad of Home Repair — Local is Better
Perhaps the best evidence of Rose’s entrepreneurial acumen is his success at building partnerships with 27 family-owned hardware stores in Chicago and up the North Shore.
“My goal is to build the ‘Geek Squad’ of home repair using local tradesmen. This keeps consumer dollars local and makes local communities stronger,” Rose explains. “Hardware stores like Millen in Wilmette, Lemoi Ace in Evanston and Gordon’s Ace in Chicago are multi-generation owned and deeply entrenched in their communities. Many of these stores are on their fifth generation of family ownership! They understand how to serve a community they love.”
Rose built a good business by honoring his own passions and staying true to his family and community-centric values. He’s now growing a much wider network of support for local businesses throughout the region. Rose’s values and collaboration-building sensibilities should be copied widely.
He concludes by quoting Henry David Thoreau. He explains, “The old master first began his journey by building a cabin in the woods alongside Walden Pond.
“Thoreau wrote, ‘I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.'”