This 35-Year-Old CEO Wants the Happiest Workforce On Earth

Is Philly's coolest company based in Chester?

Asher Raphael of Power Home Remodeling Group.

Asher Raphael, co-CEO of Power Home Remodeling Group.

What is it about Power Home Remodeling Group that’s got everyone so excited? The company isn’t in a sexy industry (it sells things like windows, siding, roofing and insulation to homeowners.) It’s not a tech startup. It’s not located downtown.

But the company is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after employers in the Philadelphia region. Not only did it make the BizPhilly list of the Coolest Companies in the Philly area, it was also named the “Best Place to Work for Millennials” in the country by Fortune magazine, beating out stalwarts like Google and Twitter. Just last week, Power was named the 15th best place to work in the country by Glassdoor.

It’s no wonder why the company is getting so many accolades — they treat employees really well. Every year, the company takes all workers on a trip to Mexico, an annual retreat that cost the company $2.5 million last year. When I visited recently, the company offered a catered lunch complete with DJs and several food stations — just because it was a Friday. And they pay well too. Remodeling consultants make $60,000 to $100,000 a year, and top-performing sales reps make approximately $300,000.

I sat down with co-CEO Asher Raphael at the company’s Chester, Pa. headquarters — housed in a gorgeous factory-turned-office-building on the Delaware River — to discuss his obsession with making employees happy and why he’s more inclined to hire school teachers and real estate agents than the sell-ice-to-an-eskimo sales people. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

BizPhilly: I know you’re expanding your office space. Tell me about the company’s growth in recent years.

Raphael: When we moved in here, we went from 17,500 square feet to 60,000 square feet, and we thought ‘wow, this is it. We’re never going to need more space.’ And since that time in 2011, we’ve grown about 500 percent. I think what we have done is laid the ground work in terms of technology and infrastructure, and developed a talent pool that will allow us to hopefully double in size, and go from approximately $400 million [in revenues] to hopefully $1 billion dollars in the next five or six years.

Why are you growing so fast?

To do what we are doing didn’t happen accidentally. It’s been 23 years in the making. And there’s nothing we’re doing that’s proprietary — meaning we don’t have some technology or product that no one else has. It’s just the people. We develop a different quality of person that’s ever worked in our industry. We have a group of 1,600 people that are from a younger demographic, are extremely energized, and have years of work in front of them. And they are getting better every year.

People feel they are well compensated here. What’s more important is that once they achieve a certain level of success, both financial and professional, they seem to grow as human beings. There’s this communal feeling of wanting to give back to someone else to further the mission of what we are doing.

And we’ve reached a certain level of critical mass now. We’re not just developing leaders in Pennsylvania but also in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Houston — and it means that the type of growth we can have now is at a scale that we’ve never seen before. Our goal in the next five years is to open up two to three new cities per year. So we’re hoping that in the next five years, we’ll open up between 10 and 15 new locations.

Frankly our industry lacks quality. There are not a lot of organizations that treat customers the way they should. They are not service oriented. And I think that creates a great opportunity for us to take over some real marketshare.

Why does Power Home Remodeling Group seem to end up on every “best place to work” list?

To me, it’s actually very simple. Our motivations as a for-profit organization are very different from most. Most companies want to drive profitability. For us, it’s genuinely about taking care of two groups of people — end users and employees. How do we make sure this is the best place for them to work in the country? If that’s your goal, you’re going to end up making very different decisions than other companies.

This year we spent $4 million to $5 million dollars on events, not to drive revenue, but literally just for our people. We take everybody to Mexico at the end of the year, and we have crazy events throughout the year. Just on Mexico alone, this year we spent $2.5 million. The two large-scale conferences we do every year are between $500,000 and $600,000 each. But I think if you invest in people in that way, there’s no better return you can get. Our people become not only better at their jobs, but also become more dedicated to the organization. And they end up fighting for each other. They want to do better jobs, because of the relationships that they form.

Outsiders are always telling us what a bad business decision we’re making. How could you spend that much money on frivolous things? But our goal is to make our people happy. We never question what our most important asset is. Our people are our defining characteristics. They are what separates us from everybody else. I don’t look at it as a cost, I look at it as an investment.

The company made up of 84 percent millennials. Why? 

It’s isn’t because they are cheaper to hire in the beginning. I want people in their first year to make more money here than they would in any place else. Period.

We supply an enormous amount of training and we have a very structured process here. I think a younger applicant will typically be more open to learning, as opposed to people who have years and years of experience that want to come here and do things the way that they’ve done them in the past. This creates a huge group of people that are disproportionately happy and young, which means they have so much runway in front of them, and they’re getting better every single year.

Why base the business in Chester, Pa.?

There are some small tax incentives to opening up in Chester but that wasn’t a big deciding factor. We are thinking about coming here for 30 years, so we are thinking much longer than the initial tax break. It’s really about being in a city that’s going through a revitalization. And we just want to be part of it. Plus we think it’s a wonderful location right on the water.

You tend to hire teachers or real estate agents rather than sales people. What’s your thinking there?

I prefer not to hire people who have experience in doing what we do. It’s not like we won’t hire someone with experience in home remodeling, but it’s often harder to forget things you know and come in totally fresh and open to learn. And we believe our system enables people to be successful, if they follow it. If you combine a good person who’s hardworking and a willing to work within our system, I think you are destined for success.

Also I want to create as diverse an organization as I possibly can. And I think surrounding ourselves with former teachers, former real estate agents, former lawyers, allows us to learn more. We take a different approach than a typical company. We don’t hire the “I-can-sell ice-to-an-Eskimo“ type of people. I think a good salesperson is someone who genuinely cares about the people they are talking to.

How are you fighting the stigma of the home remodeling industry?

When people think of home remodeling companies selling windows, siding, and roofing, they think of the guys in jeans and construction boots and companies that have no sophistication and no technology. We are trying to totally change that. We felt that dress code is very important and everyone should be in a shirt and a tie. I want people to take what we do as seriously as somebody working on Wall Street or a large law firm.

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