Building niche clientele

THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS: David Baud, president of Baud Builders, shows off a Narragansett property recently renovated. Baud describes his work as a
THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS: David Baud, president of Baud Builders, shows off a Narragansett property recently renovated. Baud describes his work as a "personal experience and journey" with the home's owners. / PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

David C. Baud knows if he does unbelievable work on 99.9 percent of a job, the chances are that his client could get hung up on the 0.1 percent that wasn’t up to snuff.

That’s why he aims for the clients of his family-owned construction company Baud Builders Inc. to have a 100 percent seamless experience. The business provides custom home-building and renovation services to high-end residential clientele throughout southern Rhode Island.

“It’s always a personal experience and journey with the owners,” Baud said. “Most clients are quite involved because they’re going to be the ones writing checks and they want to know what they’re spending their money on.”

Baud incorporated the business in 1986 after taking it over from grandfather Gunnar Carlson, who had run the business as a sole proprietor since he came to the United States from Sweden in the 1920s. Baud said Carlson continued to work until he retired at 80.

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Baud’s father also worked with the business, but wasn’t interested in becoming the owner, so at 26 years old Baud took over the family business, and there was a learning curve.

“I knew the construction side of it very well … but I didn’t take very many business courses, so I had to really figure out the business end of things,” Baud said.

Carlson had built a reputation and cultivated a fairly dedicated group of clientele, which helped Baud in the beginning. Clients comprised mostly high-net-worth homeowners along the coastline.

To set up a support system, Baud joined the National Association of Home Builders’ “Builder 20 Club.” The club allows noncompeting industry members to come together from around the nation to talk about any issues that might come up in the trade.

Baud is still a member today and has been meeting with some of the same people for more than 20 years.

“It’s been instrumental in improving my business,” Baud said.

In May the National Association of the Remodeling Industry named Baud Builders a 2015 National Contractor of the Year for a residential addition the company did in Narragansett.

Baud says the recognition is especially nice because the entire building trade has been sluggish since getting hit hard in the most recent economic downturn. The building and construction trades in Rhode Island got hit harder than any other during the Great Recession, as the state lost about 8,000 construction jobs.

But because Baud Builders has found a niche in the market serving high-end clients, Baud says he’s been able to weather the recession better than some others.

“The bulk of my business is second homes,” Baud said. “They’re back now.”

Between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July is Baud’s busiest time, he says.

When asked if he’s got anyone lined up to take over the family business when he retires, he replied with a chuckle: “I have a daughter who’s going to college and I advise her not to go into the building business.” •

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