In the Fall of 1997, I was introduced to a refugee family that had migrated to Dallas from Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of the civil war that raged on for more than 4 years in that region, between the republics of Yugoslavia. The people of several republics were trying to keep their independence and life they had come to love and cherish against tyranny from Serbia, who was trying to cleanse the region of all non-Serbs in an effort to create a Greater Serbia. The refugees that I met came here because they had lost everything that was dear to them, their homes, many lost their family members, land and all of their belongings; some were even survivors of the many Serbian concentration camps.
At that time, my husband, Seval and I decided to help these refugee families get settled by helping them get furniture, clothing, food, and jobs. I personally got my friends, colleagues, and the local Rotary I was a member of, to take on the refugees from Bosnia to make it their mission in helping them with the settlement process. The first order of business was to help them find jobs that would pay them a fair living wage, or enough for them to take care of themselves and their family. That proved to be more difficult than we thought since most of them did not speak English. So, we started an ESL school and had Melvin Lattier, one of my college professors, teach the ESL class. The Rotary gave us books and helped us find a place where we could teach: The Fret’s Library on Beltline and Hillcrest. Unfortunately, shortly after the school started, we noticed most of the refugees had dropped out. Why? They didn’t have the time to devote to learning a new language because they were not able to make their “ends-meet” with one job, so most of them had to work multipe jobs in order to take care of their families.
Not soon after, we would find out that most of these refugees were craftsmen who had learned their trade through a trade school or as a skill passed down by a father. I got busy reaching out to my colleagues to see if we had local builders or contractors who were looking for hungry and talented craftsmen they could use on their projects. Those we contacted were excited about the prospect. The first question on their mind was, do they speak English? “Well no”, I said, “they are from Yugoslavia.” Then, do they speak Spanish? “No, they just got here.” The builders explained they couldn’t hire them unless they had the ability to communicate with them. Fine, we thought. This was another roadblock we were ready to move around.
The Purpose and Reputation
It was at that time that Seval and I decided to start our own construction business that would employ these craftsmen. Boy, were we in for a surprise! We didn’t know much about the business of construction or running a company solely based on that line of work. There was a lot more to construction than just employing carpenters and craftsmen who knew how to do their jobs.
In addition to learning what we didn’t know, we found out that contractors and construction companies were not an ideal model profession built on integrity. In fact, most people I met had horrible experiences with contractors who promised the client the world, but in the end, delivered a poor-quality product, horrific service—or worse yet—took the client’s money and left the area never to be heard from again. That is something that I could not live with.
I found myself doubting the reason for starting the company. I was truly embarrassed to tell people what I was doing. I decided our company would do everything necessary to earn our client’s trust, no matter what that was. It was time to become a part of the professional industry associations who were role-models for doing things right. We joined NARI, National Association of Remodeling Industry, HBA, Home Builders Associations of greater Dallas, and later on NKBA, National Association of Kitchen and Bath Association and ASID.
The first few years were difficult, to say the least. We learned an incredible amount, and at first, had to pay out of pocket to get projects finished the right way. I quickly realized that to do anything the right way, you had to learn everything there was to know about the technical aspects of your work. That’s when I decided to get busy and get an education in this profession. I started with painting, decorative faux finishes, and cabinetry finish with Faux Effects International, based out of Vero Beach, Florida, but that wasn’t enough. I moved on to each specific trade, quality cabinet construction, framing, foundation, plumbing, electrical, HVAC and everything else in the construction business until I felt confident that we were doing things right. The education I was seeking out led to a desire to become an authority in this industry. I began getting the necessary training to obtain the credentials and certifications that would, in return, provide me with the knowledge to lead this company the right way. And with this, I would change the industry as I knew it.
The Clarity of My Vision
I will never forget my first meeting at the HBA. I was so eager to find a role model and meet others in my industry with decades of experience. I was quickly met by a couple of “good old boys” in the construction business who were excited and eager to meet me. They asked what I was “repping”. I didn’t understand the term, so I asked them what they meant. “What are you Selling?”, one of them said. I said, “No, I’m not selling anything. I’m a general contractor here to meet others I can learn from.” I was immediately met with laughter. “Little girl, why don’t you go home and play with them dolls. That’d be a better use of your time.”
It was at that time that I realized what my purpose was in this industry. I would change the “professional standards” of the construction industry by raising the bar. My company would do things right while providing world-class service. We’d make the word construction “profession” mean something again in the industry. I gave those two boys my business card and said, “Here’s my card. You’ll need to know my name when I set off a ripple effect in your world that will change the construction industry as you know it.”
My Drive and Passion for Quality in All That We Do
The passion for quality and commitment to excellence was born out of an experience in my childhood that profoundly affected me: the story of my shoes. I was a child from a broken marriage, my mother left when I was 8 months old, while my father was still in the service. I was raised by my paternal grandmother with a great deal of love because I was the only girl in the family and I was also an orphan; an abandoned child for all intents and purposes. My grandmother did all she could to raise me the right way. We didn’t have much. We lived on a farm, we grew our own vegetables and had a lot of fruit trees. My grandmother would always shop at the local flea market for everything, including my clothes and shoes. It was all we could afford and I didn’t really mind.
One summer when I was seven years old, she took me with her and asked me to select any pair of shoes I wanted from a display of gently used goods. I saw a pair of beautiful white sandals I thought were ideal for my foot. I asked for her to buy them for me, not knowing they would have to be my shoes for the rest of the year. I wore those sandals wherever I went and well into the fall and winter. That is until the first snow fell. My sandals got wet and the straps broke. One of the shoes came right off my foot and I had to walk home barefoot.
By this time, I was living with my dad and his new wife in the city so I could go to school. My needs for clothing were not a big concern for them, so I wore what my grandmother bought and would have to make it last until I saw her again. I had to personally bind the straps together in order to continue to wear them that year. It was then that I learned the lesson that would change me forever to always consider quality in everything before making the final purchase.
I learned quickly to plan for the future and added quality to every decision I ever made after that. If I was wiser at the time, I would have chosen a closed-toe shoe that could have lasted through the winter, but I was too young to understand that. It was in choosing the wrong shoe that taught me how to make the right decisions that would positively impact my life.
It is because of this story that I became entirely committed to providing quality above all else. And it’s for that reason that I have made the time to continuously search companies in this industry to examine how they build their products and the measures they take to ensure quality. Having this knowledge is what our clients depend on to guide their decision-making process. If you ask anyone who has known me for any length of time, they will tell you that I have an uncompromising opinion on what “quality” actually means. To me, it means only buying products that were designed and built to stand the tests of time. Why? Because quality products will give you the benefits you want without the need to replace them for years to come. Simply put, things that are built right the first time will last longer than those that are built using cheaper materials.
We Care About What We Do & That’s Why Euro Design Build Exists
We chose to create a ripple effect in this corrupt industry by simply caring enough to do the job right the first time. How do we show this to our clients? It’s our commitment to “caring” that can be easily observed in every step of our process. Caring is an action that is visible in every effort we make.
- It’s caring enough to find out why the client wants to do the project, to begin with. Why would someone be willing to put themselves through the excruciating pain and suffering for months at a time in order to change a space in their home and to be willing to spend enormous amounts of money to get it?
- Why should we care about that? Because caring means we can make sure their pain, suffering, and financial investment are worth it. That’s on us.
- We must care enough to seek the necessary knowledge about the right methods of doing the work we do.
- We must care enough to help the client want to build things that will last.
- We should care enough to take every measure to do the job right the first time.
- We learned to care enough to create a process at every step in anything and everything we do in their home and project.
As a team, we show our clients that we care about them, their projects, their belongings, their homes, and most importantly, we show that we care about the quality of their experience with us. If we don’t plan to organize the project on time, do we show the client how much we care about when the project will be finished or when it’s late? If we don’t use quality products when building something. Do we show our clients how much we care? If we don’t take proper measures to create a step by step process for everything, what do we do in order to get consistent results in what we build or finish? If we don’t keep the project clean and organized, do we show our client how much we care?
Caring is an action of our choosing. It’s an attitude. It’s a choice to be better because we want to take pride in what we do. How we do our work is a reflection of our inner selves. It’s our signature that will be stamped forever in history for all to see, be inspired by, live with, and to enjoy. Be caring, we’re able to understand the driving point behind a client’s wants, needs, and wishes. We understand why they’re willing to change their home, willing to spend a great deal of money, and willing to go through the experience of construction, all while being displaced from their homes. We care to do it right because it’s an honor to change a person’s life through our occupation. We’ll never stop caring because it’s the right way of doing things.
Melinda Dzinic, MCKBR, CR, UDCP Euro Design Build CEO and Founder