Even with a big dose of early success, Jonathan Bucci has had to zigzag several times in pursuit of ambitious company growth goals.
A rejiggered model for his Estero carpentry and home restoration business, Apex Property Restoration, has juiced the momentum that helped Jonathan Bucci win the Governor's Young Entrepreneur Award.
It’s been two years since then-Gov. Rick Scott predicted “hard work and determination” would bring success to Bucci and his startup enterprise. In that time, Bucci launched the bath-and-kitchen remodeling part of his business plan and began to plot an entry into a new region or state. He has also grown revenues steadily and hopes to be into the low seven-figures, at least, within a few years.
“Our initial prototype is up,” he says. “We’re making money and getting ready for an aggressive expansion.”
The 25-year-old former multisport athlete and varsity football captain at Barron G. Collier High had Apex motoring forward well enough for two years. But he believed he could accelerate things through revamping a work arrangement with his crew members and subcontractors, who together number about two dozen. The key change? Getting them to think and contribute as part of a collective. Bucci says that shift offered the best chance of getting Apex Property Restoration to meet its goals and outdo the competition for new and repeat business.
'We’re making money and getting ready for an aggressive expansion.' Jonathan Bucci
The shift took several steps. For starters, he went to a more performance-based evaluation system. Now he keeps only the crew members and subs who perform well — and he spreads the wealth accordingly. “We went from paying by the hour to paying by the job or by commission,” he adds. “Even the guy in the office is getting paid for the amount of leads he supplies.”
Bucci says the idea is to get buy-ins for a unified purpose. “When the owners and employees aren’t getting paid on performance, there tends to be a disconnect between the management and employees,” he says.
Performance compensation “especially makes sense as you start to scale” and seek to cultivate higher professionalism, Bucci says, which laments a perception that building tradesmen in the Southwest Florida market “really aren’t the most professional with customers.”
For example, he asks why the guy you are getting an estimate from is showing up in a dirty T-shirt and smoking a cigarette.
Perception was important enough to Bucci that early in the life of Apex, he would park his aged and worn truck down the street, away from the doors he’d be knocking on soliciting pressure washing and painting work.
Those early episodes followed a brief college career that left Bucci convinced more than ever that he must work for himself.
By the time he received recognition from the governor’s office as Florida’s top young entrepreneur in 2017, Bucci had Apex closing in on $500,000 in revenues annually and working a full-time crew of about 15 members. Since then, about 10 subcontractors he calls on regularly have contributed significantly to the business growth, especially in the remodels of luxury baths and kitchens from Naples up to Fort Myers. The subs have added workers just to keep up with the Apex workload.
Where will Bucci take his revamped business model next?
“There are much bigger markets than Southwest Florida that offer more customers without having to do so much marketing,” says Bucci, whose operation relies largely on direct-mail, phone solicitation, social media and market networking to generate business.
“The main thing I have to weigh obviously is the competition,” Bucci says, as well as labor availability and the laws and licensing regulations in a target area.
Bucci says he thinks Miami could be a good expansion destination, as would Texas, especially Dallas-Fort Worth. A move into the Lone Star State would give Apex 10 times the number of leads its marketing generates in Southwest Florida, he says.
Whatever route Apex takes to expansion, Bucci must take care not to repeat the errors of 2015 — when the fledgling company got contracts to fix up foreclosed homes but lacked the manpower and other resources to do the jobs right and on time. “We grew so quickly we lost the client,” Bucci says. “We couldn't handle the work volume.”
In the rebuilding since, he says he has constantly been trying new approaches and has become something of a “madman.”
Make that a resilient and more confident madman, he insists. “I’m young. I have a lot of energy,” especially to rebound from setbacks.
“I think that motivates the people around me even if I am stumbling from one failure to the next.”