A Contractor by Any Other Name …

David Hunt

October 2007

A play on words can be a good marketing tool, but wall and ceiling contractors are notoriously low key when it comes to getting their names out there. Sometimes, all the creative thinking goes into coming up with a name for the company, and then word of mouth is the key way to advertise themselves to general contractors.

Some company names are obvious. Take "Hats in the Belfry,” for example. What do they sell? Hats. Same goes for "Joe’s Plumbing.” What does Joe do for a living? He’s a plumber.

Then there are the not-so-obvious names, like Apple. How did a computer company get a name like Apple? There is no real connection between apples and computers, but Apple founder Steve Jobs simply liked apples. He once worked on an apple farm, he thought the apple was the most perfect fruit, and when it came time to pick a company name, no one could come up with anything better, so Apple became the name for today’s technology giant. It was all in the logo and the marketing that made the Apple name such a well-known brand today.

While some wall and ceiling contractors remain steadfastly low key, still others have developed unique and memorable company names, and have used those names in an effort to build a brand like some of the world’s largest corporations.

Make It Memorable
Mark Nabity, president of Grayhawk LLC, based in Lexington, Ky., said the company was formed in 1990 through a combination of two companies—Drywall, Inc. and Panel Tech.

Nabity said managers of the combined firm discussed a new company name during meetings held over a two-week period. Nabity said the firm’s work on outdoor and indoor wall systems was so all-encompassing that management decided to go in a different direction in naming the firm.

"We said, ‘let’s find a memorable name,’ and that has worked for us,” Nabity said.

Nabity said the firm initially discussed the name Blackhawk, but as time went on, it began to favor Grayhawk. Nabity said managers felt the Grayhawk name was not only memorable, but also allowed for graphics to reinforce the brand.

"Once we created Grayhawk, it took about six months to acquaint the market with our new name,” Nabity said.

State the Obvious
While some firms have sought to differentiate themselves through unique names and more extensive marketing, many others select a basic, regionally recognized name and then let their work do their advertising for them.

One such low key company, which focuses squarely on performing the highest quality work, is Cherokee Acoustics, based in Gaffney, S.C. David Wells, president and owner of Cherokee Acoustics, said his father founded the firm in 1974, based on the name of their county.

"We live in Cherokee County, so I’m sure that’s where he got it,” Wells said.

Even though the firm carries a name that sticks, Wells said the company still maintains a low key approach when it comes to marketing. He said the company’s goal is simply to perform the best quality work "so that the general contractors we want to work for don’t look anywhere else.”

Go Big
Gary Robinson, president of Magnum Drywall in Fremont, Calif., said he was aiming at the high end of the wall and ceiling market when he named his firm in 1990. He realized it would take a huge effort to gain a foothold in the high end commercial market there.

"General contractors are a tight group,” Robinson said. "But we decided early on that we wanted to work for the best.”

"I wrestled with the name a little,” Robinson said. "I wanted to make it bigger than myself, so that even after I’m not here, the firm should live on.”

Robinson said for him, Magnum created a positive and easy-to-recall image. The firm’s Magnum logo features bold colors, and was designed and chosen by employees in a contest. Robinson also displays a champagne bottle engraved with the company logo.

As for branding, Robinson said the firm’s logo appears on company shirts, and is featured on signs, trucks and printed material. Robinson also said the firm is developing a Web site to highlight his company’s primarily commercial work.

Robinson said the company has exceeded his early goal of employing 35 people. He said the firm now employs 150, and has earned five awards for quality. He said Magnum just met its most challenging schedule ever—just eight weeks to complete the buildout of an existing building for fast-moving technology firm, Apple, of Cupertino, Calif.

A Little Unusual
Jeff Schroeder, president of Five Angle Construction, of Ottawa, Ohio, said the principals of his firm created the unique company name based on the firm’s five areas of focus: steel framing, insulation, drywall, plastering and acoustical tile.

Schroeder said artist Liz Sehlhorst designed a logo that helped to build awareness for the new firm. Schroeder said the firm uses their logo on letterhead and proposals. And more recently, Schroeder said the firm hired a consultant to display pictures of its commercial and residential work on a Web site; check it out at www.5angleconstruction.com.

A Name with Bite
Carla Brandt, owner of Cobra Stucco, LLC, of Phoenix, Ariz., said her company’s powerful name was actually generated from a combination of family names—Costigan and Brandt.

Brandt said the firm has generated some elaborate artwork to create an impression. She said Cobra Stucco uses that artwork on letterhead, proposals and business cards.

But you can put Brandt in the company of firms that do not engage in extensive marketing or branding efforts. Brandt said she believes the best advertising comes from performing the highest quality work, and meeting the needs of the general contractors.

No Bull
Tony Martinelli, owner of Toro Acoustical, Inc., of Haddon Heights, N.J., said the company’s name was formed from Tony and Ronny, who started the operation in 1994.

Martinelli, who serves as a president emeritus of the Interior Finish Contractors Association of the Delaware Valley, founded his first wall and ceiling firm in 1974. He was the owner of Mars Drywall, based in Warrington, Pa. Martinelli explained that workers’ compensation insurance rates in his state were spiraling out of control in the early 1990s. He was forced to move his operation to Haddon Heights, N.J. in 1994. At that point, he and his business partner renamed the operation as Toro Acoustical.

Martinelli said his firm uses a sunburst logo, creating an upbeat impression on all of the company’s printed material.

All About Me
Jerry Reicks, president of Jarco Builders, Ltd., of Sioux City, Iowa, said his company name was generated by using his initials.

Reicks said the firm focuses strictly on the commercial wall and ceiling market.

Reicks was able to create an impression for the firm by using a unique logo on vehicles and tool boxes. He also said the firm also uses the logo on signs and truck trailers.

"We also rely a lot on our current customers for advertising by word of mouth,” Reicks said. "But we work on marketing through a broad range of efforts. We feel everything helps.”

All About the Kids
Andy Hutchins’ father started Waspco, of Durham, N.C., in 1981. He said firm began operating as a general contracting company, but later gravitated toward work on walls and ceilings.

Hutchins said his father took letters from the names of his children—William, Andrew, Susan and Paula—to generate the memorable Waspco name.

"My father wanted to create a company name that sounded professional, so he came up with this,” Hutchins said.

Hutchins said the firm uses a logo on printed material to create an impression for the company.

About the Author
David Hunt is a freelance writer/photographer based in Hershey, Pa.