By Marjorie Rice
Tom Farnam knows what it means to rebuild your life. Over 32 years, he’s gone from boom to bust and back again.
“I started in 1980 as a real estate developer and built up a successful business,” he says. “It was wiped out in the S&L collapse at the end of the decade, and I ended up being a janitor and landscaper for buildings that I used to own.”
Farnam gradually rebuilt his financial foundation, then he had to make a choice.
“I had to decide whether to take a safe route and work for someone else, or to be my own boss and struggle as a contractor for residential and commercial projects,” he says. Farnam chose the struggle. “It took persistence and determination, and I finally got an opportunity to take on a big job in 2003. That allowed me to start building up my business again.”
That same year, Farnam brought Michael “Dino” Miserendino into the company as senior project manager. The two had met when Miserendino was a facilities manager for one of Farnam’s customers.
“We built a great relationship,” Farnam says. “Dino’s company had layoffs in 2003, and he called to give me a new contact at the firm. On the spur of the moment I asked him to come with me.”
Miserendino laughs at the memory. “I was unemployed about one hour.”
Farnam points to the moment as an example of someone grabbing an opportunity when presented. “You have to seize the moment—and you have to trust,” he says. “I taught Dino the construction business, including bidding and dealing with clients. Some business owners won’t do that because they’re afraid their employee will take that knowledge and start his own company. But it turned out to be a great decision for me, because Dino helped us build the business from a half-million dollars a year in revenue to nearly $5 million.”
While both men share similar roles in the company, they take advantage of each other’s expertise. “Dino’s stronger in marketing, and his contacts and networking helped us to survive,” Farnam says.
The economic recession slowed their progress, but didn’t put Imagine Builders out of business. “We went through hard times, but we didn’t lay down,” Farnam says. “By then we had a good reputation with a core group of real estate brokers, architects and former customers, and that helped us get through the difficult years. Today, 90 percent of our business is from referrals.”
A strong commitment to meeting customers’ needs has been key to their success, Farnam adds. “We genuinely care about our clients, their needs and their budgets.”
Reducing Costs for Clients
Part of Imagine Builders job is educating clients. “Many customers come to us with a set of plans and specifications already drawn up for their space, and they find we can significantly reduce costs through ‘value engineering’ the project,” says Miserendino. That includes specifying materials and finishes such as flooring, plumbing and lighting fixtures that provide a great look at a reasonable cost.
“Nobody says ‘The sky’s the limit’ these days,” he adds. “Our clients always look for value engineering, and the earlier we’re brought in on a project, the more we can do to control the bottom line.”
Today, Imagine Builders performs tenant improvements for existing buildings as well as remodels, and design and construction of new projects, including a few high-end customer home remodels each year. Customers include restaurants, medical offices, fitness centers, spas and salons and retail and office spaces.
With just eight or nine full-time employees and a no-frills headquarters, the company focuses on productivity. That approach has paid off, Farnam says, and allows Imagine Builders to provide services at competitive prices.
This year, the company is beginning another transition.
“We’ve stabilized the business, and now we’re looking for opportunities for larger developments including commercial construction at the Airpark and a residential subdivision in Goodyear,” says Farnam. “We want to hold our volume at $5 million to $10 million a year in revenue while diversifying into other investments where we construct and own the buildings.”
8010 E. Morgan Trail, Scottsdale