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Hitting the nail on the head

Catie and Jim Herman started up Do-Right Construction together, with Jim working in his niche of remodling and additions and Catie working in hers of marketing and public relations. Part of their business also entails Cabin Care and Security for summer residents.

When Jim and Catie Herman got married four years ago, they not only began building their lives together, but began building their dreams as well - literally.

"We started our business, 'Do Right Construction,' in February," said Catie Herman, who adds that although it's exciting, it didn't just happen overnight.

In fact, there are many years of hard work 'built' into this dream.

"I started pounding nails in 1977," Jim Herman said, talking about his years working as a sub-contractor in the Detroit Lakes area, as well as time working for another company as head carpenter.

Although Catie Herman was living and working in Fargo for 18 of those years, she moved back to Detroit Lakes to work for Minnesota State Community & Technical College, raising money for scholarships.

Getting together and getting married turned out to be not only a good personal match, but a good business one.

He knows the trade; she knows business.

And although times may be tough in the construction field, they pooled their resources, their knowledge and their friends and family in order to take the risk.

"It's a good partnership because we complement each other in a lot of ways," said Catie Herman. "He's in the field working with the tradesmen, managing those things which he's really good at, and then I pick up the marketing side of things and do the bookkeeping and computer work."

And although they say starting a new business in a hard economy was a little nerve wrecking, they both had confidence in Jim's work.

"There's a certain way that I like to build things," said Jim Herman, "and I want to be able to build them in the way I believe and do it right the first time... that's how we got our name. We don't take any shortcuts."

Do-Right Construction works with three other sub-contractors, a painter and a dry-wall expert.

Although Jim is licensed in both Minnesota and North Dakota, having deep roots in Detroit Lakes has proven to be the Hermans' sharpest marketing tool, as they say word of mouth has provided most of the work.

"We have a very good following and a lot of people backing us here," said Jim Herman. "We have a lot of work, but I think that's because I'm well known in the community -- I've been here all my life; people know my work."

Herman says his work ranges from putting knobs on kitchen cabinets to constructing entire homes, but it is his niche in remodeling and additions that keeps him from getting nailed by the down economy.

"There aren't a lot of people building brand new houses right now, but they are remodeling their places and that is my niche," said Jim Herman. His wife added, "And people always need to keep their homes up as well, so we've been doing a lot of roofs that need to be re-shingled and houses that need to be re-sided..."

Jim says his degree in architectural drafting proved to be a useful tool in building credibility, as he is able to assess what can and cannot be done in each particular house, and how it's built.

The Hermans also work with a computer-generated program that shows customers how their project is going to look before it even begins.

"It's got a camera on it, so if you take a picture of a wall, it will show you what it will look like from that view, so you can see it from different angles," said Catie Herman.

"You can even put the exact color in and it will show you what it will look like in that color before we do it," said Jim. "Or in case there's something that I'm picturing, but the customer sees it and thinks, 'Well, I like those cabinets but we want them bigger or over here' it's really neat."

But Do-Right doesn't stop after the last hammer is put away.

"We also have another service we offer to summer residents, called 'Do-Right Cabin Care and Security," said Jim Herman.

Catie added, "It's where we go and check on their lake places to make sure everything is good there -- that everything is secure, nobody's broken in, the pipes aren't frozen, there's fuel in their tanks, do snow if they can't make it up here on a regular basis, they can still have peace of mind."

Although the Hermans say their business plan has so far worked out beautifully for them, they are not done building on their dream just yet.

"We'd like to build it up so that I can one day just work full time with Jim," Catie Herman said.

Jim added, "We'd like to hire a few sub-contractors and just go from there -- but one step at a time."

For more information on Do-Right Construction, call 218-234-1095.