We are Stewart & Deanna Junge, a husband and wife team that owns and operates Landmark Finish, an award-winning custom cabinet shop in Andover, MA. Stewart is a USN Veteran. He studied gas turbine electronics in Chicago and was part of a 5 person crew on a hovercraft, ACU 4 in Virginia Beach. Stewart has been in the construction/carpentry trade his entire life. Deanna, a CPA by trade, has been part of the business since 2006 when we started our family and left her Boston job as a Financial Controller.
Landmark Finish has been in business for nearly 20 years serving commercial and residential clients throughout New England. As small business owners, we have seen our share of economic/industry ups and downs. We pivoted the business during the 2008 recession to add commercial cabinetry work to our portfolio and recently saw a need to quickly pivot again with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic… This time, the pivot was to protection barriers.
When COVID shut everything down, we had several cabinetry projects in queue but we knew the inquiries for new projects were soon to slow and possibly even dry up completely. We were entering unchartered territories. There was no telling how severe the economy would be impacted and how long it would take to recover. One evening while watching the news, Stewart noticed plexiglass protection barriers during an interview with a store owner and knew there was an opportunity to pivot the business. He immediately began designing our own line of clear protection barriers. Over the next several weeks, we secured materials, designed several prototypes, created marketing materials and “Safe-Guards” were born.
Since May 1, 2020 Landmark Finish has been selling Safe-Guards to a wide variety of customers: banks, medical offices, retailers, restaurants, municipalities and colleges to name just a few. We have sold more than 600 units in 6 weeks. The product is superior to other barriers on the market as the design has a panel with integral hooks that lock into slots on the tall legs creating a very sturdy and stable barrier. In addition, panels can be interlocked together using the legs to create a near seamless barrier for longer transaction tops. We also have solutions for dividing open concept office spaces. The feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive with many coming back to make additional purchases. Safe-Guards are quickly becoming the CLEAR choice for protection barriers. Newest to the line of Safe-Guards are our outdoor dining pods. The Town of Andover will be the first to have these locally made barriers line their Main Street as their restaurants start the journey to safely transition back to business as usual in coming weeks. For more information about our products, please visit our website: www.landmarkfinish.com/safe-guards
So, the million dollar question….what does the future hold for us? In the short term, the cabinetry business is slow and the plastic business is hot! Our pivot has changed more than just the product we pump out of our shop. It has changed our financial picture in several ways. The first is related to our labor needs. Custom cabinetry required skilled woodworkers, which are very hard to find. The plastic work is more of a streamlined production process and easier to fill employment positions. The second change in our financial picture is related to cash flow. For custom cabinetry projects, we collect a deposit from a customer prior to starting the project. Depending on the scope and length of the project, it can be 6-9 months before the project is complete. We collect progress payments but there are almost always outstanding receivables that age 30-45 days at the end of the project. Our Safe-Guards are essentially a cash business. With the exception of just a couple long standing, trusted clients, the product does not leave our shop without payment in full. This has greatly improved our cash flow and reduced the time of monitoring receivables. Cash is King! Finally, having our Safe-Guards product line is a business that we feel is very scalable, something we were struggling with on the custom cabinetry. These are all factors that we will continue to monitor going forward as we continually adjust our business plan.
The VETRN program was a game changer for our business. Prior to starting the program, we had already started working ON the business instead of FOR the business. We spent the past 2-3 years networking, fostering community connections and working on the future of the company. The VETRN program brought us together with other like-minded small business owners to learn and share our experiences. It provided a clear path for formulating our business strategy and kept us accountable for our work ever step of the way. That, coupled with the incredible network of people, helped build our confidence in making important business decisions, especially during our COVID pivot to plastics. We have now graduated from the VETRN program and remain in touch with the VETRN network, engaging in business with other members of our cohort and periodically calling on Lee Goldberg and our VETRN mentor for business advice. We consider ourselves part of the VETRN family and look forward to helping other Veterans navigate from the world of service to self-employment.