The Dialogue with James Westbrook

This feature is a question-and-answer session with a new Blount County Chamber member. So here we go with our 55th installment visiting with James Westbrook, owner of Westbrook Repair & Remodeling which provides a service to our customers that few offer. I do not want my customers to have to call a separate person for the electrical work or the HVAC work or the roofing work when they call us for the plumbing! We are in business to SERVE!
 
What sets you apart from others? We literally do EVERYTHING for the home! I could list everything we do - and probably should! When I say "everything", some people have this preconceived idea we do everything BUT _____. Not true. We do the _____ also!!! HVAC repair and new units, electrical, plumbing, roofing (certified GAF installer for LIFETIME warranty shingles), flooring, windows, doors, kitchen and bath remodels, custom walk-in showers, painting, drywall, tree trimming and removal, garage doors, gutters, etc., etc.
 

How did you get started?I learned the basics from growing up on a farm and having to fix what was broken. For 32 years, I did handyman jobs on the weekends and evenings in addition to my full-time job. In 2002, I decided to quit my full-time job and start out on my own doing what I loved. Between my church family and my wife's school, I was so busy that I had to hire a man to help. Then had to hire another and then another. That third man is still with me today!!!

 
How did you get your background? Many years of trial and error and having to figure out things myself. My dad taught me the basics: common sense, do the best job you can do, do it right the FIRST TIME,learn from your mistakes, etc. If it has been done WRONG - I have done it! If it wasn't broken, it was after I got through with it!!! I did learn from my mistakes and also learned what worked. I have read multiple books and articles relating to what I do. I have taken multiple courses to further my education. I worked in the carpenter shop for Fulton Co. in Atlanta for a while. I continued to perfect my skills until I felt I was good enough to charge for them. I do have a bachelors degree in business Admin. This does help me keep things organized and actually run the business.
 
Who is your mentor? My dad was always by biggest supporter and mentor. It started when he and my mother adopted my sister Mary and me. I was 1 1/2 yrs. old at the time. If I could have PICKED the perfect parents - it would have been them!!! I will get a little teary-eyed writing this because I miss them so much and I am 63 yrs. old now!!! Anyway - my dad loved having me "work with him" on things on the farm. I know I was NO HELP, but he was teaching me. He took the time to explain how things worked and what was needed to fix it or do the job. He later became my scoutmaster as I went through the Boy Scouts of America and eventually became an Eagle Scout. When I was 12 and swimming at a lake in middle TN, he saw me go under the water and not come back up. He ran and then swam over 300 feet to the place he believe I went down. On his third attempt, he felt the hair on my head about 10 feet below the surface and pulled me up. My lungs were filled with water and my heart was no longer beating. I was basically DEAD!!! About 50 people (inc. family) had gathered at the beach - most crying because I had drowned. My dad - not giving up - proceeded to do the lifesaving measures he was taught in the Navy. God had a plan for my life because after I am not sure how many minutes of no life - I blew out the water from my lungs, coughed for a long time, cried and came back!!! Those sad tears turned into happy ones!!! Although both of my parents have been with the Lord for many years, I continue to remember what they taught me. I continue to do all I can to make my dad proud. I know some day I will see him again and I want him to say "Well done son"!!!
 
Describe your customers. We can't please 100% of our customers, but we do please around 98%. We strive for quality work at fair prices. Typically, we are cheaper than MOST licensed contractors. If we mess up on something - I WILL send someone back to fix the mess up at no charge (obviously)! We are not perfect. Most of our customers are wonderful. MANY of our customers give us a key to their house not only while we are working there, but to keep for the next time we need to get in. They know they do NOT have to be there for us to work. They don't have to take off work to protect their home or stuff!! We get a LOT of repeat customers and I love that! MANY were friends before we worked for them and now many are friends now that we have worked for them. I consider it a ministry to help my customers when they have a need. Most know they can call me just to ask a question and I will always be HAPPY to help them!!! I love to sit and talk with my customers when I have the time. It is MORE than a business relationship when that is possible.
 
Name three things you wish you knew when you started. How many men I would end up going through to find a few GREAT ones! How much it would cost in tools and equipment to be able to do EVERYTHING for the home. I wish I had known to start the business when I was YOUNGER!!!
 
What do you enjoy most about your business? I enjoy helping people. When they have a water leak and are freaking out - I can help. I enjoy running the business because I am helping to provide for 11 families! I am able to use my hands from time to time and use my brain (some may question the AMOUNT of this!) and use what I believe is my God-given gifts. I am NOT someone that could sit around and do nothing! I like it when the guys think for themselves, but I do feel like the wise old man when they come to me with questions of - what should I do here; where do I find this part; what would you do?

There are a LOT of "Handymen" and contractors out there. I am sure we are not the very best and I KNOW we are no where near the worst! We hear horror stories all the time of bad work and people ripping off customers, etc. MANY times we go behind someone else to correct something done wrong. I just try to do a quality job at a fair price. We are state licensed, insured and bonded. I am a Air Force veteran (service connected disability) but do not let the disability slow me down (much). I am a family man with eleven grandchildren. I am a Christian. I am proud of all of these which is probably not politically correct this day and age! There are things I believe in and things I do NOT believe in. I do not judge! Your choices are between you and God. I'm just and ole country boy from TENNESSEE who does what I can!!!