The future is still bright at Miken
There was a look of pride on the face of Mike Cummings as he sat in his conference room earlier this week.
The driving force and CEO of Miken Builders in Millville was enjoying the fact that his company was celebrating 30 years of doing business, and that their spinoff, BetterLiving of Delmarva, was in its eighth year of constructing sunrooms, porch enclosures and awnings.
He was proud of the fact that his average employee has worked with Miken for more than 10 years, that he has worked with Contractors for a Cause for nearly 20 years and was actively involved in the construction of Justin’s Beach House — the respite home in Bethany Beach for families affected by cancer. And he was most certainly proud of the two young men who shared the conference-room table with him.
Patrick is the sales manager at BetterLiving, and Sean is a project manager for Miken. They are both well-versed in the ways of Miken and know that each project they take on must live up to the high standards long-attributed to the company.
They are also Mike Cummings’ sons.
“We’re here preparing for the future of Miken’s management,” said a smiling Mike Cummings. “I enjoy the business more than ever now, working with them, and it really gives me peace of mind seeing how they’ve grown up and taken to responsibility. We’re in good hands with them.”
Cummings started the family business as a 26-year-old in 1986 in Wilmington. He and his wife, Kathy, bought their first home in this area in 1989 and decided to relocate Miken to the beach in 1993. His daughter, Katie, is now married and living in South Carolina — working in the medical field, just as Kathy Cummings has done in her career.
They maintained an office in Wilmington until “five or six years ago,” according to Mike Cummings.
And things have changed.
“There was a time when we were probably doing 70 percent commercial work and 30 percent residential,” said Mike Cummings. “Now, we’re probably at 80 percent residential, though we do still do some commercial projects for local people.” He cited the Bethany Boathouse restaurant and GiggleBugs Early Learning Center in Millsboro as some recent examples of their work.
And the reputation of quality work at Miken is only a benefit to the sons as the company goes forward.
“It’s a great situation,” explained Patrick Cummings, talking about BetterLiving. “The reputation of our work has already been established through Miken. We hold ourselves accountable to that higher standard, and now it is our job to build that reputation further down the road.”
“It really is,” added Sean Cummings. “And now, as we move forward, we are keeping an eye on the trends in the building world. It’s our job to identify those trends, figure out what our customers really want and make that happen. People can see our homes and projects and know it is a Miken job.”
BetterLiving has seen substantial growth in its relatively-short history as well. According to Mike Cummings, the company’s first year saw them employ one work crew, and they brought in approximately $300,000. BetterLiving employed three crews this past year and billed out more than $1 million.
“We’re always learning things we can do better, but we’ve come a long way since the start,” said Patrick Cummings.
He said that the majority of their customers spend the majority of their time at home in rooms built by BetterLiving and that the company only uses materials made in the United States. He also suggested that a 50-year warranty on their work — one that can be transferred to a new homeowner — is a major plus to their customers.
Both branches of Miken face different kinds of challenges building in the area, as opposed to other places, because of the basic elements.
“Up north, there are trees or other buildings to block a lot of the wind, but here you just get salt water and high winds really hitting homes and businesses,” explained Mike Cummings. “You have to take that into account in your building.”
They also have to take into account that they are often building homes or sunrooms for people who see this as a second home and aren’t within an easy drive to meet or observe the status of a project.
“[Customers] are often surprised when I tell them we can be available over the weekend,” said Sean Cummings. “But, you have to answer your phone at any time. You have to be there for the customer every step of the way. It builds trust.”
Miken also uses a Basecamp site, where customers can monitor the progress of their homes online. If a customer has a question, that query automatically goes to everyone on the job, from electricians to drywallers to superintendents to the Cummings family. Someone will be able to answer that question quickly. It’s a changing time, and the company appears to be embracing that change.
As for the future of Miken?
“We’re going to be in good hands,” said Mike. “These two are the future here, and there are a lot of good, experienced people we have on staff. I feel real good about where we’re going.”