For Frank Pologruto, the clients come first.
By Michael J. Pallerino
He was around 14 years old when the feeling hit him. Frank Pologruto remembers watching Bob Vila’s “This Old House,” PBS’ iconic home improvement show, and thinking how cool it was to see what went on behind the scenes. The remolding, repairing, and renovation was sheer artwork — and he was hooked.
Around this same time, Frank, owner of Decks & More, Inc. in Smyrna, would follow his father (a union electrician) around the house helping as much as he was allowed. When he started high school, Frank engrained himself in the building trade, taking shop classes to help hone his craftsmanship proficiency. His father was his muse and being able to emulate him was the arc he wanted to follow. “He gave me the work ethic, the discipline,” Frank said. “If it wasn’t for my dad, I don’t think I’d be here today. He was our family’s glue. His hard work and sacrifice were paramount to what I strived to be. That’s what I want to do — it is all I ever wanted to be.”
What his father taught him about work, sacrifice, and commitment, the Army would reinforce it. In 1989, at the age of 19, Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve a six-year stint that took him to the jungles of Panama, where he further learned the tenets of family, commitment, and teamwork. Moving from Private to Sergeant, he not only honed the skills to lead, but also how to effectively praise, reprimand, and correct people — skills that would become essential to being an entrepreneur. “We all have a mission, a job to do. You learn where to put people and who your best assets are. More than anything else, I learned that if you can take care of your people, your people will take care of you.”
After leaving the Army, Frank applied to Shepherds College in West Virginia and Towson University in Maryland, eventually settling on Towson, where he also sold alarm systems door-to-door. Upon graduating in 2000, he moved to Atlanta, where after a stint in telecom, he gravitated back to his first love. It was on the cusp of the recession that Frank started Decks & More. In his first year, he set up 700 appointments. “We were doing proposals and jobs and proposals; it was insane. I don’t think I could ever recreate what I started. We do about 100 appointments a year now.”
Home is where the heart is
The client comes first. If there is a principle by which Decks & More operates, that is the one. At the heart of this promise is the communication that Frank and his team have perfected after 20-plus years in the business. Multiple site visits. Constant conversations. The intrinsic attention to detail. Add it together and you get a company that has been honored with more than 120 design awards from industry leading groups such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA).
“We create an outdoor oasis. It could be a porch, a deck, a sunroom, a fireplace, outdoor kitchen or patio,” Frank said. “No matter what it is, you have to listen to what your clients want. If you can do that, you can make your customers feel special. That is a critically important part of the process. The real difference between our success and everyone else is that we care about our clients. We care about what they want.”
The other critical part of Decks & More’s success, and one that Frank says he credits to his years in the military, is that he takes care of his people. “Ask my team and they will tell you that I just have two rules: Take care of our clients and make it look pretty. In the end, it all comes down to listening and the final products. You want to offer creative ideas, optimum solutions, and you want to deliver on your promise. We are the ‘can-do contractors.’ I’ve seen too many people over the years say, ‘We’re going to do this and we’re going to do that,’ but they don’t. They don’t figure it out. We figured it out.”
In a time when a person’s home has truly become his castle, Decks & More is trying to help fill that passion. In a time of “staycations,” having everything you need in your backyard means something. When Decks & More first began, it was doing $4,000-$8,000 deck packages. Today, driven by bells and whistles like outdoor fireplaces and kitchens, the average ticket is around $120,000. Operating with three crews, the nine-person team (which occasionally includes Frank’s father helping out) has a client base that stretches from East and West Cobb, to Roswell, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and the City of Atlanta. It also does some work in Decatur.
“We love working with our customers, especially in the Cobb County area,” Frank said. “We have built some great relationships over the years with the building departments and inspectors. It’s just amazing where we are today compared to where we started. The whole outdoor living space just continues to blow up.”
One of Decks & More’s most recent award-winning projects was a nine-month, $500,000 custom build job in Marietta that included an upper-level porch featuring a tongue-and-groove ceiling and wood plank tiles. The deck was accented with large flagstone steps leading down to the lower-level patio, which featured a firepit and a kidney-shaped pool with the sun shelf built into it. To complete the ultimate outdoor oasis, the area included an outdoor kitchen and seating area. The Decks & More team worked with Atlantis Pool & Spa, which designed and installed the resort-style, multi-level pool and hot tub. Crawford Landscaping added the final touch with a landscape design concept featuring a tailored hardscape and green space, which help create an organic flow from one area to the next.
“The job was one that we were really proud of. It has been one of the real pinnacles of all the work that we have done,” Frank recalled. “And like every recognition we receive, it was earned. That is the most important factor — earning it. When we look at some of the other projects that are recognized and to know that we are in the mix with some of these amazing builders, it is exciting. Some of the work that other companies do is spectacular, so we are never concerned about what place something is rewarded. In the end, it is knowing that the customer is satisfied. The client is always first for us.”