Tatge: An Unplanned & Unexpected Journey to Framing Success

Framing News,

Originally Published by: LinkedIn written by Chris Tatge — April 4, 2024
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My journey from a high school graduate with uncertain prospects to becoming the president of my own company shows the unpredictable nature of career paths. My first step into framing carpentry was not planned; it was an opportunity that came at a time when I was unsure about my future. My first woodworking job turned out to be a great opportunity, revealing a talent and passion for construction that I hadn't recognized I had. And with the support of others, I have been able to turn this passion into a successful, Inc. 5000 industry-disrupting business known as DC Materials.

How it Started

I was never a great student, in fact while others flourished, I struggled often to keep up in high school. After graduation, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I was eager to work. Upon looking for my next move I was offered a job as a framing carpenter and took it. I fell in love with the craft. It turned out I was good at it, really good at it. It came naturally to me, and framing gave me a new type of confidence, it was the confidence I needed to be good, the type of confidence and purpose that would go on to change my life.

I put in the work, and things started to move quickly. By the age of 20, this newfound passion and skill set led me to start my own small construction company and secure a contract to build 26 houses! However, this was just the beginning. Transitioning from a gig contractor to an entrepreneur involved calculated risks and strategic decisions, many of which were influenced by seeking the advice of mentors, and others in the industry. Of their advice, I took a bit of everything, and eventually forged my own path.

The Importance of Mentorship

I've benefited from several mentors throughout my career. My father, Tony, instilled in me the importance of hard work. From Don Ludzack, I learned the craft of building. Kenny Shifflett and Scott Stevens, experienced framers from the Mid-Atlantic, illustrated the transition from carpentry to entrepreneurship.

A major turning point in my path happened at a Framers Council event a few years ago when I met Bruce Jones, a successful turnkey contractor from Hanover, Pennsylvania. He shared that he had purchased several semi-loads of half-inch plywood for four dollars per sheet, significantly below its retail value. This insight prompted me to explore opportunities in the lumber industry. I looked up the retail price of lumber and it was selling for almost double that. I thought to myself I need to get in on this “lumber thing.”

Turning Insights into Business Strategy

At the time, I didn’t realize the full potential of this, but I knew by beginning to supply lumber alongside my framing offerings, we were beginning to challenge the conventional practices in the construction industry. It felt like we were breaking tradition, and inviting the possibility of new innovations into the mix. Innovation and a more efficient approach in a traditional industry is something I had always wanted, craved and eventually I found a way to embrace it. My hands-on experience as a carpenter, the insights of my mentors, market demands, and my desire to continue to build my business set the ultimate foundation for us to grow. As we continued to scale, I found comfort in the new, and continued to seek different approaches, more efficient models and new transformative tools that would eventually and organically disrupt. As you can imagine, I’ve never looked back.

Reflecting on my career, I've realized that career paths are deeply personal but filled with possibilities. The key is to remain open and be willing to step outside your comfort zone. Success often comes from the detours. It's important to embrace your journey, stay open to advice, and jump on the opportunities, all while remaining flexible to see what career path unfolds for you. There is no perfect road, there is only the road you are meant to travel.