Around the time that his friends started getting married and moving to their own places, Woody—who had by then built a successful career in finance—witnessed first-hand the general confusion involved for those who were renovating for the very first time, and came to realize the business potential in the renovations market. In 2013, he and his friends decided to take a leap of faith to found CoDeco, an online platform connecting home owners with reputable renovation contractors.
Woody and his team came up with the company's Chinese name, 好師傅 (the Chinese characters for "good" and "master") after much deliberation. "Traditionally there is no regulation for renovation work in Hong Kong and no certification mechanism for contractors," explains Woody. "Consequently the industry has gained a negative reputation for being non-transparent and fraught with disputes between clients and contractors. We want to change this – not only do we want to show respect for the skills of our contractors, but we also want our brand to be synonymous with reputable and quality contractors. It is our hope that we can improve the poor reputation of the industry in Hong Kong by setting an industry standard for quality assurance."
The team's business model has been working very well for them – in just a few years, the company has grown rapidly into a one-stop shop for home and office renovations, with comprehensive services to support both clients and contractors at each stage of the renovation process. As of February 2020, CoDeco has facilitated over 2,000 successful jobs and has more than 100 quality contractors in its network. CoDeco vets each of their contractors through a stringent application and quality assurance process, and works closely with both contractors and clients from day one to ensure that both sides clearly understand one another's expectations. Customer service staff help facilitate communications between both parties and make regular site visits to ensure that the renovations are on schedule and that the finished product meets the client's expectations. Woody explains the rationale behind this: "Often we find that disagreements arise between clients and contractors due to poor communication. Our team's role is to manage both sides' expectations right from the beginning and ensure that no misunderstandings occur."
The road to success was not without barriers, however. During the first year of operations, the business took on any and all projects, including home repairs that did not generate much revenue. By the end of 2015, they had nearly exhausted their funds and the financial situation was steadily going downhill. What was more disconcerting was that there was a potential loss of talent, with one of their core team members being head-hunted by an overseas company. Under the threat of closing down, things took a sudden upward turn with an appearance of an investor. "I thought it was a hoax at first, how could something that good suddenly happen?" Woody recalls laughingly. However it proved to be true: the investor had read about CoDeco in the media and, after several rounds of discussion, invested some much-needed capital that allowed the team to springboard into further development.
Aside from setting industry standards, Woody is also keen to establish a standard of "work hard, play hard" within his own team. "I am an advocate for teambuilding activities – when we first moved to this location, we held a Running Man competition right here in our office which included fun activities like a treasure hunt, hot pot, archery and more. I think this mindset is very important in building a strong and cohesive team, and we're planning to do more activities like this every few months or so."
Looking to the future, the CoDeco team is expanding their business to cover renovation materials, with the goal of connecting quality suppliers with end users and contractors.