The speech

February 1st, 2011

I gave this speech as I was installed as the President of the Remodelers Council of Southern California on Jan 28th. It contains quotes from the previous blog that I had requested. Thank you to those who contributed!

Installation speech (ethos, pathos, logos) Jan 28, 2011

Thank you _________

“it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” Can you identify with either or both?

2 short years ago I had my biggest project ever. It was referred from an architect, not even competitively bid. I had a full time Project manager on site and I was in the office most of the time, wasting time, taking things for granted – like the next project. And this thought kept coming to mind —— two words—- “humble yourself” —– but I couldn’t or wouldn’t. I didn’t know how. Well, the next project never came – at least the kind I was getting used to. After struggling with that reality for a couple months, I laid off all my employees including my wife, Cheri. She went back to work for the first time in 18 years and I was wearing the tool belts, doing whatever I could to supplement my wife’s income. I even interviewed with a commercial builder, wondering if I should just close the business down. Maybe I was depressed. Maybe it was a mid-life crisis. Maybe that’s what “humble yourself” felt like. And right in the middle of it Ken Bailey asked me to serve as Vice President of this Council. I was alert enough to see the irony in the situation, but was indecisive and non-committal. After a conversation with my business coach I realized what a great opportunity this was so – as they say – the rest is history and here I am.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I can tell you all for certain that what I went through in 2009 – emotionally and financially – is not something I ever want to experience again. And yet, I learned some things during that time that I hope I never forget. I learned in a deeper way to appreciate the gift of life, to appreciate the Giver of life, and to appreciate the people around me. I learned to appreciate the present moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It’s too easy in this age of hyper-media, cutting edge technology and 10 second attention spans to be distracted with lesser things and to be overwhelmed with the tyranny of the urgent. But this I know, now more than ever: My work is a gift from God to serve people and my Lord.

Tonight we’re gathered with others who share a good and common work: improving the lives of our friends and neighbors. Our common goal is to improve our businesses and we know that professional organizations like the NAHB Remodelers are here to help us do just that. We are professionals and we’re committed to growing, learning and serving our clients. Fortunately, we’re not alone. NAHB Remodelers has over 14,000 members nationwide and is the largest, most influential organization serving our industry. Why did you join? I joined because Ben Morey told me to ? Actually all he had to do was suggest it. Thanks Ben, you’re the consummate professional.

We use the word ‘professional’ in many different ways. Ever hear of professional wrestling? What is a professional remodeler? How does that look in real life? I asked this question on my blog and these are some of the responses- from inside and outside the industry: “Integrity, promptness, good listener, tight systems, people skills, have legal ducks in a row, genuine interest in the teams success and workmanship, love for their work, communication, great relationships, no ego, responsive, clean, sets clear expectations, conflict management skills, respects the clients home and emotions” – and here is one verbatim: “A professional runs their business like a business. They operate ethically in all matters. They have self imposed rules, regulations, and policies which they follow. They push to continuously improve every aspect of their business, and seek to do the same for their industry. A professional invests in the community and works to enrich the lives of everyone they come in contact with. A professional strives to improve the perception of their business and their industry. A professional is not satisfied with adequate performance; they strive for excellence in everything they do. A professional checks their ego at the door. A professional tells the truth, seeks to build good will and better friendships, and ensures their actions are both fair and beneficial to all concerned.”

Does that about cover it? Were there any that resonated with you? I know that each one of us in this room have at least a handful of these mastered. Will you share with us? And each one of us feels the need to improve in some of these areas. Will you ask for help?
The comment that resonates with me is: “they push to continuously improve every aspect of their business”. That is my challenge tonight. I challenge you and I challenge myself. “To continuously improve every aspect of your business” As we consider this challenge let me suggest a balance of conventional wisdom and innovative entrepreneurial thinking. On the conventional wisdom side, I believe that there is no substitute for mentoring. Technology will not replace what a person to person interaction will achieve. That’s not to say that technology can’t be used as a tool to facilitate the interaction. And maybe we need to reframe our idea of mentoring. The flow of ideas is not one way. I think it’s not only possible but very viable to co-mentor. In this room there is a huge untapped potential of mastered skills that can be shared. You may not even recognize your own skills because they come so naturally to you – but believe me – you have skills, talents and traits that we can learn from. Education has always been a strong emphasis of the NAHB, BIASC, and the Remodelers Council. Mentoring is the organic component of education. Find a mentor, be a mentor. Let’s grow this way together.

That’s the conventional side of the challenge, sharing best practices and more. I want to challenge you to balance that with the need to think outside the box. The combination of technology, the economy, and demographics have rocked our world so that we can’t afford to passively react to the new demands of this age. We have historically been a reactive, responsive industry and in some ways we have to because the client is the boss, but we can be proactive and innovative in so many other ways. Let’s brainstorm on ways to improve our business models, our systems, our customer service and delivery, our communication, our time and technology management. Everything is up for grabs. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo, to think outside the box, and reinvent our business if needed. I was very encouraged to see our BIA take action to streamline itself in response to the economic realities. I saw it as a proactive step, and I’m proud to be part of an organization that can recognize the need to take big steps – and then follow through. The bottom line is that someone will figure out a better way to meet the needs out there and it might as well be us. It might as well be you. What fear keeps you from taking a big step? Let’s talk about it, face it and move forward – together.

Moving forward is not for cowards or lone rangers. It may not be easy but it will be exciting. The good news is that the forecast is bright. Consider the following:
Consumer confidence is the highest in 3 years and people expect to spend more on remodeling. Two huge growth areas are sustainable (CGP) and universal design, as the massive boomer population has officially started retirement age (CAPS). The Joint center of housing studies at Harvard University is optimistic about the future of the remodeling industry. It says the late economic downturn only stalled the inevitable need for people to upgrade and improve their homes and they are expecting a sizeable increase in spending.

There will be opportunities ahead for sure. Let’s figure out how to see them, how to find them, how to create them.

As your President I want to commit to you on 2 points:
I will be available to teach, learn, listen, and think outside the box with you.
I will challenge you to continuously improve every aspect of your business.
In return, I ask for one thing: let’s get in touch and stay in touch. We all need each other. We’re a community with a common vision and we’ll thrive when we’re growing together

Thank you all so much for coming tonight. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and serving the council. May this year be good to you and those you love.

What does professional really mean?

December 15th, 2010

This will be intentionally short so I don’t sway or influence your answer to the question above. A short story first: I was reading an interview in the local business journal and a comment at the end caught my attention and my ire (yeah, I know…it was just a little). The quote from the owner of a lumber yard said that “90 % of their clients were professionals or contractors”. Did you see that? That little word “or”. I’m pretty sure I know what he intended to say but it could be easily read to communicate that the two are mutually exclusive. ouch.
My assumption and my mission in my business is that it is possible to be a professional contractor. My question to you is, what are the qualities that you would say make a contractor a professional?

You should know: I may quote your comments in a speech I give in January when I am installed as the President of the Southern California Remodelers Council.

Your turn 🙂


May 5th, 2010

Some of the most moving, powerful words uttered. When I watch a video of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. say these words and understand the context from which he speaks, I get the chills. Every time.

Now I have a dream.

I have a dream that as our parents and grandparents continue to live longer, they can do so in the comfort and security of their own home, not made to move into a ‘home’ if that’s not their wish.

I have a dream that injured breadwinners can remain living with their own families, not separated or relocated because their physical limitations force them to live in a ‘facility’ miles away.

I have a dream that disabled children live the most normal life possible including living in their own home surrounded by the care and love that only a family can give, not in an ‘institution’.

I have a dream that homes will be designed to promote the dignity of all mankind, and not just accommodate the young and healthy.

I have a dream that I can live my entire life in the same house even if I’m disabled.

Now what? No marches in the beltway. Yet 🙂

What if a team of professionals collaborated to discover the best solution for each person who has challenges living in their current home?
What if an occupational therapist assessed the situation from a care perspective?
What if they took their assessment to a universal/adaptable designer who could translate that perspective into the physical space and redesign the living space to not only function well but look great?
What if the builder/remodeler was a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist AND had a passion for this idea?

Can you imagine professionals from unique perspectives collaborating together to arrive at the best solution for you or your loved one? Not only the best solution, but a range of options to choose from depending on timing and finances. Speaking of finances, wouldn’t this team be hitting on all cylinders if there were an insurance and finance specialist who could navigate that arena for the team?

The second most-used phrase that MLK uses in his speech is “let freedom ring…”.
My dream: it’s about freedom. For you and your loved ones.

The dream is taking shape! Stay tuned, and tell me what you think of my dream? Is it yours too?

How to stay in your home longer with more comfort

April 9th, 2010

My second designation from the NAHB is CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist). One of the big stories in 2007 was the first baby boomer hitting retirement age and the implications to our industry is staggering. I realized that this generation, for the most part, wants to stay active and stay at home as long as possible and one of the main challenges is the functionality of their home. Our goal is keep people in the comfort of their home longer by making the necessary physical changes without a hospital look or feel. There are many faces and expressions of this niche and every person and home will require unique applications of this type of construction.

White collar meets blue collar

February 21st, 2010

I was visiting with a potential client yesterday and as usually happens (or at least what I like to have happen), they began to tell me about their experience with other contractors. They were pretty passionate about this I could tell, so I told them that as the VP of Remodelers Council of SoCal I am on a mission to professionalize the industry. As they continued their stories I was taking notes and here’s one example: A guy wrote out his estimate in front of the homeowner. On a piece of scrap paper. I’m wincing at this point but I’ve heard of this before. THEN- HE SCRATCHED OUT SOME PRICES AND INCREASED THEM- RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF HER! Really??? Well, I thought I had heard it all. I wondered what my expression was at that point because I was speechless.
We had a great conversation about the lack of professionalism in the industry and came to the conclusion that it was mostly due to the fact that most contractors (residential remodeling type) have never worked in a professional environment. So white collar meets blue collar and it’s not pretty. There’s a bit of disappointment and frustration on a few levels: communication, appearance, habits, speech, punctuality, etc.
Most contractors I know have a heart of gold and will bend over backward to help someone but this gets overlooked or misunderstood when their unprofessionalism sticks out like a sore thumb.
So here’s my advice and encouragement: hire someone you’re comfortable with and don’t put up with unprofessionalism. Are you ready for this? Take the guy (or lady) aside and in a (professional, of course) way tell them they could improve their chances of making the next sale if they would _______________. If you’re not sure what to say- ask me. That’s what I’m here for. May your next blue collar encounter be an enlightened one!

Planning ahead-start with WHY?

January 6th, 2010

I proposed in the last post that the best, most realistic way to keep your project on time and on budget was to trust the professional and plan ahead – with a strong emphasis on the word “and”. It definitely takes both to make it happen and the last post was about trust so here’s my advice on planning: like voting- do it early and do it often. Oh the stories I could tell about someone who just decided to add a room or remodel the kitchen and would like to start next month. Seriously. And this is my favorite question “when can you start?” without, what to me would be a much more important question: “when will you be done?” But the point of my writing is not to make fun of clients who don’t have a grasp of the complexities and processes that are involved with remodeling. My point is to educate and create expectations that are more in line with reality which will make the entire process better for everyone.

I can’t overstate how important it is to have a realistic calendar expectations, proportional to the size and complexity of your project. Ideally, I advise a minimum of one year for a major addition/remodel to determine budget, scope of work, material selections and to select a contractor (not necessarily in that order).

The initial planning must be driven by the client. The WHY question should be firmly answered before you can move on to more tangible questions. It is critical from the very beginning to involve a design professional who will translate the WHY and help you fill in the blanks. WHY NOT questions will be a sure way to further develop the WHY of your project. “why do I want to add a bonus room, remodel the kitchen, and upgrade the rest of the house?” may be answered best by starting with “why not sell this house and buy one that’s already what we want?” and so the questions continue until you are confident in your WHY and have established boundaries that will help with mission creep which is a part of almost every remodel project.
I won’t be listing all the minute decisions that are part of planning here. Partly because every project is unique and partly because it wears me out just thinking about it 🙂 First things first: answer the WHY as thoroughly as you can. Make it bullet-proof from any angle. Marinate on it a little, even let a season pass and you might be surprised how your WHY might change from summer to Fall when the family rhythms change. Next post: planning ahead-HOW? Any questions for me in the meantime?

Goal: on time, on budget

November 5th, 2009

Some goals are realistic and some are, well…it’s OK to dream. In the world of remodeling where does “on time and on budget” fall? Is this a realistic goal or just a dream? My tongue-in-cheek answer in 5 easy steps: 1. specify everything and have it on site before the project starts 2. anticipate worst case scenario for existing conditions 3. don’t assume anything 4. control the weather and 5. don’t change your mind! Follow all 5 and there will be no surprises. It’s that simple…and impossible.

The alternative (but still try for as many above as you reasonably can) is two steps. Not as simple, but more realistic: TRUST the professional and PLAN ahead.  Trust is a huge word and in these times dominated by marketing from all directions, it’s not easy to know who you can put your full confidence in.  How do I trust someone I don’t know? My top 3: 1) Use your network. Relational equity goes a long way. Trusting someone is easier if they are trusted by someone you already trust. 2) Check their history. 20 years in the industry compared to 2 years is worth something. It may not directly translate into trust but my comfort level is much higher just from the math alone. This should not be taken to avoid hiring someone new. We all had to start somewhere and with me, it was close friends and family that knew my personal character. But still. 3) Listen to yourself. No kidding, it gets downright non-linear. Don’t ignore that small voice that says “something just doesn’t add up here” If you think I’m crazy, read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. That small voice is usually right on, even when you can’t put our finger on it.

Next post: planning ahead

Professional remodeling

June 22nd, 2008

My first designation earned through the NAHB is CGR (Certified Graduate Remodelor). Two disclaimers- this is not a masters program and Professional remodeling is not an oxymoron. I’m sure there have been books written about the remodeling horror stories, beside the TV shows that feed the stereotype of very unprofessional “contractors”. With some of this as background “static”, we have set out to be a professional remodeling firm. There are many facets of professional including continuing education but the net effect will be felt on the consumer level-we want each client to have the most positive experience possible. Here’s to your ideas on what that looks like….

Green building and remodeling- philosophy and practicality

June 22nd, 2008

My latest designation from NAHB is CGR (Certified Green Professional). As soon as this education became available I took the classes knowing that ‘green’ is here to stay and it’s the way we all need to start thinking. This is not about tree-hugging and saving whales although I have nothing against either. I’m all for Green and I’m all about Peace, but I’m not GreenPeace- I’m a green builder. That may sound like an oxymoron to some so I’ll just ask those of you to expand your paradigm a little bit and explore with me this idea of rethinking building, materials and methods, to improve the quality of life for us, future generations, and the rest of creation.