Qualified Remodeler's Editorial Advisory Board: February

Jeffrey Holloway, CKD, CBD

Lead designer/project manager for Holloway Home Improvement Center LLC, Marmora, N.J.

Year company was founded: 2002

Number of employees: Three

Who started your company?
My wife, Karen, and I started the Kitchen and Bath Studio in 2002. We were already operating a residential construction and remodeling company, which did a lot of spec work, since 1989. We had burned out on boring-bone floors, walls and fixtures, so we started the kitchen and bath business because we realized we could do a better job than the existing companies in our area. We already had the project-management skills in place, so we contracted with someone to design our showroom and teach us how to merchandise kitchen and bath products. We have been very successful working with clients who want a professional remodeling company to help them navigate the entire scope of work that is required to design and build a new kitchen or bath.

When and how did you choose this career?
My career chose me. I was in my second year of college, studying to be a surveyor, when the Reagan years blew the housing industry wide open. My brother had a successful residential construction and remodeling company, and he invited me to partner with him. We started building big, multifamily homes along the southern New Jersey coastline. In 1989, I left my brother’s business, proposed to my wife and we started our own company all on the same day. Looking back, it has been a tumultuous journey that has taken us to Holloway Home Improvement.

What did you do before becoming a remodeler?
Remodeling is all I have ever done. The new homes I built were an extension of that. There were departures along the way. At one time I had a shop that built and restored small wooden boats. I also set up a cabinet shop and built furniture for awhile.

As you were growing up, what did you want to be?
I always thought being a trash man would be pretty cool.

How has the remodeling profession changed since you’ve been involved?
The real changes are with the consumer. I believe that Home Depot and Martha Stewart made Americans aware of the potential their homes held. Cable television’s reality programs have made designing and remodeling entertaining. All of these venues have demystified the remodeling experience. They have added credibility to the practitioners who are actually qualified to be in the business.

The Internet has been a tremendous boost to the industry, as well. Consumers walk through our door educated and focused. I’m no longer embarrassed when a customer asks a question about something they have found on the net that I’m not familiar with.

I also believe that industry associations, manufacturers and suppliers are doing their best to keep up with the consumer and the industry. They are doing a great job providing education, products and marketing that address our industry. They are mindful that their products and services need to promote health and safety with consumers, workers and the environment.

I also know that it has become a lot harder to be profitable. The industry is much more regulated. License, insurance and registration fees continue to escalate. Every job we do requires more administrative work on the front-end. Regulations are constantly changing, and the cost of ignorance is staggering. I think a lot of seasoned pros will be leaving the industry because of this. When you talk to the tenured pros, they all say: “It used to be a lot of fun. Now it’s just a lot more work and we are not making the money we deserve.” They are also saying the consumer has changed. They are more demanding and often demoralizing. Despite all of this, I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for individuals and companies to become extremely profitable if they stay on the coattails of the regulators and do not get frustrated by the present economy.

What is the most unusual project your company has completed?
There have been a lot. People come to us for the out-of-the-ordinary. We are a pretty eclectic group of tradesmen, and the more obscure the better. The one that stands out is the restoration of a boat house. The structure was falling into the river. We had to jet piling in by hand, working with freezing cold water and mud. We used locally sawn white cedar for the siding and roof. It was freezing cold every day; we could only work a couple of hours at a time before we couldn’t feel our fingers. The house is still there. Looks as good today as it did when we completed it!

What is your favorite item in your office?
A vintage black and white photograph of our former bookkeeper. She was an amazing woman who passed away several years ago. I learned a tremendous amount about leveraging cash flow while she was with us. Whenever I’m signing checks, I’ll turn to the photo and smile.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
When I first got started, an old timer told me: “Jeff, you will have one or two opportunities in your life to be successful. If you don’t take the first opportunity, the second one will never come.” I think this is more relevant today than ever. It has been a rough three or four years for our company. We have been able to look for opportunity and emerging markets because we know we have to take risks to accomplish our goals.

What would you like to bring to QR’s advisory board?
Accountability for content and a grassroots perspective of the kitchen and bath remodeling industry. There is a lot of information and opinion available to the kitchen and bath remodeling community. Some is relevant and some of it is very well rehearsed. Accountability requires walking in the moccasins of those you are communicating with. I’m not so sure that everything that is being presented today is meant to move the industry forward. I have been very lucky and have had the opportunity to travel around the country educating and speaking to those in our industry. The people I have met are extremely intelligent and qualified, but they are being told if they do not fit into a particular shoebox they will not succeed. I want these people who think they are ordinary to recognize they are extraordinary. I’ve spent my entire life in the industry. Hopefully people will listen and learn as I share my experiences and enthusiasm for our industry. 

What are your professional affiliations?
I wax and wain with affiliations. I often wonder how many initials you need after your name to maintain your credibility. I have been a member of NARI. I am a member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and I have one course left to get my NAHB Certified Graduate Remodeler designation. I’m a Certified Kitchen Designer and a Certified Bath Designer. I have everything I need to become an NAHB Certified Green Builder; I just haven’t written the check. I am a Sandler Sales graduate. I have been a member of Toastmasters, and I am thinking about becoming a member of the National Speakers Association.

Please mention any awards your business has attained or any community involvement you have.
We have won a couple of Chrysalis Awards for remodels and were a Regional Contractor of the Year for NARI. I also have served on The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the NKBA’s board for about eight years. I am active in my community’s Cub and Boy Scout programs. I’m also the vice president of my community’s lacrosse program, and I know nothing about lacrosse.

What motivates you every day?
Love and respect for my family, especially my boys. On my worst day, I am mindful that my success will be defined by providing them with a safe environment to live and learn and become whatever their dreams and goals lead them to. I also have a grandmother who is alive and well at 104 years of age. She has always told me if I wait long enough tomorrow will come. With advice like that, it makes it easier to get through the rough patches we encounter every day.

If a movie was made about your life, who would be cast as you?
Jeff Bridges

Anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?
The best is yet to come!