After seeing the results her husband’s remodeling company achieved by attending peer-group reviews sponsored by Les Cunningham and Dave Sauer at Qualified Remodeler, she began her own roundtable program at Remodelers Advantage in 1991. “I was so impressed that it could help people so much with similar problems,” she says. “I’m passionate about helping remodelers avoid having to reinvent the wheel. These programs can create a menu of options to choose from when there is a challenge. But they need a central core to run and support them.”
Looking Ahead: In addition to worries about the shrinking labor pool, Case sees another challenge coming, from builders who can’t find land to develop. “That’s a different pattern from the past, when builders entered remodeling only when the market turned bad,” she says. At the same time, she’s encouraged that more remodelers are asking her for ways to build value into their companies. “It’s hard to sell a remodeling company, but more owners are looking to their companies as a source of wealth and as a long-term asset. That’s a change in mentality.”
Company: Business Networks, Waterville, Ore. Years in Industry: 1971 - present
Early Years: An Air Force and then airline pilot, Cunningham bought a dilapidated Miami home and called contractors to give him estimates. Most didn’t show up. “I decided that if I became a contractor, I could get a lot of work if I just showed up for appointments.” He started his remodeling company to occupy his time between flights. By 1976, he had 35 employees and in 1978 was named NARI’s Contractor of the Year in the commercial category.
Key Innovations: In 1980, Cunningham joined with Dave Sauer at Qualified Remodeler to gather five non-competing remodelers to review his procedures and offer suggestions, after which the group would visit another member’s company. The concept became so popular that the group grew to 13 companies. Cunningham opened Business Networks in 1986, facilitating such meetings for other remodelers. The firm has 200 members in about 20 networks.
“The biggest advantage of a peer review is that you learn other people have the same problems,” he says. In many cases, other members have found solutions that the remodeler can use directly. “They don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Someone usually has an answer. They may not like the answer, but it’s available.”
Looking Ahead: “The remodeling industry has definitely matured, and the participants are much more sophisticated than they were,” he says. “They’re using software programs to make themselves more efficient and making their businesses more astute. It’s a very strong industry, and it still has a low barrier of entry, which makes it attractive.”
A lack of employees may hold it back, he warns. “There is a stigma in this country now about working with your hands, and that is generating a shortage of workers. There is decreasing supply and increasing demand, but not an increase in pricing. Most remodelers don’t realize that yet — but those with management experience realize it much faster. Too many remodelers devalue their time, and that hurts them. That has to change.”
Company: Field Training Services, Westerly, R.I. Years in Industry: 1983 – present
Early Years: After working for several years as a carpenter in Georgia, Faller joined Hopkins & Porter in Washington, D.C., in 1987. He served as lead carpenter for one year before becoming production manager. Working from an idea he credits to Walt Stoeppelwerth, Faller developed a lead-carpenter system that allowed one person to oversee all aspects of the project.
Key Innovations: Faller refined his ideas with input from others and introduced it to a wide audience at the Remodelers Show in 1991—where he discovered there was little educational programming for tradespeople. “There were lots of seminars for sales and management, but little for production and nothing for carpenters.”
To change that, he began creating program tracks for lead carpenters. “I started pushing for more seminars for field staff, so company owners could bring carpenters to these events to learn about products but also attend classes aimed at their needs.” In 1999, he formed Field Training Services to develop training programs for production staffs.