Looking Ahead: Although his lead-carpenter training and other programs are well received, Faller sees more opportunities. “We need a program so carpenters can prove their proficiency in the field,” he says. He has created a basic job description for lead carpenters that includes evaluations, questions for interviews and an on-site field sign-off. He hopes to extend this to a Boy Scout-like system in which carpenters can demonstrate their skills and have a reviewer attest to that competency.
“My dream is for there to some day be a universal standard that can transfer between companies and states, so a lead carpenter can go to a new company and, based on his credentials, the owner knows that he meets certain standards. Right now, they have to guess. It may be pie in the sky, since this industry is so independent-minded. In general, there’s still a tremendous need for more training and a set of standards.”
Company: Certified Contractors Network, Ardmore, Pa. Years in Industry: 1966 – present
Early Years: Kaller followed in the footsteps of his father, who worked to sell the fledging Surfa-Shield franchise before opening his own branch in Philadelphia. Kaller began canvassing and then selling for the company while in school and ultimately bought the company from his father in 1966 at the age of 23. He bought five companies in the next 20 years, giving his employees new opportunities to grow.
Key Innovations: As his network of remodeling companies expanded, Kaller instituted systems and procedures that helped them grow smoothly. His selling ability attracted the attention of marketers at roofing company Bird & Son, who asked him to create selling programs for their salespeople. CertainTeed also became interested, and he soon had programs designed to boost contractor professionalism. He created Contractor Education Services in 1985 to provide tapes and programs to contractors to improve their businesses. He then aided NARI in creating its certification program, using techniques he’d created in his other programs.
In 1995, he decided to retire and consult with a few remodelers. His list rapidly grew from 10 to 50, and he created Certified Contractors Network to provide his member contractors with management help. “I talk about the importance of the three-legged stool in a contractor’s business: sales, production and administration,” he says. Without strong support in any one of those areas, the stool will collapse.
Looking Ahead: Kaller is continuing his educational efforts, aided by the creation of CCN University, which focuses on continued training via the Internet. “People go to seminars and get great ideas, but they don’t go home and implement many,” he says. “Adults don’t learn from a one-shot deal like that. They need follow-up.” He offers weekly training sessions on all three “legs.” “The future of this industry lies in continual training, to make it as professional as [independent entrepreneur-based] industries like auto repair and real estate have become,” he says.
Supporting Industry, Community
Company: Neil Kelly Design Remodeling Inc., Portland, Ore. Years in Industry: 1948 – 1995
Early Years: After being discouraged by the techniques he was told to use to sell siding and other home improvements following World War II, Kelly purchased Northwestern Weatherproofing for $100 and almost immediately began doing larger projects, including additions. Although he had only an 8th-grade formal education, “he was bright and had a thirst for education,” says son Tom Kelly, president of the company.
Key Innovations: An active participant in national trade groups in the 1950s and 1960s, Kelly helped form the Oregon Remodeler’s Association in the early 1970s. He was an active participant in the national home-improvement organizations and in 1982 became NARI’s first president, the only president to lead the group for two years. “Neil’s legacy is strongly connected to industry activism and giving back to the community,” says Tom Kelly. That was emphasized in 1978, when doctors told Neil Kelly that he had to stop working after suffering a heart attack. At 29, his son was named president. “That freed him up to do what he loved most — industry and civic activities.”