Looking Ahead: “The industry has migrated to home centers from locally owned lumberyards, and that’s a downside,” he says. “We are high-maintenance, low-volume customers, and that’s a tough customer to service. Fortunately, home centers now realize they need remodelers.” Manufacturers, too, have come a long way in creating products designed for remodeling, from snap-together tub/shower units to retrofit-ready recessed can lights. “That evolution has been a big help to remodelers.”
Building Local Networks
Company: National Association of Home Builders Years in Industry: 1979 – present
Early Years: After six years in NAHB’s Land Use & Development Department, Patchan moved to its Remodeling & Rehabilitation Department in 1979, where he mostly worked with urban-redevelopment executives. In 1980, in the midst of a major recession, NAHB developed councils aimed at specialty construction areas that retained their vitality. The National Remodelors Council met for the first time in 1982.
Key Innovations: Patchan’s emphasis in NRC’s early days was on creating a network of local associations. When he joined the group, there were about 30, he estimates, which grew to 150 by the early 2000s. He also began using NAHB’s resources to develop statistical market data. “Qualified Remodeler had the only figures out there, but NAHB was able to probe into the numbers in different ways by using government data,” he says. “We started to show that remodeling was a significant part of this industry.”
He helped develop the Remodelors Limited Warranty & Home Owners Warranty and encouraged NAHB to expand its published resources for remodeling professionals. That led to the publication of “Marketing for Remodelers” by Linda Case in 1986. Patchan left the Remodelors Council in 2001 and is now executive administrator of the Frederick County (Md.) Builders Association. He was indicated into NAHB’s Hall of Fame in 2001.
Looking Ahead: “The business side of remodeling still needs a lot of attention,” he says. “The industry has a lot of turnover, and as new people enter, it’s difficult to get their attention and let them know about the resources that are available.” He also is concerned about the labor crunch. “Remodeling requires multitalented employees who can look at a problem and find a solution. Such skilled workers are at a premium, and remodelers have to compete for them against large construction companies. Companies’ abilities to grow will depend more and more on whether they can find labor.”
David M. Sauer:
Spreading the Word
Company: Qualified Remodeler, Chicago Years in Industry: 1975 – 1995
Early Years: After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism, Sauer became an advertising sales representative. By 1974, as a group publisher for building-material magazines, he began taking a closer look at the remodeling industry.
“I learned that nobody knew how many remodelers there were or what their dollar volume was — and that they generally had a bad reputation.” He secured 30,000 business names and phone numbers through the Yellow Pages, creating a “qualified” base from which to generate market research. “We were amazed to discover the volume being done by these contractors in kitchens, baths, and many areas beyond aluminum siding.”
Key Innovations: Creating his own publishing firm, Sauer produced the first issue of Qualified Remodeler in March 1975. It stressed management-oriented articles that promoted professionalism and high-quality design. “Our goal was to create contractor-to-contractor connections,” he says. He also doggedly walked the magazine’s research to marketing executives to convince them that the industry had a strong growth record and would surpass homebuilding’s volume. “We had to convince them that remodeling was a separate entity — and a bigger one, with higher-quality products being used.”
He also recognized that the industry’s growing professionalism needed a strong, unified voice. As one of (if not the only) member of both the National Remodeling Association (NRA) and the National Home Improvement Council (NHIC), Sauer brought the two competing — and distrustful — industry groups together at his Chicago offices in 1982. After long discussions, NRA and NHIC merged to create today’s National Association of the Remodeling Industry.