No Small Dreams

Modern Yankee Builders Inc. of Cumberland, R.I., may not be the biggest remodeler on the block, but principal Joseph C. Cracco, CGR, CAPS, doesn’t let that limit his vision.

For one thing, he favors a “systems” approach, something he learned while working for two large companies that specialized in commercial construction management. When Cracco started Modern Yankee Builders, he started a project administration binder, something that many small remodelers don’t have.

“We have a sales process, a design process, a production process; we can identify all the steps that we go through,” Cracco explains. “Over the years we expanded it, and now it’s a manual that anybody could step in and start running the business with.”

Cracco’s organization and passion for precision might also be explained by the fact that his grandfather ran a millwork company and was a draftsman, and his father taught drafting at high school and was a cabinet maker. When was 12 years old, the young Cracco drafted a full set of house plans as a school project.

While Cracco was struggling to make ends meet during the early years of Modern Yankee Remodelers, he discovered the importance of education and industry involvement.

“Everything changed at that point,” he says. “Education and systematizing is the foundation upon which our business has been built. It has allowed us to understand what great remodeling value truly is and then be able to repeat that predictably in an unpredictable arena.”

Cracco takes classes and attends seminars to achieve industry recognized designations, including Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) and Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), and to simply expand his knowledge. “It’s also a great way to network with others in similar roles in similar companies all over the US. The importance of this informal network of ‘partners’ cannot possibly be overemphasized,” Cracco says. “We’ve finally stopped reinventing the wheel; we do it less often, anyway.”

Professionalism is another quality that Cracco stresses. Many contractors still work without contracts, he notes, and it’s been an uphill battle to get them to do so. “We know it’s ultimately for the best fiscal health of our company, and it’s good for client and trade contractor relationships” he says.

It’s a “start-to-finish, systems-intensive process and a thorough, holistic view of clients’ needs” that sets Modern Yankee apart from competitors, in Cracco’s view. “This prevents us from doing what most other remodelers would do — doing what the clients ask, yet not solving the clients’ problems. This can be a tricky path to travel,” he says.

In his interaction with potential clients, Cracco follows a process that involves asking the right questions, being able to read between the lines, and suggesting alternatives. Perhaps the best solution isn’t adding more square footage but more efficiently utilizing the space homeowners already have, he explains. He may suggest that the homeowner would be happier with higher-end finishes and better design in less square footage.

“I want my clients to look back at me 10 years from now and say, ‘I’m so thrilled that we hired Modern Yankee and that they guided us into this solution rather than doing what we originally wanted,” Cracco says. “We’re committed to providing exceptional value over the long term."

Fast Facts about Joseph C. Cracco, CGR, CAPS

  • Company: Modern Yankee Builders Inc.
  • Location: Cumberland, RI
  • Date founded: January 2000
  • Industry Accomplishments/Affiliations: National Association of Home Builders member; Rhode Island Builders Association, local director and co-chair of the Remodelers Committee; Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, member
  • Professional designations & licenses: CGR, CAPS; Rhode Island Contractor Registration; Massachusetts Construction Supervisor; Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor License; Rhode Island Lead-Safe Remodeler/Renovator.