There are times in every person’s life when he or she needs advice. The best guidance often comes from someone who has experienced a similar situation and is willing to share the successes or blunders that occurred. The remodeling industry is fortunate to have many peer-group options that can offer insights into business systems and processes, sales and marketing, lead generation, management and much more.
Although dollars are tight, investing in peer-group membership may better equip you to battle the downturn than had you remained an island unto yourself. “My advice to people who aren’t thinking about joining a peer group because of the expense is you will earn back the money you invest within the first year based on the lessons you learn the first time you go,” says Todd Drury, principal owner of TR Building & Remodeling, New Canaan, Conn.
Drury is a great example of someone who found success through involvement in a peer group—in his case, Remodelers Advantage Inc. Drury joined the group in 2007 because he had read articles in which remodelers said peer groups were the best thing they had done for their businesses. “They all seemed to say the same thing: It was something they wished they had done a long time ago,” Drury remembers. “About the third or fourth time I read that from a different remodeler, I started looking into it.”
Remodelers Advantage was established in 1991 by Linda Case and Victoria Downing, president. The organization works with remodelers of all income levels in many ways, including Roundtables Peer Groups. The roundtables, which consist of 10 to 12 noncompetitive members, are designed for remodeling companies earning $1 million or more annually.
The groups meet twice per year for three days in varying locations. The main focus of the individual groups is to go over performance metrics—65 data points that cover all areas of their businesses. Remodelers Advantage shares the data in a confidential composite report specific to each group. All groups also are ranked and compared against the group average and the average of the top 25 percent of community members.
“This is what drives our discussion,” Downing explains. “It’s facts, numbers, metrics and objective data. We use that information to ask, ‘What are you doing that gets you so many leads in this area? Why is your production cost so high? Why do you have slippage of 5 percent?’”
In addition, the groups go on excursions for further business enlightenment. In the spring, they visit a member company’s offices and focus on the business operations. “They look at the paper flow, leads, marketing statistics, and they meet and interview the company’s people,” Downing says. “They do an analysis on the business for the owner and come up with action plans to take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the weaknesses they see.”
In the fall, the groups visit a business outside the remodeling industry, during which they receive private tours, hear from company leaders and learn what makes the business successful. Remodelers Advantage has visited Kohler Co., Kohler, Wis., and Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as participated in the Disney Leadership Institute, Anaheim, Calif.
Downing says the greatest benefit of a peer group is it helps members find information, implement new processes and develop systems in half the time it would take them on their own. “You’re talking to other smart, motivated businesspeople who also are dedicated to continuous improvement,” she says. “You share so much: systems and processes, know-how and contacts. As members start putting best practices into place, they see their income and time increasing.”
Drury can attest. “The most important thing I learned was that I wasn’t charging anywhere near enough for my jobs,” he admits. “The second biggest thing I learned was I needed to get out of the field, which was preventing me from working on other parts of my business. It’s easy to tell yourself ‘I can’t do that in my market; my market’s different.’ But when you have 10 other guys saying you don’t know what you’re talking about, it kind of opens your eyes.”