Change for the Better

I recently was encouraged about the marketplace by the members of the Remodeling Futures Steering Committee at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The committee consists of manufacturers, remodelers and service providers, such as lending institutions. Kermit Baker, senior research fellow for JCHS, asked committee members how they expect the remodeling market to look in 2012. Of the 50-plus attendees, a vast majority raised their hands indicating they expect “reasonable growth of 2 to 10 percent.” Nobody in the room voted for “down” or “strong growth.” Very few people showed support for the “flat” option. Although this wasn’t a scientific study, I think it was a good representation of how the majority of remodelers are feeling, as well as a reflection of what we heard from various presenters throughout the day. As Chris Herbert, JCHS’ director of research, put it, we are at the “beginning of a virtuous cycle”—not a big bounce back.

If nothing else, the ongoing housing crisis has taught those of us in the construction industry that change is necessary to adapt to this difficult marketplace. Despite how quickly the industry and world are changing, however, the QR staff was surprised by how little our readers have changed their marketing practices. The responses we received to a marketing questionnaire sent in March don’t appear vastly different than what we might have received if we had conducted the survey before the housing crisis. Why haven’t remodelers changed the way they market when their customers have drastically altered how they research and buy products and services? Ken Betz, QR’s senior editor, makes the case in the “Remodeler Survey Series,” page 26, that marketing the same way you always have may not be the wisest decision.

Another way in which the marketplace has experienced drastic change that shouldn’t be ignored is in the area of government regulations. During the past few months, my colleagues and I traveled around the country giving a presentation about navigating RRP and OSHA’s new fall-protection directive, for example. Many of the regulations we discussed weren’t a factor five years ago, and, as a testament to how quickly these regulations are evolving, we had to edit our presentation several times during the four months of presenting to remain current. Relief from the onslaught of regulations may be on the way, however. William Atkinson writes in “Business Solutions” about S. 1030, the Freedom from Restrictive Excessive Executive Demands and Onerous Mandates Act of 2011. Learn more about how the bill can help you and how to support it by contacting your legislators on page 22.

I realize change can be difficult and unwelcome. It took me awhile to wrap my head around all the new ways there are—in addition to print—for us to provide content to you. When I started in publishing, I was not thinking about blogs, e-newsletters, online photo galleries, social media, videos and webinars, but now I certainly am. A publisher once told me it’s not up to us how our readers receive content; we need to make it available in whatever format the readers are comfortable receiving it. I think the same can be true of your remodeling business. Although you’ve already experienced plenty of change in recent years, it’s time to truly embrace this new marketplace and adapt your business to better meet the expectations of today’s consumer. I’m willing to bet you’ll find the changes you initiate will be very successful.