It has become a tradition for Qualified Remodeler editors, in conjunction with the compilation of each year’s Top 500 list, to ask those fortunate enough to be included in the latest edition of the list for their thoughts about the state of the industry and their prognostications for the future. The economic and housing trends that began in 2008 have become the new reality for most remodelers—not just a temporary downturn but part of a trend that will likely endure for the foreseeable future. Most remodelers who have been in business for any length of time are no strangers to the cyclical nature of the business, but many are saying the current economic adjustment is unlike any they have ever experienced.
Jobs are smaller. Clients are more demanding and more price-conscious than ever and come with a new set of expectations, a phenomenon driven in part by social media and the sheer amount of information available online. Competition is more ruthless than ever. Remodelers are doing things and taking on jobs they never thought they would just to survive.
And yet, those who have weathered this storm—and others before it—remain optimistic and ready to meet challenges, armed in part with traditional values and principles but willing to apply those philosophies to a new set of circumstances.
Also, they’re willing and eager to talk about what they’ve experienced during the past several years. The response to this year’s questionnaire was overwhelming, delivering far more responses than can be shared in these pages.
Following are a few samples of what this year’s Top 500 remodelers are thinking:
Q:Has the remodeling business changed dramatically during the past several years, or do you feel this is just one more cycle in the series of booms and downturns that characterized recent decades? What’s in store for the future?
I believe all small businesses have principles and characteristics that transcend current cycles and even our lifetimes, such as the power of earning our clients’ trust and referrals. Specifically the remodeling business requires us to do what we say we will when we say we will do it and that we do it well. The market forces us to become better and to be visionaries in relation to the adjustments we need to make to find strong business niches and long-term success.
—Craig Huseby, Huseby Homes LLC, Nashville, Tenn., No. 343
With any business, the parameters of success change with time, and businesses need to adjust accordingly to ensure survival in their particular field. The future will continue to have the same patterns as in the past, but the contractors who thrive will be the ones who stay consistent with their product and their message while satisfying each client on the level of expectations that were set up front and delivered upon. In a nutshell, I believe if you continue to satisfy your clients while staying dynamic in your industry, the changing economy will have little to no effect on your company’s overall success or failure.
—Robert Williams, Olneya Restoration Group, St. Louis, No. 158
There is no question our industry has dramatically changed in the past several years. Of course there are cycles, but we’ve never had one as long and drawn out as this one. As a third-generation remodeler, I’ve seen three of these cycles myself, and this is a whole new ball game. Consumer confidence in real estate has dropped to unprecedented lows. Now, even if they have money, many people don’t believe their home is the safe haven they once thought it was. This is a complete paradigm shift that has been overlooked by many.
—Paul L. Sullivan, The Sullivan Co. Inc., Newton, Mass., No. 404
We are one of the remodelers who have done well in this economy, and I am asked this question all the time. The short answer is we have expanded our services. We used to do only exterior renovations (roofing, siding, windows and doors). In 2008, we started offering construction services, including additions, kitchens, bathrooms and basements. It isn’t just that easy. A roofer isn’t going to install someone’s kitchen properly, so some adjustments were required.