How did you get started in your remodeling career?
I went to a trade high school – Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica, Queens where I learned cabinet making. My dad was also a brilliant carpenter.
He had to double the size of our house – there were 7 kids and he did all the construction himself. My earliest memories of working with him were ‘soaping the screws’ so they went in easier since there weren’t any power tools then.
After I graduated from the trade high school I went to work for a contractor specializing in interiors and worked in his cabinet shop. I decided then that I would rather work in the field than in a shop.
What are the top 3 skills every remodeler should have?
1. A good general business sense.
2. Good listening skills to pick up clues about what type of person your client is and what they are looking for in their renovation project.
3. Empathy – your client’s home and life are in turmoil during a renovation – do your best to be understanding and run the project smoothly.
What is your biggest success, or a defining moment in your career?
I brought in a business consultant to help me grow my business and set up procedures and policies which resulted in my taking a weekly paycheck.
What is your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
I took on a whole-house renovation when I was 24 and the size and scope of the job was way over my head. While I completed the project, I didn’t make any money and basically worked for free. Lesson learned – you need to know your numbers, especially estimating costs, and bring in professionals in the fields you’re not familiar with.
Looking back, what advice would you give your future self about a career in remodeling?
Get an early education on best business practices. You can be a great carpenter, but if you don’t know the business end of running a renovation company you’re not setting yourself up to succeed.
What're your criteria for a successful project?
A successful project is on-time, on-budget and you have happy clients who are glad to refer you to family and friends.
What technologies have had the greatest positive impact on your business?
The smartphone has probably had the biggest impact on my business. It allows me to communicate with customers and crew while in the field, document projects using photos, email information and also lookup product information any place, any time.
What is the best advice you ever received and from whom?
This quote from an old customer: “A slow nickel beats a fast dime every time.” I have always taken that to mean slow and steady wins the race. Take your time and do the job right.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the remodeling industry today?
1. Price Shopping. Homeowners looking for the lowest price often choose unlicensed and inexperienced contractors which is bad for the industry as a whole.
2. Labor Shortage. There are not enough young people entering the industry with proper qualifications. They need to be exposed to the remodeling industry in a way that makes them see it as a viable career.
How many people in your crew and office staff?
We have 4 people in the field and a part-time office worker. How many jobs per year? About 25 large projects (kitchen and bath renovations, larger remodels) and 50 small projects (doors, trim, etc.)
What trade publications do you read regularly?
Fine Home Building and Remodeling magazine. We also pick up a lot of information from trade shows, vendor demos, etc.
Most innovative product used this year and why?
The new one-piece shower systems that feature a showerhead, body spray, and even temperature control. They eliminate labor and thus cost, plus they’re easier to rough-in and install.
Chevy, Ford or Dodge?
Ford – I’ve had 6 to 8 of them.
Favorite type of job site tunes?
Classic rock all the way
The greatest benefit of being a NARI member?
Networking with like-minded business owners to solve problems, exposure to new products and new ways of doing business and educational opportunities. Being a NARI member brings credibility to my business because it shows my clients I am committed to being the best remodeler I can be
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