By Cheryl Savit, Savvy Words for Kevin Cradock, PR Committee Member
The December meeting of PRO New England kicked off with a lively half-hour of socializing, leading to announcements by Chairman of the Board Justin Zeller about upcoming events. New member Ned Maric of McIntosh & Co. Cabinetry introduced himself, followed by Efrainy Saints, General Manager of Mark-One, the event sponsor. Once again Mark-One collected toys from members for the Toys for Tots drive.
President of the Board Cathy Follet introduced the evening’s speaker, Victoria Downing, President of Remodelers Advantage. Downing is a leading authority in the remodeling industry. For nearly 30 years, she has worked with owners of remodeling companies across the United States and Canada, to help them build strong, consistently profitable businesses. Known for her high-energy educational seminars as well as her in-depth knowledge of the best practices that transform company performance, Downing has created the industry’s largest community of motivated remodelers through Remodelers Advantage University and the Roundtables Peer Group Program.
Downing’s State of the Industry presentation, entitled “New Era for the Remodeling Industry,” touched on current challenges facing remodelers today, including:
- Unprecedented demand for products and services
- Supply chain issues
- Ongoing Covid concerns, especially with new omicron strain
- Pricing fluctuations (mostly increases)
- Labor challenges – finding and retaining skilled employees
She then presented some good news:
- Business is booming, and the forecast is for continued growth through 2022
- Housing stock is aging, so homeowners will need remodeling services
- The steady flow of leads means that remodelers can pick and choose which projects and clients are best aligned for them
- Belonging to a strong association of remodelers like PRO New England provides support and resources to help with creative problem-solving
- Advances and innovation in technology can help remodelers
Downing cited information from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, Craig Webb, former editor of Remodeling Magazine, who has founded Webb Analytics (insights and strategies for the construction supply industry), and Natalie Putnam, logistics expert with Delivery Circle.
After speaking with several RA member companies around the country and Canada, Downing put together a list of suggestions for how to meet the challenges facing remodelers:
- Focus on retention first, she says, by keeping your top performers satisfied. Watch out for signs of burnout. Compensation is only one factor in retention: others include company culture and flexibility.
- Recruit creatively. Downing offered examples of ads and social media to draw attention to companies that are hiring. Think outside of the box, too, giving examples of The Honest Company and the NAWIC – women in construction organization. Create your own “farm team” by hiring and training interns and apprentices.
- Celebrate achievements internally and spread the word about awards and other accomplishments and accolades.
- Build a better business by reviewing processes and going “back to basics.” She advocates the LEAN business model, which maximizes value by minimizing waste.
- Prepare for ongoing health issues caused by Covid and other diseases like seasonal flu. Plan for the impact of employees out sick.
- Create inventory whenever possible so that something small doesn’t delay a job.
- Use technology to automate processes and save time and money. Downing offered a list of examples that remodelers are employing for project management, marketing, accounting, and more:
- Builder Trend
- Use personality assessments like DISC or EOS.
- Plan for the future of your company with the next generation of leaders, family or otherwise.
- Include an escalation clause in your contract and use it! And treat volatile materials as allowances.
PRO New England members participated with questions and comments before heading to the buffet for a lasagna dinner. Over 60 members attended the meeting. The next meeting is a luncheon on January 5, 2022, at The Verve Hilton for the Annual Remodeling Forecast with Christopher Kuehl, PhD.