Imagine what would happen if you could open your own law firm tomorrow — no law degree required, no state bar exam, no code of ethics, no continuing education credits. The legal profession would attract all sorts of unqualified entrepreneurs looking to make a quick buck. Pricing for legal services would be all over the map. Litigation and complaints would skyrocket. At a minimum, the reputation of the entire legal system would be reduced to the likes of auto repair, or home remodeling.

Knowledge, ethics, and a commitment to improvement should be the “hygiene” level for our industry. Anyone not meeting these standards shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves a remodeler. They can work for remodeling companies, but they shouldn’t be allowed to own and operate their own company because they pose risk to their clients, their employees, their own families, and to our entire industry.

If you disagree, look at your state’s business licensing requirements. Everywhere except Florida and California you’ll find it’s easier to become a remodeler than it is to become a hair dresser. Nice.

What’s It Take?

So what can we do about it? Start by asking yourself these three questions:

1. How many years does it take to develop a level of remodeling knowledge at which you can give homeowners good advice, execute consistently on that advice, and understand and follow relevant laws and regulations?

2. What does it take to learn, understand, and implement business skills that give your business — and thus your teams and clients — stability? For instance, how many new entrants to this business understand that money from our clients that we deposit in our bank accounts is not automatically ours? We all know that spending money we haven’t earned kills the businesses of many well-intentioned remodeling entrepreneurs.

3. How many hours a year does it take to keep up with new products, technology, and regulations? How many hours just to stay legal and be effective when advising consumers?

At a Crossroads

The next step is to start a dialogue with your colleagues. Get with your local National Association of the Remodeling Industry or National Association of Home Builders–Remodelers chapter to debate this subject, to develop fair standards, and to speak as a united voice to your legislators and enforcement officials. Obtaining a contractor license in your state should require suitable minimum standards — not just passing a one-page test and paying $500.

The remodeling industry is at a crossroads; a rapidly growing industry generating more than $250 billion in annual revenue. What we do is complicated and invasive to our clients’ lives and property. We need standards. The only question is who is going to develop and police those standards? Are we going to leave it to Angie’s List and to (yes that really is a business) to police our industry? Are we going to leave it to the EPA and OSHA? Or are we going to police it ourselves?

Bruce Case is president of Case Design/Remodeling, in Bethesda, Md.

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