Most of us aspire to have one distinguished career. Few of us dream of having more than one. Julius Lowenberg was a stunningly successful coach before he started to build his equally impressive remodeling company in 1979. Today, even after selling his company, the Texas businessman can't seem to completely retire. He's a powerful inspiration to other remodelers who want to make the most of their businesses and their lives.
Here's a brief synopsis of Lowenberg's remarkable progression. Married with two children, he graduated from college in 1960, made $5,200 a year in his first job teaching in a well-to-do part of El Paso, and took a pay cut--to $3,600 a year--for a high school coaching job in a less affluent, more rural part of El Paso.
"These kids knew very little, and they were like sponges," Lowenberg says. "The first year I coached, the football team won three games and lost seven. The next year we won all our games." Under Lowenberg as head coach, Canutillo High School won 19 district and state championships in track, football, and basketball. It was a family affair, with wife Irene washing all the uniforms and making burritos and sandwiches to sell at games and meets to raise funds for the athletics programs.
Like many teachers, Lowenberg picked up additional work in the summers, and in 1979, after 28 years of coaching, he was ready for a new challenge. At the age of 46, he turned a summer job at a friend's home-building company into a full-time position as a superintendent. When the bottom fell out of the new-home market, he started a remodeling company with a $500 loan, a desk in his living room, and Irene working by his side. Thus was born Julius Lowenberg & Associates Construction.
The company flourished, and Lowenberg found that many of the skills he had honed as a coach--especially people skills--were relevant to his new career. "I had learned how to work with lots of different kinds of people," he says, "to deal differently with each parent who thought their son should be playing more," and with each administrator as well. So much so that, in the realm of remodeling, he says, "I became good at sizing up client prospects and hiring staff."
Lowenberg had also learned to manage through his assistant coaches. "l found that I couldn't wear all the hats," he says. "I had to let folks do their jobs. If I have the confidence to hire them, I have to trust them."
Another strategy that Lowenberg transferred from his coaching career was to value ambition in his hires. "First thing I would ask a young coach was, 'Do you want my job?'" he remembers. "If they said no, I told them, 'I don't want someone working for me who wants to be an assistant coach all their life.'"
Leaving a Legacy
As his company grew, Lowenberg reached out to other remodelers. Hoping to join NARI (the National Association of the Remodeling Industry), he had to settle for at-large membership because there was no local chapter. He fixed that by helping to found the El Paso chapter, then went on to become active nationally, and, in 2002, became NARI's national president.
Lowenberg has tried to slow down recently. He sold his remodeling company to family members, with plans to relax and travel with Irene. But it wasn't long before he was back on the job selling and managing projects. Not even his coaching career is a distant memory. Last September, Canutillo High School honored his legacy of coaching success with the dedication of its new Coach Julius and Irene Lowenberg Eagles Stadium.
I know many remodelers who want their life's work to balance business integrity, industry involvement, and community service. To them, and maybe to you, I suggest learning from Coach Lowenberg.
--Linda Case is founder of Remodelers Advantage in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5620; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.remodelersadvantage.com.