Few people attain first-name notoriety. In sports, Michael, Ali, and Tiger come instantly to mind. In music, for my generation at least, it's John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
In remodeling, it's Walt.
Walt Stoeppelwerth is not only the longest name among our regular contributors, it's also the longest running — we've been proofing all 17 letters every month since our first issue in May 1985.
It's a name you can't miss, really, but it's been missing for several months. The reason is that after 20 years of service, Walt has decided to step aside as a regular columnist. I suppose it was inevitable, and we've tried to prepare for it, but now that it's actually happened, we realize the big part Walt has played not just for this magazine, but for individual remodelers and for the industry at large.
In fact, his ideas are so familiar to us, so ingrained in the way we think about our businesses, that we tend to forget that Walt stuck his neck out when he first wrote about them. Take markup. In the early 1980s when Walt first declared that remodelers were not charging enough for their work, no one complained until he told them that he thought they should be marking up costs 50%. His audiences howled, called him crazy, and laughed in his face. Had there been fruit in the room, they'd have thrown it. Walt never wavered; in fact, he upped the ante, declaring 50% a minimum but recommending a 67% markup, more for small jobs.
Fortunately, a few company owners took Walt's words to heart and changed their prices. Miraculously, the sky did not fall, and prospective customers did not run screaming from the room. They just wrote a bigger check. Those company owners will tell you that they would not be where they are today — would probably not still be in business —had they not taken Walt's advice. And there are thousands of them.
Walt will still write for us, just less frequently. But he'll always be just a phone call away. I don't know what Walt will say next, but I know I'll be paying attention.
Remember those remodelers who left Walt's seminar and raised their prices? One of them is Shawn McCadden, who built a successful design/build remodeling company in the Boston area, a company that he recently sold to its employee-managers. Shawn will be the first to tell you that applying Walt's ideas to his business is a big reason for where he is today. But I'll let him tell you himself because as Walt steps back, Shawn steps forward. Look for him in our Commentary section.