At this year's Remodeling Show in mid-October, thousands of remodelers from around the country gathered in Baltimore to take part in seminars and certification programs, network with others in the industry, and check out the hundreds of companies demonstrating and discussing their products on the exhibition floor.

Winning Products This year's New Product Pavilion showcased 37 new innovative products and tools. The top prize, voted by attendees, was awarded to Knee Blades, strap-on knee pads with wheels that let you glide in any direction. In development since 1997, the field-tested Knee Blades are the brainchild of a second-generation flooring installer ( A close second was the Jet Rack, a deceptively simple modular system that holds ladders horizontally or vertically from the top of a truck cap or van (A.L. Hansen Manufacturing, Sentinel Security In-Wall cabinets took third prize (Tiffin Metal Products, Look for more information on these and other innovations from the New Product Pavilion in REMODELING magazine's December Product Trends section.

Learning Opportunities In this year's conference program, which offered more than 80 courses including CAPS, CGR, workshops, and seminars, many of the sessions were standing-room only. In addition to the dozens of classroom seminars on topics from jobsite etiquette to open book management, compensation plans to selling strategies, the Show offered plenty of other opportunities for remodelers to enhance their knowledge and learn new skills.

The hands-on installation demonstrations on the show floor were a huge hit this year. Demonstrating the latest tools, materials, and building techniques in 20 installation clinic sessions, remodelers learned about mastering drywall, door hanging, and creative trim carpentry, among other skills. Show attendees also crowded in to see the Kitchen Mega Clinic about customizing the 21st-century kitchen, which included 8 sessions on topics such as radiant heating and smart home technology.

Ask the Experts The Town Hall Meeting, a new feature at this year's Show, kicked off the general session, with Tom Swartz of J.J. Swartz Co., Decatur, Ill., moderating the panel of industry experts: Fred Case, Case Design/Remodeling, Washington, D.C. area; Patty McDaniel, Boardwalk Builders, Rehoboth Beach, Del.; and Rosie Romero, a former Scottsdale, Ariz., remodeler and host of radio show Rosie on the House. The three shared their views on the remodeling industry and took part in a Q&A session during which remodelers asked them about a range of topics from change orders to marketing tools to growth strategies.

Asked to identify the most important attribute for a remodeling company to succeed, Romero pointed to “convenience,” saying that remodelers who are the most convenient for the client will own their market. Case stressed the importance of big companies acting like small companies, always having enthusiasm and passion for what they do.

The Town Hall Meeting was just the beginning of the information exchange. Attendees continued to mine industry expertise for the duration of the Show, particularly at the roundtables and five-minute “speed consulting” sessions at the Solution Center.

Take Aways With all the valuable information, ideas, and contacts that remodelers gather at the Show, a perennial challenge is how to incorporate it all into their businesses. At the Town Hall Meeting, Case, McDaniel, and Romero agreed that you can't — nor should you try to — implement it all. They recommend distilling the information to one or two key nuggets and strategically implementing those in your company. Case noted the importance of sitting down with your people to discuss what you're going to implement and deciding on a time frame for making those changes. But no amount of implementation or new business ideas can make your company succeed if you're missing one core ingredient, as Patty McDaniel pointed out: loving what you do. If you don't, you should be doing something else.

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Next Time Around The 2006 Remodeling Show is scheduled for October 19-21 at Chicago's McCormick Place Lakeside Center. The educational conference will take place October 18-21. If you have suggestions for topics or speakers, have an idea for a live technical demonstration or on-floor clinic, or any other suggestions or feedback, we'd like to hear from you. Send your ideas to REMODELING editorial director Sal Alfano at