Mutual Benefits Remodeling is such a difficult business. There's very little formal training or apprenticeship. Almost all of us have picked up little nuggets from different places over the years and we owe it to everyone else to share that knowledge.

If you don't share your ideas with other remodelers, you're probably missing an opportunity to get good ideas. And you're definitely losing out on the ability to bounce ideas off another party, who — since they're removed from your business — has a different perspective from you.

Who's the Competition? In my view, I'm not competing with the people I'm talking to. I don't consider other reputable contractors as my competition; I consider disreputable ones to be the enemy. The bad reputation that the home improvement industry has is no secret, and every good, honest company projects a positive image that reassures the community that remodelers aren't bad people or dishonest businessmen. I don't think we'll ever reach a point where there are too many qualified remodelers — and we certainly aren't there now.

In my market, there are quite a few excellent, reputable remodelers. Over the years, I've shared several of my systems with them and they in turn have shared quite a bit with me. None of us are hurting for work. I've never felt that we're in competition. If a homeowner decides to remodel with them instead of with me, it's because they connect better, not because of an ad or a business system.

Peter Davis
Peter Davis Builders
Big50 2005

Make It Your Own Remodeling is not just a business for me; I am passionate about it. When placed in a group setting and given a topic that interests me, I can expand on it with perhaps too much detail. I will relate the strategies and measures that my company has taken to solve a problem or to get a leg up on the competition. People have shared good advice with me over the years, and I in turn would like to help others.

The problem is that I would often chat with someone whose company was not at the same level as mine. When I get an idea from somewhere — whether from another remodeler or from a trade magazine — I like to modify it and make it my own before I use it. Unfortunately, my competitors would not always go to the trouble of putting their own twist on ideas.

One-Way Street I have been the victim of outright plagiarism more than once. For example, I disclosed that we were placing an ad in a local publication. After feigning disinterest, other local remodelers did exactly the same thing. Now, instead of having a few months as the only remodeler running an ad in a certain magazine, it was just one month before the publication had home improvement ads all over it.

When competitors copy several of your ideas, it can dull any competitive edge you may have gained. None of these ideas are proprietary, but the element of surprise is lost. In-depth sharing can work in certain settings, particularly those that gather remodelers from all over the country. But at a local level, my experience is that it is not enough of a two-way street to make it worthwhile for me.

Jim Benoit
Benoit & Czarnecki Design/Construction
Newtown Square, Pa.
Big50 2004