Ask MM “Mike” Weiss a question and he will respond in great, billowing paragraphs. Long after you've walked away, satisfied with new knowledge, Weiss will continue researching your query and later — hours, days, or weeks later — hand you a package with more documentation. He just can't help himself. “Ask me the time, and I'll build you a watch,” he likes to say, using one in a seemingly endless supply of off-the-cuff maxims. Says longtime friend Jud Motsenbocker, 1998 recipient of REMODELING's Lifetime Achievement Award (formerly the Foundation Award), “When Mike takes on a task, hang on tight because it'll get done. On time and to the best of his ability no matter how hard he has to try.” The main thing Weiss is passionate about in the remodeling industry is education. “This is going to sound corny,” Weiss says, “but it's an unbelievable high to see the lights come on.” His pursuit of a well-funded and substantive Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) program through the Remodelors Council (RC) of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is well-known. He is also a prolific teacher and works countless hours helping to revise, rewrite, and keep up-to-date dozens of courses — from design/build to contracts, project management, scheduling, and estimating. Since 2001, more than 25,000 builders and remodelers have taken these designation-related courses through the NAHB's University of Housing.
Yet, no matter how much Weiss has accomplished or how many people he has helped, or the number of goals he has fulfilled — and he has the awards to prove it — he is still self-effacing, still saying he is “flabbergasted” at winning this current award. This dogged determination to complete a job beyond expectations and his relatively low-key manner — “he's not an egomaniac like the rest of us poor bastards,” jokes friend and fellow remodeler Tom Swartz — is what defines Weiss and endears him to others.
Up until the 1990s, whoever wanted to be a CGR was sent a 16-page profile. Each profile was then scored by the 7 to 10 people on the NAHB's national board of governors. Weiss, who was on the board at the time, suggested dividing up the profiles — a huge timesaver. (And eventually the form was shortened to four pages.)
This year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner, MM “Mike” Weiss has helped raise the level of professionalism in the remodeling industry. The score determined how many courses an applicant would have to take to obtain the CGR designation. Then the applicant would decide which courses to take. “So if you didn't like accounting,” Weiss says, “you'd shy away from that.” But he — and the others on the board (Weiss is adamant about crediting everyone he works with) —wanted remodelers to demonstrate some level of aptitude in each aspect of the industry, and they wanted the designation to have substance. Weiss and his RC colleagues know that education is the key to professionalism. “Mike wanted to make sure it was meaty,” says Sherri Gillette, who was then on the board. “He didn't want to cheapen it so that it was easy to get.”
In the late 1990s, Weiss came up with the idea of what he calls a “business SAT for remodelers,” what is now called the PREP (Professional Remodeler Experience Profile), which covers sales and marketing, business administration, risk management, production management, contracts and liability, and estimating. The profile was shorter and was weighted so applicants wouldn't have to take more courses than in the old system. “You could test out of everything, but if you didn't meet the standard,” says Weiss, “you'd have to take the classes.”
Getting funding and support from the larger organization was the challenge. “I once lost a job because my presentation was ordinary,” Weiss says, “and I swore I'd never lose another job because of the cover. So we made a great presentation and formed a task force.” They hired a consultant to write the PREP based on existing courses, and then pilot-tested it.
“Mike fought hard for the integrity of the CGR program at a time when there was a real push for people to get involved in the Remodelors Council,” Gillette recalls. She adds that the tension between those two needs “was a dilemma in some ways,” but Weiss was able to get what was necessary to put PREP in place. Eventually NAHB's builder side patterned its Certified Graduate Builder (CGB) designation after it. Since PREP was instituted in 1999, more than 800 remodelers have gotten their CGR designations, and more than 1,600 people have taken PREP since 2001.
By all accounts, Weiss' ability to get funding for his projects comes from his determination and passion. But he doesn't just barrel into a situation, guns blaring. As Gillette says, “He's a bulldog. But a pretty gentle bulldog.”
“When Mike comes upon an idea, he works it through before he presents it,” says Bob Bell, current chair of the CGB board of governors, who had helped Weiss establish PREP. “He knows the pitfalls and the positive aspects of it. Then he refines it and goes after it. It never ceases to amaze me how he can get things done.”