Inductees into Remodeling's Big50 Class of 2016 were honored Oct. 26 during the Remodeling Summit
Inductees into Remodeling's Big50 Class of 2016 were honored Oct. 26 during the Remodeling Summit

Being a reporter for more than 40 years means you end up covering a huge number of conventions and conferences. In my case, the groups have run the gamut: credit union executives, mobile home manufacturers, hospital CEOs, accountants, futurists, central bank presidents, lumberyard owners, trade association managers, international financiers, and truss manufacturers, among others. But none of those groups’ meetings have touched me the way I feel when I get together with remodelers.

That emotion swelled again in Kansas City, Mo., in late October when I took part in the Remodeling Summit, a new cooperative venture staged jointly by Remodelers Advantage and REMODELING. Most other groups’ meetings are faux-friendly affairs with an undercurrent of competitive nastiness. The idea of community gets touted a lot, but you get the sense it barely goes beyond skin deep.

Not so with remodelers. Several told me, or told people I was with, how spending time with fellow remodelers didn’t just save their businesses but also saved their sanity. Remodeling roundtables have been known to become personal interventions. You witness deep, emotional bonds forged—and then renewed at later events—between people who live thousands of miles apart.

It’s easy to see why. When you’re a remodeler, customers mistrust you and neighbors tut-tut your supposed blue-collar status (even though your work truck costs more than their BMW). Outsiders don’t understand that success in remodeling requires you be a triple threat: skilled in construction, business management, and personal relations. I’m forever in awe at how you can do it all.

Or rather, I should say I’m awed by how some of you do it all. The truth is that every year, thousands of remodeling firms fail because they haven’t mastered the triple skills, or they’ve faced professional or personal problems that they just couldn’t figure out how to overcome. Events like the Remodeling Summit counter that despair because they bring together the best of the best, people who have figured out how to succeed. REMODELING has named just 1,550 companies to our Big50 in the past 31 years, and huge numbers of the early inductees have retired, and yet the summit dinner to welcome in the Class of 2016 easily had representatives of 100 of those companies stand and be recognized. Clearly, these people are doing something right.

I left the Summit more convinced than ever that your long-term success hinges on your willingness to stop thinking you can solve all your problems and learn all the needed skills totally on your own. You might have become a remodeler because you want to be independent, but you’ll find it’s far easier to succeed if you share with others.

Join the local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling group, or the local home builders’ association; even the local business groups can help. Take the plunge and try a roundtable organized by Remodelers Advantage. And if you can’t make that commitment, call a local remodeler you know (and admire; there’s no benefit from soliciting bad advice) and invite that person out for a drink.

Years ago, when I started work at my current employers, I was afraid to call my readers out of fear I’d sound stupid. But one day I edited a column from a contributor who said just what I needed to hear: “Pick up the d**n phone!”

I did, and it made all the difference. Now it’s time for you to do the same.