“You can learn a certain amount in school, but to have a full grasp you have to have experience. This internship has done that for me.” –Garret Kelly
Chris Gash “You can learn a certain amount in school, but to have a full grasp you have to have experience. This internship has done that for me.” –Garret Kelly

Children of remodelers grow up with the family business, likely working there over summer vacations, perhaps joining full-time after college. Those who gain business experience usually do so in a corporate setting. But a few second- and third-generation remodelers are embarking on internships to learn about other remodeling companies.

Shadow Me

College student Garret Kelly, son of Tom Kelly of Neil Kelly, Co. in Portland, Ore., spent six weeks with Case Design/Remodeling, in Bethesda, Md., shadowing employees in design, production, and technology support. Though he had some knowledge of how Neil Kelly works, spending time with Case made Garret want to know more. He’s returning to Portland with questions for his father. “It helped me break open a new path to dig deeper into my father’s business,” Garret says. “It gave me the right questions to ask.”

Alex Mosby, son of Scott and Judy Mosby of Mosby Building Arts, in St. Louis, had a similar experience in his month-long stint at Neil Kelly. “I found out a lot about my company as well as Neil Kelly,” says the architecture student.

To learn more about how a large company operates, Mosby reviewed the company’s organization chart and job descriptions. He wanted to research Neil Kelly’s team management model, multiple showrooms/locations and home performance, as well as the firm’s sales process. “In school, you don’t get experience on sales calls. I wanted to learn what goes into a real project,” Mosby says. For Garret, working at Case sparked his interest in taking more marketing classes.

In 2007, Chris Gayler had just joined Gayler Construction, the Danville, Calif., company run by his parents, George and Darlene Gayler. During a peer review meeting, remodeler Patty Oehmke suggested Chris spend some time with her at SEI Design Build in Virginia. A few other group members also volunteered, and Chris spent about three weeks visiting four companies, including another second-gen firm.

Chris, now Gayler Construction’s general manager, says that the office administration at the companies was similar, “but how they ran the field was pretty different. And how to operate different-size companies was interesting, too.”

He says that an ideal time to set up an internship is before a next-generation employee becomes absorbed in an established family business. “If you don’t see other options, you’ll just keep doing the same things over and over,” Gayler says. “It makes your job easier if you take things that it took other people years to figure out and make them yours.”

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.