Business Owner

Ep.124: Applying What You Have Learned with John Lessick

Conferences, blog posts, podcasts, webinars, roundtables peer groups, consulting, coaching… information is everywhere.

But, just because you’re opening yourself up to these opportunities to learn, it doesn’t mean anything will ever change.

The hard part is what comes after you get the information. John Lessick joins Victoria and Mark to discuss how to take what you’re learning and applying it to make you and your business stronger.

John Lessick is the President and Owner of APEX Wood Floors, Inc. in Chicago, IL. In 1985, John joined APEX as an apprentice and spent nine years learning every facet of the business before purchasing the company in 1994. Thanks to his expertise and vision, the business has blossomed and evolved, growing from 5 employees to nearly 25 over the last 25 years.

Victoria, Mark and John cover:

  • How outside resources and advisors have helped.
  • How the 3-5 year plan that John has put together has helped his business.
  • Learning about and implementing LEAN process improvement.
  • Specific examples of how John has implemented changes in his business.
  • And more…

Helping Your Business Apply What You Have Learned

If you are interested to learn more about how the Business Consultants & Coaches at Remodelers Advantage can help you and your business, contact Doug Howard today.

Ep.106: Six Words That Will Destroy Your Business (and what to do about it)

Are you resistant to change? Do you believe that because something has always worked for you, it’s “obviously” the best way to do it? Have you ever said, “we’ve always done it this way,” as an argument against change? 

If so, then you are playing a dangerous game of chicken with your company, because these six words will eventually be the downfall of your business. 

In this week’s episode, Victoria and Mark discuss the dangers hidden behind this seemingly innocent string of words, and they share proven methods to not only overcome your fear of change, but also to ensure you’re making the right decisions for change.

Because change for changes sake is just as dangerous as not changing at all.

Are you able to drive change in your business? Are you “stuck” & unsure about what step to take next?

Whether it’s business, finance or production we have the experienced, professional coaches standing by to help you and your team battle through these uncertain times.
Click here to learn more about Remodelers Advantage Business Coaching Services.

Ep.104: [Unscripted Back-Up] How to Hit Healthy Net Profits in any Economic Climate with Mike Medford Sr.

Editor’s note: We’re all working from our homes, away from the friendly confines of the office and its podcasting studio. So we dug into the virtual vault to bring you this episode. We’re in an uncertain time for many remodelers, so here’s some advice that will help you weather any business climate.

One of our core principles is that remodeling companies should make a good net profit, after paying the owners an above-average salary. When the economy’s booming, you can get away with a lot and still hit those goals, sometimes by accident. But the goal is to get those healthy net profits consistently, year after year, even in a downturn.

In this episode, Mike Medford Sr. talks to Victoria and Mark about how to do just that. Before seeing the metrics of the Top Ten Roundtables members a few years ago, Mike says his financials were always in flux. But then he took those figures and made them hard targets.

Mike Medford Sr. has been a home remodeling contractor for over 40 years. In 2007, he partnered with his son, Mike Jr. to form what is now Medford Design Build, with offices in Colleyville and Arlington, TX. Mike Sr. is the president of Medford Design Build.

Mike challenged himself and his team to hit the new fixed targets. He refined their processes and challenged his team to hit those targets. By the next quarterly meeting, the company’s profits were rising. He talks about how he and his team made it happen, including:

  • Creating a profit-centric culture
  • How net profits will help you beat the labor shortage
  • Focusing your staff on gross profit
  • The importance of open books to the process
  • Setting up a bonus structure
  • Building time in to plan
  • And more…

Mike also talks about getting back to the art of contracting and how important that is to your margins.

Time to Give Back

After more than 30 years of working with some of the finest Remodelers and Renovators in the business, we are facing new challenges in our industry. We want to give back to an industry that has supported us through good times and bad, and so we’ve created Build Aid, a free event to help support our members, associates, and friends in the remodeling community.

Join us on April 1-2 as we explore various ways your business can navigate these tough times, and position yourselves as a leader when the world begins to recover and re-build.
Click Here to Learn More & Register >>

Ep.103: Positive Growth in Difficult Situations with Kathy O’Brien

We talk about the J Curve a lot around here — picture a lower-case J. When you apply change principles to your business — new people, systems, and processes — they can initially send your business on a downward trajectory before soaring with your success. If you want to grow your company, listen carefully!

Our guest today breaks this process down into four stages of development:

  • Forming: The getting to know you stage
  • Storming: When conflicts arise (the bottom of the J)
  • Norming: Common goals are defined, an agreement is reached
  • Performing: Working toward a common goal and looking forward

In this episode, Kathy O’Brien talks to Victoria and Mark about how to manage your growth strategies and the importance of being a strong leader in challenging times.

Kathy was the founding CEO of the St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association for over 25 years and then served as Senior Vice President of the National Office in Chicago. She received numerous awards and recognition for her work. Kathy now volunteers as a mentor/consultant to 5stone Construction in St. Louis, MO, helping with business growth strategies — she first got to know the company as a client. She was so impressed with the quality of the work and the people, she has worked with 5stone for the last several years, developing systems and processes, determining annual goals and individual employee performance indicators, hiring to get “the right people on the bus,” and managing fast growth over the last four years.

Kathy says those four stages of development apply to making positive growth in professional development, organizational development, and personal development. You go through the stages in every business relationship, personal relationship, and client relationship. She breaks down the stages, and how they present themselves in the remodeling business, including:

  • How it plays out with employees
  • Why it’s a continuous process
  • Getting through the storming stage successfully
  • How one person can cause a storm
  • Why leadership and core values are important through all the stages
  • Making it okay to disagree, and fostering honest dialog
  • What to do when you’re still sinking
  • And more …

If you’re finding yourself stuck in the storming stage, Kathy says there’s great value in having support with other leaders, by networking or in peer groups. She also recommends three books to read to boost your leadership skills: 

Ep.100: The Drivers that Make for a Successful Exit with John Warrillow

It’s our 100th episode, and to mark the occasion, we’re welcoming back our first guest ever to talk about how to leave your business behind happily.

On average, 75 percent of founders who exit their company have regrets within one year of leaving, and only five percent are actually happy with the net proceeds of their exit. 

In this episode, John Warrillow will discuss why this happens with Victoria and Mark, and how business owners can better prepare for an exit that will leave them with no regrets.

John is an entrepreneur and author with more than 20 years of research into the small- and medium-sized business market. He’s the founder of The Value Builder System, which aims to level the playing field for business owners as they approach their exits. 

When you sell your company, there are factors that will dictate how happy you are after it’s no longer yours, says John. The first is that the business is ready to sell. The second is a little less clear-cut — the seller has to have done the psychological work that sets them up for success. John talks about what that means, and how to get to the point where you can make a successful exit, including:

  • Why there can be regrets
  • Being clear on what’s next
  • The “push factors” vs. the “pull factors”
  • Selling and staying or going
  • Why it’s not about the money
  • The biggest fears that come with selling
  • Dealing with private equity groups
  • The pitfalls of financing your buyer
  • How to treat your employees during the transition
  • The top three things that determine if your business is ready to sell
  • And more …

If you’d like to hear more about the first part of successfully selling your company — getting it ready to sell — listen to Episode 1. And to learn even more, go to John’s website, builttosell.com

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Ep.99: Adapting and Leading Through a Health Crisis with Jef and Monica Forward

Being able to adapt and lead through a crisis — personal or business — is a critical skill for any business owner. 

After their best year ever in 2018, Jef and Monica Forward were gearing up for an even stronger 2019. Everything was on course until two key players were diagnosed with cancer. One of them was Monica, who was the company’s only estimator at the time. The other was their lead designer.

One year later, everyone is alive, and despite all the difficulties, they also hit all of their business goals.

In this episode, Jef and Monica talk about the challenges with Victoria and Mark, and share insights into how they kept it all going.

Jef and Monica are business partners at Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor MI. Jef has participated in every level at Remodelers Advantage Roundtables and is a member of our MentorFor group. Over the last four years, Jef has focused on improving his coaching and leadership skills, resulting in improved client satisfaction, planned healthy growth and a positive team culture. Jef was recently a semi-finalist for the Fred Case Entrepreneur Award, and for the Remodelers Advantage Impact Award. Jef credits all of this success to his collaboration with Monica, their team, and Roundtables.

The team culture at their company was a key component of the company coming together and adapting to the emotional and business changes, Monica and Jef say. When her diagnosis came, they were about to implement The Great Game of Business, which empowers every employee to act like an owner and share in the profits. But then everything changed. Jef and Monica talk about how they got through the year, including:

  • Being prepared for the unexpected
  • Developing a strategy to get through
  • How to deal with work absences
  • The importance of cross-training
  • Figuring out who takes over the extra work
  • Tapping into the strength of your team
  • Being open about your tough times
  • Leading through vulnerability
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Handling the emotional components
  • And more …

The company continues to perform at peak levels due to the strength of the company culture, and their proven processes and systems.

Cool Gear, Great Cause

If you’re looking for cool gear and apparel to show your Roundtables pride  that also supports a great cause, check out our Shop. All of the proceeds go to our partner, The American Cancer Society. It’s a win-win!

Ep.96: Tiered Growth: Understanding Metrics and Recognizing Signs to Set Profitable Sales Goals with Michael Hodgin

Most people would consider a company jumping from $1.5 million to $3 million in revenue a growing organization. However, when we look beyond gross sales, those numbers don’t necessarily mean it grew. It could even mean the company is less profitable — and ultimately less successful — than it was before. 

Michael Hodgin says planning for, and implementing, tiered advances are a better strategy for deliberate, healthy growth.

In this episode, Michael discusses his tiered increase growth strategy with Victoria and Mark. For healthy growth, he says you have to set and meet certain goals for sales, job costs, systems and performance before taking the next step.

Michael is a general contractor and business consultant living in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. He started his first construction company as a one-man-show in 2000, eventually growing Coleman Creek Construction to include a successful team of 15. Michael joined Remodeler’s Advantage in 2016 in an effort to deliver the greatest possible value to his clients. Investing in the development of efficient systems for his own business inspired the creation of his consulting agency, Maestro’s Toolbox

Micheal says that your company’s gross sales should bump up to the next milestone only once your teams have mastered sales, pre-construction, and production systems at their current revenue level. That puts a company in a stronger position to handle the inevitable increase in workload. He talks about how to accomplish healthy, tiered growth for you remodeling company, including:

  • The infrastructure milestones to hit
  • Taking deliberate steps
  • The importance of setting goals 
  • Focusing on hitting those goals
  • Proving your success 
  • Nailing down all your job costs
  • Managing slippage
  • Building the foundation for growth
  • The metrics that tell you that you’re ready for the next step
  • Stepping away and delegating
  • And more …

Planning your growth, setting targets, and understanding why and how you hit them will spur the right kind of growth for you and your company.

Ep.94: Improving Your Bottom Line with Green Upgrades with Doug Selby

Many of your customers will pay more for items that improve the health, comfort, and efficiency of their homes. As one of the few things that pay for themselves over time, green upgrades can also boost your average project revenue and make you stand out in your market.

In this episode, Doug Selby talks to Victoria and Mark about how green upgrades can improve your remodeling company’s bottom line.

Doug is a co-founder of Meadowlark Design+Build in Ann Arbor, MI, and recently graduated from the CEO role to to focus on long-term strategy and act as the company’s sustainability director. Doug is a building science expert and helped Meadowlark build a reputation in its community for quality of construction and leadership in ecological housing issues. 

Meadowlark was started with an ecological focus from its very beginning. Doug and his business partner, Kirk Brandon, studied primitive living and how to survive off the grid. While they may cost a little bit more upfront, green upgrades pay for themselves over time, he says, and focusing on ecologically conscious remodeling and construction can be a great business decision. He talks about what it means to Meadowlark’s business and clients, including:

  • How it helped the company grow during the recession
  • Getting media attention naturally
  • Losing less, using less, and then producing
  • Insulation and systems
  • Why solar’s literally the last thing he looks at
  • Air-quality issues
  • Talking to homeowners about green tactics and methods
  • Presenting it the right way
  • And more …

Including the benefits of going where other businesses aren’t, and how ecologically conscious building and remodeling can set you apart in your own market.

Ep.93: [Unscripted Back-Up] How LEAN Principles Have Improved My Business with Paul Kowalski

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re taking a look back at some of our more popular episodes, and this episode explains how LEAN principles really work in a remodeling company. Perfect for any company looking to improve their business in 2020.


In this episode, Paul Kowalski shares his experiences in applying LEAN in his business with Victoria and Mark. His company recently implemented the process, and he says the results have already been eye-opening.

Paul owns PK Builders in Charlotte, NC, and is a member of our Remodelers Advantage Roundtables group. PK Builders has a team of eight, including Paul, with four project Managers, an estimator, and a draftsman.

When PK Builders was experiencing growing pains in 2018 — bottlenecks in the design-build process, some cash-flow issues, higher overhead — Paul called in Doug Howard for help. Paul says it was intimidating at first, but soon becomes second nature to look for ways to speed up processes. It started with 16 feet of paper festooned with sticky notes detailing steps in the design process. Hear how they implemented LEAN, including:

  • Explaining it to your staff
  • Sharing in chunks
  • Finding the hiccups
  • Why the people closest to the work have the best feedback
  • Getting over the intimidation factor
  • Timelines and swim lanes
  • Not including time for revisions
  • Building in collaboration up front
  • Unintended consequences
  • And more …

Paul and his team are deep in the LEAN process, and excited to see what their future brings, including how it affects their positive cash flow. See the video Paul talks about outlining LEAN principles from the Food Bank For New York City on YouTube.

And here’s that 16-ft. chart Paul talks about:


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Ep.90: Inside the Design-Build Movement with David Supple

You may have thought that the design-build business model is a recent phenomenon. But years ago, all builders practiced design-build, but something happened along the way to create separate industries.

In this episode, David Supple takes Victoria and Mark on a deep dive into the history of the design-build model, the truths about it, and why it’s been around as long as buildings have.

David is the founder and CEO of New England Design & Construction in Boston. He’s grown NEDC to be a leader in design-build excellence, winning more than 30 awards and being written about in more than 30 publications over the past 14 years. In addition to expanding the company, David has started the DesignBuild Movement, a forum with the purpose of educating the public on this topic with the end goal of creating better buildings. 

David has had a fascination with creating buildings since his art history teacher in high school showed the class slides of landmarks in Europe like Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel. He decided he wanted to build those types of spaces, and was steered into architecture. He graduated from college with an architecture degree, and started practicing. Then, he says, he realized he didn’t know what he was doing. So he went to work as a carpenter to get a foundation in actual building before he opened NEDC. David talks about the history of architects and builders, and how the industry got to where we are now, including:

  • What an architect used to be
  • The historical apprenticeship process
  • How the industry separated into architects and builders
  • What social status had to do with it
  • Why design-build almost went away
  • The efficiencies of design-build as a process
  • How to position design-build with consumers
  • Design-build vs. design-bid-build
  • And more …

It’s a fascinating look at the history of building, architecture, and remodeling, and will make you better prepared to discuss what design build really means. To learn more about the DesignBuild Movement, check out the pages on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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