Qualified Remodeler

Continually refine business operations

Ed Kaplan is the November 2015 Remodeler of the Month.

Ed Kaplan

The Buckingham Group, Tulsa, Okla.

Year Founded: 1981

Number of Employees: 10


Who started your company?

I started the company


When and how did you choose this career?

I have been involved in construction since I was a child on our family farm. I assisted my father with all types of remodeling activity, whether it was carpentry, masonry, plumbing and or electrical, we did it ourselves. Over the years and through college I continued to work, as time allowed, as a carpenter. Independent of what my responsibilities were or what the time frame was there always was involvement on my part in some type of construction activity. I guess that construction and or remodeling are in my DNA. So when I made the plunge to go into my own business in 1981, the remodeling industry and the concept of design/build remodeling, which was in its infancy, seemed to be a natural fit.


What did you do before becoming a remodeler?

I have both a bachelors and master’s degree in Plastics Engineering and worked in the plastics industry from 1965 through 1981. During that portion of my professional career, I was involved in process and product development, manufacturing and management. Independent of what my responsibilities were, somehow, there was always some portion of my job that involved construction, ranging from the development of new manufacturing processes to the actual construction of a 100,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant.


How has the remodeling profession changed since you’ve been involved?

Computers have changed the way we do things more dramatically than any other single item, both in our office and in the field. We feel that through the use of computers and a high level of organization we have been able to reduce our field staff by over 50 percent, reduce our markup and increase our profitability. The availability of both a broad range of products and equipment allows us to provide a spectrum of services to our client base that we couldn’t imagine some 35 years ago. Marketing has changed with the advent of our use of social media to supplement our referral and trade show lead base. Last, but certainly not least, we are dealing with a more sophisticated and somewhat more knowledgeable client base that at times presents a real challenge.


Right now, what is your focus as a remodeler — more growth or steady revenue at greater profitability? Please explain.

We place a great deal of emphasis on improving our profitability by continually refining our methods of operation in both the field and our office. Many of the things we do are minor by themselves, but cumulatively make a significant impact on the bottom line. A good example of a major item, however, would be the project management software that we started using three years ago. It allows our production managers to spend more time in carpentry and has minimized the amount of time that they and our office staff are involved on the phone coordinating the overall construction process.


Many remodelers are reporting increases in their average job size in 2015, are you seeing this as well?

Absolutely, we are looking at multiple large jobs with elaborate kitchens, bathrooms and whole house remodels.


Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas for your business?

I rely heavily on trade publications and the Internet for most of the year as well as interfacing with my contemporaries at our monthly Remodelers Meetings. As far as an individual event, there is nothing better than my annual three-day trip to the NAHB/NKBA show, which concentrates an incredible number of vendors and services for the industry in one location.


If you could have a 30-minute conversation with any business leader in the country — to pick their brain for business ideas, who would it be?

Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great.”


Finding qualified labor is a challenge — are you hiring this year and how are you going about finding the right people for your company?

We are trying to hire one more carpenter. We are advertising the opening on Craig’s List and through our business contacts.


What is your No. 1 source of leads right now and why is it working?

Referrals, because after 35 years in business we have a large client base.


What is the most unusual project your company has completed?

A condominium renovation where the client bought three condos — two on one floor and one on the floor below. The entire project was done on a time and material basis since all cabinets and molding were hand carved. The master bathroom included a carved marble toilet surround and a whirlpool tub with hand carved cherubs in the ceiling. A team of five men worked for 18 months to provide all of the cabinets and moldings. A photo of the stairway that combined the two units into one can be found in the Stairway Section of the Inspiration Gallery of our website bgtulsa.com


What is your favorite item in your office?

My computer, as it is the vehicle that provides me with information, design capability and relaxation when needed.


What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

Remain flexible.


What does being part of NAHB mean to you?

I look at the NAHB as both our voice in Washington and as source of information for the continual development of my company.


What have you done to grow your business during the current economy?

We invested heavily in our website and in improving our presence on social media.


What motivates you every day?

The ability to take a client’s verbal expression of the dreams and or vision that they have for their home and to transform that expression into a tangible space they can enjoy for many years to come. I also aim to provide a stable work environment for my employees and their families.


Anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?

I spent five years on the City of Tulsa’s Historic Preservation Commission and served as its chairman for one year. We were able to create a historic preservation ordinance during that time frame that helped stabilize older neighborhoods and has ultimately lead to their revitalization.   

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