Some contributions of the home-improvement, specialty-contracting sector for the betterment of the overall remodeling industry are not very well understood or appreciated. I am referring to the huge amounts of marketing they undertake every day to drive their businesses forward.

In the aggregate, their marketing raises consumer awareness of the benefits of new windows, gutter protection, one-day bath replacements, etc. Their marketing sophistication and savvy not only drives leads for their respective businesses, but it also lifts all boats. Our longtime home improvement columnist Dave Yoho refers to this as “making a market.”

Whether the marketing involves radio, TV, streaming, pay-per-click or even canvassing, their work has been a benefit to all remodelers for years. Today, a good number of big home improvement firms spend millions to drive leads, and it drives the market beyond what any group of building product manufacturers would be able to do on their own.

I bring this up because home improvement firms are at it again, this time helping lift all boats when it comes to attracting talent to the industry and getting them trained to participate in residential construction. Wisconsin-based entrepreneur Brian Gottlieb, who founded Tundraland Home Improvements and grew it to a large size before selling it to Leaf Home two years ago, was the first to articulate this training movement.

He says he initially thought of himself as being in the residential construction business. Then he evolved into an awareness that he was a marketer first-and-foremost. Eventually he landed on the idea that, above all, to grow Tundraland must transform itself into a training organization.

Many big specialty firms looking to become national brands recognize their only limiting factor for growth is people. Firms such as Renovo, West Shore Home and Power have become recruiting organizations. They are creating workplaces that are attractive to young people.

Those people with the right work ethic and attitude are given a chance to learn skills and move up into management and leadership. In no small measure, these big home improvement firms are creating the workforce of the future.

That is why I was so pleased to meet Brian Altmann, owner of DBS Remodel in Poughkeepsie, New York. He is the worthy recipient of the 2023 Fred Case Award for Entrepreneurship in Remodeling. Like Gottlieb and others, Altmann had the eureka moment several years ago.

To grow his 37-year-old design build remodeling business, he needed more carpenters and sales consultants. Folks with experience were no longer responding to advertisements. Altmann’s bold transformation of DBS into a training organization is remarkable.

Indeed, many other full-service and design-build firms have moved toward hiring people for “fit” and training them on-the-job. This is different. Processes are documented. Courses are created. And Altmann has become a coach.

Becoming a training organization is the only way to truly control your destiny in the remodeling industry in the coming years. And if more owners and entrepreneurs take this viewpoint to heart, the collective achievement will solve our ongoing labor shortage. QR

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