NAHB Remodeler of the Month: Continuing Legacy

Ray Kennamer carries on with the company started by his father while grooming his daughter to take over someday.

authors Kyle Clapham | January 17, 2020

Who started your company?

[My father] started the construction company over 60 years ago, and I carried on the family business after his passing by renaming the company in 1994. I worked for my dad beginning in the early 1970s. I worked with him through high school and, upon graduation, started working full-time overseeing jobs. We worked all over northeast Alabama, involving ourselves in residential and commercial insurance work, new construction and remodeling.

When and how did you choose this career?

I wanted to continue the legacy of quality construction in and around Marshall County by carving a niche in the home remodeling and renovation side of the construction industry. I remember when I was 5 years old, my father took me along to a jobsite. As I was sitting in his truck, I watched him directing his men, and I knew right then I wanted to do what he was doing. This is a third-generation business. Now my middle daughter, Kelly Godwin, serves as co-owner and vice president of the company. Kelly will continue the legacy when I retire.

What does being part of NAHB Remodelers mean to you?

It’s an honor and privilege to be a part of this national remodeling organization. Being a part of NAHB Remodelers adds credibility to what we do as a company. Any time we can put a national organization like NAHB Remodelers next to our name, it gives us credibility and a leg up on our competitors. Being a part of this organization means we are dedicated to bettering ourselves through continuing education in this industry, as well as bettering our company as a whole.

Why did you become a member of your local chapter?

I was first drawn to becoming a local member because my father had always been a member, and I always understood the importance of being involved. We have continued my father’s footsteps in being a member ever since. It is a tradition of excellence that was passed down, and it is important for our business to be involved and support the local chapter. It is vital to support the local chapter to encourage this trade in our community and to promote remodeling as a profession through involvement with the local association.

What are the greatest opportunities in the remodeling market?

The greatest opportunity available locally and nationally is the aging housing market. In our area there are many neighborhoods that were built in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Now people are wanting to stay in their homes longer, so they will be needing to remodel and update their homes in the near future. This creates an incredible opportunity for our remodeling business to grow.

Whitney Parrish Photography

What is the biggest challenge for your business?

The biggest challenge is finding skilled workers and reputable subcontractors who take pride in their work. Building a skilled workforce is a major issue in our area, so we are not the only company unable to find skilled workers—particularly in the construction or carpentry trade. Unemployment is at an all-time low, so our workforce is limited. It is hard to find people with the same passion for excellence that we have as a company. We want to ensure that we exceed our client’s expectations. Exceeding expectations starts with dependable and quality team members.

Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas?

Connecting with other local business owners has been a great way to find solutions and ideas for our business. Most business owners face similar challenges and obstacles, so it is beneficial to connect with them and discuss solutions. These business owners may not be in construction, but in other industries as well. Even though our businesses sell different products and services, we face similar issues.

How are you finding the right people for your company?

Finding skilled labor has been a challenge for us. We want to ensure that the person we hire is a qualified candidate who will be with us long term. One of the things that has been especially beneficial for us is implementing a construction skills assessment test. This test has been helpful in seeing which applicants have the basic knowledge needed to complete day-to-day tasks. The applicants do not have to score perfectly but must score within the average of our current employee scores.

What motivates you every day?

The creativity that goes into each project motivates me every day. Taking something that is old and dated and giving it new life makes this type of work so special. At the end of the project, when the customer is satisfied with the project and gives us a big hug, that is what motivates me the most and lets me know we have succeeded. QR

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