The adage, “The customer always comes first,” sits at the core of Kansas City-based design-build firm Schloegel Design Remodel’s principles. Since its founding in 1980, this dedication to a flawless customer experience has helped the company grow to $15 million in revenue last year. In the process, it has also become a top employer of remodeling professionals in the Kansas City metro area with 65 full-time team members.

Partners Charlie Schloegel, CR, UDCP, and Chris Peterson, MCR, CRPM, CLC, recognized that to create a superior customer experience, they needed to prioritize their employees right alongside their clients. Perhaps the most impactful way they’ve done this is by investing in their team’s education and training. “Having well-trained team members who are consistently learning and innovating allows us to continue to improve our clients’ experience,” Schloegel says.

They have a multi-pronged approach to education, comprised of internal trainings, bringing in third-party trainers, and taking advantage of educational and credentialing opportunities offered by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).

“Our Kansas City NARI chapter hosts many educational seminars, and we pay for our team members’ registration to attend. We also take advantage of the educational webinars from NARI National. Without NARI’s continuing education, there aren’t that many resources widely available to remodeling professionals,” Schloegel says.

NARI education also serves as a catalyst for further internal training, according to Schloegel. “Often, we develop additional education based on gaps in knowledge we identify when one of our employees attends a NARI training. We will take that topic further and do a deeper-dive internal training that is tailored to the needs of our company and team members.”

During a strategic planning meeting at the company in 2019, a novel idea was born: SDR YOUniversity. This initiative was meant to develop a strong internal training program, where the company taps its most knowledgeable staff members to do monthly training sessions for their coworkers. To Schloegel, soft skills are just as important as hard skills.

“Our team member Don Richeson, who is a Certified Remodeling Project Manager (CRPM), recently did a training with our carpenters and apprentices on how to manage subcontractors, a soft-skills training. We also have regular hard-skills trainings on a variety of essential trade skills,” Schloegel says.

While they ask certain staff members to attend training sessions on specific topics, every staff member is welcome to attend every training class. The company also brings in outside trainers on a variety of topics. “We bring in a trainer once a quarter who works with our sales, design, and production teams on improving communications with each other for more successful projects,” Schloegel notes.

Another tool the company has used in boosting skills and recognizing internal talent are NARI Certifications. “We often tie the achievement of a certification to pay increases and promotions,” Schloegel says. “Being a NARI Certified Remodeler (CR) and Universal Design Certified Professional (UDC) myself, I know the depth of knowledge those programs go into and test on. They represent a higher level of professionalism and understanding.”

NARI Certifications are also used when vetting prospective employees. “When I interview a NARI Certified Professional, I know they’re worth hiring and paying for because they’ve, in a sense, been pre-vetted through the certification process, and I know they’re coming in with an advanced skill set and have met a standard in the industry that not everyone has.”

The company also makes sure new job candidates understand the investment it offers in their own personal advancement. “I’ve heard people say in our interviews that we’re the only company that has talked about how we will support them to develop as an individual and in their career.” This has gone a long way in helping the business retain and attract top talent during the “Great Resignation.”

Educating employees also helps the company to continuously improve its operations. “Our employees that take advantage of the educational seminars or certifications bring back new ideas that improve performance.”

Schloegel Design Remodel’s owners also give back to their community by promoting careers in the trades. Peterson is very involved in the Kansas City NARI chapter’s NARI Futures Fund, which provides financial support to trades programs throughout the metro area and training to students in those programs.

“If a local high school trade program needs a table saw, the fund will sponsor the purchase of one. Many of our NARI members also volunteer their time and talents to trade programs to prepare these young people to gain the skill set to enter our industry.” The company also has a robust apprenticeship program and a structured career path for young people entering the industry.

Ultimately, investing in their team members’ education has benefits both for the company and the staff. “I can buy tools any time, but I can’t replace people easily; so, investing in them helps us provide a workplace they enjoy, where they want to buy into our core values and they see themselves as part of a community that wants to give to them and to which they want to give back,” Schloegel says. QR

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