Young Leaders of the Remodeling Industry

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Meet twelve 40-and-under remodelers who are shaping the future of the industry

January 01, 2009
Professional Remodeler Young Leaders 2009 

View an exclusive video interview with Normandy Builders Vice President and Young Leader Andrew Wells


Michael Anschel, 34

Owner/Principal, Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build, Minneapolis

Education and certifications

Ceramic and metal sculpture, University of Minnesota; Chinese, Capital Normal University, Beijing; CPC

Why he's a Young Leader

Anschel was instrumental in developing the Minnesota GreenStar certification program and is widely recognized as one of the industry's leading experts on green.

Biggest issue facing the industry

General lack of business savvy. Stubbornness to adopt new practices and techniques. Unwillingness to professionalize the industry and take on the role of consumer advocate.

What he's most proud of

Building a design-build firm that has received more than 40 awards in five years and is recognized as a pioneering firm in both design and green practices

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A teacher or marine botanist

Other activities

Volunteers with the Rotary Club and Project Success, an initiative that gives underprivileged youth the opportunity to experience art, theater and music

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Rock climbing in the summer, skiing in the winter and kayaking in the fall

Favorite vacation destination

Sichuan Province in China and Boracay in the Philippines


Amie Riggs Swarts, 33

Vice president, Riggs Construction & Design, Kirkwood, Mo.

Education and certifications

CGR, CAPS

Why she's a Young Leader

Along with her brother Bill, she's the third generation to lead Riggs Construction & Design. Her award-winning “Yes I Can!” marketing campaign featuring podcasts, community events and more traditional methods increased business by more than 20 percent.

Biggest issue facing the industry

Home builders entering the remodeling market. This has added to our industry a new set of challenges. First, we must work harder than ever to brand remodeling in general and educate that it should be a good experience if done properly by qualified and experienced contractors. Second, we must adjust our sales strategies and messages to address this new set of competitors.

Best advice she ever received

I once complained to my father that I would never work in the field as a carpenter, so how would I know what to do when I ran the business? He told me, “You won't know everything first-hand. Always do what you do best and hire the best people to surround you.”

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A race car driver or (in reality) a stay-at-home mom

People would be surprised …

I've been a certified scuba diver for 20 years.

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Hangin' with my husband and son.

Favorite vacation destination

Toss-up: diving in Honduras or sailing the West Indies. Equally amazing!


Warner Cruz, 35

President, J.C. Restoration, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Education and certifications

International Business/Finance, Augustana College; Certified Restorer

Why he's a Young Leader

Cruz has taken his father's small restoration firm and built it into a $15 million national company in only eight years while improving employee benefits and devoting considerable time and resources to charity.

Biggest issue facing the industry

Times are very difficult now, and more than ever before it is important for us to get educated on how to run our businesses in the most efficient manner using technology and human resources.

What he's most proud of

When I purchased this company from my father eight years ago, his only request was for me to figure out a way to afford providing health insurance to our employees. Today, I am proud to be able to offer all the benefits — health insurance, life insurance, company matching retirement program — everything a Fortune 500 firm would be able to offer to its employees.

Best advice he ever received

When good things or bad things happen in my personal or business life everyday, learn to say, “Thank you, Lord.”

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A scuba instructor

Other activities

Active in church, Knights of Columbus and Public Action to Deliver Shelter

People would be surprised …

That I minored in Japanese and lived in Japan for three years

Favorite vacation destination

Phuket and Koh Samui, Thailand


Allison Iantosca, 36

Partner, F.H. Perry Builder, Hopkinton, Mass.

Education and certifications

Theater, Skidmore College

Why she's a Young Leader

Iantosca is successfully managing the transition from one generation to the next, helping build the company into one of the largest in the Boston market. She has also served several leadership positions in her local NARI and NAHB chapters and was recognized as the Remodeler of the Year by the Builders Association of Greater Boston.

Biggest issue facing the industry

Stewardship. The faster the world moves, the less time people will afford to exceptional craft. It is a responsibility of our generation — the legacy we leave — to tell our story 100 years from now.

What she's most proud of

To have worked with my partners to build and create a model of company leadership that involves joint ownership, collaborative decision making and sustainable business practices. To have made my Dad proud of us for this.

Best advice she ever received

Be brave three seconds at a time.

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A ski bum in Colorado and Utah. If I needed a better paycheck, I think I'd be pursuing executive training or organizational development work.

People would be surprised …

That I went to a performing arts high school and “acted … well, waited tables … in Seattle for two-and-a-half years.”

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Spending time with my family, walking my pup or devouring a Janet Evanovich or Robert B. Parker paperback in one sitting


Robert Birner, 38

Vice President, Amazing Siding Corp. and Renewal by Andersen, Houston

Education and certifications

CGR, CAPS

Why he's a Young Leader

Birner has served many leadership roles with the NAHB Remodelers nationally and at the local level. He also hosts a weekly radio show in Houston that helps raise the profile of professional remodelers.

Biggest issue facing the industry

There is a shortage of new talent and new faces entering the industry. I'd like to see more people from Generation Y enter the industry in all capacities.

What he's most proud of

Being half the father and husband that my father was and still is

Best advice he ever received

“Always do what you know is right in your heart, even when no one is looking,” and “If momma ain't happy, no one will be happy.”

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A coach

Other activities

Coaches children's sports teams and donates to the local Habitat for Humanity annually

People would be surprised …

I host a call-in radio program targeted at consumers that promotes professionalism within the home building and remodeling industry

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Spending time with family and good friends, having fun and making lifelong memories.

Favorite vacation destination

Maui, Hawaii and Aspen, Colo.


Michael Tenhulzen, 34

President, Tenhulzen Remodeling, Redmond, Wash.

Education and certifications

CGR, CAPS

Why he's a Young Leader

Tenhulzen has successfully led the transition of his company to the second generation while growing business and holding several leadership positions in his local business community and trade associations.

Biggest issue facing the industry

Unworthy competition that diminishes the consumer's perception of the industry.

What he's most proud of

Excelled under scrutiny as son-of-the-boss and was the first second generation CGR in state of Washington

Best advice he ever received

A book I didn't need to read because the title said it all: “Why Nice Guys Finish Last and Sons Of Bitches Succeed.” I've received a lot of good advice over the years from business owners and retirees, but none so persuasive as my father who could more clearly see than I the character of the woman who became my wife.

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

Turning customers' dreams into reality in some visually artistic/creative form. I've always enjoyed drawing, building and performing. Fortunately for me, building is the only one I would be likely to make any money at.

People would be surprised …

I'm an adventure nut, which requires a lot of toys for land, water and sky.

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Spending time doing the things I enjoy with the people I love.


Dr. David Powers, 33

COO, Ocean Breeze Awnings & More, Surfside Beach, S.C.

Education and certifications

Associate degrees, Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Greenville Technical College; bachelor's degree, theology, Christian Bible College; master's and doctorate, theology, Southern Indiana Bible College & Seminary; CGP

Why he's a Young Leader

Since joining his father's company, Powers has increased profit margins and revenues by implementing systems and a comprehensive marketing plan. He has raised the company's profile by getting the company featured in more than 40 publications and writing eight books and more than 300 articles.

Biggest issue facing the industry

Not having any idea what the potential changes of the new administration will be.

What he's most proud of

Making my grandfather proud before he passed away this past May. I followed in his footsteps in a number of ways with my own accomplishments in the military, creative pursuits and construction.

Best advice he ever received

From Matthew 9:9, “Follow me.” From Christ to the great leaders in other areas, you have to follow the right people.

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A counselor

Other activities

Director of Christian Fight Club; conducts a weekly business and careers study group; volunteer ambassador for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce; and director of the Grand Strand Area Mensa Association

Favorite vacation destination

Sydney, Australia


Andrew Wells, 39

Vice president/General manager, Normandy Builders, Hinsdale, Ill.

Education and certifications

Accounting, University of Illinois; CPA

Why he's a Young Leader

Wells' training as a CPA has helped him lead the day-to-day operations of Normandy as it has grown to a $30 million company.

Biggest issue facing the industry

The public's uncertainty regarding its own economic future. We are seeing people who would have contemplated remodeling in the past deciding not to do anything right now and not spend any money — even if they need it and can afford it.

What he's most proud of

I think as a company our biggest accomplishment is to be celebrating 30 years in business in 2009. We are also very proud of being named the 2007 Professional Remodeler Remodeler of the Year.

Best advice he ever received

Never make a business decision or investment that if wrong could sink the entire company.

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

Managing another business

Other activities

Involved in several church groups and helps run programs at his children's Christian school

People would be surprised …

I met my wife in pre-school. I didn't start chasing her until high-school, though.

Favorite off-the-clock activity

I love to hang out with my kids in the hot tub. We go in summer and winter. It is a great place to unwind from the day.

Favorite vacation destination

Definitely the Caribbean — the warm sun, the hot sand.


Tyler Wood, 33

Owner, Home Artisan Authority Design Build, Denton, Texas

Education and certifications

Emergency administration development and planning, University of North Texas

Why he's a Young Leader

Started his own company only a few years ago, but has already become a Market Leader in Dallas. Besides financial success, the company has won several design awards and is a two-time Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas Remodeler of the Year.

Biggest issue facing the industry

The economy

What he's most proud of

Having the courage to actually open his own business.

Best advice he ever received

Stop having a foot in yesterday, one in tomorrow and forgetting about today.

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

Selling medical supplies

Other activities

Cross Timbers Community Church, Rotary Club and Theta Chi Fraternity board of directors

People would be surprised …

I was supposed to be 6 feet, 5 inches tall but I broke my leg in the growth plate. In 1992 they removed 2 1/2 inches of bone from my femur to even my legs out.

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Reading with my daughter and having life discussions with my wife

Favorite vacation destination

Scotland


Bruce Case, 40

COO, Case Design/Remodeling and Case Handyman & Remodeling, Bethesda, Md.

Education and certifications

Double major in economics and psychology, Vanderbilt University; MBA, George Mason University; CLC, CFE, GAC

Why he's a Young Leader

In 1997, he successfully started Case's Kitchen and Bath division, which today represents more than $8 million in annual revenue. Since taking over Case's corporately owned Handyman & Remodeling Division, he grew both the top and bottom lines of this division by 150 percent.

Biggest issue facing the industry

Overall distrust from consumers — and I feel this is fed primarily by the way cash flow works in remodeling. Except in California, remodelers get a lot of money before starting any work. This is contrary to most industries where money is paid after the service or product is completed.

What he's most proud of

Having a strong and fulfilling marriage; having a healthy and happy daughter; having a wonderful relationship with my mother, father and brother; seeing the growth of team members within Case and marveling at the quality of advice, design and craftsmanship we provide to homeowners

Best advice he ever received

Keep your spotlight on two to three key issues at any given time. If you try to focus on more than that, nothing will get done.

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A baker

Favorite vacation destination

National parks and the beach


Dwight Sailer, 37

Co-owner, HighCraft Builders, Fort Collins, Colo.

Education and certifications

CGB

Why he's a Young Leader

Co-founded his award-winning design/build firm 10 years ago and has held several leadership roles in his local HBA and Remodeler's Council.

Biggest issue facing the industry

The credit and lending crunch and the unstable market is the biggest challenge. We as remodelers are going to have to be very creative and leave no stone unturned in the search to locate new projects.

What he's most proud of

Creating a successful partnership that we have sustained for 10 years. Having a partnership that allows each of us to capitalize on our individual strengths has been one of the largest contributions to our success.

Best advice he ever received

The best advice I have ever received came from my father. He always said to “Stay focused. Don't get caught up in quick money or new job markets that seem hot at the time. Continual focused effort will always outlast the quick trends.”

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A cattle ranching, professional hunting-surfing-wine taster that spent a lot of time in my RV

Other activities

On the boards of Hospice of Larimer County and Open Stage Theater and building director of Homeless Resource Center of Loveland

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Spending time experiencing the outdoors with my family.


Ben Thompson, 28

President/General manager, Thompson Remodeling, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Education and certifications

Literature with minor in psychology, Cornerstone University; CGR, GCP

Why he's a Young Leader

Thompson not only runs a successful second-generation remodeling firm, he also has grown business through innovative marketing techniques, including social networking, radio, podcasts and extensive use of the Web.

Biggest issue facing the industry

Economic pressures on clients

What he's most proud of

Purchasing Thompson Remodeling to become a second-generation company

Best advice he ever received

“The wave never gets smaller, so learn to ride the wave;” “We are the only one in the way of accomplishing great things;” “If for the next 12 months [in this temporary business climate] I only have energy to be with my immediate family and work — to work long, come home, repeat — then I need to accept it and stop beating myself up over what else I think I should be doing.”

If I weren't a remodeler, I'd be …

A small business owner or a youth camp speaker and writer

Other activities

Co-hosts the Thompson Remodeling Home Improvement radio show

Favorite off-the-clock activity

Walking through the woods with my poorly trained dogs; talking and cooking with my wife; and watching my 1-year-old daughter figure out the world

Favorite vacation destination

In the mountains in a room with a view, a wood-burning fireplace and a book, or on the beach with a book and shade




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