|Photo: Cherry Kim|
A former vocational education teacher in Parsippany, N.J., Bill Asdal, CGR, has been promoting technical and managerial construction education throughout his professional life. His company, Asdal Builders llc in Chester, N.J., does new construction and remodeling, but Asdal noticed a particular need for information on the remodeling side.
"I'm not sure I'm the best person for the job," he says, "but nobody else is doing it."
Research: In the mid-1990s, "the industry was deficient in the areas of pure research," says Asdal. "There were productivity ratios, management models in new housing, but virtually none on the side of existing housing work." To change that, Asdal began working on a series of research projects with the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing and the NAHB Research Center. In 1998, as documented in Professional Remodeler, he helped the center examine the impact of the Nationally Applicable Recommended Rehabilitation Provision. The project showed that adopting these codes would make it economically viable for contractors and consumers to remodel more existing homes and buildings.
The next year, Asdal began work on an energy retrofit project that showed that many existing homes could achieve a 30% reduction in energy usage through relatively inexpensive modifications whose cost would be recouped in about five years. "We put in more money at the lower end to make it more accessible and look at what would provide greater return to homeowners and remodelers," he says.
More recently, Asdal has been working with a University of Chicago researcher to analyze the impact of education on remodelers' profitability, business practices and purchasing choices. Asdal taught three course segments - Profits and Professionalism, Business Management, and Systems for Contracting Success - to a control group of contractors at a local lumberyard, and with the researcher's help determined that the group's planning and computer skills improved. The study also showed a decline in the number of purchase returns and improved timeliness of bill payment. "It was fascinating to execute but reassuring to see that there are positives for both remodelers and suppliers," Asdal says. He and the researcher are conducting a similar study at a New Jersey masonry yard.
Educating manufacturers and suppliers: In his efforts to better the remodeling industry, Asdal considers manufacturers and suppliers just as important as contractors. That's a big part of the reason for his research on the importance of education. "We’re showing them that they can increase profits, that they can stabilize their profit base," he explains. "We want them to stay here and succeed."
He speaks to individual suppliers and trade groups such as the Window and Door Manufacturers Association about what they need to do to not just capture market share but also to stabilize their market base. Encouraging manufacturers and suppliers to focus on long-term relationships instead of short-term sales incentives is the core of his message. In 2002, Asdal served as builder co-chairman of the NAHB’s National Council on the Housing Industry, a committee of 100 big-name suppliers in residential construction.
Publishing: Thorough as he is, Asdal believes that getting a message across requires verbal, graphic and written communication. He covered the last two bases by bringing his vision for a magazine for remodeling professionals to Cahners Publishing (now Reed Business Information) and helping to develop Professional Remodeler.
With PR senior contributing editor Wendy Jordan, he also has written The Paper Trail: Systems and Forms for a Well-Run Remodeling Company, published by BuilderBooks.com. It's organized around the six competencies Asdal believes are essential to a good remodeling business: sales and marketing, construction communication, estimating, production and safety, business management, and financial management. Asdal and Jordan’s narrative puts the 256 forms in context, but it’s the forms themselves, easily photocopied from the book or downloaded from the accompanying CD-ROM, that are the real must-have, hard-to-find content.
Coursework: Asdal's most recent venture is putting together University for Contractors llc with partners John Lombardi and Randy Tinfow. They're developing the content and delivery mechanism for a full-fledged online university. Says Asdal, "We're ready when research is ready to fund an opportunity."