Three generations of Nardos have influenced the brand. Today, grandson Seth Nardo (center right) manages Reborn’s fast-growing Bath Solutions division. Working with brand Jacuzzi, Reborn completes hundreds of one-day bath renovations a month. | Photos: courtesy Reborn Cabinets
Reborn Cabinets is a $100 million-plus enterprise with more than 600 employees. But it’s not a remodeling company. It’s a sales and marketing company with an emphasis on technology—at least that’s how President Vince Nardo defines it.
What started as a refacing cabinet company by his carpenter father, Vinny, in 1983 out of the family’s trailer in Anaheim. Calif., has transformed into a multi-state juggernaut, offering its refacing service plus window and door replacements and kitchen and bath design services.
But don’t call Reborn a family business—Vince and brother Anthony won’t agree with that distinction. Rather, the Nardos are a family with a business, an influential philosophy credited to the matriarch Brenda.
Two Pillars, One Foundation
Nardo emphasizes that it’s not the product that drove Reborn’s intense growth over the years. It’s an emphasis on technology, data, and analytics and tying those three concepts into marketing.
But the true foundation of Reborn’s success? Company culture.
Reborn’s 10 core values span the entry wall of its Anaheim office, one being “The Vinny Principle.”
“Tech helps you expand, grow, streamline and replicate, but if you don’t have culture? Forget it,” says Anthony, Reborn’s chief financial officer.
Reborn Cabinets has nine offices across three states and celebrated its 38th anniversary this year. It employs about 620 people in sales, manufacturing, showrooms, its educational arm Reborn University, design, and more. The company is on track for an 80% sales increase just this year and projects 100% sales growth in 2022.
This historical growth is partly a byproduct of COVID-19 and Reborn’s cabinet refacing program becoming available through Costco nationwide last year.
Visitors may notice a lack of cubicles and an abundance of glass walls in Reborn’s main Anaheim office. They may also comment on the noticeable yet unspoken rule of employees trading “Hellos” when passing through the halls. Perhaps the sudden, company-wide dance parties twice a day might take them back, or the fact that Vince and Anthony can be spotted on the manufacturing floor busting a move.
The main office features an open environment with ergonomic adjustable height desks, glass walls, and space for fun, featuring a foosball table, cornhole, and video game consoles.
All of these seemingly small actions derive from Reborn’s company culture, outlined in its 10 core values.
Embedding these values and culture into the company starts with founders Vinny and Brenda.
In 1974, the couple placed their two young sons into their green station wagon with attached trailer and hit the road, leaving New York for greener pastures. They made stops along the way, with Vinny picking up carpentry jobs in various states and bringing his knowledge of cabinet refacing with him.
Left to right) Vince, Brenda, Vinny, and Anthony in 1995. Reborn has pushed through several difficulties through the years and with each, found a way to pivot. When hard financial times hit in 1990, Reborn accepted commercial work.
But California is where everything changed and Vinny took the leap from working for others to business owner. Humble beginnings set the stage for Reborn’s success, and as the company blossomed into its current form, the Nardos faced the challenge of maintaining that culture, no matter the number of offices or employees.
What Labor Shortage?
At the beginning of 2020, Reborn had about 350 employees. Now, there are nearly double that, with an average of 60 new hires per month. While the rest of the industry struggles to find skilled labor, Reborn does the opposite: it seeks out the unskilled.
“If you can’t hire what you need, you need to train people into what you want,” says Vince.
By investing the time and training into molding employees into the ideal Reborn team member, Reborn does not need to spend money competing with other companies and it decreases turnover.
“Get raw talent and build them up,” says Melanie Marfoglio, vice president of human resources. “You will save money every single time. Even if you train them and they leave, for every minute you give them, they give you two minutes back.”
Being the manufacturer of its products gives Reborn control of its own destiny and a leg up, says Vince
That raw talent is identified in the form of aptitude tests, such as building a birdhouse, to see where an applicant may excel and where they may need more training.
Education, which comes in after initial aptitude tests, plays a large role in recruitment and retention. Reborn University and the company’s stacked learning format aim to set a career path for team members, providing them with all the knowledge they need to work any job they might want.
The stacked learning model looks like so: A worker might start learning to become an installer, then learn to become a finished carpenter, bumping pay from $16 an hour to $30 an hour in six months. Reborn University focuses on sales, with the call center being the entry point, but just expanded to include formal manufacturer training.
The call center serves as a common entry point into Reborn.
When Reborn onboards a new employee, they sign a “position commitment,” which serves as a job description, but also solidifies an agreement on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Managers welcome employees to one-on-ones each month to review their numbers, making it easier for employees to see themselves if they are off-track, rather than being told so by the manager, explains Marfoglio. Reborn also understands the importance of family not just within their leadership team, but the families of their employees. A family’s view on the job is important for retention, notes Marfoglio.
It’s why Reborn incentivizes employees during the holidays, but instead of offering bonuses, it offers family trips, it covers the cost of Christmas presents, and if a team member shares a difficulty back home, Reborn does something about it. Instead of a check, they’ll hold a raffle and fundraise, getting the whole company involved.
Technology: More Than a CRM
When the brothers entered the company, they requested that dad Vinny discard his old red book, which included all business docs. The act was symbolic. Vince created Reborn’s first CRM on his clunky Apple II Plus computer back in the late ‘80s. Today, Reborn still uses a custom CRM and employs two programmers.
“It confuses my friends in home improvement when I try to explain it’s not about what you’re installing anymore,” says Anthony. “It’s about how you get your name out there or how you communicate with customers, and it’s not even about that. It’s about how we convey technology.”
About 10 years ago, Reborn began the shift from remodeling company to sales and marketing with an emphasis on tech—or the other way around, depending on the Nardo you speak to. That shift in focus and mindset opened doors.
Vince approached Costco with a program ready to go and as a result of its initial success, the program grew rapidly.
“We took what we are and said, ‘How do we bring other products into what we are and make it what we provide?’” says Vince. “That’s when we started adding doors and windows and bathroom products because they fit right back through our tech stack and processes.”
Technology is the only way that Reborn’s systems and processes can be duplicated and applied at such a large scale, the Nardos say. And it’s especially unique, though obvious to the two, in an industry with such reservations about technology.
“The small guys who never see the value in it are missing out,” says Anthony. “It’s like having a flip phone versus an iPhone. You don’t realize what you’re missing until it’s in your hand.”
Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Beth Biron noticed the stark difference right away when she interviewed in February 2020. She came in with a background in rapid growth and business efficiencies, something that only tech can do for a company, she says.
It’s like having a flip phone versus an iPhone. You don’t realize what you’re missing until it’s in your hand
Data and numbers can be found throughout the Reborn offices displaying the team’s metrics, which in turn, creates some friendly competition as the top employee shines on the leaderboard.
Vince’s goal is to have a national program for refacing, and that means creating technology to assist dealers across the country—a project currently underway.
When Life Gives You Lemons
Reborn had been using Zoom a year and a half prior to shutdowns. When their employees were suddenly remote, the only thing they needed were laptops to send home. Though well-positioned for those changes, neither Vince nor Anthony were prepared for the business to be hit as badly.
It tested their company culture, which relies so heavily on interpersonal interactions. Half of Reborn’s staff were laid off in early spring, and the Nardos stopped accepting paychecks. Many employees said they would work for free (though none were taken up on that offer). “They knew we were in it together,” says Anthony.
After a few months, Reborn hired everyone back to meet the sudden insatiable demand. During their downtime, the company had a goal to exit the pandemic stronger, leaner, and more efficient. They implemented an entirely new marketing tech stack to propel Reborn into the future.
“It was like designing the airplane while we were flying it,” says Biron