Snowbird's Paradise?

An Arizona remodeler offers northerners an opportunity to own a business where the snow doesn't fall.

November 16, 2000

 

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Barry Flemming, CR, CGR, loves to pick up ideas from everybody he meets. A number of years ago, he struck up a conversation with an older remodeler during a convention and they began talking about what to do with the business when it's time to retire.

The conversation concluded with an idea planted in Flemming's mind, an idea that blossomed this year. Why not bring on board a young remodeler who understands the business, a production manager, for example, and mentor that person until he or she is ready to take over Flemming''s company, Remodeling Specialists? Flemming says when he talked with people at the Builders' Show in Texas from the northern part of the country, they always responded positively to his location of Phoenix, Ariz. He decided to market his opportunity to the northern states.

"I grew up in central Massachusetts; I'm a second generation builder," Flemming says, whose own children are not involved in the business. "I remember at 9 years old having to dig out the snow off of the deck so you could get enough space to put the walls up."

His idea blossomed into a letter of exploration Flemming sent to Remodelors Councils and NARI chapters in northern states. In it, he asks for "relatively young" remodelers interested in buying an established firm in a growth market. "Come down, see what's going on, is it simpatico?" he says.

"There are a lot of people at a level in their life when they want to be more secure and steady someplace," Flemming says. "They're more mobile today," and moving is not as much a concern as it used to be, he says.

Flemming, 52, plans to exit the business within five years. He's offering a "transitional situation" during which ownership would be transferred to the new person. Initially, he says, the relationship will be one of mentoring, but ownership could begin transferring in as few as six months, depending on the person's qualifications. That percentage would grow over time until it became 100 percent. Flemming would stay on as an advisor, drawing a salary.

"The company's reputation would be transferred during transition," Flemming says. "The whole operation would eventually go to him, he would eventually be the person. Ultimately, it's a takeover."

Flemming says the value of his firm lies in its reputation and the fact that the business isn't "exclusively me." The company has had no complaints filed with the state board, which licenses and bonds; has been in existence for 15 years; has a referral rate of 82 percent; and Flemming sells only one-quarter of the 40 to 45 jobs the company does annually--his sales staff accounts for the rest.

"People come down in January and fall in love [with Phoenix]," he says. "In June, they have a little bit different take on the area. The principle is, you don't have to shovel 110 degrees."

Contact Flemming at bjkcf@email.msn.com

Rod Sutton is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Remodeler. Please email him with any comments or questions regarding his column.

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