Published on February 4, 2014
Show 1: Dennis Gehman with Gehman Design Remodeling Kyle: Welcome to Remodelers on the Rise. I’m your host, Kyle Hunt. Alongside me is my co-host Ryan Paul Adams. Welcome Ryan! Ryan: Thank you Kyle. Kyle: This is the Remodelers on the Rise podcast #1. It’s our maiden voyage so if this goes poorly, maybe it’s going to be the one and only. But if it goes wonderfully, maybe it’s the first of a hundred. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. The suspense is killing me. So we’re going to get started with me introducing today’s guest. So our guest today is Dennis Gehman of Gehman Design Remodeling. And Dennis founded his company in 1990. and they’re located in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, where according to the map I’m looking at, is about an hour North of Philadelphia. They focus on kitchen remodeling, bathroom additions and other home remodeling projects. I got to know Dennis a few years ago and know him to be a very thoughtful and generous person. And pretty darn good at what he does. That’s why he’s with us today. So Dennis, are you ready to get started? Dennis: I’m ready. Thanks for having me. Kyle: Excellent! So Dennis, the focus of this show is really about you, your business, your experience and your story So I just gave you a quick introduction. And now, I’d like to turn things over to you. If you could, briefly tell us more about you and your business. Dennis: Well, you took the thunder out of it. We started the business in 1990. And I say we, meaning my wife Glenda and myself. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
I’m a carpenter by trade and had this entrepreneurial itch. I decided to scratch it and see what would happen. We figured it’s going to be a do or die kind of thing because we had just built a brand new house. And we had four children ages 9 and under. And Glenda wasn’t working so it was all up to me. I felt no pressure then. But I tell you what, I think knowing what I know now, it would be harder to make a move now than it was back then. I think, part of it is you don’t know what you don’t know and you just plow ahead. We started out at our home, which is what most remodeling contractors do. I remember thinking that, “Someday, I hope I can have a crew of 6 or 8 guys.” Actually, I started from Day 1 with having an employee. And that’s because I landed a sizable project that was a commercial fit-out. It was for a restaurant. And we had a drop-dead date to get things done and we made it happen. And, we kept on going. I enjoy people and I think that’s a big part of our success in the remodeling industry. It’s a people business. The medium that we happen to work with is remodeling. But it’s about people’s homes. And homes are personal to each individual and unique as far as their families. So we do our best to pay attention to that. Ryan: That’s great. Dennis, would you be able to share a success quote or a mantra and an example of how you might apply this to your life or business? Dennis: I think the one I use is the golden rule. And that one is first put out there by Jesus Christ. It’s in the scriptures. I’ve also heard Zig Ziglar, who many people know as a salesman and trainer. And he always say that when you help people get what they want, what they need then things will take care of themselves for you. Ryan: So true. Dennis: And you know, part of that is setting selfishness aside. We tend to be selfish in our own way. But it’s also trusting that things will work out. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Because there are certainly times when cashflow is not what the way it should be and there isn’t a lot of work ahead. And it’s really easy to try to get greedy but in the long run, it doesn’t pay. Ryan: You’ve got to have some faith, right? Dennis: Yeah, exactly. Kyle: You are telling me that this remodeling business is a roller coaster? No. No way. Dennis: Yeah. Unfortunately, sometimes you get some really highs and other times, some lows. We are working on trying to smooth things out. We thought we had it down pretty well before the economic downturn. But the last five years or so created some of those challenges again. Kyle: So speaking of lows, something that we kind of want to move the interview into is – not to harp on the lows too much. But it’s good to kind of talk about failure a little bit. I think, we all kind of experience failure in our business, in our business journeys. Can you share a story from your journey of a time you encountered failure? And if you could take us to the time in your life, tell us that story. Maybe share to us the lessons you’ve learned from it. Dennis: The first one that I could think of goes back to the restaurant fit-out that we did. It was the project that gave me the courage to quit my day job and launch out full time as a remodeling contractor. But in the end, they stuck us for $29,000, which in the beginning was a big change. It still is – that’s not pocket change to me. So, part of it was learning how to deal with that and how to be able to move on. Part of it is forgive and forget. But then, sort of pick up the pieces. Also the biggest lesson I got from that and the reason we focus on residential remodeling is that people do not stick their friends for money. And when we are working on people’s homes, we are making great friends with them. And I don’t say that in a self-serving way. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
We are there day by day and we have this interaction. It’s not all about money. For us, we try to do our best to sort out not only the tire kickers but the people that are maybe in there for selfish reasons. We try to go for win-win. Kyle: When you say that it’s not about money, it makes me think several times every year, it seems to pop up to me and for my business – we can get so focused on what’s my revenue this month. Number 1, do I have enough to cover the bills? Do I have enough to invest on this, on that? And when our mindset is focused on the money side instead of the helping people side, it can do damage to how we approach people – how we are helping people. When I’m really on the groove with my business is when I’m not worried about the money, even if you have money worries that you have, when I’m not worried about it and I’m focused on just helping the people who are in front of me, who are investing with me. In your case Dennis, who have invested in your company to get help in their remodeling. I don’t know if you agree with that when you said it can’t be a focus on the money, that really hits me. Dennis: Totally agree. And that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Thankfully, we hardly have any issue with collections. Ryan: That’s great! Kyle: Why don’t you take is to the next question? Ryan: We’ll talk about that “AHA!” moment in your life or business. When you had that moment, could you take us to that moment and share with us the steps that took to kind of turn that into a success? Dennis: What I can think of goes back to 1992. We started our business in the fall of 1990. So right about 2 years in, at that point it was myself and 2 full time employees. Glenda was taking care of the bookkeeping. And I was getting tired of working 40 to 50 hours as a carpenter, doing the sales, estimating and the other things that go along with it. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
I wanted to grow the business or maybe go back to working for somebody else. So we talked about it. Somehow or another I began getting a trade magazine called Remodeling Magazine. And that was a great resource. They were putting on a remodeling show in Pittsburg, which is about 5 to 6 hour drive West of us. And thankfully, I was able to talk to my wife letting one of our parents to take care of the children for a few days while we get away as a couple. Kyle: Why does it always take a lot more effort to get them to agree to that than us? Dennis: I think, it’s because they’re moms. Kyle: Sorry! I interrupted you. Carry on with the remodeling show… Dennis: And I had been in my reading on trade magazine at that point talking about something that we should do. Part of which was to begin doing some marketing for the business instead of just word of mouth. We needed to get some systems in place – some of those kinds of things. And going there to the remodeling show, Glenda sat in on the seminars and workshops with me. And she heard people like Walt Stoppleworth and Linda Keys saying the same things I was saying only they had some more credibility behind them than what I did. So she agreed that we should make some changes. I think that was in October-November. And we decided that in the beginning of the year that I was taking my tools off a few days a week to focus on growing the business – part of that was to do some marketing. I remember writing the check, it was $1250. It was or money mailer coupons in an envelope that had all kinds of things. That was scary. If that didn’t work, we didn’t have any money left. Ryan: Having the guts. Dennis: Yes, having the guts. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Thankfully, we got the phone ringing. And by the end of that summer, we had 6 full time employees. Ryan: Nice! Dennis: So when I had the courage to focus on the business, focus on the marketing and sales, then we were able to grow. Kyle: To invest in the business. To work on the business instead of in the business, right? I think because this is our maiden podcast, I think this is a good time to interject this here. Where you are at back in the early 90s and you just describe that there might be a lot of remodelers who are listening to this, who are at the exact same spot. And that’s what I heard there, working on this business. You can’t be afraid to invest on the business. You can’t sit back in your heels and think that everything’s just going to come to you. And sometimes, it doesn’t mean you have to spend money. Sometimes that means go find some strategic partners that you can network with. Go out there and knock on some doors. A lot of it comes to down to hustle. You are probably hustling pretty fast and often. And going to a lot of activities and events. Dennis: Yeah. That’s exactly right. Ryan: Take us to current day. In your business right now, is there anything that’s really exciting you? New products? New services? Talk about what’s going on in your business right now that’s keeping you going. Dennis: Well, we just made substantial investment in technology. We have 6 of what we call Project Managers. Other companies call them Lead Carpenters. They all now have iPads and they are up and running. And we have purchased 4 iPads for our sales team. In fact, Thursday morning of this week, we will hand them out. We have an hour and a half training set aside. We have a home show this weekend and we’ll have those on hand – hopefully, as useful tools. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Ryan: Now, using that to do a design on site or quick sketches? How are you using those? Dennis: In the sales end, we are thinking primarily, portfolio. We certainly have some of our quotes uploaded on there. But we are working, quite feverishly this week at getting more and more of our projects up on houzz.com. Hopefully, not only can we use it but we can introduce other people. People who know nothing about us will hopefully find our pictures like them or pin them – whatever things you do. Kyle: What about the production side? How are your folks out there going to be using it? Dennis: Out there, we are working at going paperless. Typically and traditionally, we’ve made up a three-ring notebook that has the contract, the specs, the plans and all the written purchase orders. We are moving the purchase order in to their hands so they can do it from their iPads. Just one thing right upfront is email communication. Our clients love that they can email their questions back and forth. If we have an additional work order in the middle of the day, we can make that happen without somebody having to jump in the vehicle and run people over. In the whole Facetime thing, we’ve had phones that we could send pictures back and forth for a while. But now, sometimes, I just want to see it in a different angle so the guys can get us on Facetime and they can hold the camera right up there and show us what’s going on. Yesterday was termite rot. The day before, we had lead pipe that was goofy. Just more instantaneous. It’s open. Kyle: And saving time. Instead of you running out there and say, “Let me get my eyes on it, let me take a look at it.” Boom! It’s right there. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
I found the Facetime, in particular, in my iPhone very useful. I’m trying to figure out what my wife wanted to get from the grocery store, as there are 20 different options. I opened Facetime, pointed the camera towards it and said, “Which one?” There are all kinds of uses for it. Although I’m hearing, there is a biggest reason you are doing it on the production side is productivity. It’s, less paper equals less headaches and better communication. The big thing I heard there is clients love it. And that’s so important. I’d like to get your thoughts on this. Something I see that is kind of overriding thing of importance in the remodeling business is to give our clients a wonderful, remarkable experience. How do you guys from Gehman provide that? What are some of the things you see as being differentiators or things that really can put that experience that they have when they go with you guys over the top? Dennis: I really think it’s our team that gets to work with them or they get to work with. A big part of our difference is, we very seldom use contractors. So our Project Managers are all on-site Day 1 of the project until it is finished. So we get total control. There’s one person that’s the key communicator. And we commit to them that we’re there every workday: start to finish of the project. That goes a long way with them. This is the whole dust control. When the EPA came along, it wasn’t a big deal for us. Because we were already doing the dust control things. Ryan: You were ahead of your time. Dennis: Yeah. Ryan: I feel a lot of remodelers who do the right thing typically, they are looking for the next thing. Whether it’s energy efficiency or dust control, usually, they are a step ahead. Kyle: no doubt. And what you are explaining there Dennis is also just a combination of little things, right? Dennis: It is. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Kyle: And it’s crazy. We just got finished talking about iPads, bit you know, it’s crazy in this world of technology, having all these social media tools, all these fancy tools. But at the end of the day, it’s the little things that we do that make the difference. No doubt about it. I think it’s going pretty well. I don’t think it’s going to be the one and only Remodelers on the Rise podcast. Ryan: We have a future and another show. Kyle: I think we are doing well. Dennis hasn’t screwed up yet. We are doing well. Dennis: Thank you. Ryan: Excellent! Kyle: So we are going to segue to the lightning round. The lightning round is where we are going to ask you some rapid-fire questions. There’s a series of questions, so you can continue to share your smarts with us. And Ryan, why don’t you lead us off with the first question? Ryan: All right. Question #1: What is the best business advice you’ve ever received? Dennis: Charge what you are worth. Too many remodelers are afraid to charge. But you need to. You’ve got to know your numbers. Even if you dint need to buy health insurance because your wife is working, charge for it. You deserve it. Ryan: Excellent! Kyle: Awesome! Can you share one of your personal habits that you believe attributes to your success? Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Dennis: I think it’s because I don’t ask anyone to do what I’m not willing to do myself. Not every aspect of remodeling is fun. Sometimes, there are difficult conversations you need to have. And my team knows that I get in there and do it. So they feel that support. Kyle: What book you recommend to Remodelers on the Rise listeners? Dennis: One that I go back to every year is Michael Gerber’s E-Myth – now the EMyth Revisited. Because there are so many remodelers or practitioners we came out to be after the trades and it’s difficult to make that transition into a business owner. Ryan: I think that’s the first business book that really opened my eyes. Kyle: What’s surprising is when I’m speaking in front of 50 remodelers at a home builders association in Michigan or wherever and I mention, starting to talk about systems and being systematic in your business. And I’d say show of hands, who has read the E-Myth? It’s amazing how few hands go up. So pause right there for people listening to this, if you never read that, there’s a reason why it’s one of the biggest best selling, if not the best selling small business books ever. If you don’t believe me, believe Dennis. Dennis: Yeah. I’m an avid reader but there’s not enough time anymore. I’m on the road a fair amount of time so I have it in audio. I do listen to it, at least annually. Kyle: Excellent! Ryan: Dennis, do you have a resource or a template or a system that you can share with our listeners? We’ll make this available on RemodelersontheRise.com/show1 Kyle: We want the good stuff. We want the really fancy stuff. Dennis: I’m thinking, what do I have that’s like a template or anything that’s all that special? I really struggle with what it would be that could be that special. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Yeah, we have the business plans, marketing plans and our contract template. I sort of think that that’s the one when we were starting off I appreciated the most of many other people were sharing. We pulled bits and pieces. I think that’s probably the best one that I have to offer. Tweak it for yourself. It’s not stealing. It’s borrowing. And as you know that, it helps improve the industry for every one of us. Kyle: That’s excellent. We appreciate that. Here’s one of the final questions. It’s a long, winded question. It’s kind of a bit of a deuce, it’s a tough one. But I think you’re going to be able to nail it. So imagine Dennis that yoke up tomorrow morning and you are in the same exact business. You know no one, no sales and only $500 of start up money. Your life depended on you selling something in the next 7 days. That’s a pretty strong statement. You still have all the experience and the knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken cared of – you don’t have to worry about that. But all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next 7 days to survive and generate new business? Remember your life depends on it. Dennis: I would be on social media. You didn’t say whether I have any friends on Facebook or like that– those kinds of things. Hopefully, if I have all those other things, I’d still have some of that. But the people who know me and what I can do, they might not need my services presently. But somebody’s got to know somebody else. So it’s going to be social media and also face to face. That old adage of people buying from people they like is so true. Face to face is important. So, I think, I would spend that money like I wouldn’t have lunch alone. I always have it somebody whom I can network with. If there are chamber meetings, NARO meetings, home builder meetings, I’ll be there making contacts. Ryan: Let the world know what you do. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Dennis: Yeah! Kyle: Excellent answer. Ryan: That is great. Dennis, finally, where can people get a hold of you? Is there anything else that you might want to share today? Dennis: Well, they can go to our website which is www.gehmanremodeling.com. Gehman is spelled G-E-H-M-A-N. gehmanremodeling.com. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone number is (215) 5130300. Kyle: Excellent! And the second part, is there anything else that we didn’t ask about that you thought of as were going through the podcast? Is there anything else you care to share today? Dennis: I think, it was Ryan who mentioned that you’ve got to have trust. And part of that is faith in people. For me as a Christian, it’s faith in God. You can only do so much. We can’t control what other people do but by large, most people are good. And they are not out there to get you. And it’s just everybody doing our part, help each other out. Thankfully, most things work out well. Kyle: Wonderful! Well, thank you Dennis for coming on the show today. We really appreciate you sharing your story and your knowledge. Dennis: Thank you. You are welcome. Kyle: And just a friendly reminder to all of our listeners, you can check out RemodelersontheRise.com. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
And I don’t know Ryan if you are going to beg and grovel. I’m just going to ask for it, if you can just take 2 minutes and click through our show on iTunes and leave a review and a rating on there. And the thing is, the more reviews we get on iTunes, the better chance that people like yourself can find the show. Thank you gentlemen. Ryan: Thank you very much Dennis. I really appreciate it. Thank you Kyle. Dennis: You’re welcome. Thank you Ryan and Kyle. Interviews with Today’s Top Remodeling Entrepreneurs http://www.remodelersontherise.com
Listen in as Dennis Gehman shares personal tips on how to turn your remodeling business into a success!
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