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About this Episode

We’re unraveling the complexities of the industry and exploring innovative business strategies with none other than Dennis Gehman, an industry titan with a wealth of experience. If you’re navigating the challenges of lead generation, client negotiations, or keeping up with design trends, this episode promises to inspire and inform. Buckle up for an enlightening conversation!

  • Building Relationships and Excitement with Ideal Clients: Dennis Gehman emphasizes engaging ideal clients by using a tailored approach, asking meaningful questions, and fostering enthusiasm for remodeling projects. His expertise in bathroom remodeling, a more approachable area, helps create excitement.
  • Consistent Marketing and Community Presence: Dennis Gehman underscores the importance of maintaining consistent marketing efforts even during busy times. He highlights the value of community involvement, especially through NARI, to build lasting relationships and trust within the local remodeling industry.
    Exceptional Customer Service and Positive Resolution: Dennis Gehman’s
  • Exceptional Customer Service and Positive Resolution: Dennis Gehman’s strategy involves prioritizing exceptional customer service and effective resolution of challenges. By focusing on turning mistakes into opportunities for improvement and delivering positive customer experiences, he cultivates loyalty and referrals for his business.


Dennis Oz

Hello fellow remodelers and welcome back to another episode of Remodeler Success Podcast. I’m your Dennis Oz, your guide through the ins and outs of kitchen and bathroom industry. Today we are diving deep into the world of kitchen and bathroom modeling from the lens of the business.

business strategy, business innovation, so many different things that we’re going to talk about today. If you ever find yourself navigating the challenges of lead generation, client negotiations, like pricing, or simply staying ahead in the fast paced world of design trends, today’s episode is tailored just for you.

We are joined by a true industry expert, Dennis Giemann here, with a legacy in the remodeling and A finger always on the pulse of the market. Dennis will be bringing a blend of experience and forward thinking that promises to inspire you and inform. So without further ado, let’s say to our guest today, Dennis, welcome to the show.

Dennis Gehman

Thank you, Dennis. It’s good to be here. Uh, we’ll have to see how this goes with two Dennis’s that we. Yeah, so I’m a carpenter by trade in back in had about 15 years experience and then decided to start our own business in 1990. Uh, we do focus mostly on kitchens and baths. We have a kitchen and bath showroom.

We’re in Southeastern Pennsylvania, uh, service an area within about a one hour drive time from where we’re at here. And, um, we have designers on staff as well as the trades people. So we’re a little different than much of our competition in that, uh, everything is done with our in house team.

Dennis Oz

So let’s dive into this, uh, your internal team. How do you structure your team?

Dennis Gehman

Well, so it’s really kind of two parts as sort of the office and the field or production team. Um, we, uh, we do sell, uh, design agreements. Many people call them. We call it a pre construction contract. And so we have remodeling consultants. That’s our fancy word for a salesperson.

You know, so they’re, they’re really the upfront face and they are hand holding the client through, through the whole process, uh, from beginning to end, uh, they, we team them up with a project developer for us. So we have three of those, uh, people and I do that when I can. It’s part of the project. I, uh, business that I really enjoy. But, uh, some reason, a small business owner, I can’t always do what I want to. Sometimes I have to do what I have to, you know, to make sure that things get done and, um, You know, we use chief architect for our design software. Uh, so it’s as built drawings, uh, right on to conceptual and, uh, you know, refining, uh, we’re using sage for our estimating software.

Excuse me, just a minute here. Um, and, uh, the specifications are a Microsoft Word template that, uh, you know, we pull up a kitchen template and, uh, make sure that it, uh, is properly edited for each specific project on hand. And then there’s a handoff to the field of the production. We have a production supervisor, and, uh, he oversees five project managers, a project manager for us.

Is essentially what many people call lead carpenter. They’re a working tradesman with their tool belt on their on the project site each day, start to finish. Since we use the in house labor, we can commit to our clients that when we start a project, we’re going to be there each work day until the project is finished.

And people really like that. As I said, I’m a carpenter by trade along the way. I picked up a, uh, Master plumber registration and electrical license. So that’s how we pull all the permits. But I figured I’m not the smartest guy around it. But I can learn carpentry and electric and plumbing and tile work.

So can other people. So we’ve worked at cross training. the people and uh, uh, they enjoy that. I tell folks, I will never promise that you’re going to like everything you do when you come to work for us. Uh, you know, but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. It’s only a couple days of wiring and plumbing in that crawl space and and then you get to start, you know, on doing the next phase of the project.

Dennis Oz

Right, right. Yeah, that’s that’s really interesting. Well, you’re we are talking about a team here and you are the business owner. We are in an industry that we are always seeing new things, new materials, new design trends, new design styles. How do you make sure you’re always on the top of it and not missing out the latest trends?

Dennis Gehman

So I think first and foremost, I’m an avid reader, uh, both of books and of the trade journals and our industry has many trade journals. I think I get at least 10, maybe 12 different trade journals that come most of them on a monthly basis. I wish I could say I read them all cover to cover, but at a minimum, I’m paging through each one cover to cover, and I’m seeing the advertisements, the articles about a new way of doing things, um, being in business for a long time, and simply the fact that I’m getting old.

That means a lot of people know me. So, you know, I do get a lot of information, some direct from manufacturers or their representatives. Another good source is NARI, National Association of Remodeling Industry, which we’ve been involved with for a lot of years. And, you know, their weekly email newsletter, uh, our local chapter meetings, uh, continuing education, uh, that those things are a big help.

And I do enjoy trade shows. Um, in another month, I’ll be, well, a little more than a month, six weeks heading out to Las Vegas to Nari’s fall conference and, and learn about new things there. Right. 

Dennis Oz

That is, that’s a good way to keep ourselves updated. Uh, we are the KBIS and Nari is that they’re doing the show IBS.

That’s really amazing to have all these kind of people in like, because like we have our, our industry is emerging, uh, that are especially new things. Not only by, I’m not talking about the design side that are also new things by the appliances and also different fixtures. Lightings are changing. It’s sometimes it’s sometimes it’s really easy to sell a project to, I believe, like really easy to sell a project to a ideal client when you have the correct render.

We have a lot of like great softwares out there allowing us to show this one. That’s why I would like to also talk about this ideal client a little bit. How do you identify? That ideal client. When you think of someone walking in super, super excited about a remodel, who comes to mind in terms of your ideal customer client avatar?

Dennis Gehman

So for us, first and foremost, women are the people we want to talk with. Men are important, but it’s women who drive these decisions and the projects. Typically for us, it is people who are recent empty nesters. Uh, you know, so probably colleges paid for any weddings that they had to pay for are taken care of and and possibly even the mortgage on their house is paid for.

And, you know, they’ve been spending the last several decades investing in their children and their family and and if they have made the decision to stay where, you know, in the home that they’re in, they want to make it work for them so that they can enjoy, uh, Not necessarily a retirement years, but but the years leading up to retirement.

So typically it’s a dual income. Both man and woman are working. Um, you know, we did just today. Our marketing guy send out a, an email to those of us involved in projects. And he said, who were the best people. Quote our ideal clients that we worked with over the past year, and it’s not the first time that we’ve heard that.

And then he tries to do some digging down and find out what are similarities for them so that he can direct the marketing so that we’re getting in front of the same kind of people in. And that has changed some over time. Uh, and, uh, you know, I think we still have a strong run with working with baby boomers because they’re not all aged out yet, not totally retired.

But as the younger generations come into, uh, you know, kind of this age group, uh, of empty nesters, things are going to change and we want to stay aware of that. 

Dennis Oz

Right. We’ll come to the marketing in the following questions, but let’s talk about this, uh, ideal customer and Project perspective. Let’s let’s right now.

Let’s talk about ideal. Um, let’s say no. Let’s talk about this one. Uh, when you’re chatting with someone, uh, let’s say it’s an ideal project, right? What’s your favorite way to just excite them? Let’s say, let’s say to get them excited as you just approach them and, uh, like offer your services and what’s your best way? What is working?

Dennis Gehman

The best way is for us to ask lots of questions. Many people initially, they don’t feel like they know what they want. You know, but as we ask them questions, they start to talk, they get themselves excited. And, you know, so we want to ask leading questions, not just yes or no, so that they the blanks.

Our showroom certainly helps with that as we’re going through, uh, you know, we can introduce them to things, but, uh, asking questions, being really good listeners, uh, taking notes so that, you know, the next time we meet with them, we can, we, we try to start off and, and rebuild, okay, this is where we’re at.

Last time we talked about, you know, A, B, and C. And, uh, and, and they’re usually right on board and agreeing with that. And so we don’t have to, you know, recreate everything that those things go a long way.

Dennis Oz

Right about the pricing. Then it’s really tricky when you’re talking about pricing, do you have any go to strategies that when you, uh, like, maybe an advice when it comes to hashing out the details of a project? Project costs. Uh, when you’re talking to these people.

Dennis Gehman

Boy, I wish we had the ideal answer. It’s an ongoing struggle. I would say, uh, and COVID didn’t help with that because, you know, the last few years prices changed all the time. And we’re, that’s calmed down some now, which I’m thankful for. Um, we, we need to have realistic projects. Conversations because it what we what’s not fun is when people give us a retainer, we go through and we develop the project and then it comes in way over what they anticipated. Most likely, they’re going to be upset with us. Maybe even angry. Uh, and and that’s that’s not not what we want. Um, so we typically give them we call it our opinion of probable cost and we give them a low range, a mid range and a high range. And that high range. We always say the sky’s the limit, you know, because we don’t know what late fixtures. Even what cabinet knobs, you know, you got 32 cabinet knobs in your kitchen and, you know, typically we’re figured maybe they’re 10 a piece, but you can spend 110 a piece and, you know.

Dennis Oz

They can, they can ask for golden mouse. Right? Yeah, that’s right. I mean, I totally, I totally understand since I was going back to the designer years that I, uh, Um, there are so many moving parts when we are, of course, thinking about, uh, pricing, but I always believe the customer has a pricing, but a good, I would say, not a salesman, a good kitchen designer, uh, would. Try to push the limits a little bit. What do you think about that? Should we, should we push the limits or just try to keep everything in the customer’s budget without even offering extra things for them or try to like be a little more on the like a medium side? Should we offer like this? Let’s say if you are looking, if they have a medium budget, let’s say something for the medium quality and detail, right?

Would you always, do you always like offer these people the higher, uh, like products or how do you do that? 

Dennis Gehman

Our goal is to always design a project that’s going to work with their budget, but we always have a shopping list and sometimes many times there are things that we say, you know what, I know that you really enjoy coffee. And, you know, so there’s room over here. We could put a coffee bar in and, uh, you know, cappuccino, uh, latte, you know, all those kind and I don’t drink coffee. So I’m the guy speaking out of turn here. But, uh, and they’ll get excited. But I also have to say, it’s probably not going to work in the budget. We talked about, but they’re interested enough that they say, yeah, let’s see what that that’s going to cost.

Um, I think we would be doing that. But this service. If we didn’t show them all the options. I don’t want to get through the design phase or maybe even more importantly through the production phase. And then they happen to come across a coffee bar and they’re like, Dennis, why didn’t you bring that up? We, we, we probably would have gone for it.

And, uh, you know, because. Yeah, we could do it at that point, but it’s probably more expensive because we have to take something apart. Um, our role as designers is to make sure that they know the options, uh, while being respectful of their budget. Because it’s not fun. Uh, you know, sometimes people are sincerely, um, strapped to a budget.

Um, I think the demographic that we’re targeting have a little more play in their budget, but we have worked for some very wealthy people that could have wrote a check for five times what their kitchen is, but they set a budget that they are want to keep within. And, you know, so we want to be respectful of that.

Dennis Oz

Got it. Got it. All right. It’s always, yeah, definitely. That’s a great angle. Um, let’s talk about the services that you offer. What’s your favorite service? What service do you believe is your top performer? I mean, most of the businesses have like an 80 20 rule. Uh, like 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the services or products.

Do you have that 20% or are you like, pretty much like, um, offering like more like a general… remodeling service. What do you think?

Dennis Gehman

So bathrooms are a bread and butter. We always do more bathrooms and kitchens and I think there are several reasons for that. Most houses have more than one bathroom. Very few houses have more than one kitchen.

So that’s for it up front. And generally speaking, bathrooms are going to cost less than the kitchen.

Dennis Oz

Do you believe it’s it’s a like a low entry barrier that you when you’re offering a price, you believe that is going to be, let’s say, 100, 000 kitchen versus that 40, 000 bathroom. You believe it’s more like approachable, like it’s. say people can easily afford it. That’s what you think. That’s what you say over there.

Dennis Gehman

I don’t, cause usually people don’t come to us and say, we’re going to do either a kitchen or bathroom. We can’t do the boat. Um, they usually start on that. Let’s do, let’s do the bathroom or let’s do the kitchen.

You know, they sort of prioritize, but I think just the reality that there’s more bathrooms out there to work on. Then there are kitchens is a big factor. With that, the projects where I think we bring the most value are projects that have a challenge to them. And that could be in the design up front, uh, probably more so in in the whole, uh, engineering, uh, layout, you know, many people didn’t ever think in their minds that we could take that wall out and they could, it could, you know, all of us in designers as kitchens, sit.

Ooh. I know the number of people that want an island, but there’s just not enough room. And so we’re trying to squeeze this island in there and help anybody. Um, we had a project a few years ago, two story house where the second floor. Cantilevered 18 inches out past the first floor wall. We, we expanded the first floor by Cantilevering.

We didn’t even need any more foundation. We, we used LVLs and we cantilevered the floor joists out that 18 inches allowed them to get. Their, uh, their 1st floor. We didn’t need any additional roof because the 2nd floor was covering it. Uh, thankfully, we were easily able to match the siding on this. So, you know, being able to think outside of the box.

And I think, because I started off my career as a carpenter, I’m not afraid of those structural challenges, you know, taking out the load bearing wall and Putting in a steel beam and finding a new home for the duct work and the 

Dennis Oz

Bring it on. Bring it on. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Well, right. Let’s talk about marketing.

Um, it’s a big deal. And, um, most of our listeners here. Um, our, um, companies in the kitchen and bathroom industry, they focused on referrals. Of course, referrals are like really, they’re really good source because on the thing that you need to sell these referrals not to mess up anything because they’re coming through like pretty much like pre positioned to buy from you.

Uh, but when you’re looking at like all these, uh, like Different age groups. We talk about baby boomers and new generation, Gen X, Gen Z, Gen Y, whatever that, how we call it, like different age groups, let’s say, how do you tailor your marketing efforts to make sure that you’re reaching out to the right people?

Dennis Gehman

Well, that’s like a 10 million question, especially if you have the right answer for that. Uh, I totally agree with you. Referrals are are wonderful. Uh, so more and more we’re focusing at staying in front of our existing client base. Uh, it’s amazing how many People, you know, we did a kitchen for him six years ago, and they they forget about us.

So if we do a printed newsletter, you know, three or four times a year, some email newsletters, uh, anniversary, uh, Cards. You know, we we offer a five year warranty. So, you know, each year on the anniversary of the project, you know, hey, it’s been been a year. Hope you’re enjoying your your kitchen that it still feels like new for you.

Um, I love birthdays and wedding anniversaries. And so I actually give a, uh, a cash gift to our employees if they because they’re they’re working in the house. Chances are somebody has a birthday or an anniversary. Great. I want to know that it goes in our database so that next year, um, we, we can, we can be in contact with them, you know, to, to help celebrate that people seem to really appreciate that yesterday happened to be my birthday and.

Dennis Oz

Oh, happy birthday.

Dennis Gehman

I took the day off, but I still I had texts and phone calls. In fact, a phone call woke me up yesterday morning from a lady who goes to our church and she’s well known that when it’s your birthday, you’re going to get a phone call. And all she does is sing happy birthday to you. But it’s nice to be recognized. So I, and since I enjoy that, I assume other people do too.

Dennis Oz

Right, right. It’s a great strategy, like not the strategies because from your bottom of your heart because you’re just celebrating with people being a part of the community. It’s, you’re not doing that just for like generating leads. You’re just doing that just because you had a.

You, you work together and our, our invoices are not just like numbers. We create the connection with this family and they will be referring us to other people. So this is really smart, folks. Listen, this is a really great idea to ask your, let’s say before getting like this intake forms, you can put the, uh, the, the, the birthdays or like wedding anniversaries, those kinds of things.

And you can. Just create a system. You don’t really need to worry about that. Just create a system that is sending out emails or like even the physical, uh, postcards in the mail. That’ll, that’ll really create a great community around you. And that, that community will always bring you the, the business.

Here, the idea, Dennis, I understood that it’s not like the, just like going after the money, just going after creating that, you know, kind of appreciating people. Just because they’re around you and you’re in the same community. So this is I, I just found out really, really, really smart strategy. We can talk about so many different things about marketing, like lead generation, like Google ads on Facebook as this and that.

Look how these things are sometimes comes down to really simple, like easy. Easy pieces. So that’s why you always consider like when you’re looking at your marketing, it’s just like Dennis said, you shouldn’t like really think about like maybe in the like a higher level. Sometimes in the deeper level, you find a lot of value on the deeper level.

So this is this is really interesting. Well, let’s talk about reviews done because like getting those reviews are sometimes it’s really challenging, right? Because getting that happy customer You Well, when they see the end results, they’re really happy. What I see, what I was working as a kitchen designer, if I was kind of had an ability to show the end result to the people after the construction, they would definitely give me a five star, but there are some things that are happening during the process during the.

Project management, the glass cabinet just, just is being broken during the delivery or like, I don’t know, truck arrives late or something, something that is just shipped, but it has a huge, like, I don’t know, like something on it, you know, defects on it. Of course, it’s really becoming hard for us to get like a real good review from our clients.

Sometimes they’re just going there and writing something just to show some revenge. You know, I saw that a lot. How do you get great reviews and how do you handle your online reputation?

Dennis Gehman

We just this morning, Thursday mornings, we have our weekly sales meeting and we sat and talked about this for quite a while. It’s, they’re harder to get. It seems like people are more hesitant to give reviews than what they used to be. Yes. We need to ask for them. That’s the first thing and have some easy way.

Send them a text with a link, you know, that populates or an email, uh, do those things for sure. Um, unfortunately, things do not always go like they should. Uh, one of the things we were talking about this morning that we want to minimize. Whether it’s a mistake on our part or the delivery didn’t come. We need to continue to improve.

So our ducks are in a row, but when something wrong does happen, the way we handle it and respond goes so, so far, um, I am convinced that when something didn’t go right and we handle it properly and. Have compassion, uh, that, that the other people feel that they realize we’re on their side. And, and, you know, we’re feeling that this too.

Um, when we get that turned around, those people are more loyal than the people where everything went smooth right from the get go, uh, to that. And, uh, we, uh, we did a kitchen, uh, last year, uh, for, for some folks. And, uh, next Tuesday evening. So one of our marketing things we have, we call it Kitchen and Bath University here in our showroom.

So we’re, we’re hosting that. We have 17 people that have double committed. We had 31 people sign up initially, but then in the follow up, so far only 17 have reconfirmed that. And we have a local restaurant, an Italian restaurant here in town. They’re going to provide the meal free of charge because we give them the publicity.

for that. But this these people where the kitchen things were a bit of a challenge and they were they were challenging people. Uh, let’s put it that way. But it ended well, they’re coming back. And the reason they said is because they want to do a bathroom and so they want to learn some more. So we were we were Uh, almost surprised when we heard that, but but quite honored. 

Dennis Oz

Right well, uh, you know, that is always like, of course, it’s just like you said, it always starts with a question. Can you give us like a, like a good review? Good thing is when you have like that strong connection that they’re, they’re more likely they’re, they’re more likely to review a review. But yeah, this is a great way to, uh, this is a great way to, uh, yeah.

You know, kind of manage and handle online reputation. That’s a great way. Then, um, let’s talk about the other remodelers who is just listening or just watching us right now. Um, these people who are like, let’s say they would like to boost their Business. They would like to see the next level of their businesses, and let’s say they’re just starting.

They’re a startup, right? What would be your piece of wisdom or advice that you can share with these people? They are, maybe, things they avoid or, like, The things that they really need to do on a short or long term basis. What’s, what’s your thoughts about that?

Dennis Gehman

Be consistent with your marketing. When you’re busy, you need to make time to keep it going because it’s too late when it’s slowed down because then you’re going to end up with an open space in your schedule.

So you gotta stay consistent. My other piece of the device is. Get involved in your local community. If it’s a Chamber of Commerce, it’s a Rotary Club, the Lions Club. Do something to be out there. And that, that is a long view, you know, a business. You’re not going to get leads automatically, but people buy from people they know, like and trust.

And so you need to build those relationships. Uh, you know, I’m in my sixties, so, um, you know, a lot of people know me. But a lot of that is because I’ve invested into our community, and, you know, I hear it from people all the time. And I, I like to go out for breakfast or lunch with other people. Uh, there’s a book I read once, and I can’t remember the author, but it, but it was, it’s titled Never Eat Alone.

And, and, and it’s from a sales angle, just always be making connections with people. Uh, and, and in the end, good things will come for that, from that, when, when people are ready.

Dennis Oz

Right. Perfect. Thank you so much. Uh, my last question is about to be, uh, let’s talk about Neri. Um, why do you think that the remodelers should join their local, uh, chapters? What’s the benefit, uh, just by going there and just joining the, uh, that association? What’s your, what’s your take on this?

Dennis Gehman

So just joining the association won’t do anything. You need to get involved for me. As I said earlier, I had about 15 years of trade experience before we started our business. Our local Mary chapter started about 2 years later.

By that time, I was far enough into business. That I didn’t have an NBA like you do. Uh, you know, I had the trade experience, but I knew that I needed to learn more. And so I kept becoming involved, uh, taking advantage of the pardon me that the fact that it was seminars. It was workshops or what? There was no Internet.

Um, you know, but, uh, and those things are great. There’s a Our area here. You know, it’s it’s it’s probably six times a year that we get together. Uh, the presenters are wonderful, but just as is important are the people that I’m sitting with at that table while we’re enjoying the meal and conversations going on.

Yes, they’re competitors. But they become friends and, and as you talk, some people are a little bit tight. They hold everything close to their chest, but it just in conversation you pick up tidbits. That are so valuable. And you know, I’ve gotten involved in Nari on the national level. So I’ve made friends all across the country.

And if I have something that I think a competitor might not be comfortable talking with, I can call somebody in Chicago or California or Oregon or Florida and, you know, and have a conversation. So that, that, that, that is helpful. Nari is pretty active online. Uh, you can follow things there that there is a weekly newsletter.

Um, and I learned a lot about new products there because the sponsors are always posting things, but great articles. And for me at this point, I want I want to be able to give back. This industry has been very good to me. We’ve made a good living. I am thankful that I enjoy almost all of my work. And when I don’t, you know what?

It’s usually a people issue and whether that’s an employee or a client and many times it when I really look deep, it’s my fault or it’s our fault because we didn’t properly set the table. Uh, you know, for expectations. And, you know, so I certainly haven’t learned at all. Uh, I need to continue to learn and I can learn from people much younger than me.

Uh, I think it was Sam Walton who started, uh, Walmart, uh, you know, he, he, when he was traveling, he would always go into the, to the local stores and, and he said, because there’s always something new I can learn. And, and that’s certainly my experience.

Dennis Oz

Well, Dennis, thank you so much for joining us today. That was a pleasure to meet you and, uh, get these like, like it’s, it’s wisdom guys, it’s experience here. So it’s, uh, again, uh, uh, for our, all our listeners over here, I’m sure that they have a lot of like these golden nuggets from, uh, the piece of advice and everything that you shared from here today. And thanks so much for joining us today, Dennis.

Dennis Gehman

You’re very welcome. Thank you, Dennis.

Dennis Oz

Thank you. Folks, that was another episode of Remodeler Success Podcast, and we’re gonna see you next time.