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Interview with a Millennial Residential Remodeler

One in a series of interviews conducted by Point To Point to better understand the players that comprise the building products channel, as well as the sizable market forces reshaping their worlds and how they engage with brands.

Profile
Name
: Chris Radivoj
Occupation: Independent residential remodeler
Years in the Business: 10
Age: 34
Specializes In: Carpentry for kitchens and bathrooms: cabinets, woodwork, millwork, doors, wall and ceiling framing, finishes
Works With: A core group of guys—plumbers and the like—for other aspects of the remodel
Favorite Sports Team: “Gotta be the Cavs”
Favorite Drink: Beer
Likes To Go: Hunting, Fishing, Four Wheeling

On the Push for Sustainability
“Are homeowners increasingly concerned with sustainability? Definitely. Is the push for it coming from me or from the homeowner? It’s both. There are homeowners who are hip to it, are aware of some of the green practices going on. But mostly I’m the one suggesting a different approach. If I recommend something that’s better, more efficient, more green for them, my customers are usually pretty open-minded about it. They’ll take my word for it, trust my opinion, especially if I’ve been referred to them or if I’ve done work for them in the past.”

“How do I hear about green advances? Mostly from some of the guys I work with. I don’t actively search for the information, it just kind of finds me. Ideas get passed around in conversation. Sometimes if I’m on a commercial build, I’ll see something. Then if I think it’s cool I’ll search it out, look into it and present it to the homeowner.”

His Take On Technology
“I’ve got a smartphone and I’m using it on the job more and more. I use it to take photos that I reference later—usually at home—when I’m putting a cost estimate together. I’ve got notes, pictures, all in one place. Helps keep me organized. I don’t usually pull up application videos on it at the jobsite—if I do that it’s at home. I already know what I’m doing on the job and there I want to be as productive as possible.”

“I do think a tablet would be great. I’d use it for on the spot research to show the homeowner a particular product I had in mind, or a specific woodworking finish or detail. What’s that saying - a picture is worth a thousand words - it’s true. I use construction terminology when I’m explaining something but the homeowner doesn’t always get it, even though we’re often saying the same thing. I do use my phone to pull up an image but a big picture would be even better, really simplify communication, make things clear.”

How He Gets Product Information
“Some info I get from other people I work with, and a lot of times I’ll check with the supply house. Some stuff I get from Home Depot or Lowes, but usually I deal with supply stores more tailored to remodelers or professional construction companies. For instance, I often use Wholesale Builders Supply. I think of them as my distributor.”

“I don’t often talk to manufacturer reps, I usually deal with the supply house sales guys. But I could see how connecting with a rep could be a good idea. It’s always good to get a little more information. They could maybe shed some light on things I’m not aware of.”

“Online searching—websites, social media, blogs—that’s really helpful. It’s information at your fingertips, and anywhere you want, really. I do get information from my distributor, but increasingly I’m relying more on online. You can access information on a broader spectrum and faster than just going to one place and talking to one sales rep. Let’s say I’m looking for flooring. I’ll go to Armstrong’s website, read up on their flooring. Usually manufacturers have a pretty nice site. You can get a PDF file of everything: like how to install their products, how they’re warrantied. ”

“I don’t attend industry events or tradeshows - they’re not my thing.”

What Influences His Decision to Buy
I am loyal to particular brands. I like to use stuff I’m familiar with, especially name brands, if I’ve had good luck with them. Yeah, I would say I’m partial to those, for sure.”

On What Brands Could Do Better
“Overall I think they do a good job with product information and instructions, so nothing better in that area. If I was just starting out? I could see how business advice could be a plus. That would be great.”

Who Knows Him Best
“It’s the guy at the supply house. And if that guy came to me with a new product recommendation, I would listen to him. I mean, that’s who I’ve built a relationship with. I know how he thinks, I’ve seen his work ethic, so I trust him. If a manufacturer wanted to build a relationship with me, I’d prefer it if he did it through my distributor.”

Information From Brands
“I’d like it by email. That way it’s there. With my lifestyle, I’m always running around. With email I can look at it whenever - even at midnight.”

“As for training, I’m a big fan of video - it’s so convenient. That said, I also like hands-on training, it’s actually better. But not at the jobsite. I’d prefer in-person training at the distributor.”

Biggest Gripe
“Everyone wants it faster, deadlines are shorter. On TV you can build a house in three days but people don’t see everything else—all the unforeseen details that arise when you’re taking stuff apart to remodel. It makes me a little crazy, a little nervous. I want to make my customers happy and I don’t want to mislead them—but I want to do things right. That takes time.”

Resetting Your Game for Millennial Contractors

Topics: Building Products Manufacturing