Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Great Remodeling Snapshots: Pick Your Favorite!

News flash: the winner is Pine Street Carpenters
From Michael Dolan, marketing director: 
"These materials will be a great resource for Pine Street, 
and a valuable part of our library. We'll be sure to put them to good and frequent use!"

Every day, we at daily5Remodel invite remodeling professionals to submit a photo, video, PDF or other image and brief caption demonstrating a best business practice. At Thanksgiving, we launched our first Snapshots contest, and here is your chance to select your favorite Snapshot published in December. The winner will receive more than $200 worth of remodeling-specific books and DVDs generously provided by Remodelers Advantage, Construction Programs & Results, and Train2Rebuild.

Poll closes January 10!

(Here's an image from December 17, submitted by Pine Street Carpenters)

Click here to see these and other d5R Snapshots.
Click here to get daily5Remodel every day for free!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Contest Announcement: d5R Snapshots

Remodelers' seemingly bottomless capacity for creativity and generosity is the thinking behind Snapshots, one of the daily features in d5R and the only feature that consistently revolves around a user-generated video, image or other graphic, along with a short caption in the user's own words.
What's the goal of Snapshots? To let remodeling pros peek inside the windows of their peers -- and thus see some of the unique and wonderful things their peers are doing (other than performing high-quality remodeling work). It's one thing when a third party writes about such an event or activity; it's another when the remodeler shares the thinking behind a community service program, a marketing campaign, a team-building practice or an affirming PR coup.

Now it's your turn. In celebration of the holidays, we invite you to share a Snapshot from your company. If yours is chosen as the readers' favorite, you'll win the following gift pack of terrific remodeling resources:

From Remodelers Advantage (value: $110.95):

From Bill Robinson and Train2Rebuild, this 60-minute DVD training program for teaching crews to comply with lead-safe renovation rules (value: $79):

From Construction Programs & Results, Michael Stone's widely heralded book on selling remodeling work profitably (value: $39.95):

How to become eligible? Take a look at previously published Snapshots, then email images or a video of something your company is proud of, along with a brief caption in your words and your contact information, to snapshots@daily5Remodel. We'll invite readers to select their favorite Snapshot before we break for the Christmas holidays.

Thanks to Remodelers Advantage, Train2Rebuild and Construction Programs & Results for donating these terrific prizes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The (Mostly) Good News

At a conference a few weeks ago, I realized I had fallen dangerously under the influence of a motivational speaker when I found my hand in the air, along with hundreds of other hands in the room, and my voice joining hundreds of others in vowing to stop paying attention to the news.
What? My living is in the news. I'm a lifelong lover of the news, even when it's mostly bad. I live in Washington, D.C., for goodness sake, where it's impossible not to follow the news!

I jerked my hand down and left the room to get some coffee. No more kool-aid for me.

The speaker did have a point about the negative effect of negative news, though. And it was hard not to notice how relieved the hundreds of other people (mostly remodelers) seemed to have "permission" to stop following the news. Some high-fived each other.

Thus was born the "all's good" Friday edition of d5R: no bad news, in either the daily news roundup or the daily5 articles.

At first, it was liberating. In sifting through hundreds of news sources every day, I now had permission to ignore the reports of foreclosures, taxes, layoffs, closing factories, slumping sales, product recalls, LEEDigation... I was the remodeling PollyAnna, looking only for things to be glad about (and there was a lot, most days).

Readers seemed to like it. "I like good news Fridays better," one emailed me on a Monday. "Suggest that Good News Monday be added. Mondays don't need any help being a drag."

By Thursday of last week, the motivational kool-aid had begun to wear off. I struggled to find nothing but good news to report on, and grasped at ways to positively spin news that was bittersweet at best (a struggling lumberyard found a buyer! The Remodeling Market Index stopped declining!).

This week seemed to be a particularly rough one for the building industry, demonstrated by a bunch of economic factors including yesterday's announcement that Kohler -- that generations-old icon of American-made tradition -- had laid off 750 employees, its sixth layoff in two years. I got to tour the Kohler factory in Wisconsin last month, and one of the best parts was seeing the tour guide (who had just retired after 38 years at the plant) point out workers who had been there even longer than he had.

Which is all a very long-winded way of saying that 'all's good' Friday had to take a reality break this week. And that we welcome your good news. Post it here, please, or email it to leah@daily5Remodel.com.

Have an all's good weekend.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Right Here, Right Now

This week finds me in Kohler, Wisconsin, where I am a grateful invitee of a fantastic consulting organization called Remodelers Advantage to its annual "Summit" of dozens of the best remodeling companies in the U.S. and Canada.

As with every RAI event I have attended, the camaraderie and kinship among attendees -- many of whom have seen each other through difficult times, in previous recessions and this one -- reminds me that although broad economic conditions impact the health of this industry overall, it's the people who own and operate these small businesses who determine whether they'll thrive or fail.

In the last two days, many business owners have told me that their revenues and profits are on the upswing. Some say they're having their best year ever. All are here because they want to continue to improve and adapt for whatever challenges lie around the corner, not only for their sake, as company owners, but also for their employees and their communities.

In that spirit, Victoria Downing, RAI's CEO, asked me to speak briefly about social media. I gave a 10-minute overview of Twitter, and many people later told me they're charging forward in building a strong social media presence; they recognize it as another critical piece of their adaptation strategy.

What really wowed the crowd, however, was this video that preceded my presentation. It's more than a year old, meaning that its statistics are ancient history in Internet time, but it's worth your two minutes if you're still questioning whether social media is relevant to your business. I think it is.

Leah Thayer

Thursday, September 30, 2010

High Frequency

"Congratulations on this new endeavor," began a note I received last week.

The writer continued. "I have to admit, when I first saw it, I thought, 'Oh, great, one more daily email. But I signed up because it’s you and I wanted to support you."

Um ... thanks?

"And I have to say, this daily update really is different. It’s diversified, not too heavy, gives lots of options and pulls industry and industry-related news together. I can glance at it quickly and decide what I want to see more of.....good job!"

Whew! That ended nicely. 

So have most of the notes I've received since kicking off daily5 less than two weeks ago.

From a reader in Pennsylvania:
"Each issue has a ton of valuable information, and I’m sure it saves many the time from culling through lots of publications for the worthwhile stuff. You do the culling for the industry, share what’s worth knowing, and add your own content to the mix."

"I truly love what you have done! I read it on my blackberry in the am!"

"Really well done! Can't wait to read every issue and participate!"

New York:
"Finally, a one stop shop for all my home improvement news!"

North Carolina:
"Your readers don't have time to search for all that information. You've become the go-to for remodeling news!"

"Huge congratulations on the daily5 delivery! It’s upbeat, useful, fun, and eclectic. I haven’t seen anything else quite like it."

Maryland, exercising a little hyperbole:
"Soon you will be the Kiplinger report of the remodeling world. Then the CNN of the remodeling world. Lexus Nexus of the remodeling world."

Wow. That wasn't in the business plan, but thanks. Thank you all. I really appreciate the feedback.

But also this, from Massachusetts:

"The quality and breadth of information is staggering. Are you sure you can keep it up?"

and this, from Georgia:
"I'm having difficulty reading all of it. Maybe a weekly would be better."

and this, from Ohio:
"Have you considered a weekly 'omnibus' e-newsletter instead of daily? Dailies are too frequent for me -- I almost never sign up for them -- but weeklies are more manageable."

Hmmm. Yes, I have considered a weekly. Rather, I did ... before I settled on the name (what compelled me to come up with daily 5, anyway?). 

My general feeling is this: Cranking this product out every day is a lot of work -- but it's worth every ounce of my energy if it benefits the industry and generates a following that continues to grow. 

So it's really about you. What would you like to see more of? Or less of?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Morning Routine

What more does a remodeling professional need at 6 a.m.?

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Thanks to Peter Troast of Energy Circle for the photo. (Yes, d5R looks great on the iPad.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tweaking the Recipe

"Isn't it great being small?" the owner of another small business -- okay, not as small as daily5 -- told me recently over lunch. "We can change things. We can fix things. Fast!"

Cheers to that, I say. And this morning, after a pretty much sleepless night for myself and my development team, I'm happy to report that daily5Remodel went live at 6 a.m. EST. It's now 3.5 hours old, and already needs the inevitable tweaking and changing and fixing that all new launches require. We're going to take care of those fixes one by one.

In the weeks, months and years to come -- should we be among the minority of new businesses that survive, knock wood -- we hope to never to stop changing. I've worked in big organizations and tiny ones, and while I can't say that small is always necessarily more nimble than big, I can say that it's a lot more satisfying to work with, and be the customer of, a business that is willing and able to constantly improve.

So bring on your comments and suggestions. If something on the site isn't working for you, please let me know. I can't promise that we'll get on it right away, but we're working on it -- and we're listening.

Thanks. Welcome aboard!

Leah Thayer

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bases Loaded

Apart from taking my son to a baseball game, and evidenced by letting him watch obscene amounts of tv and play appalling quantities of video games, I've been a terrible parent lately. He is 9, and I've basically missed his first two weeks of fourth grade while struggling to contain a to-do list that seems to be breeding like mutant aliens.

Some good has come out of the franticness, however -- and not just that my son really doesn't object, one bit, to watching TV, playing video games and going to friends' houses.

eletter sneak peek, sorta
For one, daily5Remodel goes live on Monday. In a week of friend-to-friend, viral promoting, several hundred remodeling professionals have registered to subscribe, and advertisers are showing a real interest. The overall reception, from folks who have toured the site and/or grilled me on it, has been affirming.

Big, big, big thanks to my development team in Oregon for putting all hands on deck to make this happen.

Second, the remodeling market seems to be cueing up for a comeback. I've seen "we're hiring" notices from at least three companies in the past several days. Several remodelers tell me they're suddenly so busy they can hardly think. Financial uncertainty and price objections continue to keep many homeowners on the fence -- remodeling sales have become a courting process, steady and patient -- but Monday I learned of a local favorite who just signed a new project worth $2.4 million.

Three: I'm so happy to be back among remodelers. About that baseball game Wednesday night: my son and I fled DC, and then Baltimore's steaming, belching, traffic-jammed concrete downtown, for the tall glass of water that is Camden Yards: the first (and some say the best) of professional ballparks designed to harken back to an earlier period in baseball history.

Once in our seats, we caught up with many of the remodeling pros I would have most wanted to see at the Remodeling Show, which was in progress across the street: consultant extraordinaire/keynote speaker Shawn McCadden (whom I edited for several years, and who invited us to the game), remodelers Greg Antonioli and Michael Anschel (both of whom I also edited), green remodeling guru Carl Seville, contractor coach Mark Paskell.

I cornered Greg for a minute with my flip camera. 

Amid beer, baseball and my godawful videography skills, which can only get better, this microcosm of the industry -- which also included manufacturers, trainers and more -- revealed a collective power that never lost hope. And then, the Orioles won the game.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday at daily5Remodel.

Leah Thayer

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Giving It Away

"It seems that you keep giving more things to your members," I said. "Do you think remodelers should think of ways to 'give' more and better to their clients too? How do they do this without cutting into their profits?"

"I think every business has byproducts of their service," responded Geoff Graham, president of GuildQuality, which conducts customer surveys for builders and remodelers. "I'm not a big admirer of Henry Ford, but he was a really smart guy.... After he built all these cars, he had all these little chunks of wood, so he started a charcoal business. It's now known as Kingsford Charcoal.

"You end with this thing that you've sold, and you also have this other stuff," Graham continued. "Can you package this other stuff in a way that creates additional value? Some of it, you can charge for. Some you can give away for no other reason than to build goodwill."

In Graham's case, the "other stuff" includes, recently, integrating customer feedback with GuildQuality members' Facebook and Twitter accounts, thus maximizing visibility for the good service they provide. Not only has GQ added such services without cost bumps, but the company has lowered its fees in recent years.

Technology both enables and mandates that kind of change in some industries. Thankfully for GuildQuality -- and for companies like Netflix, whose services strike me recently as infinitely better, at a lower price, than they were a few years ago -- "giving away" more has strengthened the bottom line as well as customer loyalty.

Is Remodeling Different?

We all know that remodelers give away a lot, and that it's not because your cost of doing business is on the decline. Moore's law -- basically, that technology gets better while prices go down -- doesn't typically apply to construction labor, material and overhead costs. And still, you give advice and time to prospects who never hire you. You bid on architects' projects that somebody else builds.

As a homeowner, I plead guilty to having taken advantage of some of this largesse -- but I'll tell you, I've also sometimes wished that you would charge me for your time, to alleviate the guilt I feel for being indecisive or asking for your help without really thinking through the decision I'm contemplating.

My friend, remodeler Greg Antonioli, has some advice. First, his company does not give "free bids." Second, he notes in his latest blog on Remodeling magazine, realize that if you properly estimate and plan your project from the get-go, you can "give away" work that other companies might call change order or "extras." And you can reap the goodwill that will follow.

More than anything, says Greg, the best way to se your company apart is by saying to a client: "No, we should have seen that one coming.... We own this one." How do you afford to donate that? By setting aside funds you would have otherwise spent "on postcards and magazine ads, stuff that returns no value to the people who gave you the money in the first place," Greg says.

So, a question: What stuff have you consciously and cheerfully "given away" lately, remodelers? How did that help or hinder your business?

By the way, I'm giving away an iPad to one person who registers for daily5Remodel. You pay nothing to register for the standard subscription, but don't think I'm just giving it away. I'll ask for your participation and honest feedback, and -- if you're happy so far -- invite you to join the "premium" community too.

Leah Thayer

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nip in the Air

You’d think that by now, 25 years after my final back-to-school eve, I’d no longer feel the anxiety and hopefulness and restlessness that I feel about tomorrow -- the “first day of school,” metaphorically -- and the year ahead.

Maybe you, too, remember your mind racing with questions on this night: Would you catch the bus, would your outfit be cool enough, who would be in your classes, who would your teachers be, how would you fit in?
Today we took a hike with a four-year-old 
who never stopped asking questions
This Labor’s Day night, no brick-and-mortar school awaits my entrance tomorrow, and probably not yours, either. Thank goodness for that. I don’t miss the first-day’s wanderings of labyrinthine school halls, fumbling with locker codes, inevitably arriving late in the toughest teacher’s classroom, searching for friendly faces in the cafeteria.
And yet this moment does signify a universal turning of a new page. For me, tomorrow is the day that daily5Remodel.com goes live, with some luck -- not in its full unveiling but in welcoming people to register to receive the inaugural issue (which will publish two weeks from today, on September 20).
For you -- for any professional in any capacity -- tomorrow may also signify the beginning of a new period. The pool has closed. Summer vacation is over. The kids are back in school. There’s a nip in the air. And perhaps (finally!) those prospects you talked to months ago will make a move on that proposal they’ve been sitting on, now that their kids are back in school and their minivans are unpacked, post-vacation.

Your staff -- they too will be back, rejuvenated and partied out and fully engaged in the work that must be done between now and the next big holiday break.
Many of you have told me it’s been a long, slow summer. Your business has never been more prepared for growth, but your clientele is barely moving. Well, the season (and the page) is turning. Time will reveal what the "new normal" looks like, but I’m psyched for the change, whatever it is.
I hope you are too.

Leah Thayer

Friday, September 3, 2010

One Man, Two Questions

I got Paul Winans on the phone yesterday.

Lucky me, because not only is Paul one of the smartest and most helpful remodeling experts around, but he and his wife Nina didn't sell their famously successful California remodeling company and move to Oregon just to become remodeling consultants. They also relocated to take advantage of their new state's vibrant arts culture. Paul rattled off a list of plays he had seen at the latest Oregon Shakespeare Festival, mentioned that Nina was off volunteering at a film festival, and answered a few of my questions.

Here's a little bit of what we talked about, as edited and paraphrased.

me: When screening potential remodeling clients, what's the single best question to ask?

Paul: (a big proponent of Sandler sales training): The most important thing to find out is why they want to have the work done. Usually when companies talk to a prospect, they ask for a perfunctory rationale. What you want to do is get to the why, the emotional reason, the pain.

The question that has to be asked over and over again is basically, 'Why do you want to go through the trouble, the inconvenience, the aggravation that comes with having a remodel done?' The more clarity you can get them to provide about their decision, the stronger the relationship is going to be, the less likely they're going to feel they have to talk with other companies, and the more information you'll have to structure a strong proposal.

It's too easy to end a meeting with a prospect by saying, okay, I'll send you a proposal. Your solution is only valid if you've first established the foundation for what is motivating the client to do the work.

me: How do you create a sense of urgency in slow remodeling buyers?

Paul: This gets back to that powerful first question you ask. The clearer you are about why somebody wants to get this project done, the more likely you can engage them in a conversation about when they want to have it done and why.

If it's a pregnancy, for instance, it's a slam dunk. Or it might be that a big celebration will be held at the house, and they haven't had a party in 15 years because they're so embarrassed by their kitchen. That's their pain. That's what you want to drill down to.

Remodeling can be hell, Paul and I agreed. It's critical to get your clients to accept this -- and to know that you'll ensure that the outcome is worth it -- at the beginning of the relationship.

Paul even suggests encouraging your prospects to consider buying another house before they remodel. "What is it about this house that makes you want to go to the trouble of remodeling? Is it the neighbors, the school your kids can walk to, the beautiful yard?'

Because, he said, "As the client gets clearer, as they hear themselves talk, they actually talk themselves out of thinking there's any other choice besides you."

That's what you want.

FYI, I'll be asking a business question like this every day on daily5Remodel.com. If you've got some burning questions for experts like Paul, and for your remodeling peers, use the comment box below to suggest them!

Or email them to me at leah@daily5Remodel.com.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

After the Storm, Smaller but Stronger

In one of my last articles for Remodeling magazine, I wrote that "[s]maller-but-stronger teams – more with less, in effect – could be a lasting silver lining of the post-recession clouds." This morning, heading into the Labor Day weekend, try to find a few minutes to learn how one builder/remodeler approached some of the painful decisions that the downturn required.

"The Unthinkable," below, came from John Abrams of South Mountain Company, an employee-owned design/build firm on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. John shared this with me in early 2009.

the staff and ownership of South Mountain Company

"The Unthinkable," by John Abrams 

One of the things I love about these times is it is causing us to think more broadly about the work that we do and think differently about some things than ever before.

For 33 years there has been full-time productive work for everyone in our company every day of every week of every month of every year. We have never laid anyone off, and the last two years we have done everything possible to avoid it. back then we had a wonderful conversation at a Board meeting entitled: "What Happens If The Unthinkable Happens?"

There were three parts:

1. How will we handle it if there is not productive work for everyone?

2. What could we be doing - that we're not already doing - to assure that that doesn't happen?

3. What could we do with our shop and/our people to make valuable work (even if non-revenue producing) if there were ever work shortages?

Asking these questions led to deep discussions that ultimately produced a sequential series of steps we would take in the event that possibility 1 - not having enough productive work for all - became a reality.

In January 2009, the company's 15 owners accepted these steps by consensus, and they became company policy.

In the event of not enough work to provide full-time employment for all individuals in the company, Management, in consultation with Personnel where appropriate, will enact the following plan, in the following order: 
Voluntary temporary rolling furloughs;
  • Employ people doing speculative work (income postponed) for a limited period of time;
  • Employ people doing non-income-producing work for a limited period of time; 
  • Strategically reduce hours worked;
  • Reduce wages across the board, graduated from highest paid to lowest; 
  • Involuntary temporary rolling furloughs. 
Only after all of these have been exhausted would we resort to layoffs, which remain on the Unthinkable list. 
John concluded:

It's great to be employee owned at times like these and to therefore have 1) a group of people who is thinking about each other more than themselves and 2) the ability to use our profits for our common good because our profits belong to the group, not to any one person. 

    So, that was a year and a half ago. Earlier this week, I checked in with John to learn the outcome of the "unthinkable" plan. Here's his response:

    "Well, despite our efforts, and we did do all those things, downsizing was impossible to avoid. The Unthinkable happened. We didn't have to lay off many; just a few.  And that need, too, spawned an important process. It was very painful, but highly productive and we are a stronger (and slightly smaller) company today."

    What about you, readers? How have you weathered the storm, and how strong is your team heading into the remainder of the year?

    Leah Thayer

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Burning Questions

    You’ve got them. I’ve got them. We’ve all got them. 

    Here’s one I heard from a remodeler a while ago:  

    “How many jobs did we lose because of that one negative review on Angie’s List?” It was impossible to know the answer, of course, but the remodeler couldn’t stop asking because the criticism felt so personal. The client was impugning his company. His baby. He built its reputation, he paid its bills, he had his name on it. He knew that client -- he sold the job! 

    who hasn't been in the penalty box, after all?
    "We've got a few thousand clients. We survey them all and get overwhelmingly good results. So to have a client respond so negatively, it really hurt. She wrote the review when the project was 90% done -- probably the emotional low point in the job," he added. "She and her husband were at each others' necks, and she just lashed out at us!" 

    Painful. Possibly unfair. Nearly impossible to defend in any other way except to soldier on, trying to do his best for every other client.

    With the debut of daily5Remodel drawing closer, I've been thinking about remodelers and unhappy customers. I've been tossing out some unanswerable questions of my own to the universe:

    How do I develop thick enough skin to handle the criticism that I'll invariably get? Blame it on birth order, gender, freckles, whatever, but I've never been great at criticism. As a business owner, I need to become an expert at turning problems into opportunities. 

    How long before I start resenting rising well before the crack of every dawn to churn out content that some readers complain falls short of helping them "know more, search less, work smarter"? Now, now. Nobody made me give up my job to create something that I only think the market needs. As an entrepreneur, I need to trust my instincts but also verify them -- and stay the course even when it's no longer fun.

    pondering, gazing...
    How long before I look back at this time as the emotional high point of this adventure? Though things are moving along rapidly -- it's been a fantastic week for site development -- the business will likely feel dreamlike and hopeful right up until launch. Plus, it's still summer, and the birds are singing.

    How long before I can't believe I ever had the time to ponder such naval-gazing questions?

    Hmm. Time will tell. In the meantime, I've got some real questions for you, remodeling professionals:

    What are your burning questions about your business, your career, your industry? What would you like to ask your peers -- keep it clean -- about how they run their companies or how they got started in the field or how they work through difficult times or how they're getting leads?

    Please ask those questions here, in the comments field. You don't have to identify yourself, nor will you have to identify yourself when you (and your peers) answer these and other burning questions every day in daily5Remodel.

    There probably won't be a lot of "right" and "wrong" answers, for what it's worth. But we're all curious. We all want to get better. By taking the time to listen, we should find at least a few opportunities where it seemed there were challenges.

    Thanks for your help.
    Leah Thayer

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Alive and Kicking Off

    My home is 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., but it feels right to be here in the green and rainy climate of Portland, Oregon.

    For starters, I'm here to kick off the development of daily5Remodel.com. We're on a super-tight schedule -- shooting to go live a day from tomorrow -- and I have a ton to do and nothing but gratitude for the smart and resourceful team of Polaris Branding Solutions and Matrix Digital Media.

    "You saved my ass," I told Greg Stine of Polaris yesterday. He knows, and I'll spare you the story, of the months I spent working with another design and development team.

    sign in a window in Eugene
    "We haven't saved it yet," Greg shot back.

    It feels right, also, because Portland is a cool town -- walkable and neighborhoody and filled with great restaurants and art galleries (never mind that I'm in a hotel 15 minutes away, where the only restaurants within walking distance are Hooters and Burger King) -- and because Oregon itself feels in some ways like the womb of the housing market. This is not where housing developments burst from the ground and promptly soared and plummeted in value, but where much of the lumber comes from.

    Early yesterday morning, driving from Portland to Springfield to meet with Greg and his team, I was greeted by smoke belching into the sky from several industrial facilities, including one operated by Weyerhaueser. I'm no fan of industrial smoke, but I do support the domestic manufacturing sector, and for years, I learned from Wikipedia, lumber fueled Springfield's economy. "Weyerhaeuser opened its Springfield complex in 1949, and after years of aggressive logging was forced to downsize as old growth lumber became less available. In the 1990s, the Weyerhaeuser sawmill and veneer (plywood) plants closed, and the paper plant was downsized."

    Okay, Wikipedia, but something was definitely humming at Weyerhaueser yesterday (perhaps the 'paperless economy' is still a few years off). And with lumberyards and building materials providers of various sorts rounding out much of Springfield's economy, it seems that if this town can keep ticking through the housing downturn that we may finally be inching out of, than anything can.

    We who live in relatively healthy markets forget how profoundly the housing market ripples through the entire economy. We read about foreclosures and financing policy; bankruptcies and layoffs; people who lose their homes because they've lost their jobs or lost all hope of ever regaining the equity they thought they had in their homes. We tend to forget that housing doesn't just mean the people who build and remodel and write mortgages on homes, but also those who work at the factories that produce windows and siding; who work in the schools financed by property taxes; who depend on those schools to prepare them for their own eventual careers.

    At the hotel last night, a young guy in the bar told me that he lives in Idaho and works for a company that services big-rig trucks -- typically, 18-wheelers that haul logs from the forest to the mills. How long can those engines last? I asked him. "Some go a million miles. We've got one customer whose truck has a million and a quarter," he said. "What's happened at all those mills since the housing market went south?" I asked him. "A bunch closed," he said. "A ton of trucks went idle, too."

    He himself -- a guy who doesn't build houses, doesn't produce building materials, doesn't drive lumber trucks, but helps keep those trucks operating safely -- didn't have work for six months, he told me. "We're getting busy again, though," he said.

    I hope he stays busy, even if those trucks go from carrying lumber for new homes to carrying materials that will give old homes new life. I hope Springfield successfully carves out many strategies toward a bright future. I hope you'll enjoy daily5Remodel, and that it will help you adapt and refine your business -- it will help you innovate -- for as long as you hope to make an honest living in the housing market.

    Stay tuned.

    Leah Thayer