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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 1, 2016 3 years ago

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Fifteen CEOs descended on Progressive Builders in April to give the company advice on how to better run the business. Mike Spreckelmeier took it well.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Can you handle the truth about your business?

Fifteen industry peers descended on Mike Spreckelmeier's home-remodeling company, Progressive Builders, in April for five days of top-to-bottom review.

You might call it the equivalent of a business colonoscopy. “You've got to prepare yourself mentally, a lot of that is mindset,” says Spreckelmeier, the president and owner of the company. That's because they'll see and tell you things you may not want to hear, “even if it's the cold, hard truth,” he says.

Progressive Builders belongs to a group called Remodelers Advantage. It's a peer group of 300 noncompeting home remodelers from around the country who help each other manage their businesses better. Each subgroup of about a dozen companies picks one among them to analyze each year and they do it voluntarily, paying for their own travel expenses.

This year, with the help of a Remodelers Advantage facilitator, these business owners from around the country traveled to Fort Myers with the keys to Spreckelmeier's kingdom: 30 pages of minute details such as organizational charts, job descriptions, compensation of employees and executives, financial statements and marketing statistics. When they arrived in Fort Myers, they quizzed every employee about what they liked or disliked about their jobs, whether they thought they were fairly compensated and what they thought of management.
“That's why it's important it's non-competing,” says Spreckelmeier.

The total cost of the exercise: $5,000, a bargain considering they spent hundreds of hours analyzing Progressive Builders' operation. Plus, Spreckelmeier and his team started preparing for the meeting eight months ahead.

One major conclusion they reached was the recommendation that Spreckelmeier move his business from Metro Parkway in Fort Myers farther south to the Bonita Springs or North Naples area because that's where 95% of his customers are located.

In making the headquarters move, Spreckelmeier's peers gave him a 200-item list of things to consider. Among them: How many square feet should he move into? Should the new location include walk-in traffic?

Spreckelmeier says his peers didn't tell him what to do and they didn't offer a formula for success, such as a benchmark for how much he should pay per square foot, for example.
“They want us to figure out where that's going to come from,” he says.

That's because each participant has a unique set of challenges often dictated by size and geography. For example, one previously analyzed company struggled with massive debt, and the group got together to suggest ways for that business to strengthen its balance sheet.

You might call it a support group for remodelers where members don't beat each other up over mistakes or advice that they reject. “They've grown to be friends,” says Spreckelmeier.
Even though Spreckelmeier, 55, isn't a neophyte in the business, he says there's still plenty to learn. For example, the company is making a big push into technology and he promoted
David Wherry, 38, to the position of marketing director.

Progressive Builders will celebrate 27 years in business in August. Still, Spreckelmeier finds time for a meeting once a week with an executive coach. “It's a commitment to constant improvement,” he says.

Plus, Remodelers Advantage executives keep tabs on each other. On July 28, Spreckelmeier is due to mail the participants an outline of the steps he plans to take as a result of the meeting. In October, he will travel to the Remodelers Advantage annual meeting to make a presentation to his group to update them on the steps he has taken.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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