Building a Brand That Lasts with Russ Glickman from Glickman Design Remodel Build

by | May 6, 2024


The Digital Remodeler Podcast welcomed Russ Glickman, a seasoned remodeling expert with over 40 years of experience, specializing in accessible living spaces. Glickman boasts an impressive array of certifications and accolades, including being a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and Master Certified Remodeler. His journey into remodeling stemmed from childhood experiences with construction and entrepreneurship, leading him to establish his own company.

Glickman’s niche in accessible remodeling emerged from personal necessity when he had to modify his home to accommodate his son’s special needs. Leveraging his expertise, he helps clients create functional yet aesthetically pleasing living spaces. Over the years, Glickman has adapted his marketing strategies, emphasizing the importance of tracking ROI and finding a niche. He also highlights the significance of technology, particularly remote design sessions, in streamlining processes and improving customer experience.

For aspiring remodelers, Glickman stresses the importance of balancing various aspects of the business while identifying strengths and delegating tasks effectively. He advises leveraging social media, maintaining a strong online presence, and pursuing industry recognition through awards and accolades.


(00:01) okay okay all right well welcome to the digital remodeler podcast so glad to have you today and joining me is Russ Glickman uh he’s got uh his remodeling company is based in the Washington DC area he’s got over 40 years experience and just going to read you a few of his credentials so as you’re listening today this is one you really want to take some notes on because I’m sure we’re going to get some some nuggets out of this uh so Russ is a certified Aging in place specialist a Master Certified remodeler
(00:34) certified remodeler certified Green professional Universal Design certified professional green Advantage certified professional certified lead safety and certified environmental access consultant Ada specialist he gets called into court sometimes as an expert witness uh in personal injury cases to discuss the needs that an individual is going to have and if that wasn’t enough let me read a few more accolades Russ has been endorsed and featured in over 80 National local Publications for Creative Solutions this includes Better
(01:09) Homes and Gardens The Washington Post Washingtonian Magazine he was named wizard of Inner Space by luxury homes magazine and National remodel of the Year by National Association of the remodeling industry and then Washingtonian Magazine named him a top remodeler he’s also received the best of house award and for remodeling and home design and the Chrysalis national award for residential Universal Design so he brings a lot to the table H you’re gonna want to take some notes and Russ thanks for joining us today uh thanks for
(01:44) having me Carl absolutely well let’s talk about you sent me some notes on how you got started and I thought it was a great story so if you talk us through how did you get started uh well I guess I was always somewhat mechanically inclined as a kid always interested in how things were were put together and uh taken apart and uh I was entrepreneurial as well um my grandfathers on both sides were uh were somewhat Builders they did woodworking um and the on my mom’s side the grand my grandfather uh just during
(02:22) the Cold War moved to uh Kentucky Cave City Kentucky and he built a house from the ground up with his own hands by himself everything except he had help pouring the foundation that’s the and uh we used to go stay there during you know Summers uh and so I was you know they they had an unfinished addict that the kids got to sleep in and I was looking up at the at the framing trying to figure out how all this stuff went together so I got I got started with with them then uh in in high school and going into college I worked uh summers
(02:58) in construction with my girlfriend’s uh brother and we built additions um you from the ground up um and then I went to University of Maryland uh and was uh majoring in three different things uh pre Premed predent and engineering and uh I really should have been in business the whole time but I got to the split which was about 80 credits and had to make a choice uh and so I I it was like you know physics 203 was okay for one major and the other major was physics 204 and it was like it was just too much to do that uh since I was more of an
(03:42) entrepreneur and a business guy so I didn’t want to be sitting in classrooms learning the wrong stuff uh and uh so I dropped out and I actually hired some guys from my dorm and we doing painting and landscaping business and then uh as time went on on Dex became a really big business and I ended up with h over time 35 employees had salespeople had Carpenter Crews we were building lots of decks and then realized hey uh I’ve got this overhead set for a seasonal business and then we needed to do sort of a transition to full line Remodeling
(04:23) and uh so we we did that I would I hired guys who knew more than I did about you know pretty much every aspect of the business um and then eventually I it it gwed at me that I had not had started something and I didn’t finish it so I went back to uh college at night University of Maryland University college and actually I got like 33 credits for uh basically showing what I had learned in my own business over the years and then and then uh took some more other courses and graduated in uh business management studies from the
(05:02) University of Maryland fantastic now one of the things that that you know we see in your your path is uh you’ve really specialized in accessible Living Spaces um and I know some of that came out of your own uh you know family story and so if you wouldn’t mind sharing that with us as well uh sure I had been doing General Remodeling and then and I had two children uh and you would call them neurotypical uh where they did not have cerebral bsy and my third child was born uh prematurely uh to our surprise and he
(05:40) was two pounds 14 ounces and they did not expect him to survive um but he decided he wanted to live uh on day three they gathered us around to say goodbye and his his mom he was like you’ve been poked and prodded and through so much and you can just like close your eyes go to sleep and and we’ll see you on the other side basically and he opened his eyes up for the first time he looked at his mom and the nurse who’d been around there for a long time said this this kid’s gonna live he wants to live and that’s exactly
(06:15) would happen he was in the NICU for six months and then brought home on like 16 meds oxygen 24-hour nursing and that he he wanted to survive and we did the best we could to help him uh have a good life and he lived at home until about 10 years ago he’s in a group home now uh but during that time as he got older we needed to do modifications to the house to to work for you know to work for him and to work for us uh when when they’re smaller you can kind of carry them around you can use a stroller a fold up stroller and put them in and
(06:53) out of the car and then as they get bigger and their equipment gets heavier then it gets trickier then you need wheelchair ramps and you need lifts and you need uh patient lifts uh because you know people so I learned how to do all that out of necessity and so over the years when I did things at my own house it was sort of a trial and error sort of thing and it’s like you know when you do something for the first time you build a ramp on the side of your house around or do a lift or whatever it’s like oh okay
(07:28) next time I do it I’ll remember to do something a little bit different so I had the benefit of when people called upon me because they they you know knew that I had a child with special needs and even their physical therapists uh his doctors uh his friends parents with so I get would get called on that and it was not something I really had planned on ever being an expert in or wanting to do but it’s something that I had learned to do and and I could end up helping people with that and fast forward 25
(08:02) years later the Mikey’s doctor physiatrist um which is basically an orthopedic doctor who doesn’t do surgery uh and she specialized in helping kids with special needs and so but she had a special need herself after 25 years and she called upon me to help help them and then I helped her think through how to have a really nice house that does not look wheelchair accessible but actually is wheelchair accessible and so we remodeled her her home and uh made that work for them in a beautiful way uh and the Washington Post actually picked up
(08:42) an article about that modification that house won univers national award for Universal Design and uh it was featured in The Washington Post and and that actually went uh it went International it was it it was picked up and different various countries uh in Europe Guam Canada uh some other places excellent well and that that brings us into this next topic you know you you’ve had your brand now you’ve been developing that for 40 years and obviously with some of the awards and and in your response back
(09:19) to me you you gave me some real interesting insight into to some of how you’ve develop your brand um so if you would you know talk a little bit about that how has your brand evolved and then you know what are some of the things you’ve done to to continue to further the brand over the years okay so so it was you know getting education in in the um in certifications uh through some organizations uh National Association the remodeling industry a National Association of home builders and and some other ones so it’s so it’s you know
(09:53) personal training u in that um and and it’s it ALS also um applying for awards you have to to win Awards you basically apply for them in your in competition so it does take some work to find the right projects put them together in in a manner you know photograph them professionally stage them um and then um and then tell the story of of of the project and submit those and then you can win Awards if you win Awards then you can uh try to get those publicized uh you can kind cont uh you know different um and years years ago when we
(10:34) went to first through the first recession 1990 just leading up to that I had actually had a PR person on staff full-time and I learned how she worked and then as the recession hit I had to let her go and so but I needed to continue I needed to do more marketing not less so I took over some of what she did and one of the things she did was she would get the editorial calendars of all the local newspapers and magazines and and and see what they’re going to be writing about in the future and then she it would be basically you do the
(11:09) writer’s work for them if they’re going to do something on a kitchen Edition then you you look at what you’ve done and you come up with a story that you basically wrote the stories took pictures and and presented it to them and they go wow okay I’ll just kind of tweak this and put put my name on it and then that’s that’s their story so we got a lot of press coverage uh over the years uh doing that so trying to get out there uh you can do seminars you can um uh you know attend events uh things like
(11:42) that um so and then to to be I guess you know we did we were able to you know with our Niche be a little bit special um Channel 9 us W USA 9 uh you know and some others uh sort of picked up on that and then then you know keeping up with with a website is a big thing we’ve redone our website probably 10 times in the last you know 15 years um and it’s an ongoing uh kind of thing so you want to be if you can have a niche um and if you can be findable okay that’s really key excellent excellent yeah I was going to
(12:26) ask if your specialization has opened some of those doors for you uh because you you have the expertise it’s Unique um if that’s been something you’ve been able to leverage you know for some of that brand exposure yeah yeah absolutely it’s you in a way we were concerned it would pigeon hole us uh because you know about half of our work has something to do with either accessibility or Universal Design or Aging in place uh but the other half is like people who are apparently are not aging at all and
(13:04) never plan to age so they they don’t want to consider anything having to do with like Universal Design or you know so we’ll sneak some things into their projects that later on they’re really happy they made the hallway a little bit wider or they had you know wider doorways and uh maybe something that doesn’t look like a wheelchair ramp as an entry but actually hey that is they never use his wheelchair we use it for bicycles and strollers and and you know kids you know plane and and you know wagons and
(13:40) wheelbarrows and you know like at my own house uh but so some of these features are handy for everyday living and if you can kind of sneak them in without people feeling like oh my house looks like you know it’s institutional it looks like it somebody with a wheelchair lives here you know you don’t want that exactly good and you you alluded to you know a previous downturn and and how you you use some of the skills you’d learn from your PR person and so that that brings up a good discussion for us right
(14:12) now we were talking even before we started the recording money is not cheap right now and so you know a lot of remodelers are feeling that what are some of the adjustments you feel like a Remodeling Company has to make uh when times are a little more challenging to to Really stay in business and continue to move forward well if you can if you can find a niche where where it’s something where certain people need what you can provide and you can you can Bas demonstrate that you can provide that better than than
(14:47) other people uh then that sort of narrows it down uh so it’s a uh so if you so finding a niche is important um and it could be uh it doesn’t have to be accessible remodeling or Aging in place um you know it could be a certain type of addition that you can pop on a house very efficiently um it could be you know uh if if it’s you know building out over a garage a bedroom over a garage and you can show that you can do that efficiently and you’ve done a lot of projects like that so finding a niche I
(15:25) think it is re is really helpful times like that I think keep you got to keep up on marketing but you also have to cut back in costs you have to keep overhead low um and if you have a niche uh you got to be findable yeah exactly well that’s uh good stuff and let me let me ask you I’m gonna back up to to the one thing you said there yeah you got to keep marketing but you’ve got to control costs yes so how do you determine what’s critical in your marketing and and what are the things that maybe you can let
(16:01) slide a little bit Yeah the the tracking the marketing is is important so when you get calls or you get emails or inquiries uh so it’s it’s really important to to to keep up with where are they coming from and so you want to put your money into this the the the areas that are uh you’re finding success and so for us un unfortunately you print media back in the 80s uh we we get a lot of leads it was amazing how much business we got out of print media and but that doesn’t happen now so we we’ve had to cut back in some of the
(16:44) flashy high-end you know kind of kind of things that are for you know branding they they say oh don’t worry about the direct leads you’re going to get you pay money you’re going to have it’s for brand Improvement well it’s like look I can’t afford to have brand Improvement when I I spend money I need to see my return on investment Roi so track your Roi um and and and that’s really key fantastic and then you know talking about some of those shifts you know print media was was uh important for you
(17:21) in years past what are some of the current shifts you’re seeing you know in technology that that you feel like are really affecting the industry as a whole uh well one of the things that we found with coid uh was doing remote meetings like we’re doing right now and so uh I I could spread myself all over the metro area in one day I can be at five different places as as opposed to and still be you know uh going to the gym or riding my bike and you know whatever um so so that’s that’s been and we we have remote design sessions and so
(18:02) we will Design real time somebody’s house while the customer you know so we we will sign a design agreement uh and then and then draw up the exist you know measure their house and at a site visit to their house draw up the existing conditions have them in the Chief Architect program and then invite the client to have a design meeting with them and then they will see the project come to life in design real time in an hour and a half H session online and so that did not happen in the zoom calls uh that that didn’t happen for us we we we
(18:41) had started just before coid hit uh we were starting to do some of that because some of the design help we had was remote and so in order to have those people working for us they couldn’t be in person and so we were doing that but it didn’t really catch on until coid happened and then people realized hey they could be at home workking and get as much done or more than if they were you know driving to work and meeting you know in person excellent have you seen any any impact from you know as artificial intelligence has rolled out
(19:19) this this year in a heavy way have you seen any effects there industrywide um I mean some design we’re just you we’re we’re working with it to some degree I’ve actually not not in a big way as but as far as design ideas go um and and artsy kind of design um you know you we I’ve I’ve worked a little bit with these programs chat GPT and uh you you can actually talk uh to the computer type in a you know your vision of something and it actually creates it for you and then you can type in more parameters
(20:02) and it and it adjusts it and and so I I’ll look through you know online and see a lot of stuff and I go that that is that is definitely an AI drawing or it’s not a photo it looks like a photo but it’s not and so you can you can use that and and clients could use that too to you know uh create their own little dream project and you know hand it to the remodeler and go hey can you build this exactly good so so it’s kind of our our final question here so you know looking at at uh 40 plus years in the
(20:38) industry if you were to sit across the the table from somebody starting out today or they’re in their first five maybe 10 years um what are some of the secrets of success that you would pass on to them I would say so in general remodeling remodeling business is uh in a way it’s like you have like uh eight plates spinning okay if you imagine that like you’re magician you’re spinning these plates here and all those eight plates have to keep spinning okay it it’s not a problem if one of the plates gets a
(21:14) little bit wobbly once in a while you just got to catch it before it falls and then that and that that could be in an area where like it could be with the legal part of of your business like keeping your licenses everything up to date uh and and your contracts make sure they protect you it could be with marketing it could be with HR um it could be you know uh in in the construction field you know making sure you’re building the project properly with customer relations keeping in touch with the with the customer so that they don’t hit the wall
(21:49) you know at the wrong time so you got to make sure to keep all the plat spinning number one number two when you’re when it’s a small business you have to be the one spending all keeping all the plates spinning and then at at some point you got to realize okay what is your best strength what what can you unload off of your plate okay um in order to save yourself time where you could pay someone to do what you’re doing and your time for example doing paperwork you might be able to pay someone $20 an hour
(22:22) to to enter you know data and you could take instead of you doing that you can use your your own time for its highest and best use so figure out what your highest and best use of you and then if you have other people working with you what what theirs is and then try to delegate other items and and uh try to get good people uh to be able to do um you know what needs to be done uh unfortunately it it gets when you have a small business um and you can’t you can’t afford to have many people working then you can’t be that specialized so
(23:03) some people who are generalists they might be able to do design and estimating and project management but as the business grows you need a really good designer and then a really good estimator and then a really good project manager and then that person that you hire to do all of those they’re not really the best at any of those and so that that gets to be a little bit tough uh during a growth phase because you you might have to you know you specialize in with people more in different positions excellent and then any any
(23:40) other just final thoughts that you have for the audience things that you think might be helpful um well you know social media is is is you know is a big thing um uh keeping your website up um uh figuring out how to be findable uh for for what you do uh if you have award-winning projects uh take the time to photograph them stage them and go through the efforts uh to apply for awards and hopefully win Awards and you win the awards and and um try to Market those excellent well for Russ it’s been a privilege uh visiting with you again
(24:24) today and and thank you so much for your Insight and uh just your expertise and and it’s been good having you if you want to learn more about Russ and his work you can visit Glickman designb and learn more about them they’re on social media so be sure to visit their properties as well okay there’s also uh from the the other aspect uh is not tweaked as much Russ Glickman domcom all right is it’s a little more of these legal uh special needs needs and and that that type of thing but it’s an interesting it kind of
(25:02) shows from that uh perspective also thank you very much car really app absolutely perfect all right

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