When Dave Klun decided to launch Scherer University for his remodeling customers earlier this year, he thought that it would be a snap—well, at least not terribly difficult—to expand from offering occasional seminars to a formal education program for remodelers. Employees were identified to champion the cause and plan course content, and the Brooklyn Park, Minn.–based dealer already had state-of-the-art conference rooms located at four of its five yards in the Twin Cities metro area.
But then the project stalled.
“We had 14 people picked from different areas [to lead the university]. We had some salespeople, some credit people, operations people, and even a dispatcher,” says Klun, who heads up “The Remod Squad,” a dedicated group of 13 high-energy remodeling salespeople at Scherer Bros. “We had some good cross-pollination. But the challenge turned out to be trying to coordinate the speakers.”
The logistics became daunting for those on the planning team (who still had to fulfill their regular job responsibilities) and they quickly lost steam. Finally, this spring, when it appeared that only about half the team was committed and energized, Scherer Bros. decided to put Scherer University on hold.
However, the company didn't want to put education on the back burner, and Klun still was focused on expanding Scherer Bros.' educational programs. “You always try to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition out there,” he says. “Offering education has been a huge benefit for us as we try to work with remodelers and help them understand how to run a business.”
Perfect Timing The decision to put Scherer University on the shelf actually ended up opening the door to what promises to be an even more comprehensive educational opportunity for Scherer Bros. in the remodeling sector, which accounted for 15 percent of the dealer's overall 2004 sales of $223 million. It was a moment of perfect timing when David Lupberger, the director of Remodelers University, the virtual training arm of Remodelers Advantage, a Laurel, Md.–based firm that offers consulting, business management solutions, and other services to remodeling firms, approached Klun last April to see if Scherer Bros. would be interested in piloting a dealer program to offer online education to its remodeling customers.
Klun jumped at the chance. “When we first started talking, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, what a great resource! We can have the ability to do this electronically.' Remodelers U. is like a template, and it's already there. It's like getting all of those key resources that can branch out [an education program] for you. And that is the power of this going forward.”
Launched in 2004, the university features online courses eligible for up to six hours of NAHB's Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) continuing education requirement, and/or 10 hours of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry's certification programs, which include Certified Remodelers (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialists (CRS), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodelers (CKBR), Certified Remodeler Associates (CRA), and Certified Lead Carpenters (CLC).
According to Lupberger, the university works with about 18 instructors at any given time, providing remodelers access to a large stable of well-known industry speakers from across the country. The Web-based seminars utilize technology that allows people to link into a host computer via a service provider to view material, such as PowerPoint presentations. The simultaneous audio portions of the sessions are conducted via conference call. “We plan out seminars for 30 to 60 days,” Lupberger says. “And we are now starting to record audio and visuals for the presentations so that we can go to an on-demand link” where remodelers can access past seminars and attend them online at any time.
Test Marketing Scherer Bros.' pilot program, which is set to kick off next month with four different classes at their yards, will build off the materials that Remodelers University already has developed, but it also will have specific information included based on input from The Remod Squad. “It's not going to be exclusive for us, per se,” says Klun. “But we want to slant the programs toward our customers' needs. For example, we might decide to drill down into a subject like marketing and tailor it for our audience.”