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The Katz Roadshow: Marketing Through Education

“How did you start the Roadshow?” I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked that question. There are two answers—a long one and a short one. The short one is: hard work, luck, and opportunity. The long answer…

Anderson Plywood, 2015 (Note: Click any image to enlarge)


Whenever a big change occurs in my life, I often think of Larry Haun and a passage from his last and—in my opinion—his most consequential book, A Carpenter’s Life:

“Change, even minor change, can be tough to face and doesn’t come easy for most of us. We get used to our habitual ways of living, even when things are not what we would like; we prefer to stick with ‘the tried and the true.’ Even a change like switching off a mindless TV program to read a good book is not easy. We get in a rut and find it difficult to get out. But is not change really all there is?”

Photo by Dean Dela Ventura

Larry was extremely perceptive. Having grown up in Wyoming where the only thing that ever changes is the velocity of the wind, Larry was especially sensitive to the winds of life. Change is really all there is and it’s often precipitated by a single seemingly unimportant event or experience.

Rings End, 2008

Back in the early 1990s, I started publishing articles in Fine Homebuilding and JLC. In late 1998, I published my first book, The Door Hanger’s Handbook. Shortly afterward, my phone rang and the caller said: “Hi Gary, this is Craig Savage.”

If you’re under 40, you may not know who Craig Savage is, so imagine a world where there is no social media, no cell phones, no digital cameras, no GPS, no impact drivers! And no internet. If you wanted to learn, you read books and you subscribed to magazines. I was very familiar with the name Craig Savage. After all, he wrote the first contemporary book on finish carpentry: Trim Carpentry Techniques.

Craig asked me if I’d consider doing a door-hanging presentation at JLC LIVE!  Yes, publishing articles, and then a book, lead to JLC LIVE! That’s an example of how one small change affects and precipitates another, and then another…

Jed Dixon (with a ponytail) at JLC LIVE! Columbus, 2005

For two years, I hung doors (no prehungs! scribe, plane, butt, bevel, and bore) at JLC LIVE. Every hour I started the process over again, 4-6 doors a day, and sometimes pairs, too, with astragals and flush bolts. My second year, the folks at JLC LIVE asked if I could install trim, too. The following year I met Craig Flynn—President and CEO of WindsorONE.

Evanston Lumber, 2005

Craig watched my first trim clinic. Afterwards he said: “You should be doing this at lumberyards. All over the country.” I said: “Right.”

Less than a year later I saw Craig again at another JLC LIVE event. He slugged me in the arm, pretty hard. He was pissed. “Hey! I told you! You should be doing this at lumberyards all over the country!”

Marvic Supply, 2010

Again, I said: “Right.” After all, I was just a finish carpenter who took a week off of work four times a year to do carpentry demonstrations at a national trade show.

But Craig wouldn’t give up: “I’m serious,” he said. “I’ll have my sales people set up a show. We’ll pick a lumberyard somewhere close to you. How much money will it cost me? Name a figure. Make sure it’s enough. What you do is important. I want to help you do this all over the country. Encourage young people to enter the trades, improve craftsmanship in America.”

Ricci Lumber, 2011

Ricci Lumber, 2011

Yes, Craig Flynn said all that—used those exact words—almost twenty years ago. Long before hashtags and marketing campaigns about craft and training tradespeople, Craig Flynn put his money where his heart was.

And that was that. BIG change.

Ganahl Lumber, 2003

I did my first event at Ganahl Lumber in Orange County, CA. Before the event, I contacted the companies that sponsored my JLC LIVE booth—Senco, Bosch, and Stabila. They all wanted in. The folks from Bosch told me they’d been trying to come up with a program for lumberyard events but it was always too expensive. I solved the problem: I brought a group of sponsors together, called them ‘partners’, and had the immediate luxury of ample and enthusiastic sponsorship—the beginning of a program based on marketing through education.

IDEAS Show, 2016

Six months later, WindsorONE shipped my crate of tools and sets to Seattle and I did my first out-of-town event at Dunn Lumber. A few months later I did three events for Ganahl Lumber.

That year, at JLC LIVE in Portland, in a private meeting room, I joined Craig Flynn, Mike Fraser from Stabila, along with marketing and event coordinators from Bosch and Senco. Around a large table, the discussion hinged on how we would formalize the partnership, and how we would choose lumberyards to host Katz Roadshow events.

Ganhal Lumber, 2004

On the spot, Jason Feldner (then marketing VP with Bosch, now Marketing Director for Canyon Creek Cabinetry) opened his laptop and quickly built a spreadsheet. He populated it with the names of lumberyards chosen by the group, and then developed a simple method so the four participating sponsors could vote and decide on the Top Priority Lumberyards.

Then they dumped the hard work on me. I had to contact those lumberyards, introduce them to a concept they’d never heard of, and then convince them to take the risk and host an event. I must have spoken with forty locations and managed to schedule events at eight or ten lumberyards.

A few months later, I shipped my show crate to the east coast, and did three events in New England, with Tom Brewer from JLC LIVE as Road Manager. Tom handled all the gear, setup, tear down, and kept me on an even keel. The following year we produced 12 events; then we did 12 again the next year.

Mike Sloggatt joined the team a year later and we added more sponsors and increased the number of shows. Soon my daughter Tristan joined the business. She managed all contracts, with both the sponsors and the lumberyards; she scheduled all the events; she managed the websites and created invitations; and eventually edited our magazine, And she put out fires—lots and lots of fires.

HP Starr, 2018

For almost twenty years, we were the only nationally organized program producing peer-to-peer construction training events at lumberyards all over the country. And what a thrill, what an extraordinary achievement and immeasurable reward, to help fellow contractors, brothers in the trade, learn more about modern materials as well as reinforce the use of traditional techniques; to help lumberyards support their customers with quality educational programs that improved craftsmanship (over 400 shows at lumberyards all over America, and I wish I could thank each and every one…individually…in this article!); and to work with leading manufacturers who cared about supporting education in our industry.

Evanston Lumber, 2009

Just like the old Chautauqua events that brought teachers and dramatists and speakers to communities throughout America, the Katz Roadshow brought hands-on construction training.

Of course, we learned a lot about working with manufacturers, marketing, and sales teams. There were a lot of folks involved in our program, and a lot of different ‘wants.’ But one thing remained constant: we concentrated on genuine educational presentations, information that helped contractors work smarter, faster, and more profitably; techniques that simultaneously improved craftsmanship and productivity.

Over the years, we worked with some of the very best manufacturers in our industry, and I want to thank all of them:

But above all, I want to thank two companies—two men—who truly made the Roadshow possible: Mike Fraser from Stabila, and Craig Flynn from WindsorONE. Their support for the trades and for the Roadshow never faded; as founding sponsors, they continued to support the program right until this year, the last year we produced events with a group of pre-arranged sponsors. But that doesn’t mean the end of the Katz Roadshow!

Shepley Wood Products, 2016

In 2020, we’ll be producing DIRECT educational events for construction companies, lumberyards, manufacturers and industry groups, with each host arranging their own sponsorship support.

As Larry Haun said: “Change is really all there is.”


5 Responses to “The Katz Roadshow: Marketing Through Education”

  1. Chris Malcolm

    I remember the Ganahl Lumber events like they were yesterday! I grew up about two miles from the yard. Ball Rd and Euclid Ave, and went to school just down the street. They were the first place that exposed me to “Real Tools” and had a book selection that took all my allowance and paper route money. Those events, the men that attended, the staff at the yard, all of them had a profound effect on the direction i took in life.
    Now 30 years on, I like to think I do the same for the young men and women whom I am privileged to work with.
    So thank you Gary, and all those mentors I’ve been fortunate enough to have throughout my career. Keep it going and we will see you at Austin Hardwood in Denver next year.
    Chris Malcolm

  2. Emanuel A Silva

    Gary and the whole Roadshow team,

    Thanks for making every Katz Roadshow that Carter and I attended very knowledgeable, helpful and inspirational. The Roadshow team has made us better at what we do and also helped us appreciate the trade more and more each year.

    We always looked forward to attending every year along with chatting with you guys. Gary has always made us feel welcomed and important, but what I mostly appreciated from Gary was how he took the time to acknowledge and encourage Carter. That’s the best thing I received from the Roadshow.

    Thanks for ALL you do for us
    Emanuel and Carter

  3. Sean G

    Hi Gary,

    I would like to thank you for all you (and others) have done for the carpentry profession. I’m a carpenter who is mostly self taught. To clarify, I’ve tried my best to learn from those who, with grace, share the lessons learned with many years of experience. I’ve been to a few JLC and roadshow events that you’ve run and I’ve passed along what I learned there ever since. If possible, I’d like to invite you back to Maine to do a road show event for the company I work for. We have several young (and old) carpenters who are always trying to improve their skills. I’m not sure how to make contact but if it would be possible I’d like to be in touch. Thanks for all hard work!

  4. Wayne Johnston

    I like the trim and exterior demo’s they are showing. Yes I have the Trim Carpentry Techniques book by Craig Savage. We use that book when I went to Penn College and it talk about Interior trim and cutting Crown Moulding. A lot of times I get stuck and use the book to look up answers or use as a guide. Also I have videos and books by Larry Haun. He has a book about the Very Efficient Carpenter how he does construction real quickly and be able do this with simple jigs and devices and only one or two power tools. He also show how to scribe with out running into problems. Where he took a 4×4 and was able to scribe that way the post will plumb.

  5. Willie

    Thank you for sharing the insights and experiences from the Katz Roadshow! It’s fascinating to see how education can be leveraged for marketing in the carpentry industry. How do you see the role of hands-on workshops and educational events evolving in the future, especially considering the rise of online platforms and virtual learning environments


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