“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…
|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?”
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.
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…
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.
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!”
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.”|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, THISisCarpentry.com. And she put out fires—lots and lots of fires.
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.
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!
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.”