I have been fortunate, through this blogging thing, to have met a wide and varying group of good people. And that, I guess, ‘ll be my lead in … to my recent sit down visit with friends Greg and Sue Burnet. The Burnets were in nearby (to me) Columbia, MD working to coordinate a Gold Level training event for the siding manufacturer LP SmartSide.
A one-day, hands-on course certifies contractors with the ins and outs of installing the engineered wood SmartSide product. It is part of the company’s Preferred Remodeler Program … and the Burnets are, well, the talent.
Greg and Sue, husband and wife, are co-owners of Chicago Window and Door Solutions (online here > http://312windows.com/), and more recently, they are co-founders of ToolBelt Productions, Inc. – a growing live (for now) event production company.
I’ll stop and say I spotted Greg, in action, earlier in the year working what seemed like a non-stop schedule throughout the three days of this year’s Remodeling Show. It was actually the banter that was going on during an exterior trim presentation that drew me in. Greg’s charisma and quick wit only amplified by a pairing with friend (and amateur comedian in his own right) Bill Robinson. They were really fun to watch.
Below you can see Greg in action (solo) at JLC Live (an event, I’ll say, that Greg has me amped up on attending this year). Viewing in RSS or Email, you’ll have to visit.
While it at times may feel like fun and games, it’s more about teaching best practices. And in all seriousness, I marvel at what Greg (and others) do. What I mean – It’s a lot like walking and chewing gum … while patting your belly and rubbing your head. These guys/gals, presenters in the construction industry, have to… 1) Do 2) Present and 3) Keep an audience engaged … all at the same time. In my eyes, it’s really not an easy proposition.
But when I ask Greg about this, he admits that this is something that has evolved over time. When he first started, and as he puts it, he says – “I stunk.” (Though his wife would likely disagree.)
Greg’s path to media stardom (*tongue in cheek*) started actually only a few years earlier with several and not easily coaxed article submissions to the Journal of Light Construction. He says, “Those articles were kinda like giving back to a community that I had learned so much from.”
Greg got his “break” though, when he found himself on the JLC Live floor working presentations with Gary Katz. Gary is known most notably as the carpenter/teacher behind the Katz Road Show, and he did in fact eventually ask Greg to come on board as part of the widely-recognized traveling training program.
After doing the Road Show for a few years, Greg and Sue began discussing ways in which they could expand offerings … for manufacturers training / educational events. An already experienced JLC Live clinician, Greg parted ways with the Road Show, but it wasn’t perhaps until LP SmartSide buzzed that the couple (and maybe looking around their workshop) formally established the company “Toolbelt Productions.”
While Office Manager for Chicago Window and Door Solutions, Sue’s previous background I learned was in corporate event planning. A perfect synergy, it seems.
As the Burnets would put it, training is something the industry needs. Manufacturers like LP see the value in it. First off, this type of training helps shortcut call backs and in the long term ends up minimizing costs for them. Secondarily, as Greg points out, training for these manufacturers creates instant sales persons – champions of the product.
With occasional (ToolBelt-produced) road show legs, Greg claims that he spent about 28-30 days on the road last year. On the schedule for 2013, you’ll be able to catch Greg running clinics, about five to six across two days at both JLC Live and again likely at the Remodeling Show. The team will also be presenting roughly seven regionally focused LP Gold classes. (The full 2013 schedule will appear on their site when available.)
The team says they may have plans for other forms of production (such as video) in the works, but more importantly, may actively be seeking talent, the right person, to potentially groom for joining the ranks. The couple still maintains that they had no idea Toolbelt would end up being as successful as it has been to date.
Thanks out to Greg and Sue, and all the best with the growing business. You can find them at the links provided above. And if you happen to grab Greg after an upcoming presentation make sure to ask him about his own personal qualification of the SmartSide product. Thanks and enjoy. ~jb