Kitchen Franchise Company Adds Pair of Business Units

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — Multi-brand franchisor Premium Service Brands has added a major grout cleaning and restoration franchise to its network of home-service brands, the company announced.

The 67-location franchise operation The Grout Medic was added to a roster of home-service franchises that includes kitchen remodeling brand Kitchen Wise, painting brand 360-Degree Painting, cleaning brand Maid Right, outdoor surface cleaning brand Renew Crew, home-repair brand Handyman Pro, junk removal franchise Rubbish Works, and garage-door services brand ProLift Garage Doors, the Charlottesville, VA-based Premium Service Brands said.

Premium Service Brands also announced the acquisition of 36-unit handy- man franchise House Doctors, a home-services provider that was previously owned and operated by Saltire Brands, LLC.

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Indulgent Reflections

While bath accessories are often touted for the organization or comfort they provide, products such as medicine cabinets and mirrors can be statement-making pieces while they provide a needed function. Lighting is a key component of today’s mirrored fixtures, and many deliver different colors and temperatures to add brightness or a softer atmosphere, depending upon what is desired.

Some of the trends in bath mirrors and medicine cabinets include:

–Specialty lighting within mirrors that adjusts according to need and personal preference, including for makeup application and grooming as well as to mimic daylight and indoor lighting.

–Refrigeration within medicine cabinets to help preserve expensive face creams or properly store medications.

–Electronic outlets inside cabinets that supply power for hairdryers and electric shavers, as well as charging stations for cell phones and tablets.

–Backlighting on mirrors and medicine cabinets with color settings for drama and night-light displays for middle-of-the-night visits.

–Medicine cabinets and mirrors with smart capabilities for connected function, complete with disappearing television screens and computer settings for music, weather and other reports.

–Mirrors in dramatic shapes that enhance the overall design or act as the focal point of the bath.

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Manufacturers Examine Supply Stresses

The DPH manufacturer concentrates on quality product and superior customer service. We are expected to provide both at competitive prices and with as little friction as possible, and I would say, most of us do. However, as we’ve witnessed the ‘Amazoning’ of the marketplace, amplified by a pandemic world, DPH manufacturers are fighting to maintain stability between logical expectations and ‘the Amazon effect.’ While we all appreciate the convenience of an Amazon marketplace, not all products can be treated equally. Unlike some other industries, hardware, plumbing, appliances and lighting often have specific shipping, installation and service needs.

Manufacturers are often viewed simply as marketers and salespeople, but as you may have seen when visiting a factory, manufacturing is a multi-faceted and complex business. Manufacturers in the U.S. and around the world are more tightly bound together through raw materials, labor and freight than may appear from a finished product.


Raw Materials: These are tied to industries as varied as oil and microchips. Most can be, and are, sourced nationally, but some must be sourced internationally. The flow of these products is regulated by countries, politics and commerce vagaries all around the world. In a normal year, price increases are expected and applied where necessary. In a COVID year, price increases have been compounded by national and worldwide slowdowns in supply, and increases are reflecting the upheaval.

Ben Alliker of HamatUSA explains, “2020 was not kind to many parts of the construction industry, mainly due to increased demand and decreased supply. Appliances and lumber both faced an initial crunch, and appliances remain on short supply and long lead times. For many DPH manufacturers, it was a mixed bag. Kitchen products, unlike a shower valve or new freestanding tub filler, don’t require an extensive remodel project. It’s relatively easy to install a new kitchen sink and faucet into an existing kitchen. Because of a huge number of people staying home across the world, and the relative ease of installation, HamatUSA saw a huge spike in demand over the summer and into the fall for kitchen sinks and faucets – both in the U.S. and in foreign markets.”

Production and Inventory: For manufacturers, this is handled in a wide variety of ways. That is to say some manufacturers work on a made-to-order, just-in-time basis with very little inventory, while others continually produce and maintain large inventories. There are pros and cons to both, but both take deft skills to balance output with demand and costs with profit.

Freight Costs: Costs associated with shipping have skyrocketed. The freight industry has been working throughout the pandemic, putting themselves at risk, but also realizing their undeniable necessity to the buying public. Their charges are reflecting their increased importance. ‘Fuel surcharges’ have become more common. Most DPH manufacturers have decided to keep freight rates as stable as possible, absorb many increases and/or set free freight levels.


Returns and Restocks: There is no easy fix for returns and restocks, which have become a flash point. We know, stuff happens. We all want to make these transactions as painless as possible. However, returns in our segment are not as easy as logging on and printing off a return label or simply scanning a QR code. Returns and restocks are expensive for everyone and cannot be ‘solved’ by simply raising prices to try and speed up the process. The customer changed their mind? It happens. But a faucet, toilet, steam unit, drain or tub cannot simply be Rambo-taped back into its packaging and dropped off. Return transport, reception and inspection, repair (if necessary), repacking (if possible) and return to inventory are only a few of the things that need to happen to a return. But, let’s be honest. We all know that a consumer wants a new product, so reselling product is difficult and frowned upon. What can be done with returned goods in our industry? How many ways are there to reduce, reuse, recycle? Manufacturers are often caught in a difficult position to satisfy consumers even when issues are not manufacturing related.

“Absorbing the costs associated with returns would most likely come with a price increase,” says Barbara Kratus of Infinity Drain. “Ultimately, it’s the consumer who will pay for it in the end, whether it’s Prime delivery or no-questions-asked returns – just as they do now on Amazon or any other online retailer where it’s baked into the price.”

Harris Wattles of Amba Products adds, “Re-stock fees are put into place for a variety of reasons, and a price increase simply to help offset a reduction/elimination of restock fees is not the answer to the problem. Increasing our prices for this reason will only make it harder to compete with other brands, especially the low-cost companies that you frequently see on Amazon, further eroding a company’s image while likely pricing our products out of the market.”

Labor Costs: In manufacturing, these are more competitive than ever. Recruiting, hiring and retaining the best people at every position is not exclusively difficult to showrooms or agencies. Most jobs in DPH manufacturing are not on assembly lines, but rather require trade training or artistic skill.

“Production facilities (during COVID) had less time/resources available for new product production. As responsible suppliers, we had to initiate protocols to keep production teams safe and healthy,” Alliker explains. “That universally meant less people in the factory at one time, and different production schedules, and thus decreased production capacity. We have seen COVID-related delays to the supply chain for new components as they also deal with COVID realities.”

Service: This is the other main component to successful manufacturing. We all remember bad service when we encounter it, and good service doesn’t always get recognized but is expected at all levels. Good service can be a simple smiling voice or a clear instruction about how to turn something on and off. Good service to a consumer can be slowly walking through how to operate a control, or good service can become bad service by not changing out that same control, that is working properly, because the user doesn’t like how the control operates. There is a fine line between the customer always being right and easy, on-site solutions.

Labor Costs: These are now jungle competitive in the field. Skilled tradespeople have never been as busy as they are now. Product support for warranty issues or installation inspections is a critical component in the overall experience of a product offering. Your warranty can be 100 years, but if you can’t get a professional to a job site, it’s not worth much. And we are all dependent upon how professional and experienced the tradesperson working with us can be during the initial installation or follow up servicing.

“I think products that incorporate tech could inspire young people to enter the trades,” says Kratus. “There are incredible innovations in building materials! We have to tout that at all levels of the building process.”

Patrick Weidl of ThermaSol adds, “ThermaSol, like many of us, is reliant on two trades – plumbers and electricians – to install the products. Have their expectations changed? Yes, absolutely. To meet those expectations, we introduced virtual trainings as it relates to product knowledge, installation and general 101s.”

The web runs the world. It would be an understatement to say that the web has gotten us through a lot this past year and we have all learned new angles to using it. It has become indispensable to our everyday lives. You can order a car, a boat, a diamond necklace, your groceries, birdfeed, a towel bar or a potty, all from the phone in your hand.

But as we all know, the web is a catch-22 for everyone selling product, any product, around the world. Amazon and similar companies ruled the web pre-COVID but now all companies have improved their online presence either as a seller or simply as a store window showing off their skills and products. Today, if your store front isn’t well represented on the web, your brick and mortar isn’t going to get the attention it deserves.We’ve all become accustomed to checking out a product or business on the web before we head out to see it. A web search can be simply to see what kind of COVID protocols are in place or to actually see if the product you want is on display or to read reviews of that product or business. 

Web views and reviews are, without a doubt, a crucial component to the future of business.We’ve seen how reviews shape the perception of a product or company and how reviewers, paid and unpaid, can affect mom and pop start-ups, large corporations and government agencies, to name a few. The world watches and reads what everyone has to say about a product whether what is being said is true or valuable. They can literally make or break a business. So, we ask, should we raise our prices to be more ‘Amazon-like’?

It’s been a challenging time for all, but the future of construction and renovation is bright, and we are hopeful.

Kimberly Frechette is the national sales manager at Americh Corporation. She has worked in manufacturing, distribution and sales in the bathroom segment for 30 years. Frechette has been involved with DPHA for 18 years and is a returning Board member.

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Adapting in a Changing Business Climate

Under normal circumstances, part of our job is to prepare plans for our clients to prime them for changes to their homes and lifestyles. Unfortunately, the pandemic crumbled remodeling hopes for many homeowners, and it had a serious effect on us as designers. First, we went from comfortably busy to zero in about two months. Then we were stagnant for almost a year. That dormancy was followed by a mind-boggling recovery, one that Eliot Sefrin, editor emeritus of KBDN, referred to as a “tectonic market shift.”

I survived the 2007-2009 recession and decided not to give in to the same negative feelings that plagued me until 2010. Instead, I used the pandemic downtime to work on my business, taking classes that had been on my bucket list for five years or more. At the same time, I read over 75 marketing books and white papers. It was not as gratifying as working with clients, but it was a major accomplishment.

Building, maintaining and marketing a unique brand reputation is challenging. There are excellent books and many courses to help us, but your choices need to be carefully considered. I learned the hard way during the recession and ended up wasting time and money on courses that didn’t work. During the pandemic, I avoided repeating the same mistakes.

Two exciting possibilities arose from free webinars recommended by acquaintances. Each marketing coach offered a new direction that sounded promising. One program is $3,500 and requires a commitment of at least six months. The other course costs over $10,000 and involves a year of classes. It’s easy to say “yes” to the compelling reasons the coaches present until we stop to think about our ROI. Curiosity helped me gain clarity to say “No” to the programs. Finally, I said “yes” to another customizable opportunity with great ROI possibilities.


Everyone is now adjusting to a new normal: higher remodeling investments and lower availability of labor and products. Homeowners are anxious to proceed with pandemic-delayed remodeling projects. Our 15-month business famine has become an overflowing feast.

In fact, home remodeling queries on Google went from 38% in March 2020 to 93% in March 2021. The annual Houzz survey verifies that home renovation spending increased 15% in the past year.

But will the trend continue or collapse?

Many variables will affect remodeling in the future, and all we can do as designers is perform our best every day, and stay on top of news reports about the economy, the pandemic and other fluid trends. Being prepared for change helps us cope with it. We can choose our course and correct it before a crisis happens by adapting to change.

The Harvard Business Review offered six tips about adapting to change: 1. Find humor in the situation; 2. Resist talking about your feelings; 3. Don’t stress out about stressing out; 4. Focus on your values instead of your fears; 5. Accept the past (and present) but fight for the future, and 6. Don’t expect stability.


Competition is as fierce as ever in the design market, with more people entering our profession yearly. For example, 4,199 U.S. students graduated with interior design degrees in 2019. At that time, there were 77,900 interior designers in the nation. The average age of designers is 41 years. We’re all competing to build and maintain our brand reputation, make a living and grow our company (or the company that employs us).

I believe we do better when we compete against ourselves rather than competing against other people. Additionally, we do better when we don’t compare ourselves to others. But, admittedly, this is hard to do in today’s competitive world.

When I was attending design school, every assignment was necessary. I gave each one 115% of my effort, although I believed that others would receive a better grade. I wasn’t competing with them for a grade but rather comparing myself to them.

Before graduation, the faculty and students voted for one student to win the “Student Designer of the Year” award. I was shocked to win because, in my mind, everyone was more qualified than me. The woman who presented the award gave me fantastic advice: “Send press releases to the media.” That established my brand and my reputation, and it attracted clients and referral clients for years.

I continue to give at least 115% to everything I do. Clients’ goals become my goals. I’ve been fortunate to win design awards with this attitude. And while I don’t like to compare myself to other designers, it’s unavoidable. Marketing tools such as SEMRush, UberSuggest, BuzzFeed and Google Analytics provide helpful feedback by comparing me to competitors. It’s uncomfortable but necessary to gather and use this information that mainly relies on keywords we use. But, it’s just as important to not make it the focus of your work. We are each unique, and that should be celebrated!


Prospective clients find us using specific keywords or phrases in Google, Bing or Yahoo. Search engines recommend us because we’ve used the same keywords or phrases in our websites, blogs and social media posts. Learning to use the right keywords is an art and a science. It challenges us to comply with specific secretive algorithms. Even Search Engine Optimization experts admit little knowledge about the data. Climbing to #1 of organic searches involves an investment of time and effort.

SEO is a broad subject that I’m still studying, a motivation to revise and write blogs with competitive terms. If your company can afford an SEO specialist, their fee will be $75-$150 per hour, which could add up to $1,500 a month (or more). You can also get monthly SEO services from companies like Fiverr for $14-$345 a month.

How do you know that you’re getting what you want?

Honestly, SEO isn’t a quick process and success isn’t guaranteed. Changes we make now may not show up in search engine results for four to six weeks or longer. To compete effectively, we have to know what keywords our competitors are using to help their ranking in the search engines. Finally, we have to compare ourselves to others who have: A well-known brand, an active website, an up-to-date blog and an active social media presence with good SEO use.

Competing with and comparing ourselves to others in our profession may be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to adapt if we want to succeed. One of my favorite quotes rings true: “Success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.” [Nolan Ryan]

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, CAPS, NCIDQ is the principal of D.P. Design in Oregon City, OR and has over 35 years of experience as a kitchen and bath designer. She is the author of the award-winning book, THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling, and has been the recipient of numerous design awards. Named a 2019 KBDN Innovator, Plesset has taught Western design to students of the Machida Academy in Japan and has a podcast, “Today’s Home.”

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Obstacles Linger, Even in Face of Uptick

Supply side challenges continue to hamstring both new housing and the residential-construction trade, even as both market sectors continue to exhibit significant 2021 gains. Among the key statistics and forecasts released in recent weeks by government agencies, research firms and industry-related trade associations were the following:


Despite recent gains in housing production, concerns linger over weakening permit numbers, a slowdown in new-home sales and rising materials costs, the National Association of Home Builders said. Overall housing starts were pegged at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.64 million units, according to the latest available figures, as strong demand helped offset supply-side challenges. Builders continue to contend with rising home prices and materials delays, as well as with shortages of buildable lots, a dearth of skilled labor and a challenging regulatory climate, said Robert Dietz, NAHB chief economist. “The weakening of single-family and multifamily permits is due to higher material costs, which have pushed new home prices higher since the end of last year,” Dietz said. “This is a troubling sign for future housing production (and) a challenge for a housing market that needs additional inventory.”


Residential construction professionals experienced their busiest quarter since at least 2015 in the first three months of 2021, with confidence among remodeling construction and design firms running high, according to Houzz Inc. The online platform for home remodeling and design reported positive results for its “Q3 2021 Houzz Renovation Barometer,” a quarterly gauge of residential renovation market expectations, project backlogs and recent activity among businesses in the construction, architectural and design services sectors. However, the heightened activity is not without challenges, according to Houzz, which reported that supply chain delays, extreme weather patterns, rising product and material costs and labor shortages “continue to create major headwinds for the industry.” In a related development, annual gains in homeowner improvement and maintenance spending are poised to accelerate in the second half of 2021 and remain elevated through mid-year 2022, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), released in by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The LIRA projects that annual growth in home renovation and repair expenditures will reach 8.6% by the second quarter of 2022, with annual expenditures expected to exceed $380 billion.


Existing-home sales, despite several months of declines, were up 22.9% from a year ago, and available supply has improved in recent months due to gains in housing starts and existing homeowners listing their homes, the National Association of Realtors reported. “Home sales continue to run at a pace above the rate seen before the pandemic,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Washington, DC-based NARI, which pegged the latest seasonally adjusted annual rate for resales at 5.86 million units. Total inventory was down 18.8% from a year ago, while unsold inventory is down year to date, from 3.9-month supply in 2020 to a 2.6-month supply at the same time this year, the NAR added.


Reflecting gains in new construction and residential remodeling, domestic shipments of major home appliances continued their rebound from the impact of COVID-19 in the first half of 2021, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers reported. According to the Washington, DC-based AHAM, an April-to-June spike of 23.7% over the same quarter a year ago was largely responsible for an overall year-to-date gain of 26.6% in major appliance shipments compared to the same six-month period in 2019. First-half gains were posted in all key product categories, including food preservation (+31.6%), home laundry (+27.7%), cooking (+24.1%) and kitchen cleanup (+17.4%), AHAM noted.

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Sales Gains Projected for Bathroom Organization Products

CLEVELAND, OH — The growing number of bathrooms in U.S. households will continue to bolster opportunities in the $276-million bathroom organization products market, according to a newly released report by the Freedonia Group.

The analysis by the Cleveland, OH-based market research firm forecasted that sales of bathroom organization products will grow 1.5% per year through 2025, to a total market size of $298 million. Market growth will be relatively slow “because bathrooms are already a well-established segment of the home organization market, and growth will be coming off of elevated sales in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic heightened consumers’ investment in their homes,” Freedonia said.

Nevertheless, the company said, the market for bathroom organization products will be sustained by macroeconomic factors such as new home construction, renovations and existing-home sales, “all of which can open up new sales opportunities for suppliers of bathroom organization products by increasing the number and/or quality of bathrooms.”

“New homes are increasingly built with more bathrooms than are common in existing homes, expanding the number of available bathrooms in which consumers can install organization products,” Freedonia said. “The number of bathrooms per home continues to tick up, and this growth will be boosted, at least in the short-term, by a rise in the number of households looking for single-family rather than multifamily living situations.”

Design trends favoring large tubs and showers will also encourage consumers to better organize their bathroom storage, the research firm added, pointing to growth for bins, baskets, and totes, as well as shelving, modular units, hanging storage, accessories and hardware.

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Cabinet Sales Post Gains Through August, KCMA Reports

RESTON, VA — Major domestic kitchen cabinet and vanity manufacturers continued to post sales gains through the first eight months of 2021, according to the latest in a series of monthly surveys by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

The KCMA’s latest “Trend of Business Survey” reflected a year-to-date sales increase of 16.9% through August, compared to the same eight-month period in 2020. Custom cabinet sales through the first eight months were reported up 20.4% over the same period last year, while semi-custom sales rose 14.9% and sales of stock cabinets gained 17.6%, the Reston, VA-based KCMA said. August sales were up 8.0% compared to the same month the prior year, the association added.

Survey participants include stock, semi-custom and custom companies whose combined sales represent approximately 75% of the U.S. kitchen cabinet and bath vanity market, according to the KCMA.

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Sustainability Seen Shaping Housing, Remodeling Markets

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — A trio of emerging trends in neighborhood design and sustainable living practices should continue to shape the market for new housing and residential remodeling as the “mindset of consumers continues to shift in a dynamic social climate,” according to a new report from the Home Improvement Research Institute.

According to HIRI’s recently issued Future of Housing Trend Report, new and remodeled homes will likely be shaped by a growing homeowner passion regarding issues such as climate change, sustainability and minimalism, resulting “in an increased emergence of eco-friendly materials and 3D-printed technology to designs focused on cultural inspiration and reversible architecture.”

Among the key trends identified by HIRI researchers are the following:

n “Hyper-local neighborhoods”: Architects, developers and local governments are proposing neighborhoods centered on community building and local businesses. These spaces are intended to be car-free, with all necessities reachable via a short walk or bicycle ride.

n Flight from the cities: “As urban centers expand in size and population, consumers are recognizing that their quality of life is suffering — whether that be due to alienation, affordability issues, lengthy commutes or pollution,” HIRI said. As a result, many are moving away from city centers and turning to community-based neighborhoods that provide a sense of belonging while also satisfying the need for convenience and cleaner air.

n Sustainable Housing: With sustainability as a top priority, architects and designers are embracing different eco-friendly concepts, among them “reversible design” (the architecture of structures that can be easily deconstructed, that can be reused or with parts that can be removed and added easily) and 3D-printed housing (homes that offer sustainable and protective construction that avoids structural issues in the case of extreme weather).

“Contemporary consumers are wary of the impending consequences of climate change, and a large number are becoming increasingly aware that simply shifting their lifestyle and practicing ecological mindfulness are likely not enough,” HIRI said. “As a result, many are demanding that brands and creators take the environment into consideration.

n Simplified Living: Building off of the desire for more sustainable living, the emergence of simple, more minimalist design emphasizes homeowners’ functions and needs.

“Contemporary consumers in fast-paced urban centers are looking to balance the demands of their daily lifestyle with a comfortable home environment,” HIRI said. “Many are prioritizing minimalist designs and additional spaces that can optimize and elevate their living situation without compromising aesthetic appeal.”


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Emerging Home Design Trends Revealed in Houzz Report

PALO ALTO, CA — COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s perception of “home,” resulting in new styles, features and aesthetics surfacing in home design over the past year –among them a need for dedicated activity spaces, a desire to bring the outdoors in, and a requirement to create flexible interior spaces.

That is the key conclusion of research conducted by Houzz Inc., the Palo Alto, CA-based online resource for home remodeling, which this week identified the top emerging home design trends based on the latest search insights from its community of homeowners and remodeling pros.

According to Houzz, the following are among the leading COVID-fueled home design trends that have emerged in the past year:

n Dedicated Activity Spaces: “People have been relying on their homes to provide new avenues of activity and entertainment since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Houzz, pointing to search trends that the online resource is seeing for art studios (up nearly tenfold), home bars and wine cellars (up nearly four times) and home theaters, home gyms and home offices (up between two and three times each).

n Bringing the Outdoors In: According to Houzz, one in five remodeling homeowners is opening up their kitchens to the outdoors, with “openness to nature and the role of greenery in our homes a trend that seems to be accelerating.” Searches for artificial plants and trees, as well as indoor pots and planters, are up significantly, respectively, since last year. “We’re also seeing a significant uptick in searches for green kitchen cabinets, bathroom tile, accent chairs and bedrooms,” Houzz said.

n Living Room Refresh: As people have spent more time in their living room over the past year, “they may be seeking inspiration to refresh the space,” with searches for living rooms up 52% compared to the same time in 2020, Houzz reported. Home accents in general have seen some of the most dramatic increases, along with decorative accents, abstract paintings, display shelves and slip or chair covers, the company noted.

n Flexible Design: Many homeowners are turning to design options that offer more flexibility within the existing footprint of their homes, Houzz reported. Searches for TV armoires with pocket doors, queen murphy beds, and nesting side tables are among the products and features generating significantly higher interest, Houzz researchers added.

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Angela Poirrier

Angela Poirrier, CAPS, isn’t just a designer. According to her peers, Poirrier – owner and designer, Acadian House Design + Renovation, in Baton Rouge, LA – is a leader in an industry that is constantly evolving. She loves learning as well as passing along her expertise to others. From attending KBIS to more local NKBA and HBA meetings, she uses her insights to drive the industry forward. Among her initiatives are maintaining a regularly updated blog and hosting over 100 seminars to keep both peers and clients abreast of the latest trends and developments.

Within her own business, she has developed a system and process for every step along the project timeline. She then monitors and analyzes these processes to ensure they remain both effective and profitable for her team. Meanwhile, her marketing plan has allowed her to know the return on investment of every dollar spent and to forecast well into the future.

Although it may not come with a title, being recognized as a leader among her colleagues is among Poirrier’s proudest accomplishments. Through her own drive to learn and grow within the kitchen and bath industry, she has become a go-to for others seeking to understand everything from successful marketing and client relations to hiring employees and subcontractors.

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