After working in home building for more than 40 years and serving in a variety of prominent advocacy and leadership roles, Bob Hanbury last month entered the next phase of his career: retirement.
Bob Hanbury as he presents awards to the winners of the HBRA of Central Connecticut’s Student Design Competition in 2014 in Hartford, Conn. Photo courtesy of Matthew J. Wagner Photography.
But for Hanbury — who founded House of Hanbury Builders in Newington, Conn. with his brother in 1976 — retirement won’t mean leaving behind the industry about which he is so passionate. He’s a lifer.
“Even after you retire from the business, you don’t give up on the industry,” Hanbury said. “You make your living doing this, which is why I want to stay involved to help make sure the industry keeps improving.”
An NAHB member for nearly four decades and a former NAHB Remodelers chair, Hanbury recently moved to Florida where he intends to join the local HBA and continue serving in whatever capacity he can. “My membership is like family — I can’t give it up,” he said.
Hanbury might best be known as an authority on lead paint and a fervent advocate for practical regulations.
“Bob’s knowledge of the industry has allowed him to bring extensive on-the-ground experience and expertise to bear when testifying on behalf of NAHB before EPA,” said Susan Asmus, NAHB’s senior VP of regulatory affairs. “In recent years, he has testified multiple times on the regulatory burden of implementing federal lead paint regulations that have failed to meet expectations set by the agency.”
His commitment to helping the industry progress stems from a lifetime surrounded by home builders. His grandfather was a home builder and a charter member of the HBRA of Central Connecticut. Hanbury’s dad would later become president of that HBRA, and eventually, Hanbury himself served in that role.
Following decades of dedicated service, Hanbury says he knew “it was time to go to greener pastures and enjoy life.” He had started planning for retirement about six years ago, but looking back, he wished he started much earlier.
“I don’t think a lot of builders spend enough time and energy on [planning for retirement]. You might think you can just do it overnight, but it doesn’t happen like that,” Hanbury said. “Liquidating assets at the right time and at a value you can feel good about is a very hard thing to do.
“Even if you think you’re prepared, often times you aren’t,” he said.
Now into his first full month of retirement, Hanbury took a moment to reflect on his career and the ever-evolving remodeling industry. Here’s a portion of what he had to say:
How has remodeling changed in recent years?
“There has been a dramatic shift in how we do business, largely because there’s so much misleading information out there. It’s created a perception that remodeling is cheap, extremely fast, and easy enough that [a consumer] can figure anything out online overnight, and then tell the contractor how to do the job. It’s reshaped the remodeler-customer dynamic, which now hinges more on education and building trust.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) facing the industry?
“Workforce development is certainly a growing concern. A large number of industry pros who have essential remodeling experience are nearing the end of their careers, and with fewer youth pursuing the trades, it will be increasingly difficult to pass along all of that knowledge and expertise to the next generation. Eventually, I’d like to see groups of retired contractors engaged in recruiting and training more youth to help ensure the industry continues to grow.”
What advice would you give to other remodelers and home builders planning for retirement?
“Timing is everything. My advice would be to create a plan that gives you a window of at least 2-3 years in which you can adjust your retirement date, depending upon economic circumstances. And don’t buy equipment when you’re nearing retirement. Instead, rent or borrow what you need, and only hire employees who are fully equipped. Because when it comes time to sell, you’ll be lucky if you get 10 cents on the dollar.”
To learn more about NAHB Remodelers, visit nahb.org/whynahbr.