Don Van Cura Construction Co. Inc.
How did you first hear about NARI?
In the early nineties, NARI had a fairly large remodeling show at McCormick place here in Chicago. Like other shows, when you're walking through booths, you stop and ask what's this? Somebody says, sign here. And you ask, what am I signing? Oh, you got to be part of this, you know, just sign. I found out later it was an application for NARI membership. Soon after I decided to join a committee. It's the NARI way.
So you joined a committee right away. What committee was that?Education. That's been my primary focus. Education, certification and ethics.
You started out on then Education Committee and you’re currently sitting on the Ethics Committee. What’s been your favorite part about working on these committees?
Starting out, I was a young snot-nosed kid just learning a trade. I had a plumber named Charlie who took me under his wing. If it wasn't for his direction, I'm not sure what I would be doing right now. He was a patient gentleman and I learned a trade quite well under his tutelage. Bless that man. I always felt like I needed to do that for somebody else. Flash forward many years and I've got a wonderful profession that’s been financially advantageous and I just feel the need to do the same thing for someone else.
Becoming a remodeler is not just going to remodeling class. What appealed to me about NARI was the ability to get involved with education and see an avenue for people to hone their skills and get better.
Early on working in the trades, you find out there's a lot of unscrupulous people out there that lack any morals. Some of them just care about the money and not the skill nor the expertise in their trade. What I found extremely appealing about NARI was their code of ethics. There's a guideline about the right way to perform this business and sleep well at night. There has to be people that set the standard for ethics in this business and how to treat the public with honesty. That’s what we strive for everyday working on these committees.
Has NARI given you more ethical credibility with the public?
For sure. I like to think I'm ethical with or without NARI. However, when people are being introduced to you and you don't have any experience with them, they wonder if this is one of those guys they saw on the news. Can I let this guy in my house, around my kids? It can be a scary thing for a homeowner.
When they see that you’re involved with an organization that establishes a code of ethics, they’re put at ease.
Are there any outstanding achievements or particular initiatives you’re proud to have worked on in these committees?
A team of other members and I went to the House of Delegates to look for funding for what would become the Certified Kitchen and Bath program. Watching that certification go from zero, through development, to seeing people get certified was a rush. It was a lot of work but I’m very proud to have been a part of it.
In terms of education I’ve always felt if you want to learn something the best way is to teach it. In the process of trying to educate someone else, you find out how much you don't know yourself. I'm proud of where education has gone in NARI as well.
Were you ever a part of instructing a certification prep course?
Yes. Actually, I've taught for all of the certifications. We did the first CLC class here in Chicago. We had over 25 people in our first class and it was really well-received right off the bat. I really enjoyed doing that.
My involvement with education has taken me places out of state and even other countries. I went to Thailand one year to instruct a group of people how to do certain types of repairs. That was an honor.
How do you find a work-life balance?
Well, I'm 68 now and I still absolutely love our industry. I don't plan on just pulling the plug overnight, but I'm trying to wean myself off a bit. Aside from NARI, I've told myself to sit on my hands as much as possible.
That’s something I could say I owe to NARI by being involved in different committees and educational programs. I learned early on to work hard the entire week but when the evenings and weekends come I unplug. As my wife Sonia often says if it's burning, call the fire department, otherwise we'll see on Monday.
Now I work a four day week. On time off, I don't talk to clients or do any proposals. It takes a little practice but once you do that, you enjoy your free time and come back on Monday full of energy and ready to knock things out.
We believe the same thing for everyone in our company too. Our guys work a four-day week now with 10-hour days, and they love that extra day off. They have the option to work overtime if they want, but I don't encourage it.
Do you have any advice for anyone that might be thinking about joining a committee or volunteering?
I would advise anybody who's even on the fence to just go for it. You give a little bit but what you get out of it is tenfold.