Today’s episode of Bottom Line Faith features Rob Baugher, CEO of Baugher Design and Remodel.
“Don’t tell me how high you can jump while praising the Lord tell me how straight you can walk when you come down. I want to see you walk it out every day. I want to see you follow Him; then I know I can trust you.”
Ray: Folks, this is the program where we tour the country, and we interview some of America’s top Christian business leaders, marketplace leaders, and celebrities to learn how these high-capacity, very successful leaders, how they think, how they plan, how they work, how they lead, lessons learned, advice, and counsel to pass along, and so forth. And I am your co-host, Ray Hilbert. If this is your first time checking out the Bottom Line Faith program, please visit the website at bottomlinefaith.org. And you can subscribe there and listen to all the other interviews that we have recorded. And if you are a Christ follower in business, and you are interested in the tools and resources that are available to you through the ministry of Truth At Work, which is the host of this program, please check out our website at truthatwork.org. Well, folks, I am in beautiful, beautiful Birmingham, Alabama. It’s a beautiful spring day, and I am with Rob Baugher. He is the CEO and Founder of Baugher Design and Remodel. And we are going to have a great time today just as Rob and I have been getting to know each other. He’s got a great smile. Of course, you can’t see that on the program. But this is a man that loves Jesus and is having a tremendous amount of success and is actually doing some cutting-edge things in his industry through his company. We’ll get to all that in just a little bit. But Rob, welcome to the show.
Rob: Thank you, Ray. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Ray: It is a fun time to be together today. And so we’re going to talk about business and life and leadership and all the great things that we like to visit here at Bottom Line Faith. But before we do that, take a couple of moments and share with our audience a little bit about your faith journey and how it is that you came to Christ.
Rob: Sure, be glad to. I was raised in a Christian home, and in that, I had accepted Christ as my Savior at nine years old. But then around age 17, I was looking, maybe a little rebellion instilled in there, but I was looking for my own personal relationship with God, not just this one that I had inherited through the gift from my family, you know. And actually got to be extremely serious about that, and was praying, which I didn’t spend a lot of time doing in the past, asking, you know, God to really showed Himself to me so that I could have a better relationship with Him.
And it was about a week later that I met several people, and during that time they shared Scripture verses with me, they cared about me, they encouraged me, and really told me things about God that I never knew, that I had always hoped, of exactly what he would be like, but it really took some time of just earnestly seeking Him in order to find that closeness of a relationship.
Ray: What was different for you once that decision was made?
Rob: You know, I think the biggest thing is the feeling of forgiveness, of being washed clean. That was something that was constant, that everything that I had ever done, you know, that He said He would set it aside and that He would never bring it up again. And that I could start over, and I could start over fresh every moment, every day. I could pray to Him all day long, not just before a test or on Sunday mornings. And it actually evolved into a relationship.
Ray: We were talking earlier. I think you described that as the abundant life.
Rob: Yes, one of the verses that, and actually I guess some people call them life verses, I had a life verse before I knew it was called a life verse. And it was John 10:10. It’s where Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” And when I heard that verse for the first time, it was like; I knew there was more to Christianity. And Jesus just promised me abundant life. And He can’t lie. And because of that, I’m going to claim this, and I’m going to expect Him to make my life abundant.
Ray: That’s beautiful.
Rob: And He did.
Ray: And He did. And so there was a transformation in your life. But let’s transition then. Let’s learn about your company. Let’s learn what you do here. You started this company in 1973, my goodness, 44 years ago. First of all, congratulations. What a milestone to have a company around that long. Tell us a little bit about what caused you to start the company and what you guys do.
Rob: You know, my father had always had a workshop, and so I had picked up carpentry skills. And my dad like to refinish furniture also. And I started to do that. My customers asked me to do other things for them, and all of a sudden it was like, “Well, sure, there’s no problem doing that.” And so that continued to grow and blossom. And then a friend mentioned that I could get in with a carpenter’s apprenticeship program. I did that for four years and graduated from that group. And but before I graduated doing that, we were building mostly commercial projects. Then I had a group of friends and relatives who said, “Let’s form a remodeling company and go into business for ourselves.”
And you know, I really just wanted to take this one gift that I could find in my life as I was seeking God’s will, the one thing that I knew I had some ability, and do more with it. And that’s how this thing of having a hammer in my hand and carpentry, that’s how that developed. But you know, one of the things about that was too, what the verse of Scripture that says, “Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart.” And I felt, what if I instead of just driving nails or just being a carpenter, is there more to this? What could I learn as I do this? And so I began to really invest more time and energy into the business and learning the business. And then we went to work our, way we stayed in business; we actually worked for decorators who were working for high-end clients. So we did a lot of custom remodeling. And every day was different. It was all residential. And as the business grew from there, it actually got to the point where we were doing sketches for the decorators, and we realized they were selling our sketches to the homeowners. And so we asked, could we do a better sketch and sell it to you.
Ray: So this is pre-CAD, right?
Rob: This is pre-computer-aided design. This is by hand, with pencils.
Ray: Wow, cutting edge.
Rob: And so we were drawing in 3-D. One of the fellows in our group had really good skills, and he was teaching us so that we could just get by, and they got to the point, later on, where I had two artists on staff who were drawing full time, drawing in 3-D so that our client could understand what we were going to do, which eliminated, you know, confusion, made them feel safer and better communication. And all the way up until that, actually went on to, we really became a design and remodel company, and back around 2000, they came out with computer programs that you could use and draw on computer. And so we went to that. So for, whatever 14, 15 years, 16, whatever, we’ve been drawing everything on computer. So we do the virtual tours. It’s the same thing you see on a lot of HGTV or DIY network shows.
Ray: But you were on the cutting edge of that.
Rob: Yeah, it was not being done anywhere at that point. But obviously some people were experimenting and they were writing the software. And so it got to the point where the drawings literally became so good and looked so realistic, they even fooled me. I remember one day, when I was, I said, “I thought we had a shelf in the corner of the kitchen.” And the guy said, “Rob, you’re looking at the picture on virtual; you need to flip over to the real.” And because they had modified, the homeowner had asked him to remove the shelf, and it was like, anyway, it was just one of those things where it became so good that when it confused me, then I knew, boy, this is the way to go. Because people can understand it. People can actually speak construction when they can see it.
Ray: Yeah, I love that phrase too, because that puts a word picture in my mind, right? Because I may not know the technical terms, but I know I’d like an outlet there, I’d like a vent here, I’d like a faucet, whatever, right? That’s putting it into pictures. Well, folks, this is Ray Hilbert, co-host at Bottom Line Faith, and we are talking with Rob Baugher, the CEO and Founder of Baugher Design and Remodel in Birmingham, Alabama.
So we’ve learned a little bit of his background, how he came to Christ. Also what led to him starting his company really, like kind of emanated out of just his own hands-on skill sets being honed and developed over time, and then over a 17 year period of time was really cutting edge in this industry, in the home remodel and design, and what’s probably, in a lot of ways, become commonplace in the industry now, but you really were on the front edge of that. And so that’s great stuff. So now, Rob, with your permission, what I’d like to do is I’d like to transition our conversation and talk about lessons learned, talk about some of the ups, some of the downs. And really, let’s use this next segment of the program to maybe be an encouragement or an educational piece for other Christian leaders that are listening to the program. So can you remember one of the hardest decisions you ever had to make in business? And if so, what role did your faith play in that?
Rob: You know, probably the hardest is because I’ve always owned a remodeling company, and then I would also I would buy other companies, and they would work all together in association. I’ve just started my 25th company, and some of those was, you know, succeeding, some of them were great, and some of them weren’t. And so we were constantly learning lessons, every time that happened. We would buy plumbing companies, electrical companies, mill-works companies, different things. But one in particular, gosh, it was probably 30-something years ago, when one of the businesses failed, and it was just so bad. And there was no way to clean it up.
Ray: At that point, had you had another business that had failed or was this your first time going through a real business failure?
Rob: This was probably my first time.
Rob: And that’s why I think it still is so significant. If I had gone through something like that today, it probably wouldn’t affect me the same way, because you learn. But it was the kind of thing where I, you know, I literally quit eating, and I didn’t realize it, but the stress of trying to fix things and trying to get everything taken care of, the debts that were piling up from it. But I realized, this is not going to be good if I keep doing this, and you know, and the sad thing about that is, you know, when you don’t have friends around, you don’t have a group or mentors, you know, like that, which at that time I didn’t, they could have easily said something that’s going on, and where I don’t see it from this side of my eyes.
And it was, I really had to realize, I have no desire to eat, but I need to make myself eat again. And I remember sitting down at a meal and then just making myself eat some food, but it had actually hit me or cut me that deep. And so, and from that, and you know getting more strength back, and moving forward until, and beginning to heal from it. And actually, I think it took six to eight years to pay that debt off. And from that, it was back up, it was do other things, do smaller things, but continuing to focus on that and get it all cleaned up so that we can move ahead.
Ray: And so as a follower of Christ, where was your faith in all of that? And, you know, we’re talking about this abundant life a few moments ago. And now here’s really a guy who’s somewhat devastated by circumstances. Kind of help us process that.
Rob: Well, you know, it’s, I mean, of course, I’m experiencing what everyone else does in their life every day. And the difference was, in coming out of it and paying off the debt, is that I believed that I could learn from it. I believed I had hope because of my relationship with Christ, that this could be used, could be turned into something good. That it was something horrible, but it could be it could be healed, and it could be stronger. And it was really having that and having Him to talk to every day, and as we fought that battle and then decided, you know, there’s got to be something, you know.
Part of it, I think, is that you take action. It’s that, you know, God, I need to meet you today, and I’m going to head down this road because I think you’re on this road. I’m not going to sit here anymore and do nothing. And there are many Scriptures that talk, you know, it’s just like the Lord meets you on the way. But I have to have, by faith I had to move ahead and take one step after the other. And it is amazing, as I look back, on how many different people I talked to during that time who identified with what I was going through. There was a lot of people who had no idea what I was going through, and that hurt even more, but the Lord was faithful, and He had a plan that was bigger than I understood, and I had to trust that.
Ray: As I’m listening to that chapter in your life, and I’m sure with 20-some businesses bought and either sold or terminated or whatever, Probably not the only failed business, would be my guess. Now maybe I’m wrong about that, but would it be safe to say that you had the battle internally was understanding the difference between failing and being a failure?
Rob: It’s a huge difference, and actually that was one of the phrases that I appreciate you bringing it up, the phrases I held on to is that. I remember one day specifically saying, “I have failed, but I am not a failure.” That was like finding light in a dark cave, you know, knowing that this is one part of my life, and I’ll probably have more like it. And I did and I’ve had worse, but at that moment, at that point of my, you know, Christian walk, of my personal, you know, age and years, it was monumental. I really do look back at it as a gift. The things that changed because of that, now when I can, I can look back and see it, you see a little the tracings of God’s hand through all of it.
Ray: That’s fantastic. Hey folks. We are talking with Rob Baugher, the CEO and Founder of Baugher Design and Remodel, in Birmingham, Alabama. Rob, I’m curious, as you think about how you’ve conducted business now over four decades, can you share with our audience, maybe, just one or two best practices that you have tried to build your businesses on and your leadership upon, and what biblical principle were behind those best practices?
Rob: You know, years ago, someone had mentioned the verse to me. I never even thought about it. It was almost like one of those throwaway verses, out of Proverbs, where it says, “Wisdom cries in the streets.” And that was one of those verses that just stuck with me, because to me, what Solomon was saying in that was that the information and the knowledge that you need is all around you. It’s right in front of your face. And then I learned later that it is there, but you’ll never see it unless you’re hungry and you’re thirsty for it. The Lord made, he actually, in essence, built a barrier that said, “If you seek me with all your heart, then you can find me.” And until, in my life, until I wanted to seek Him personally, then until that happened, I didn’t have the relationship that I wanted. And it was the same.
So I began to realize with wisdom, was that it’s extremely elusive. It’s out there, but it’s so close. If you’ll just stop; if you’ll just stop and examine the things around you, that everything that you need to know is actually sitting around you in its simplest form. It’s not as complicated as you think it is. If you’ll simplify, you know, that, and look at the basics, then you know what to do, you know what direction to go next. Another verse is the one where David is going to fight the giant Goliath, and he stops by the stream, as he’s going down across the valley, and he picks up five stones out of the creek. and then he loads that and spins his sling, and then he’s able to kill Goliath, and, you know, that everything works out.
But the thing that I remember the most about that is, one day, in particular, was that David picked up five stones. If that first stone didn’t get him, he had four more. And the way that translated to my business was that every business problem that I ever come up against, I immediately say, there are five solutions. One of them is the best, and it’s going to work, but you’re not limited by solutions. God provided five stones for David to grab and there are plenty of solutions. God is not limited in how he can help you and take care of you in your life. Man, you have to realize he’s that kind of God. He is more than able to save you or to help you, and make you more than a conqueror. And so it’s principles like that, where you hear the verse, but you began to translate them just a little bit toward business. And the other is to study to show yourself approved, you know, workmen that doesn’t need to be ashamed. And my friend mentioned I should read 12 books a year, make a list, and read those books. And I started doing that. And then a mentor of mine said, “You should read a book a day.”
Ray: Oh, wow.
Rob: Every month, and you should read the New Testament every month. And I had always wanted to do that. But that was one of those things that I thought, that’s never going to happen. And it was like, how do you get to that point? How do you discipline yourself? How do you make that happen? And actually, I got to the point. And for me, what really helped was the audiobooks. And also, the fact that I’ve been able to train myself now to listen at 1.75x speed. I can’t listen to it at 2x the speed. But with that, what I do is I actually read 70 books every month, and 66 of those are the Bible. So I read the Bible every month. The New Testament takes five days, and the Old Testament takes 20 days.
And this is, that’s one of the things that I’ve done lately is that we feel that we have so much possibility, and we’re not tapped into the source of that. And by reading the Scriptures constantly, and getting that information constantly, that’s weighing against every decision that you make. Then that got me up to about 840 books a year or something like that. I’ve told my friends, I said, “You know, I’ve been doing this. But at this point, I’m going to slow down and start reading just the New Testament again. That thing that I couldn’t do now would be so easy to do.” Because there are days when I’m getting lost with those Old Testament prophets, and where I really would just like to go for a walk with Jesus for a while and be in the New Testament again, just to slow down.
Ray: You know, in fact, the last several interviews that I’ve been able to do here at Bottom Line Faith, there’s been this theme, and there’s just been a lot of conversation around slowing down, not getting so caught up in the pace, not getting so wrapped up in the circumstance, and just trusting God and really getting into His Word, and allowing Him to speak to us. Because, yes, that Word is fixed, and it’s rooted, but it’s also living, and it’s breathing, and He wants to speak to us today through His Word, right?
Rob: Absolutely. And what I’m finding is that I’m now consuming bulk information, but I’m missing the meditation part of concentrating on a verse, because you can hear, like with my other examples, you can hear one small piece of a verse that can give you exactly what you need. And I really feel that I need more of that time where I can concentrate on smaller segments and take my time so that I can really understand and get the full value out of it.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. Believe it or not, we’re getting near the end. This 30 minutes always goes so fast. And I know you have a lot to share. And I’ve got one big question that I’m kind of holding on to for the end here. But is there anything else on your heart or mind that you would want to pass along to, maybe there’s a business owner or leader who’s listening to the program right now, they’re frustrated, they’re discouraged, they’re disappointed, they have circumstances beyond repair, it seems like. Is there anything that you would want to pass along at this point while you have a chance?
Rob: Yeah, Ray, probably the one of the biggest things that I went through is that I was working so hard as I was building my business, and I felt like I could work even harder. And then it got to the point where I was working around the clock and not sleeping.
Ray: Not eating sometimes too.
Rob: Well, and that was part of it. But I actually would build cabinets all night long, and then go install them the next morning, or I’d wind up skipping meals, things like that, and I had I gotten to the point where I had proven to myself that I will work, and I will work hard, but I really wasn’t working smart. And I was actually condemning a friend of mine, my wife and I were sitting out by the pool one evening, and I was condemning a friend of mine because she mentioned that he had not, you know, been able to come home for dinner with his family.
And I was kind of letting him have it to her, and she said, “You know that you don’t ever eat supper with us.” And I said, “What do you mean? I eat supper here every night.” And she said, “You come in, and we’ve already had supper, and you tuck the kids in, and then you come down, and you warm your food and eat and you work till two in the morning. And then, you know, and that’s our cycle.” And I realized I had just condemned my buddy for doing what I was doing. And I also saw what it was doing to my family, which is something I would have never wanted to do. And about a week later, I apologized immediately to my wife, and we’ve learned, we have that communication style where I could say, “I don’t have an answer yet, but I’m going to concentrate on this, and I’m going to think this through, and we’ll just get back together, and we’ll talk about it again.” And about a week later, I went to her, and I said, “I will work a 40-hour work week. I will go in in the morning, you know, eight o’clock, I will get off at five, and I will come home. And if I cannot survive in this business on a regular hour work week – no nights, no weekends – then I’ll go for a different career. I’m not giving up my family for this.”
One of my relatives was 39 years old, you know, building houses, and he died at 39. And I was like, I said, “We’re not doing it.” So it’s about how you use your time because time equals your life. And what happened that next year is that my business doubled. I worked less hours, but I worked smarter. And I worked with a smaller crew, but we produced more work. And my life began to change because I got those priorities in place, and changed for the better. And it’s like, that’s probably one of the most important things I can pass along.
Ray: That’s beautiful. And Jesus said, you know, “What gaineth a man if he gains the whole world, or if he has the most thriving of business, and yet in the process loses his own soul or his family, or his health, or whatever the case may be.” So I’m sure right now, there’s somebody listening this program who needed to hear that. They’re right now, perhaps your spouse or your kids or a loved one has been saying, “Hey, you need to slow down; you need to come home. Not only physically, but you need to be here emotionally and mentally as well.” And maybe, just maybe, this was a time for you to be encouraged that, as Rob just shared, he did that, and God blessed his business.
And the Word says that we need to seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things, customers and cash flow and profitability and the right vendors, all those things, in His time, He will add on to you. And so Rob’s just reminded us of that very important biblical truth. Well, Rob, believe it or not, we’re at the end of our program, but I promised there was a question that I was going to ask. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it determines the course of your life.” There are some biblical scholars who believe that these were among the last words that Solomon wrote. The Bible describes him as the wisest, richest man who had ever lived. So now imagine, potentially he’s at the end of his life, he’s just gathered his loved one, his friends around. And he has said, “Now look, I know I’ve given you all this other council, I’ve given you all this other wisdom, but above all else, guard your heart.” So Rob if we’re at the end of your time on this side of eternity, and you have the chance to gather your friends, your loved ones, those who are most precious to you what would be your “above all else?”
Rob: I would say that the experience that I went through in my life of, you know, personally wanting to be a preacher, but then struggling with that decision. And doing all of this when I was younger, and then finally surrendering, you know, to that call. Right about, the time after we’ve wrapped up with the band, and finally just saying, “Forget everything, you know, everything and everybody. I’m going to do what God wants me to do.” And so in prayer, I went to him, and I said, “Lord I’m ready, you know, to go that direction.” Which was a big decision for me. And then God said to me, “Let me get back to you on that.” Which I was like, “What? But look, I just did what everybody has always wanted me to do.” And then I realized what I was saying. I’ve just, you know, I’ve just gone the best direction you can possibly go, and He said, “Just seek Me; just keep seeking Me.”
And so from that, from wanting to be a person who spoke and saved souls, instead, what He had in mind for me was to become a friend of sinners. It’s to get to know people, to pull them in, to take care of them, to provide for their families, to encourage them, to save marriages in the process, to enable businesses to succeed, my vendors to succeed, train contractors to be respected, you know, get your bills paid, give your tithe to the church. And when I lay that on one side and the other, it’s like, I used to say to my friends, when I tried to sum it up, I said, you know, “Don’t tell me how high you can jump praising the Lord; tell me how straight you can walk when you come down. I want to see you walk it out every day. I want to see you follow Him. Then I know I can trust you.” That’s important.
Ray: It really is. I’ve taken some notes here, at the end of the day, above all else, keep seeking God and follow His ways, is what I’m hearing in that. Would you agree?
Rob: Absolutely. He has a plan that’s bigger than your plan. Trust Him.
Ray: Very good. Wow. Well folks, as quite often is the case, this half-hour goes so fast. And I know there’s much more we could learn from Rob, and that he had prepared to share with us. But doggone it, this side of eternity, time is one of our limiting factors. We are so grateful for the opportunity to share with you on this edition of Bottom Line Faith. Rob, if someone would like to learn more about your company or more about you, where can they find you on the web?
Rob: You know, the easiest way, would just to be to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ray: Thanks so much Rob. This has been Bottom Line Faith, and I am your co-host, Ray Hilbert. God bless and we’ll see you soon.