IAM1901 – CEO Helps Clients Design and Build their Houses

Podcast Interview with Gregg Cantor

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of IAMCEO podcast, Gregg Cantor, President and CEO of Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel, shares his journey in the home remodeling and construction industry. Gregg started working for his grandfather’s construction business in 1977. He climbed the company's ranks, and in 1990, he bought the business and took over as the President/CEO. Gregg has managed over 2,000 home remodeling and construction projects and frequently educates consumers on architecture, interior design, home improvement, and construction through media appearances.

Here are some key takeaways from the podcast:

CEO Story: Gregg’s mechanically inclined nature led him to work part-time for his grandfather’s construction business and gain experience until he could handle projects independently.

Business Service: Murray Lampert is an architecture and interior design firm specializing in remodeling.

Secret Sauce: The company's success can be attributed to its culture and people. Gregg believes in building a diverse team to strengthen the organization.

CEO Hack: Gregg recommends reading “Traction” for implementing business strategies and “Good to Great” for organizational analysis.

CEO Nugget: In marketing and website development, he advises showcasing personality and using writing with a non-salesy tone to build trust. Additionally, Gregg emphasizes humility and continuous learning.

CEO Defined: For Gregg, being a CEO is a rewarding experience that allows him to be involved in the community and provide employment opportunities, even during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gregg Cantor Teaser 00:00

You always have to remain humble. Never think that you have it figured out 100%. Always be digging and learning and trying to figure out, even if a customer says you did great, find out what you could do better.

Intro 00:15

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkness values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the IAMCEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:42

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresham from the IAMCEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year, and we're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and what I like to call the CB Nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focusing on operations. The systems will set you free. So think about systems, think about flow, sustainability, potentially working out in your morning routine, waking up early, e-commerce, different business models. Think of the operations in the models that basically set up the foundation to allow the creativity within organizations, but also to make sure the trains are running on time and things are going as they should.

Now, this is extremely important because we often can turn to the sexy parts of business and forget about the operations and how important that is. So I really want to focus this month on this specific topic. So sit back and enjoy this special episode at the IAMCEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on that show today. I have Gregg Cantor of Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel. Gregg, super excited to have you on the show.

Gregg Cantor 02:03

Thanks for having me on. Nice to meet you face to face.

Gresham Harkless 02:07

Yes, absolutely. Face to face in today's world and excited to hear about all the awesome things that you've been working on. So, of course, before we do that, I wanted to read a little bit more about Greg so you can hear about some of those awesome things.

Gregg began working for Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel in 1977, learning all aspects of home from the ground up and around. From 1983 until 1989 Gregg worked for the company as a project manager and eventually grew into the role of head of production. In 1990, when Gregg's grandfather, Murray Lampert, retired, he bought the business and took over as president and CEO, running all day-to-day operations. And over the years, Gregg has been responsible for managing the design-build of over 2000 home remodeling and construction projects, including landscape pools, outdoor living and many, many more.

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He also has many made many appearances on local news in San Diego, co hosted shows on ABC TV, IHeart radio, as well as being quoted in national publications, educating consumers on architecture, interior design, home improvement and construction. And of course, he's been featured as well on CEO blog nation.

So Gregg, I appreciate you taking time out. Are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?

Gregg Cantor 03:18

I am ready and thanks for that great introduction.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:21

Yes, the reading the introduction is the easy work. The hard work is doing all that stuff that you've been doing. So appreciate you for doing it as well too. I wanted to kick everything off by rewinding the clock.

I know we touched on a little bit when I read your bio, but I want to hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story. We'll let you get started.

Gregg Cantor 03:37

Okay. Do you want me to just hit it?

Gresham Harkless 03:39

Yeah, that's it. Let's go into it.

Gregg Cantor 03:41

So, to start out, I was always very mechanically inclined and I used to take things apart when I was a kid and fix things and everybody turned to me to fix their appliances and things like that. So, I like that part of it and I also liked architecture, but decided that I didn't really want to go to the track of getting an architecture degree. So, I was actually in the automotive side of things in a family business and I was going to college and working part time and then one day, I decided to go to my grandfather and see if I could work part time for him and earn my way up in the organization.

He was very reluctant at first, but he finally said, yes. And I said, I'll work for free until you decide that I have value and one thing led to another within a couple of months, I was handling projects on my own. And that's the start of my career in design and construction.

Gresham Harkless 04:39

Nice and I love kind of hearing the seeds that were planted very early on and as being somebody who always was looking to take those things apart and then fix them. Because I think part of being a CEO, entrepreneur, business owner, all these kind of higher level type positions, a lot of times things come broken.

You have to do that in many different ways I imagine.

Gregg Cantor 04:57

And even as a CEO, I'm still not afraid to go out on a job site, push a broom, do whatever it takes to finish a job or help our team out. So it's not beneath me to do anything.

Gresham Harkless 05:10

Yeah, absolutely. We don't hear how you got started, how you started working and kind of violence for lack of a better term, volunteering your time and how you learned, I imagine all the aspects of the business to help you do things, but also be able to understand what needs to be done.

Gregg Cantor 05:24

Exactly. I started from the nuts and bolts side and then eventually I just had to learn the business and marketing side on the fly.

Gresham Harkless 05:33

Yeah, absolutely. And I feel when you're making and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I guess, do you feel like when you are trying to make certain strategic decisions, whether it be around a specific project or marketing and finance or all those different aspects by having that experience, do you feel like that is what gave you somewhat of a leg up?

Gregg Cantor 05:51

It does and It keeps me grounded. And, I'm just really all about the team. Even though I'm running the company, I don't shut myself inside an office behind my desk. I'm out, I'm walking the floor, going to job sites and still very actively involved with customers.

Gresham Harkless 06:08

I think that accessibility is absolutely huge when you're able to have that vision and have that mission, but still be able to be accessible to see how things are going to be there. You feel like you're not just doing a job. I guess somebody working on the team, but you feel like you're dialed in with the person.

Gregg Cantor 06:23

With my team and with my customers and I don't micromanage, but I want to be accessible, and there are certain connections that I have that I'm the go to person, that makes it happen.

Gresham Harkless 06:34

Absolutely love that. And again, loving to hear that progression. So, I wanted to drill down a little bit more, hear a little bit more on how you're serving your clients.

Can you take us through some of the services and ways that you're making that impact for your clients?

Gregg Cantor 06:46

Yes, and I like to describe us as we're like an architecture, interior design firm that does remodeling and construction. So we're full service. We have an architect on staff and architectural designers as well as interior designers project managers.

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So, someone comes to us and typically it's couples. Or mostly couples and families, we handle everything and we take the stress out of the whole thing by okay, people don't have to worry about going to a separate architect, going to a structural engineer, getting an interior designer, then going out to bed. We handle everything all under one roof.

Gresham Harkless 07:25

Nice. That's absolutely huge. And I think we were joking a little bit about the weather before, you're in the San Diego, California area. Is that the area that you serve or how far out do you go?

Gregg Cantor 07:35

We're San Diego County only, and we've actually shrunk our geographics a little bit because it's a very busy time, and we wanna serve our customers and be able to get to job sites quickly.

There is traffic, and so even in our geographic, sometimes we have to contend with that. But that was a decision we made for now is that, we don't take every job we want, just like a consumer comes to us, they're looking for the right builder. We're also looking for the right customer.

Gresham Harkless 08:04

Yeah, absolutely. It's not about being in that ivory tower. It's about integrating and connecting and talking with people so you can see at the end of the day how you can provide that better solution. So, would you consider that to be what I like to call the secret sauce? The thing you feel sets you apart and makes you unique.

Is it that ability to integrate all of those aspects and be so connected with your clients, trade partners, customers and everything in between.

Gregg Cantor 08:27

I think that's part of the secret sauce. But also the culture too is our secret sauce that is hard. You can't duplicate the culture, really the people here are friends with each other.

They have bowling night, last night was bowling night actually. And so, it's just a great feeling and I have to also give a lot of credit to my daughter, who's the 4th generation. She's helped us build our team to another level with more diversity, some youth, some new ideas and it's really, really just blossoming right now.

Gresham Harkless 09:05

Yeah, absolutely. And I almost wonder, especially in being able to have that familiar atmosphere. It sounds like you haven't been able to go to bowling and do exciting things. Also that diversity, as far as like age and in many different ways, I imagine that it provides unique ways to solve problems as well, which I think a lot of people gloss over.

Gregg Cantor 09:25

It does. I mean, because we have a very wide range of ages were probably about I just counted the other day about half. Female and half male. And like I said, the age spread is wide. So there are things, there are experiences that I have that I can bring to the table, but then there are new ideas that the millennials bring to the table.

Gresham Harkless 09:50

Yeah. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Gregg Cantor 10:02

So, I've been doing a lot of reading and I would say one of the biggest game changers in the last year. Is we read our leadership team, read Traction. The book Traction, and we are implementing all those strategies right now until about a year ago. We didn't even have a leadership team. So, that has just made a huge positive impact on our company.

The other book that I read actually twice is Good to Great and it just makes you kind of like, look through your optics are different and you look at people and you figure out who's in the right seat and who's not.

Gresham Harkless 10:46

Yeah, that makes so much sense. So absolutely love, each of those hacks. And so I want to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a little bit more of a word of wisdom or piece of advice, but it's something I like to say, if you were to hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Gregg Cantor 11:02

On the marketing side, not to pitch. To educate and inform. Not too many businesses make the mistake of either they don't have marketing experience, but they try, or somebody, an agency gives them, pitch that it doesn't really work. It takes the personality. And that's another thing website, make a website personal. I always look at sites that have no personality. You don't know who the principal is. Often there's no staff or anything on it and I look at it from the other side of a consumer that shopping for service or good or whatever, they want to have that feeling that they know who they're working with.

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And so I think the personalization and that's something that it took me time to get, but I do a lot of writing and commentary and I do it in a way where it's not salesy factual. I think that really resonates with people and it builds that trust for up and coming businesses. Another thing I would say is keep your humility. That is to me a mistake that so many people and companies make is they get too arrogant and like I said, too big for their britches.

You always have to remain humble. Never think that you have it figured out 100%. Always be digging and learning and trying to figure out even if a customer says you did great, find out what you could do better.

Gresham Harkless 12:31

Yeah, absolutely. There's always another level and always more that we can do, but a lot of times by having those questions and being open to listening to those things as well too that's where truly great growth and innovation and progression happens.

So absolutely appreciate that.

Gregg Cantor 12:48

So the bad and the ugly, I say.

Gresham Harkless 12:50

Exactly. Be open to it because that's the best way to prove that feedback. So, I want to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show.

So, Gregg what does being a CEO mean to you?

Gregg Cantor 13:04

It's just a very rewarding experience. Leading a team, being side by side with my daughter in a legacy business and my wife also works in the business. Just the feeling that I get being in the community and being able to keep our staff employed during Covid and grow double the size we were before Covid. That's super rewarding. And just having repeat customers and people tell us that we did a job for somebody, and they recommended us those kind of things. That's what it's all about.

And I have to add that, you probably know this, but family businesses have a high failure rate, very high failure rate and the advantage that I have that I greatly appreciate is I went through. Trying to stake my claim and earn my keep and eventually buy the company from my grandfather, but it wasn't easy. And that relationship was not the greatest. He put up a lot of barriers and I can understand because he was getting older and he was trying to keep his place, but I learned a lot from that. And so I will not do that with my daughter.

I've given her a lot of freedom to help us grow and she sometimes steer me down another street. I know that I'm not going to get my butt hurt over it. I know my place and I don't feel excluded or slighted or like I'm getting pushed out.

Gresham Harkless 14:34

Gregg truly appreciate that. I appreciate you for taking time out today. What I want to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best people can get ahold of you find about all the awesome things you, your family and your team are working on.

Gregg Cantor 14:51

What I didn't do that everyone should do is read or listen to books on tape and continue to build your knowledge. And that's what I'm working really hard to keep it going, learn something every day. But the way we can be reached is our website is MurrayLampert.com. We are all over with commentary.

So, if you Google Murray Lampert or Google Gregg Cantor, you'll find all kinds of information about remodeling tips and from design to construction. So, yeah, that's it.

Gresham Harkless 15:25

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Gregg, truly appreciate you again, my friend. We will have the links and information in the show notes as well, too, so that everybody can follow up with you and all the awesome things.

I love that last nugget. I'm going to call it a mountain because you provided so many nuggets and mountains of information that we can learn to get better, but always sharpening the saw and making sure that we are listening to podcasts, we are reading books, doing all those things, but also having people around us that we're willing to listen to allows us to reach that ultimate level.

So thank you so much and taking the lead, of course, your time today. And I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Gregg Cantor 15:59

Thank you. Have a great weekend.

Outro 16:01

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Get your driven CEO gear at ceogear.co don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at blue16media.com.

This has been the IAMCEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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