Woodcraft Profiles: Danny LipfordComments (0)
The Little Jigsaw That Could
When young Danny Lipford saved his allowance to purchase his first electric jigsaw from a mail-order catalog, his parents couldn’t have dreamed that he would go on to become “America’s Home Improvement Expert.” That purchase at nine years old began his journey into home renovations, even starting his own remodeling business at age 21. Lipford Construction is still going strong, celebrating its 40th year in 2018.
“My father really showed me a lot of things about repairing things around the house and also he loved building little pieces of furniture,” Danny recalled. “I really kind of got the bug to the point that I had to save some money to buy my first power tool. Of course back then you had the old Sears and Roebuck catalogs that you would look through and I found this little jigsaw.” Earning a quarter for every time he swept the family’s long concrete driveway at their home in Marianna, Florida, he said, “It took me a while of sweeping to get to my $11.41 that I needed. I’m even surprised still today that they allowed me to buy this pretty aggressive saw, but I can remember waiting every day at the mailbox for my little saw to come in.” He proudly displays that little saw on the wall in his shop as a symbol of his humble beginnings.
Building A Business
After graduating from high school, Danny moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he still lives, to attend the University of South Alabama as a business major. As a young college student, he and his buddies would often take long road trips during breaks “back when gasoline was less than a dollar” and go backpacking. On one of those trips, around the first of August 1978, he had an epiphany while riding in the back of the pickup watching the scenery go by. “All of a sudden it hit me that I was pretty good at repairing things and I had a pretty good business mind so what would it take for me to go into business for myself?” Writing his thoughts on a blank page in his travel journal, he said, “I laid out my plan right then and the words were flowing like crazy and all of a sudden, it hit me. I’m going in business for myself, and I’m going to start a handyman business.” Three weeks later he had resigned from his part-time job doing home repairs and had bought a business license, officially launching Lipford Construction on August 28.
He did all kinds of work from electrical to plumbing to concrete, adding employees and growing the company as he went. He immersed himself in trade magazines and trade shows, educating himself “way before websites” by networking at conventions in order to make sure his company was professional quality. “To separate myself from the pack, one of the things I realized was that nobody called themselves a remodeler. I saw that as a way that I could really stand alone,” Danny said. “People needed remodeling so I said that I was a remodeling contractor. Over the years it became very synonymous with my name related to professional quality remodeling.”
A Star is Born
Another way he built a solid reputation was getting in front of groups of homeowners as much as he could, speaking at garden clubs, attending home and garden shows and builder shows, and giving seminars. Danny recalls a prophetic conversation in 1988 that ended up launching his TV career. “One day someone came up to me and said ‘hey, you can talk pretty well, why don’t you be one of our guests on a new show we’re doing on a cable access channel?’” he said. When the host abruptly quit a week before the show was to premiere, he agreed to step in as long as it didn’t cost him anything. Nope, in fact they paid him $100 a week to host Better Living live every Monday night and answer call-in questions. They did that for 81 Mondays in a row.
Eventually Danny made the leap from a studio show to taking the camera out to jobsites. “I had all these remodeling projects going on all over town. So I thought that instead of sitting there talking about them and showing pictures, we’d start going out on location,” he told Mike Dumas in a Q&A series for the 20th anniversary of Today’s Homeowner. “Back then, cameras were gigantic, and you had a big tape deck slung over your shoulder. Logistically it was very taxing and limiting on what you could do. Now, we have drones and GoPro cameras, and you can show many interesting angles. Then it was just a giant studio camera kit. The show leaped forward on the quality and the audience, because all of a sudden it was a real home improvement show but it was from Mobile, Alabama.”
That exposure further propelled his business and changed the original focus of the show from decorating and décor to remodeling and home improvement with Danny’s expertise. His business tripled overnight. He said the mindset in the area seemed to be, “That guy’s on TV, he must be an expert and he must be good.” Better Living became Remodeling Today and achieved national syndication in 1998 as Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford.
Danny found that the show got the best response when they featured common household projects like updating the shower or installing a backsplash vs. a big-budget job. “That’s one of the early signs of the direction we needed to go and it’s still true today. People love it when we’re in kitchens and bathrooms,” he said. Household questions are very universal. “It doesn’t matter where you live or what type of house or your income or your occupation, you can still have questions about home improvement.”
Danny’s Three Echoes
The Today’s Homeowner brand continued to grow, as did Danny’s family. During those early years, Danny married wife Sharon, who does accounting for the company, and the couple soon welcomed their “three echoes” in the years to follow – daughters Chelsea, Melanie and Emily. That moniker was used when Danny created 3 Echoes Productions in 1997, in part because he wasn’t happy with the company that was producing his show. Now 3 Echoes also works with national and regional clients to create product videos, how-to’s, commercials and corporate videos.
Radio came next when Danny had the opportunity to take over an existing radio show after acquaintance Don Zeman, founder and host of Homefront Radio Show, passed away unexpectedly in 2008. Ironically, Danny had just made the decision to add radio to the Today’s Homeowner umbrella, making him the only home improvement brand with a TV show, a radio show and a website. Today Danny is joined on the 2-hour weekly show with co-host Joe Truini (pictured above with Danny in the studio), also a home improvement expert, seasoned contractor and accomplished author, as they answer callers’ questions and provide realistic, practical advice for the home.
Checking in with Chelsea is the most recent addition to the lineup, a web series by oldest daughter Chelsea Lipford Wolf. Chelsea is a décor and lifestyle blogger who grew up working alongside her father and also co-hosts Today’s Homeowner with him. As Danny reflected on his journey over the last four decades, he said, “One of the highlights along the way has been the introduction, evolution and prospering of my daughter Chelsea’s involvement with the brand. Starting as a behind-the-scenes associate producer to a full-fledged co-host of the national show and her own web series is something she did without the need of a lot of help from me. She’s a remarkable girl.” (Read Chelsea’s Woodcraft Profile “Destined to DIY” here.)
The Go-To Guy
All in all, the goal is still the same: “We try to take the mystery out of improving your home,” Danny said. Early on, he knew becoming successful would take a lot of hard work. Forty years ago he was a one-man operation and today his extensive knowledge makes him the go-to source for all things home-related. He has served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. He has made nearly 200 national television appearances outside his own show, including Fox & Friends, CNN and Inside Edition, helping homeowners with advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping them prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.
Another way Danny helps his viewers
and listeners is to point them in the right direction for tools and supplies. "It’s
a great fit for us to share the many offerings of Woodcraft retail stores and
Woodcraft.com with our audience of home enthusiasts. We hear great feedback
often from those who already have a great love for woodworking, but also from
fans who are enlightened, and often inspired, by all that Woodcraft has to
offer to the everyday homeowner. I hope you’ll stop by, in person or online,
for a little inspiration of your own!”
2018 is a banner year for Danny and his team: 40 years of Lipford Construction, 30 years on television, 20 years on national TV with Today’s Homeowner and 10 years on the radio. What’s next for Today’s Homeowner ? Danny’s goal is to continue building on that extensive framework to share practical and meaningful information to homeowners.
One thing he’s really proud of is the fact that he listened really well along the way to his instincts as well as what problems viewers and listeners wanted help with. As for us and tons of fans, we’re so glad Danny’s parents listened to that young lad’s request to get that little saw so many years ago that started it all.
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