- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mark G. Richardson’s job has grown with the fortunes of a company that went from a small Bethesda home remodeler to a nationwide franchise with more than 60 locations.

He began his career creating blueprints for remodeling projects. Twenty-five years later, he is still designing, but the scope of the project is vastly increased.

“The business here is a blueprint; I have a canvas to create with,” said Mr. Richardson, president of Case Design/Remodeling Inc.

The firm has undergone a series of changes since founder and Chief Executive Officer Fred Case began the company with small remodeling jobs from his basement in 1961.

The company has added handyman services, kitchen and bath remodeling and design-build work, which includes both designing a remodeling project and doing the work. Most other companies specialize in either the design or the remodeling, prompting the companies or the clients to hire two separate contractors for the same project.

Mr. Richardson, 50, joined Case Design in 1980, shortly after graduating from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, moving from project manager to assistant vice president to vice president. He was named president of the company in 1996.

Mr. Richardson led the company’s move to include bathrooms into the kitchen remodeling division in 1997 as the number of bathrooms in private homes grew from 0.5 per household in the mid-1900s to nearly three per home on average today. And he was president when the company began opening franchise Case Handyman Services offices in 1997.

Today he is at the helm as the company prepares to open its fourth D.C.-area location in Howard County this summer. Case’s other area locations are in Annapolis, Chantilly and Falls Church.

Mr. Richardson organizes training sessions with employees and tours the company’s large projects about once a month.

Mr. Richardson said remodelers entering a customer’s home need to understand the dynamics of the house and its inhabitants to be successful.

“When it comes to someone’s house, you almost need a therapist as much as you need a contractor,” he said. “They’re living through something scary and for most people their house is their greatest financial asset.”

About a quarter of the time, Mr. Richardson can be found traversing the nation’s airports, checking in on franchise offices in Atlanta, Chicago and 64 other locations.

Mr. Richardson is responsible for overseeing both the local business, which brings in about $50 million in revenue annually, and the national franchise business, which brings in another $60 million.

Mr. Richardson’s day involves a lot of e-mails, phone calls and computer spreadsheets. He no longer sits at the design board or straps on his tool belt as he did when he was first starting in the business, but that’s OK with him.

“The level of fulfillment in what I do is as great as it was back then,” he said.

Mr. Richardson enjoys coaching the seven vice presidents of the company, providing direction on financial matters, strategy and management, and hoping one of them will challenge his own work.

“I’m looking for someone to fire me,” he said with a laugh. “The only way a person can grow is for someone to push me forward.”

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