Next month we'll be running a final column by, sad to say, the late Richard Kaller. In April Richard passed away suddenly. He was 60.

Richard's family owned and ran an assortment of roofing companies in the Philadelphia area. He knew and understood the home improvement business in a way that was both complete and unique. Complete because his knowledge included all phases of marketing, selling, personnel management, installation, and financials; unique because Richard invested all this with an enthusiasm bordering on passion. He was thoughtful, spirited, often intense, and invariably engaging.

A casual phone conversation with Richard never lasted less than an hour, rarely less than two. It didn't take much to get him talking. His mind moved continually over a range of topics and ideas, any one of which could set off a torrent of conversation.

Richard's infectious enthusiasm and his keen vision helped put in place and propel the contractor peer group he founded, Certified Contractors Network. The idea behind many CCN exercises was to transform its member home improvement contractor, in the homeowner's mind, into The Wizard, i.e., the person who could solve that homeowner's problems, be it a leaky roof, bad windows, or crumbling siding.

The Wizard, in Richard's view, was the contractor who combined installation and product knowledge with personal integrity and selling skills to earn the homeowner's total trust and confidence. His message? Forget about clever closes. Transform yourself into a Wizard, and you can't help but get a signature on that siding or window job, plus a passel of referrals when the work's done.

Richard was also keenly attuned to the changing American demographic of older, smarter, time-strapped consumers. He argued that home improvement contractors must adjust their marketing and sales methods to the information age, the age of two-income households, and the Internet. He was, in his way, the anti-tin man. He had doubters as well as disciples. Many of his ideas ran contrary to traditional methods. But they didn't fail to attract interest. His afternoon presentation at the REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR Executive Conference in Orlando, Fla., a year and a half ago, on multi-step closing, drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Richard Kaller was someone with a restless mind and an eye on the future. Many CCN members would attest to the depth of his knowledge and his eagerness to share it. After our next issue, readers of this magazine will be a little poorer for want of his insights.

Jim Cory