NFBA Crew Foreman of the Month: Customers get more with Leeser

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Karl Leeser does not demand respect; he earns it. As a foreman for Jim’s Building Center, based in Fennimore, Wis., Leeser promotes hard work on the jobsite but is happy to share a good laugh. His dedication to providing excellent customer service and creating an enjoyable work environment is outshined only by his problem-solving skills.

LeeserSome workers at Jim’s Building Center call Karl “Uncle Jesse,” a reference to the character from the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” because Leeser is so knowledgeable and well-respected.

Karl said from the beginning of his work at Jim’s Building Center 29 years ago, owner and close friend Jim Kohlenberg made the expectations clear. “Way back when I first started, someone wanted to install an overhead door and we were having trouble with it,” Leeser said. “So I called Jim to ask what he thought about the situation. He told me, ‘You figure it out. That’s what I pay you for.’”

Karl chuckled at the memory and said that was the first and last time he called Jim for help rather than figuring out how to solve an issue on his own.

Leeser grew up in Wisconsin and worked on his parents’ farm during his formative years. Eventually he took up carpentry, working for various contractors before Kohlenberg asked him to join his company.

Jim’s Building Center does residential, agricultural and commercial construction. Leeser said he’s erected everything from a firehouse to a stall barn to a
single-family home.

John Kohlenberg, Jim’s son and vice president of the company, said Karl’s leadership and contributions to the company have been invaluable. Kohlenberg said recently a crew working on a barn retrofit was having difficulty with the layout. “I pulled Karl from his job and sent him there,” Kohlenberg recalls. “The customer called that day and thanked me for putting Karl on his job. He said everyone was less stressed and got a lot more done.”

Leeser simply hates having to do things twice. “The goal is always to make the customer happy,” he said. “This person is paying my wages in the long run, and they have to live with what we build. I try to do everything the way I would do it for myself.”

Kohlenberg added that Karl, 69, is not afraid to get his hands dirty, and he’s often right beside the workers putting in a hard day’s work. “I never ask any of the workers to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” Leeser said.

Kohlenberg has the unique perspective of having worked under Leeser and now managing him. John started out his career as a laborer and said that Karl was an excellent mentor.

Leeser said it’s important to foster an atmosphere in which self-sufficient workers with a positive attitude can thrive. “My motto is, if you want to get the most out of the guys, you’ve got to get them to like you. If they like you, they’ll work hard for you.” 

Nominate the next winner
Give a crew leader a bonus — recognition in Frame Building News and a $100 check compliments of American Building Components. One winner will be named Foreman of the Year and will receive $500 at the Frame Building Expo next month in Memphis.

letter to:
National Frame Building Association
Attn: Awards
4700 W. Lake Avenue
Glenview IL 60025

or email: awards@nfba.org

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