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Season 4 - Episode 13:

Growth and Giving Back with Josh Temple

Growth and Giving Back with Josh Temple

Episode Summary

Josh Temple is the kind of contractor homeowners naturally trust. He’s built up his bona fides as a construction wizard since the mid-1990s, and has married his passion for home renovation with his background in acting and improv: he’s been the builder on shows like Disaster House on the DIY Network, and the host of NBC’s America’s Toughest Jobs. Josh is also passionate about his work with Boys Town, a residential facility for at-risk youth. In this episode, we talk to Josh about managing clients, knowing when to make a shift, and what happens when you bring multiple skill sets to the table.

Episode Notes

Most contractors get their big break with a high-profile job or a great referral. For Josh Temple, his breakthrough moment was going national on Mazda’s first-ever “Zoom-Zoom” commercial. Josh was a contractor by day, but when a receptionist at his first construction company told him he should try out sketch comedy, he fell in love with improv. His path then became a bit wilder than your average home renovator. “If you get a national commercial, you’re at least buying a car,” he laughs. Josh did double-duty as a construction company project manager and an actor in San Francisco before taking the leap and moving to Hollywood in 1999. 

When he arrived in LA, he didn’t do the usual waiting tables gig: instead, he kept on with construction work. “As I hustled for work, I also learned more and more about construction.” He worked across many trades—HVAC, plumbing, tiling—and while he “was cheap,” he taught himself new skills by reading up on the subject. When home-improvement shows started to gain traction, Josh suddenly found himself uniquely positioned: he was an actor who knew about contracting. “I was literally, like, I don’t know which zebra I am: black stripes or white stripes?”

Since then, Josh has acted on sitcoms like Curb Your Enthusiasm, hosted competition shows, and been the resident contractor on HGTV and DIY Network home-renovation programs. He’s also been the head of his own contracting firm, so he knows all about what the camera doesn’t show. 

Josh is very aware that, like many other industries, contracting has its fair share of what he calls “scam artists:” people who fail to deliver or deliver bad products. While shady operators hurt in every industry, when it’s a home renovation, “the scars run really deep.” Building trust between a contractor doing the work and the client employing them is a major step. As contractors, he says, “we have to look at the other side: it’s their house, their lives, their security.” While the drama might be played up for TV viewing audiences, Josh knows that there’s an inherent imbalance in the relationship. “You might have one chance every twenty years to remodel your kitchen, and you’re talking to someone who remodels them daily.” It’s a lesson in trust-building that entrepreneurs across industries can learn from: how do you prove to your clients on day one that you can be trusted? 

2020 was a whirlwind of competing priorities that “smacked me in the face.” Josh isn’t immune from second-guessing his directions and decisions, and his experiments aren’t always successful. From trying to renovate a house by himself instead of with his usual eight-person crew (“brutal”) to the decision to pause his own contracting firm, it’s been a season of change. 

But it’s not all tough news: Josh has leaned into his passion for Boys Town, a residential organization serving at-risk youth. He works with their Trade Life program to help connect young graduates of the Boys Town facility with careers in the trades. (Josh explains that for at-risk kids who can keep clean records between the ages of 18 to 22, “their chance in life skyrockets. So this was a real easy one for me.”) He’s been involved with the organization since 2012 when he did a PSA for the Boys Town, and he fell in love with the mission. Josh helped them re-launch the Trade Life program and expand it to new industries, including car mechanics, welding, and culinary training. Starting as young as thirteen, kids can try different programs and figure out what works for them. Josh himself donates tools, helps connect the program to tool manufacturers, and raises money. 

Josh’s overarching philosophy isn’t a new one, but it’s a reminder of what can be accomplished through good communication. “Good, fast, and cheap: you can have two, but you can’t have three.” Josh is willing to work with clients on the parameters they set—budget, timeline, scope—but he brings decades of expertise and is able to gently guide them when they want all three. We love this philosophy, and we know we can use it in our own business relationships!