If you ask Philip Calinda, Jr., CGB, CAPS, CGP, GMB, GMR, CGR, to describe himself, he will likely refer to himself as a “muddy boots builder.” He explains he likes being out on jobsites and personally running things for Millennium Custom Homes, based in Livingston, N.J. He credits his success to passion for the industry.
It all started when Calinda was 13 and spent his Saturdays picking up nails on jobsites for cash. A work program in high school then launched what would become a 35-year career with a building company. Millennium Custom Homes launched seven years ago with the help of his former company, who did not understand the renovation side of business. “Because of my background doing track homes, doing retail, schools, tunnels, bridges and everything, I’m more flexible than most because I’m not afraid,” Calinda says. “If you want paperwork, I’m not your guy. If you want something built and you want it to last, be styled and be right, then I’m the guy. If you want all the fluff and the glitter, you’re paying for that. Here we are streamlined, down and dirty, and working for our money.”
His work for the building company taught him to multitask. “You don’t have just one contractor around a house at a time or one tradesperson around a house. You put multiple people and trades out, and you manage those people in there,” he continues. “One of the things I tell my homeowners and my own people is that we’re a team. And if we’re not a team, then I shouldn’t work for you or we shouldn’t be working together. The team aspect is very important to a customer — they want to hear that.”
Arguably, Calinda’s team philosophy can also be applied to his viewpoint on the industry at large, especially his relation to trade associations. An active participant in the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) on multiple levels, he is currently serving as sitting president of his local builders’ association, the Metropolitan Builders and Contractors Association of New Jersey, and reiterates the importance of education in his backstory.
“Educational opportunities are the reasons why I’m in business. I meet great people at those courses and become lifelong friends and lifelong mentors. I could pick up the phone and call a gentleman in every state in the U.S., so my resources have become huge and vast,” Calinda says. “I can pick up the phone right now, call someone in another state and have an answer for a solution. Money can’t buy that — that’s bought through connections.”
Such connections include mentors throughout the industry. “I’m one of the guys who has taken advantage of mentors his whole life,” he says. “I’ve had great mentors, and that’s what makes me me.” He is quick to mention Howard Schwartz, owner of BNE Real Estate, and Bill Asdal, owner of Asdal Builders, as mentors — oldest and newest respectively. “I could pick up the phone and contact my mentors at any time. I throw a lot of value at them, and they throw a lot of value at me,” Calinda explains. “I have strengths they don’t, and they have strengths that I don’t so we utilize it.”
His personal drive for self-betterment through the NAHB certification programs and work with mentors form the basis for his aspiration for the remodeling industry down the road. “Metaphorically, there’s three baseball fields out there. So I consider myself a Major League player, but half the times I’m bidding against remodelers who would be PAL players. I think the playing field has to become even through some sort of certification requirement across the U.S. through an association — because the government can’t oversee it. I think it would benefit homeowners, and there would be less issues out there with bad contractors,” Calinda says. “I think it would benefit homeowners, and there would be fewer issues out there with bad contractors.” Such a program existed in New Jersey during the 1980s, he comments, requiring contractors to be part of a builders’ association in order to be able to issue home warranties. “It helped the builders’ associated, but it brought together a lot of people in the same industry and made people better, in my opinion,” he says. “I like to see everybody be a part of the association to get the knowledge of what they’re building. I went there and expanded myself. Being part of the association brought out talents in me.”
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