10 Questions with ... Eric Stromer
October 9, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Actor; founderm Big House Construction; Contractor on TLC's "Clean Sweep" and NBC's "Three Wishes"; Host, HGTV's "Over Your Head" and A&E's "Hideous Houses"; Host, AOL and GMC's "Home Improvement with Eric Stromer"; Author, "Do-It-Yourself Family" (Random House/Bantam Dell); Columnist, LA Parent; Spokesman, Sears Craftsman tools; Regular guest, Adam Carolla Show. Also recording artist.
1. Starting from the beginning, what started you on the construction/home improvement road -- was is something you always loved or something you picked up along the way (and why)?
Construction and design came to me early. I grew up learning from my parents how to work together toward a common goal. My Mom and Dad were the original Do-It-Yourself-ers. We grew up in a rental apartment in Evanston, Illinois, and were constantly re-decorating our spaces. I was dragged through furniture stores, hardware and paint departments and art galleries, while most kids were out playing Little League. I associated family time with learning how to wallpaper my room. I think a great way to get to know your kids is through working on chores together. No one really has to say much, but in the time it takes to paint a room together, you have pretty much figured out who that person is and what makes them tick. Needless to say, through all the slave labor I was forced to do as a kid, I think we grew to know each other very well. As a matter of fact, I spent five hours last night painting my 14-year-old son Wyatt's room with him. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree!
2. How did you make your move into media? Was doing home improvement stuff on radio and TV always part of the plan?
Home improvement television and radio were never part of the plan. I was cast as a dumb looking football player (type casting when I was in High School) by a guy name Joe Sedelmaier ,who at the time was making all these Wendy's "Where's the Beef" commercials using real people in a funny way. At 18, I got an agent and that led to years of trying to be an actor. I was actually killed in a tragic, Styrofoam boulder earthquake on the soap "Santa Barbara" in the '80s. When the make-up artist puts soot-looking make-up on your face before your scene is about to shoot, I can pretty much assure you that you're about to be fired! As fate would have it, I died that day. That afternoon, I found myself pushing a shopping cart filled with paint supplies from door to door of my apartment complex in Santa Monica knocking on doors saying, "Hi, I've got Navy, Navajo, White or Tan. I'll paint your apartment for $300.00 bucks!" That was the start of taking what I knew as a kid and making it a business.
From there, I built my construction business and was on my way. For the next 20 years I became "Contractor to the Stars" in Los Angeles . I was minding my own business when suddenly, out of nowhere, a woman walked out of an office where I was to meet a friend and asked, "Are you here for the audition?" And for some reason I said, "Why yes, I am." That led to my first job as a TV contractor on the show "Clean Sweep" on TLC.
3. You host the radio show, do TV, write, play music, and have a family. How do you find time to do everything -- how do you manage your time?
I always seemed do better when I had a crazy amount of stuff on my plate. Family life reminds me of contracting. You always have to "service" your client, (Wife) "manage" your subcontractors, (Children) and nothing ever goes as planned, (Life). I have a crazy amount of energy and man... do I love coffee!
4. Regarding the radio show, what's it been like for you to work with Cindy? How do you see your roles on the show, and what are the best and worst (if there are any) things about working with her?
Cindy Dole is amazingly generous, hardworking, and professional. There are very few pivotal moments in life. Meeting Cindy was one of just a handful of those moments. We hit it off when I was a guest on her show several years ago and decided to entertain the possibility of working together as a team. We had both been through the wringer in other business opportunities that soured us to working for, "The Man." We wanted to move toward ownership of our brand and not be beholden to outside influences. The TV business has so many moving parts and can take forever to get things done. I came from a business-owner's perspective as a contractor and really missed that feeling. Cindy and I both share that entrepreneurial spirit and are moved to a lathered frenzy just by the idea of possibility. I found a partner that is crazy enough to put it all on the line, take calculated risks, and not be afraid to fail. I'm really lucky to know her.
5. How do you use social media (Twitter and Facebook) in conjunction with your show and career -- how do you see it, if at all, working with everything you do?
Social media has changed everything! As it pertains to media, I started a program with GMC and AOL 6 years ago called GMC Trade secrets. Through social media, we have been able to reach millions of people with Home improvement tips that can actually convert to sales. We have been very focused at www.YourHomeWizards.com to have a targeted focus on all we do as it pertains to brands, listeners, and how we can introduce the two to each other in an organic way that feels like everybody wins. Facebook and Twitter changed the way we do business. Now there is a measurable way to quantify trends, sales, popularity, etc... Hey...Follow us on Facebook and check out www.yourhomewizards.com! See... It works!
6. Of what are you most proud?
I am most proud of my family. Best thing I ever did! Family is the barometer that informs all my decisions.
7. Who do you consider your mentors and inspirations in radio and in life?
My mentors in radio are Cindy Dole, David G. Hall, Rosemary Hernandez, Valerie Blackburn, and Andy Ludlum, but also people I never knew like David Viscott and Michael Jackson (radio guy, not "Smooth Criminal" guy, although I do love his music). David Viscott and Michael Jackson used to get me through my construction jobs. I would actually only cut lumber during commercials because I was so entertained by their shows, I didn't want to miss a thing. Viscott had a great way of relating to his callers from the psychology perspective that was both firm and loving at the same time. He could quickly get into the head of the caller and we all heard where he was going before the caller did. A masterful decoder of the human condition. Michael Jackson seemed like David Niven in a spy movie. He was your entree into the world of smart discourse like you were at a fancy party on the French Riviera. My mentors in life: my parents. Married 52 years and still trying to be better. Total and complete inspiration to me!
8. What's the one thing about home improvement most people screw up -- when should they do it themselves and when should they go with an expert?
Most people screw up when they don't plan their time assessment of a home improvement project. All this stuff always takes longer than you think. That's where getting demoralized happens. Once you feel demoralized, all progress stops and the chain reaction occurs. This is where half painted houses, unfinished bathrooms, and half- assed kitchen remodels take you down into the place where your spouse literally hates you! Fail to plan, plan to fail. I know I know, it sounds cheesy but I've seen it a million times and believe me I know. Do your homework! Research what you want to do on line. There are so many great resources to get information from. I always tell folks, don't mess with plumbing, electrical, or structural if you don't know your stuff. Better to call a pro if you have concerns. Even through an estimate from a pro you might find answers you're looking for.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
...coffee! I actually would consider myself a coffee nerd. I make my own cappuccinos. I have studied the baristas at a coffee place called Intelligentsia at Sunset Junction in Los Angeles. I have gone to YouTube to watch videos on how to get that perfect shot of espresso and foam up silky milk. I bought a great espresso machine and burr coffee grinder. Crazy? Maybe... Energetic and able to get many things done everyday? Hell to the yes!!!
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten?
The best advice I ever got was from my Dad. I was twenty-three and flailing as a human being. He said, "Eric... Just do something!" Those few words registered with me in a profound way. First, it made me realize that I felt embarrassed even seeking my Dad's advice because I really wasn't doing anything. Second, sometimes it's imperative that you just try anything in order to get you off of yourself and see a fresh perspective. And third, like Chauncey Gardiner from the movie, "Being There" with Peter Sellers, there is a genius to receiving general, simple information that you apply to your own, in my case pathetic life at the time. Great advice can only be heard when you're ready to hear it and you trust the person giving it to you. Speaking of great advice... Check out Home Wizards. If you're ready to hear it, we're ready to give it!