De Pereman’s craft business develops and grows


It’s not hard to imagine how De Pere’s Keith Reignier qualified as a handyman. For him, training began very early.

“When I was 10 years old, I started working on a neighbor’s farm in Lena,” Reignier said. “I worked there for eight years – milked cows, collected stones from the field, gave tours of the farm, baled hay, built farm buildings, learned to weld, plumb and all trades.”

Although his family’s farm was small, his neighbor’s farm was huge. That meant almost endless learning opportunities. Over the years, Reignier found that he enjoyed repairing and building things and considered using these skills in the future as a business owner. He didn’t mind the long hours and learned the value of hard work.

“I was super motivated too,” he said.

After graduating from high school and a one-year job as a craftsman, he was ready to set up his own business. In 2001 he started Keith’s Handyman and Tree Service. The business started out offering basic repairs, but as customers requested services, the list grew. If he didn’t know something, he learned it. And learned well.

He earned a general contractor license and began driving the business forward. When he had a request for landscaping, he added it. If someone needed a deck, they built it. Despite this, the business grew more slowly than he would have liked. Shortly thereafter came a big pause in the form of a huge tree.

“There was a huge cottonwood tree that none of the other tree services would cut down,” he explained. “It had a seven foot wide base with an undulating root system and it was right next to a house. There I was, 80 feet in the air, coiling a cable and using a chainsaw. It took a huge crane to support the tree. But I took a risk and the tree fell without damaging the house.”

Not only was it one of his proudest moments, it was a $9,000 job that helped make his company a name. The marketing continued as he knocked on doors and asked people if they had work they needed to do.

He would ask, “Do you need to replace a roof? Built a garage? Windows replaced?”

These requests brought jobs, and combined with Yellow Pages ads and word of mouth, his business prospered. Real estate investors had him remodel homes to flip, and homeowners had him do just about every job imaginable.

“My business card says I’m ‘jack of all trades,'” he said. “I can do anything to do with a house, from chimney work to window cleaning to landscaping, plumbing, plastering; anything you can imagine.”

He’s proud to say that it’s the quality and affordability of the work that drives people to support the business. Although he still does much of the work and oversees all jobs, his business has grown to the point where he now has a crew of eight other handymen. With fall being the busiest time of year, he says his schedule is packed with clients who want to get work done before the cold sets in.

You won’t find him on social media because his schedule is so busy.

“My biggest weakness is not being able to turn down a job,” he said. “Right now I’m fully booked for about 20 clients in winter and spring and I don’t want to be overly stressed. But I’m a friendly guy and I like to help people.”

Though there are hundreds of handyman services, he says his business has grown because of his reputation for a job well done. He can’t imagine a time when he won’t own a business, but he would love to expand into investment property and fix mistakes he made on his first try.

These mistakes happened when he was working for other investors and thought he could do it himself. He realized he made some mistakes when he first started investing. He has failed to check tenants’ backgrounds and says he is bad with money.

“I was young,” Reignier said. “I focused on the money I could make and it was a tough lesson.”

After amassing real estate, he lost it in bankruptcy. It was an experience he doesn’t want to repeat. He now looks at real estate in terms of building equity while managing it well. At some point he hopes to have a thriving real estate portfolio alongside the ongoing business.

That means more employees; He faces the same challenges as other companies when it comes to finding qualified help. He wants to be able to keep the prices affordable and the business staffed.

“I try to be fair in everything I do. I do free estimates and prices are based on the job. There are many things that go into an offer like the cost of permits and the distance we have to travel. With equal jobs, there’s also the added element of danger,” Reignier said.

The danger most often takes the form of cutting down trees. He has an experience where a chainsaw slipped and pierced his pant leg.

“I put duct tape over the injury and kept going,” he said. “I have a lot of courage”

He also says that he found success by learning from mistakes, caring about customers, being very business oriented and willing to tackle almost any task. He was asked if he would not do something.

“I don’t babysit,” he said.

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is a co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and Past District Director for SCORE, Wisconsin.


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