2010 OFS graduate now uses his small business to mentor others who want to start a career in construction.
Kyle Titley enjoys construction because it puts his mind in a state of flow. He likes working with his hands, staying busy all day, finding creative ways to increase efficiency and seeing the tangible results of a day’s work.
“When customers see that attention to detail and the quality of the work at the end of the day, they’re like, ‘Wow, this guy really cares about his job, not to mention works extremely hard throughout the day and barely takes a break,’” said Titley. “But you know, you don’t need a break when you’re in a flow state where you’re just loving what you’re doing.”
An outlet for a life change
Operation Fresh Start (OFS) sparked Titley’s interest in construction when he was a teenager. He was a participant in 2009-2010, joining at his principal’s recommendation. Titley says high school was not the right pace for him and he got bored easily.
“I got expelled from school and just really needed that discipline in my life – or just an outlet for me to change my life,” Titley recalls.
The OFS format, a mix of classroom education and on-site affordable housing construction, was a good fit for Titley. “The structure of the program and the people that are there – the way they cared about me and lit up with seeing me be successful and grow through all the phases of the program was awesome.”
Pandemic pivot becomes a career
Titley went on to work for Waunakee Remodeling, where he learned to install windows and doors. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he unexpectedly lost his job and had to pivot. He had been dreaming about running his own business and knew he was a driven person who could make it happen.
In August 2020, Titley started his home remodeling business, Exceptional Exteriors, with one of his best friends, who was already a solid tradesman. His company started out just the two of them – and a year and a half later has grown to about a dozen employees. Their work ranges from windows, doors and siding to bathroom remodels.
Titley says his main business goal is to mentor others. He trains his crew to complete different construction tasks, but also focuses on encouraging their personal development and holding himself accountable for being a positive role model. When he sees someone having a tough day, Titley is the person to step in.
“If you’re vibing super high, you’re going to be able to change somebody who’s at a low frequency. You can see it – so just put forth that energy and give them that love. They’ll remember that and they’ll give it back to you when you’re having a tough day.”
Parallels between OFS and running a business
There are lots of parallels between Kyle’s business model and his experience at Operation Fresh Start, which he views as “one of the most pivotal points” of his career – and his life in general.
“OFS taught me some very important skills that helped develop my career and become a business owner down the road. It really got me interested in construction and facilitated my growth extremely fast. I went from going nowhere, to really having a solid attitude and solid principles.”
He mentions Bill Kean, Participant Resource Manager, as one of his most memorable mentors at Operation Fresh Start. “He really saw a lot in me and was like, ‘Man, go crush it,’” Titley recalls.
Titley has fond memories of being out on the worksite as well. He remembers doing attic work in the middle of the summer, sweating profusely until he couldn’t see through his safety glasses. Part of what makes that moment so memorable was that he got through the struggle with the rest of his crew.
“The teambuilding that we experienced at Operation Fresh Start was awesome because you were all from different struggles – and we found a way to work together,” said Titley.
He says he is still in touch with some of the people who were on his construction crew at OFS. “Some of them are realtors, some of them are police officers now, and it’s really cool to see some of the guys have just grown into really awesome humans and we’re just killing it out there.”