Becoming an Employer of Choice

It’s 4:15 on Wednesday afternoon. Your production manager, who’s been with you for more than 18 years, walks into your office and gives you notice that he’s retiring at the end of the month. While it’s not a complete surprise, the timing was much sooner than you expected. However, he says concerns about his health made his decision more immediate.

So you’ve just added “hiring a production manager” to your list of tasks and responsibilities.

While you have to fit it in among your many other duties and project, it’s a critical task. Everyone agrees that hiring just the right person is critical for the company. So you plunge into the hiring process by putting together an updated job description, placing ads, spreading the word, and hoping the right person is available at the exact time you need them. It could be weeks or months before you fill that position. 

Get Better Odds

By contrast, you’d never wait until you were just about out of projects to begin marketing your company and looking for new customers. Even when your company has plenty of work, you continue your marketing efforts and strategy, getting your message out and keeping lists of potential customers for the future. 

Remodeling companies should approach recruiting the same way.

Marketing as an Employer

Business owners should brand and market their company as an “employer of choice,” always looking for talented people that could really add to the team. The company should be able to articulate why it’s an attractive place to work as a complement to its marketing outreach for new clients. 

The good news is that if you’re already marketing your company to clients through your website, social media channels, and other functions, you’re already in a strong recruiting position. People want to work for successful companies. If you’re featuring endorsements of your work for happy clients, use that model to feature happy employees through testimonials about working at your company. Shine a light on fun team outings or celebrations. Work on your company culture and your employees will be your best recruiting tool, in person and through your marketing.

Fill the Funnel

It’s a much better scenario to have a file of people that would love to come to work for the company, with the ability to reach out to one of them as soon as you know the production manager position is opening up. 

Companies should continually work to market themselves as an employer of choice. You should have your own unique selling proposition for recruiting, detailing why a person would want to work with you, and about your company’s culture. The importance of making key hires when needed can make all the difference in the life of an organization. This is a key strategy for growing a successful company.

“Goals to Actions, Actions to Results”Charting Your Course for 2020
with Doug Howard

Join us on Monday, January 27th as Doug walks you through 6 easy-to-implement strategies, focused on moving your company from a 5-year plan to annual goals, to projects and most importantly, to measurable results for the coming year. Click Here for More Information + Registration >>

4 Ways Your Company Culture Will Help You “Hook” New Employees

As we prepare to meet at the Annual Remodelers Summit in September, we are focusing our presentations, content, and discussions on business growth — and what it takes to take your business to the next level.

In today’s tough labor market that discussion undoubtedly turns to finding and keeping good employees. I found this article on Inc. and I think it hits on some great points on leading with your company’s culture.

Great, because if a prospective employee isn’t attracted to your company and looking to jump on board based on your culture, they’re likely not a great fit anyway. By leading with your company’s culture and personality, you make more of an impact on prospective team members than competitors who use more traditional means.

These four strategies include:

1. Highlighting Employee Stories

Think of this as an internal testimonial. You can talk all day long about how great your company is, but what prospects really want to know is, “what’s it like to work here?” No better way than to let your team share their thoughts and experiences.

The Inc. article describes a Culture Book, but the same can be achieved by dedicating a few pages of your website or blog to the effort with videos, photos of company events, team member profiles, or community involvement.

The easiest way to build this into your recruitment/interviewing process is to include team members who are willing to meet with prospects to tell them their story, answer questions, etc.

2. Change the Setting

Interviewing and meeting prospective team members is a less formal setting allows you to get a better read on how a prospect handles different social situations, and it allows the prospect to get a better view into your team’s personality and culture. Grab coffee, invite them to an after-work social hour, or perhaps include them in a community-based event.

3. No Pop Quizzes

We are HUGE believers in personality/performance analysis and testing (DISC) however use them as a qualification tool prior to meeting versus interrupting the interview and consideration process for either your company or the prospect.

4. Show Them That You “Walk the Talk”

As you describe or show prospects your culture and brand personality, show them how you implement it, or perhaps your team members can build it into their respective stories. For example, if you have an employee recognition program, SHOW it.. Dedicated parking? Wall of fame? Images from an incentive trip? Show them first-hand how it is used.

Recruiting and finding the RIGHT hires can be as challenging as finding new clients, maybe even harder. Put your marketing and sales hat on and build a recruiting/hiring process that separates your company from the rest.

Team building and Company Growth are the main themes of both the Annual Remodelers Summit and the 2019 Production Conference, immediately following the Summit on Thursday, September 26. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry.

Successful Team Building Starts at the Top

Almost every organization, at one time or another, talks about their workforce as a team. It sounds friendlier, and puts less emphasis on differences in roles and jobs. But not every company works as a team, getting better results, and lessening friction.

It’s more than a feel-good term, and if your remodeling company isn’t running as smoothly as it should, refreshing yourself on the principles of teamwork can make a big difference. As you continue to face labor shortages in the industry, creating a cohesive team can allow you to do more with less, avoid burnout for you and your employees, and make positive changes in your company culture.

From the Top

Any team needs leadership — without it, you’ve got a loose group of personalities who may or may not find a way to work together well. As a team leader and builder, your first steps are to establish relationships based on trust and loyalty. If you trust your team, as individuals and as a whole, they’ll trust you.

Herding Cats

As we’ve all heard, there is no “I” in team — there are a lot of them. You have to manage all those individuals to bring them together. As a manager or owner, you’ve got to get in the weeds and mediate and resolve conflict between individuals, keeping them pointed toward larger collective goals.

The University of California Berkeley recommends delegating problem-solving tasks to your employees to encourage collaboration and helping them feel part of a whole. At first, it may take a little more time to get a decision than if it was made unilaterally, which is why many avoid it.  Over time, however, the process will become second-nature — and take some of the little stuff off your hands so you can concentrate on longer term goals and how to get there.

Taking Measure

You’re probably already doing individual performance reviews, but one of the best ways to establish and encourage teamwork is by establishing team values, setting team goals, and evaluating your team’s performance as a group. Look at:

  • Why it’s important to do their jobs well
  • Define what success as a team looks like
  • What it means to live your team’s values

Encourage Listening & Debate

To get your employees to come together, you have to remember that they may all be a little scared to speak up, for fear of offending you, the boss, or making waves with their co-workers. Others may tend to come in like a bulldozer. By encouraging them to brainstorm together and work through conflict to reach the best decisions, you inspire their creativity.

As a leader, your first priority in getting to a team decision is to stimulate the debate. Remember that employees are often afraid to disagree with one another and that this fear can lead your team to make mediocre decisions. When you encourage debate you inspire creativity and that’s how you’ll spur your team on to better results.

If you need to brush up on your leadership skills to build and run your team, many of our Roundtables members, facilitators, and podcast guests recommend The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni.

[Podcast] Episode 53: Growing a Company from Stage 3 to Stage 4 with Jef Forward

There are five stages of company growth, according to Judith Miller, one of our consultants and facilitators. Transitioning from Stage 3 to Stage 4 is one of the more complex. It takes a substantial shift in the owner’s responsibilities and skill sets. It can result in a much higher job satisfaction level, financial return, and working much less.

In this episode, Jef Forward explains how he managed this tricky move to Victoria and Mark. It’s a process he planned and implemented over years, and it had challenges and surprises for everyone in the organization.

Jef is a co-owner with his wife, Monica, of Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor, MI. Jef has participated in Roundtables at Remodelers Advantage for many years, and is now a member of Mentor FOR. Over the last six years, they have had substantial growth in the business and increased customer satisfaction and net profits through a team approach.

Jef talks about how the process has worked for his company, and what it takes to get there. It demanded a great deal of self-reflection on his part, as he moved out of the role of doer to teacher and had to become a better leader. He talks about understanding your priorities and how they might shift, and getting buy-in from your team, including:

  • Your company culture
  • Working the plan
  • Getting accurate feedback
  • Letting people fail, and teaching from that
  • Becoming a proactive, not reactive company
  • Why it’s not all about you
  • And much more…

Regardless of the growth stage of your company, Jef’s got workable advice to make your business and life better and more rewarding.

Some Background Info

If you want to brush up on Judith Miller’s stages of growth as discussed in the episode, here’s the article.

For more explanation of the DISC profile and what it can do for your business, listen to Episode 45: Using Tools to Find the Best Talent with Rick Bowers.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 53 >>

[Podcast] Episode 49: How, Who, and Why to Build a Leadership Team with Steve Barkhouse

You’re not running a successful company unless you have a good work/life balance. But there’s only one way to sustainably grow your company without sacrificing your life, and that’s by having a strong leadership team.

Steve Barkhouse stops by to give Victoria and Mark a crash course in how and why you should have a leadership team — and who should be on it.

Steve is the president and co-owner of Amsted Design-Build in Ottawa, ON. Steve has a well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful, logical, and caring business owner. Steve founded the company in 1989, and it now produces  over $10 million annually. He’s a long-time member of our top-performing Roundtables group, and the recipient of the 2018 Remodelers Advantage Impact Award.

Steve and his co-owner decided to start a leadership team at their owners retreat about a year ago. They researched the different models, and picked the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Steve talks about why EOS was the right fit for Amsted, and also about the other systems they didn’t pick. He details their process, including:

  • The differences between a leadership team and a management team
  • The importance of having a facilitator
  • How they picked their leadership team and got lucky
  • The six benefits of a leadership team
  • How often they meet
  • Who runs the meetings
  • What the agenda is
  • And a whole lot more…

Forming the leadership team was the best decision he ever made. “Outside of joining Remodelers Advantage, of course,” he says.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 49 >>

[Podcast] Episode 48: How to Hit Healthy Net Profits in any Economic Climate with Mike Medford Sr.

One of our core principles is that remodeling companies should make a good net profit, after paying the owners an above-average salary. When the economy’s booming, you can get away with a lot and still hit those goals, sometimes by accident. But the goal is to get those healthy net profits consistently, year after year, even in a downturn.

In this episode, Mike Medford Sr. talks to Victoria and Mark about how to do just that. Before seeing the metrics of the Top Ten Roundtables members a few years ago, Mike says his financials were always in flux. But then he took those figures and made them hard targets.

Mike Medford Sr. has been a home remodeling contractor for over 40 years. In 2007, he partnered with his son, Mike Jr. to form what is now Medford Design Build, with offices in Colleyville and Arlington, TX. Mike Sr. is the president of Medford Design Build.

Mike challenged himself and his team to hit the new fixed targets. He refined their processes, and challenged his team to hit those targets. By the next quarterly meeting, the company’s profits were rising. He talks about how he and his team made it happen, including:

  • Creating a profit-centric culture
  • How net profits will help you beat the labor shortage
  • Focusing your staff on gross profit
  • The importance of open books to the process
  • Setting up a bonus structure
  • Building time in to plan
  • And more…

Mike also talks about getting back to the art of contracting and how important that is to your margins.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 48 >>

[Podcast] Episode 42: How and When To Hire a General Manager with Aaron Enfinger

As companies experience growth, there are tipping points where changes need to be made. One of those points is when you realize you need additional management for the organization. Many remodelers are considering adding a General Manager, but are unsure how it will work in practice.

The Cleary Company of Columbus, OH, reached this tipping point in the Development Department in the Fall of 2016. The company was changing rapidly, adding staff, and stressing the existing systems in place. Things were getting bogged down. Owner George Cleary promoted Aaron Enfinger from Production Manager to GM to step in the gap. He’s currently wearing both hats while searching for his successor as PM.

In this episode, Aaron talks to Victoria and Mark about his experiences in taking over his new role and what it’s meant for the company. While Aaron oversees the operations, George has more time for business development and long-term planning.

The decision to add an overlay of management was caused by three factors, says Aaron. The staff was stressed by the workload, they were having trouble getting projects through the different phases of the job, and steps were being skipped in previously reliable systems because of the rush to get jobs to production. He talks about what his job entails, and some of the challenges, including:

  • Keeping the owner in the mix
  • How to not overload a GM
  • Managing people outside of your own job experience, like designers or marketers
  • Creating new positions to help streamline processes
  • Why to hire from within (if you can)
  • Working with the owner (or CEO)
  • The benefits of a walking meeting
  • Small picture vs. big picture thinking
  • And more…

As promised in the podcast, here’s the link to Aaron’s appearance on The Tim Faller Show, where he outlined his approach to creating a master schedule to control the flow of jobs through the pipeline.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 42 >>


Extreme Makeover: Business Edition

As Mark and Victoria mentioned in this episode, the Extreme Makeover: Business Edition, Jan. 29-30, 2019, is filling up fast — and Super Early Bird Pricing ends this Friday, November 30th.
Click Here for More Information & Registration 


Maintaining a Strong Company Culture as You Grow

Company culture — we talk about it frequently in our Podcasts, PowerTips Blog posts and in the Roundtables meetings with our members. It’s an important factor in attracting new employees, and in keeping your existing staff happy and productive.

A good company culture encourages growth, and in this business environment, many remodelers are taking on more jobs, adding new roles, and hiring people to fill them. Especially in a growth spurt, the culture will change, so it’s important to understand how to keep those changes positive.

It’s become such a part of business-speak, it’s easy to blow past just what a company’s culture really is. It should come out of your mission statement, your values, your systems, and business practices. You may even have crafted a statement about what your culture is. But defining it doesn’t really tell you everything. You have to look at your people to see it in action, and as the business owner, you have to look hard at yourself too.

From the top

As an entrepreneur, your company had a culture even when it was just you at the beginning. As you added one or two employees, it became something else, almost by accident. If that happened, take control now. Define your core values, and create systems and practices that reinforce that, from customer service to internal interactions. Your culture is lived by everyone in the company, and affects how they interact with others — inside the company, and with clients and subcontractors.

A strong and positive culture depends on every employee understanding your company’s mission and vision. Your employees will look to you to model those values. If it’s not authentic, they’ll know. If you say, for example, that you value a healthy work/life balance and don’t demonstrate that yourself, you’re sending a bad message. If you — as the boss — do take time off but are stingy or openly resentful about others doing so, it’s an even worse message.

A healthy company culture is tied to values, but also to goals and objectives. As you grow, you’ll find it helpful to to refine and detail those goals and objectives to each department. Celebrate the wins — not only the big milestones, like a finished project, but the smaller, incremental ones like a lead qualified, sale made, or design for a client completed.

Growth & change

Clear communication is always a key component of a healthy company and a positive culture, but it gets harder as you grow. You’ve got staff in the office and out in the field, you can’t be everywhere at once, and most people are focused on their part of the whole process.

Have weekly meetings for the entire company, with brief updates from each department (even if it’s a one-person department) on their activities and objectives for the time period. Seems like a simple step, but it makes a huge difference. Otherwise, everyone’s operating in a vacuum. The larger you get, the more important the regular communication of progress and goals as a company becomes.

Make sure you explain how all the different activities tie together. If a new marketing initiative is bringing in leads, and sales is closing them at a good rate, then design and production know they’ll be busy soon.

Trim as needed

You may also find that as your company gets bigger and your culture changes, some of your employees aren’t growing along with you. Put in the effort to get them up to speed with the changes. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to fire them for the good of the company. This can be extremely difficult if it’s a longtime employee, but a grumbling old-timer can quickly turn new employees sour, or send them out the door for a better fit at a different company.

If you’re in growth mode, you know how hard it’s been to get there. Creating or resetting a strong culture to live your values, and demonstrate them to your employees will help you find — and keep — great people who want to do great work. With you.


What About You?

What are some ways you and your company have maintained, or changed, company culture as your company grew and became more successful over the years? We would love to hear some success stories out there! Use the comments section below to provide some feedback, we would love to hear from you.

[Podcast] Episode 39: How NOT to Grow Your Remodeling Business with Judith Miller

The Great Recession gobbled up a whole slew of remodeling companies, but more of them fail during an economic expansion than during a contraction. Growth is great, but it’s risky, and knowing how not to grow will put you ahead of the game.

In this hot market, there are so many opportunities, you can get ahead of yourself too quickly for the health of your company. And that’s where remodeling company owners get into trouble by growing the wrong way. There are potential downsides, and to avoid them, you have to keep you basic best practices — and customer satisfaction and net profits lie at the center, says Judith Miller.

In this episode, Judith joins Victoria and Mark to talk about the ways to grow your company the right way.

Judith has been a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage Roundtables for more than 15 years. She’s a QuickBooks expert, the author of The Remodeler’s Ultimate Guide to QuickBooks, and has been a columnist for Remodeling magazine for more than 10 years. Judith isn’t just a financial guru, she’s a high-level strategist who understands that numbers prove your strategy. She loves the challenge of helping good remodelers become better every day.

When trying to grow, the biggest stumbling block is a lack of control, preparation, and not focusing on the best practices. Judith tells you what those best practices are, and how to grow the right way, while explaining the details, including:

  • The critical need for leadership
  • Why your financials have to be in order
  • The Top 5 things you need to do to build a strong, profitable company
  • The predictable stages of growth — and which is best to grow in
  • How large you can get
  • Why hiring a sales force is the riskiest transition
  • How to build a company you can sell
  • Why growing over 20% may be crazy
  • And more…

You’ll also learn why “The Whale” projects takes too many remodelers down. Click here to go to the Growth Sustainability Calculator we discussed in the episode.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 39 >>

And if you need QuickBooks help, or want bring in Judith as a consultant for your business, you can email her at


Want More Ways to Improve Your Business in 2019 and Beyond?

We are excited to announce that we are re-launching and re-branding our annual January event, formerly known as the Master Your Remodeling Business Workshop. The Extreme Makeover: Business Edition Event has been re-tooled and re-focused on providing growing remodelers and renovators with the tools necessary to improve their businesses in 2019 and beyond.

In addition to Judith Miller, this 2-day event will feature well-known speakers such as Victoria Downing, Tim Faller and Mark Harari and bring in new faces like Doug Howard and the 2018 Fred Case Award Winner, Michael Sauri. For more information and to grab Super Early Bird discounts, CLICK HERE.

[Podcast] Episode 25: Open Book Management with Ken Kirsch

The thought of showing your financials to your employees may be unsettling. We’ve known remodelers who are so leery of sharing their numbers, their field crews don’t even know their project budgets.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Ken Kirsch, a proponent and practitioner of Open Book Management. In this episode, Ken tells Victoria and Mark that showing your numbers will engage and motivate your team — while helping your bottom line.

Ken is the president of MAK Design+Build Inc. in Davis, CA. Drawing on his experience as a carpenter and an artist, he and his wife Ellen started MAK Design+Build in 2003, out of an Airstream Trailer in their driveway. Ken’s a member of Roundtables group Krypton, and was introduced to the concept of Open Book Management at his very first RA meeting.

Victoria and Mark talk with Ken about the positives, and one surprising negative, he’s experienced since embracing Open Book Management. They discuss:

  • What to show and what to avoid
  • Focusing on the Big Picture 
  • The importance of your team being financially literate
  • When and how to discuss your numbers
  • Engaging your employees for lower turnover
  • And a whole lot more…

Transparency in business is much more than a buzzword, it’s something your employees will seek out more and more. Find out how Open Book Management can make your business better. Click here to see more about MAK Design+Build.

Click here to Listen to Episode 25 >>

As promised, here is a shot of the AirStream that Ken got started in