Close Your Office and Grow Your Business

Few  remodeling company owners spend enough time planning for their company’s future.  Many are so busy running the business that they can’t imaging taking time away to strategize about how they will move forward – so they simply don’t’.  Others don’t see the importance of planning so they don’t make it a business priority.

Steve Barkhouse,  president of Amsted Construction Limited, a multi-million dollar renovation company in Stittsville, Ontario, feels this is a major mistake. “Early on, we realized that we never seemed to have time to properly plan for the future. We had a business plan. . . but that was mainly created for the banks and we never looked at it. We were getting frustrated because we weren’t doing the kind of planning we really wanted to so. So we began our Annual [company] Retreats.”

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“Each year, my fellow company owners and I – there are three of us—leave the office for several days with the sole intention of focusing on the company,” he said. “Our goal is to celebrate recent past accomplishments and then drill down into each area of our business in turn. We want to find better ways to do what we do. . . and think about where we want to be in the future.


Barkhouse says, “It’s important that the location be away from the office so that we have clear heads and can’t hear the phones ringing in the background. The environment helps us be creative and get re-energized so hold the retreat in a location that’s nice. . . a resort, a nice hotel, heck, one year we went to Cuba!  Once there, we have a meeting room with a projector and screen so that everyone can see the materials together. And then, we get to work.”


Before the retreat, each owner spends hours preparing. For Barkhouse, this means creating a preliminary budget for the coming year, studying the status of previous business improvement initiatives, reviewing performance metrics for staff,  and more. Each topic to be addressed is added to an agenda. “We look at every part of the company from staff to technology, from marketing to the physical offices.


“When we first started the retreats, we were creating some wonderful business plans. At one point, we had an a-ha moment and realized that we could reach these business goals. . .but we wouldn’t be successful because we would have still missed hitting our personal goals,” says Barkhouse. So each owner had an assignment to build a personal plan for themselves. “One of the first steps in a personal plan was to determine the compensation we each needed. So we started at the bottom and worked our way up,” Barkhouse comments. “We added up all of our daily expenses, our needs for retirement savings, college savings, and the additional income that we wanted to live a nice lifestyle. Then we all came back together knowing what dollars the company had to produce to help each of us reach our personal goals.”


“We leave these meetings feeling rejuvenated, energized  and with a clarity of purpose that helps us stay focused on the priorities throughout the year,” Barkhouse says. “We know what we have to do, we’re all in agreement and we’re fired up to get back to the office and get going.” And for Amsted Construction Limited, the proof is in the pudding. The company has grown each year, creating a long list of happy clients, building a strong team of accomplished staff members, and has delivered above average profits to the bottom line. Barkhouse says, “Think about it. No matter what  you look at – even if it’s just cleaning up the job site – if you take the time to analyze what you do right now, think about how to improve results, and brainstorming ideas, I guarantee that you’ll find a more efficient, more effective way to clean the job site.  Spending time ON your business pays off with a fantastic return.”

Steve Barkhouse and his partner, Kirk Haw are members of Remodelers Advantage Roundtables™, a peer group program for large volume renovators. They are members of the Mentor 3 Group, one of the four Roundtables™ Groups exclusively serving high-performing renovation companies.  Post Updated 4/21/15.

Free Webinar: Building Business Success

Measuring What Matters in Remodelers Advantage Roundtables

I spoke to 19 remodelers last week and they all said they’re either working their tails’ off for too little money, losing money on projects or missing family time due to demands from the business.

So I decided to create a 30 minute crash course for them. Would you like to join us?

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Discover the common obstacles remodelers face and why they decide they’re finally fed up!
  • See what’s possible in this business and why you should be satisfied with nothing less.
  • Learn what metrics successful remodeling company owners use to measure improving results. 
  • Understand why these same savvy industry pros invest time and money in Roundtables membership year after year

What About You?

Do you take company retreats? If so, what benefits have you seen? If not,  what’s stopping you? I look forward to your comments below.

Are You Ready for the New 2015 HVAC Efficiency Standards?

As you know, our primary focus on PowerTips is to provide you with tips, tactics, and techniques for building a strong, consistently profitable remodeling company. But sometimes we just need to make sure you’re on top of the latest industry news! This week we’re proud to have Stefanie Petersen with Ferguson to share the key changes to HVAC Efficiency standards in 2015.

How well are you and your team educated about the upcoming changes?

In April 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed upcoming changes for HVAC efficiency standards for residential and commercial equipment. However, according to a survey by Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., 74 percent of contractors are unaware of the change and how to best prepare their staff and inventory to meet customer demand and new regulations. Below are key aspects every remodeler should know.

What’s changing?

New Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) standards will be enforced for air conditioners and heat pumps installed on or after January 1, 2015; however, standards differ by region. The current 13 SEER standard for air conditioners will move to 14 SEER in most areas, but 13 SEER air conditioning units can still be sold in the northern region.

The most significant product change regarding the new regulations involves all split-system heat pumps. All regions will move from 13 SEER and 7.7 HSPF, Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, to the new national heat pump efficiency minimum of 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF.

Additionally, the changes also affect the FTC EnergyGuide label, commonly referred to as the yellow “hang tag”, attached to the heating and cooling system. The label contains SEER and HSPF ratings for the unit in relation to similar models. Instead of a single rating point, new labels for split-system air conditioners and heat pumps will now be shown in a range representing the lowest and highest SEER ratings for all the condenser’s certified coil combinations. This means all of the component parts in the entire system, inside and out, must have an aggregate SEER that meets the new guidelines.

HVAC Standards by Regiion

How to prepare

Education surrounding the new standards is key, as enforcement will begin in less than five months. Remodelers and contractors should be able to identify that the equipment being installed meets the minimum standards of the new regulations as well as meets the needs of the customer.

The majority of U.S. manufacturers already offer 14 SEER heat pump systems, and many manufacturers may spruce up current 14 SEER designs to meet product demands for 2015 inventory stocking. While the changes are effective January 1, 2015, the new regulation also includes an 18-month grace period for distributors to sell their remaining inventory.

Image courtesy of Emerson Climate Technologies

How Remodeling “Big Dogs” Earn More and Spend Less (part II)

In part one of this two part series, we discussed why some remodelers earn more and spend less, and others do not. Today we’ll discuss how the “Big Dogs” do it.

Every remodeling company wants to eliminate steps that add no value to the business or may even cost you money, which eats into your bottom line. So, let’s look at how business process improvement can take your home improvement company to the next level.

Identify, Implement and Follow-up

Identify all the lead management activities where improvements can be made. Implement new processes to reduce waste, redundancy, repetitive and manual steps. And follow-up to make sure that everyone is using your new best practices.

Once everyone knows what they should be doing, they pick up the slack when their MVP is missing in action. Marketing handles every lead the same way. Sales works every prospect the same way. Production coordinates every job the same way.

Write it down

It’s crucial that it is all documented in some way. You could use something as simple as a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet. There is also technology available that requires your team to follow the best practices when it comes to lead management and automates many of the steps – like confirmation e-mails, call reminders, and appointment scheduling.

But however you handle your process improvement, it needs to be standardized and in written form. Here’s an example of how you’d write out your instructions for the people who manage leads:

  • Each lead will be entered into a single, secure database that everyone has access to and all updates to every lead will be made there
  • All leads will be sent a confirmation e-mail when agreeing to an appointment
  • Every sales rep will call a homeowner to confirm the appointment the day before
  • After every appointment, every lead gets a quote e-mailed directly within 24 hours

The end goal of improving your processes is performance – which means you are managing the performance of your business by using all your assets in ways that achieve a value-added set of goals and objectives.

If this seems too complicated, don’t let it overwhelm. Start with one section of your business and measure the results. Look at your lead management process, or how your sales team operates, or all of your project management procedures.

See how improvements can be made, set up a new documented process that makes your team more effective, and then set it in motion.

Then you manage, measure, and improve again. Finally, take advantage of technology to automate as much as possible for even greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Keep this in mind, nearly every company that has documented processes and policies in place can more easily be passed on to a family member, sold, or managed during an extended absence.

Reducing Your Need to Hire by Increasing Efficiency!

Business owners might sometimes feel they need to hire more workers to meet the steady flow of work that is coming in and because they do not want to lose projects, they look to take on more employees. However, you can meet the demands by following some simple guidelines about how to increase efficiency and meet your goals.

Here are nine practical ideas that will allow you to streamline the work done by your employees, thereby letting each employee leverage more volume. The net effect is a more efficient operation with less need for new employees.

  • At least yearly, hold brainstorming sessions with your staff to review all procedures. Focus on streamline. What work, forms, overlapping procedures can be eliminated from the company?
  • Outsource more both to freelancers for office work or subcontractors for production work. One remodeler even outsourced project design to a designer in Canada!
  • Are there labor saving tools, equipment, technology, communications that would free up time for yourself, your office, or field staff? Save an hour here and an hour there and soon you won’t have to hire another person.
  • Check with your suppliers for products they will install (i.e. windows, fireplace units, siding) or products that can save you in-house time (pre-primed moldings).. Use their labor instead of yours and benefit from the expertise they have in doing one task really well.
  • Check with subs to see if there are additional functions they can take over.
  • Have your own carpenters? Keep them but consider subbing large jobs such as decks, siding, insulation, drywall and roofing which can be economical to outsource.
  • Are your field personnel equipped with state-of-the-art labor-saving tools and equipment? If you have 10 field employees and can save 20 minutes a day for each, that’s 1000 minutes a week or 867 hours a year. That’s 867 hours you don’t need or 867 hours you can sell profitably to another client. One remodeler keeps a stocked trailer on every job site. It’s good looking and well signed but it also saves time and running for materials.
  • Increased training for your field personnel will save time in installations. Check with your in-house expertise, manufacturers, subs and suppliers for help in developing short training sessions.
  • Develop a cross-department team to research ways to reduce in-house work.