4 Strategies to Save an Under-Performing Employee

As difficult as it may be to find, hire and train good employees in today’s competitive marketplace, a solid strategy of how to handle under-performing employees can be critical to building an effective team.

Keeping the adage “Hire slowly & fire quickly” in mind, are we pulling the trigger too soon? Are there employees who can be saved with the proper procedures in place? By letting these team members go too quickly are we wasting the time, energy and capital that it took to hire and onboard them?

When working with an employee who just isn’t “getting it done,” consider these four strategies before moving toward termination.

Mentor Program

In my early days, I sold yellow page advertising for Bell Atlantic and was part of a 250+ sales operation. As you might imagine finding, training and retaining a group that large was a tremendous effort and expense and when faced with an under-performing rep there were corrective procedures in place.

I found that the most effective tool in retaining and training a rep with potential was their mentor program where twice a week the employee in question would ride-along with top performing sales reps; picking up their sales techniques, processes, efficiencies and drive to succeed.

How can that be used in the remodeling space? In addition to the obvious sales scenario, perhaps production personnel working shoulder-to-shoulder with a mentor in the field. And throwing in an incentive for the mentor as well can go a long way as well.

DISC Profile

Here at Remodelers Advantage you will see and hear us refer to the importance of using DISC profiles in the hiring process; helping identify strengths and weaknesses in job candidates before bringing them on. But these profiles don’t stop there… There are sections within the profile that detail the best way to communicate and motivate employees based on their DISC results.

Perhaps this data can help you reach out to an under-performing employee to determine the best course of action when considering how to get them back to track.

Change Position

With the DISC profile mentioned above in mind, perhaps the employee just isn’t in the right position within your company. Poor salespeople might make great estimators, a production team member who seems great with clients but falls short mechanically might be your next sales superstar.

You hired these people for a reason… If you find good, hard working people for your business, consider alternate roles within your organization before terminating altogether.

Setting Measurable Goals

No matter what strategy you use, set attainable and measurable goals as part of your corrective action plan. These aren’t goals you put out on the bulletin board for everyone to see; these are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that the employee in question agrees to (in writing) and they are used going forward with management, HR or whomever might be involved.


Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult things to do as a business owner. Its stressful and can be disruptive to the success of your business. One thing that will put your mind at-ease is to know you did everything you could to “save” the employee in question before having to make that tough decision.

Build your own corrective action plan and process and implement it as quickly as possible. Hang on to those great employees, as we all know how difficult it is to replace them.

What’s Your Plan?

We would love to hear some of your corrective action strategies out there… What do you do when you have an employee who needs to be “saved.” Use the comments section below to provide constructive feedback.

[Podcast] Episode 11: Employment Law: The Good, Bad and Downright Scary, with Jen Cornell

If you are like most business owners, you don’t think about Employment Law until you’re faced with a complaint or potential lawsuit from a current or former employee. It’s inevitable… As you add employees and grow your company, the likelihood of facing a legal employment issue will increase as well.

When it comes to hiring, terminating and disciplining members of your team, there is so much to know and keep track of… You not only have state or territory regulations, but federal as well.

Our guest this week will tell you that anytime you run into a legal situation regarding an employee, the best course of action is to consult an expert… and that’s just what we did for Episode 11.

Victoria and Mark welcome Jen Cornell, an attorney at Nilan Johnson Lewis in Minnesota. Jen represents companies in litigation involving employees, including lawsuits, charges brought to government agencies, and investigations from government auditors.

Jen also specializes in preventive workplace audits and policy implementation, such as preparing employee handbooks, wage and hour audits, and immigration compliance.

Victoria, Mark and Jen uncovered so many different aspects of employment law in this episode, and they included:

  • Protecting your company from hourly disputes, lawsuits.
  • Timeframes to consider (2-3 years of records), penalties applied, etc.
  • Dealing with independent contractors transitioning to employees.
  • How laws apply to locations (jobsite, where the company is, where the employee lives, etc.)
  • Payment of employees, pay periods, minimum wages, etc.
  • How to handle discrimination complaints from current or ex-employees
  • Responding to charges from government agencies, document storage, etc.
  • Handling terminations and disciplinary issues the proper way
  • Importance of Employee handbooks and policies in place.

Don’t wait until you get that notice in the mail… Listen to this episode and start familiarizing yourself with some of the issues that may arise and derail the success you worked so hard for.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 11 >>

We would love to hear from you if you have questions or feedback about this topic, just use the comments area below. If you have specific questions regarding employment law, Jen Cornell can be reached at jcornell@nilanjohnson.com or (612) 305-7717.


How are we doing so far?

If you have a topic that you would like us to cover or know of an industry contact, author or thought-leader that you think others would like to hear from, let us know.

If you’re enjoying our PowerTips Unscripted podcast, please spread the word and post reviews on iTunes and Stitcher.

PowerTips Book Recommendations: March 2018

As a monthly feature here on PowerTips, we are now requesting book recommendations from our members and making them available for download/purchase.

February was a big hit as we started with our great R/A Staff and amazing facilitators. Some great recommendations!

This month we wanted to get some great books about Marketing, so who better to ask than members of our Marketing Tactical Roundtables Groups, Mimosa and Morpheus. These are remodeling marketing professionals who meet twice a year, similar to our Owner Roundtables, but speak specifically about marketing.

In the future we will tap into more of our member Roundtables groups, sponsors, associates and other thought-leaders who might give you the next great book to add to your growing library.

Lindsay Dods, Artium Design Build Renovations, Ottawa, ON

“Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking” by Andy Sernovitz
Word of Mouth Marketing is full of simple tips and tricks to get your clients to talk about you.


Kara Wilson, New England Design & Construction, Boston, MA

“Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles
We had our whole company read Raving Fans, even the carpenters. Word of mouth marketing starts with every single employee and occurs through every interaction that a client has with our company.

One of the key takeaways that helped us deliver better customer service through surveys specifically is that silence from a client is a message, as is “fine” or “okay”. Learning to really listen to customer responses is important. When a client doesn’t respond to a satisfaction survey, that isn’t a good indicator. We started following up with these clients, and really digging in to why they hadn’t responded. We uncovered some issues that we were able to deal with, and actually turned those clients into raving fans.


Beth Walters, Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, Inc., Burke & McLean, VA

Coming off her MVP performance at her Spring meeting, Beth shared her reading list for 2018 with us.
“The E Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber
“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg
“The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” by Chip & Dan Heath
“The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness” by Todd Rose
“The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything” by Stephen M.R. Covey


Chaden Halfhill, Silent Rivers Design+Build, Des Moines, Iowa

“Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business” by Jay Conrad Levinson
An older book that I always enjoyed, and reason is because I love to look at creative, unexpected ways to promote and market… especially when the budget is tight.
And as a Bonus we get one from a key member of the Remodelers Advantage Team!

Rose Grabowski, Remodelers Advantage, Baltimore, MD

“The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” by Daniel Coyle
Every group has a culture, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Daniel Coyle digs deep into the small impactful elements of a group’s dynamic that create a good culture. It’s important for members of the group to be open, accepting, and attentive; but how exactly does this happen? This book investigates some of the most successful cultures and explains what they do to foster their culture. Well worth the read!

Thank You

A huge Thank You to our Marketing Pros for these great recommendations. Awesome Job!



Disclosure: The links provided above are Amazon Affiliate links and that means, at no additional cost to you, Remodelers Advantage may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Learn From Your Mistakes With Productive Job Debriefs

In my experience working with remodeling companies in the US and Canada, I find that, in many cases, all information learned in the process of completing a project is lost as soon as the job is finished.

The end-of-project debrief meeting, or as some call it, the “post-mortem,” can be a very effective tool for continual improvement, both in production and in sales as well.

Here are 6 things to consider when capturing vital project information as you grow your remodeling business.

1. Have a debrief meeting after every job

The big key here is to analyze every project, no matter how successful they may have been. Look at “the good, the bad and the ugly.” It is equally as important to learn what makes a job successful as one that went poorly and lost money, and a whole lot more fun! If your company goes through a period of time taking on many smaller jobs, you may have to pick and choose, but getting a good cross section is critical.

2. Involve the key players in the meeting

This would include the job site manager, Lead Carpenter or Project Manager, the estimator, and sales. By omitting any of these you lose a great deal of insight into what happened and why.

3. Share information beforehand & come prepared

A huge waste of everyone’s time is to have a meeting in which the participants are seeing the material for the first time. There is a great deal of time spent just reading through documents and figuring everything out. If everyone has a final job cost report, the client survey, perhaps an updated projected vs. actual schedule a week or two before the meeting, they can digest the information on their own and bring salient points to the table.

It is also very unproductive for one person to have the information and simply download their view point on everyone else at the meeting; share the information openly and with plenty of time to review.

4. If you mess up, you fess up

Do not allow your meeting to evolve into the “Blame Game”… many debrief meetings fail when the finger pointing starts. So, for example, a Project Manager can come to the table and admit that the reason that window installation did not hit the budget was poor planning on his or her part. Or the Estimator can discuss how he/she did not understand the complexity of the framing so they did not put enough money in that area on the quote.

This changes the discussion and progress toward improvement dramatically. So, encourage participants to come forward, but ask them to include steps that they, or the team, can take to eliminate the error going forward.

5. Pick one thing to change

It is counter-productive to discuss 20 errors or problems and then try and change them all. Usually it leads to no change at all. So, have each participant suggest the one thing they can work on to make the biggest impact on improving the business.

So, the PM mentioned above can say, “this is how I will specifically plan better for each phase of future projects.” Or, the Estimator can commit to improving the estimating process, so every aspect of a project is included in the proposal for the client.

6. Next steps; take notes and follow-up

Document process improvement commitments from the team and establish a tangible method to insure progress is really taking place. If you wait until the end of the next project it may be too late, or the same mistakes may happen and you are simply repeating the problem.


Need Help Getting Started?

If you don’t have a process in place to analyze jobs on a regular, ongoing basis… We’re here to help you get started! Click the button below to receive our FREE guide to establishing your own “post-mortem” process with this Job Autopsy Kit from our team here at Remodelers Advantage.

4 HR Mistakes That May Come Back to Bite You

As your remodeling business grows, you will no doubt be faced with issues along the way. We hear from many of our Roundtables members that HR issues can be a huge obstacle to growth and the day-to-day running of their respective businesses.

Adding personnel quickly to meet demand and then attempting to manage the growing team can lead to costly mistakes along the way. As a business entity, you are susceptible to penalties and payments not only from random (and sometimes baseless) lawsuits but from local, state or federal government/tax organizations as well.

Whether you are penalized financially or not, the time and resources it takes to address a complaint or violation can sometimes be catastrophic to a growing business.

Here are 4 areas of your business to focus on when it comes to avoiding HR issues:

1. Recruiting and Hiring

Many of these issues stem from first contact with your business whether you hire the candidate or not.

  • Clear Job Descriptions – Not only help recruit the right candidates for your team to interview and consider but should also match the description you use internally should you decide to hire one of them for the position.
  • Avoiding Sensitive Questions – Inexperienced interviewers or perhaps those that are rushing through the process and getting too informal will typically ask questions that, if the candidate is not hired, may be the source of a complaint to a local government compliance office. Avoid questions regarding age, race, religion or disabilities. Something as casual as “Oh, I went to that college too, when did you graduate?” can lead to age-based issues down the road.

2. Clear Communication

From the interview process, to on-boarding to employment reviews, it’s vitally important to be consistent with communicating procedures and expectations with new and existing employees.

One key area that may break down is in the employee discipline or termination areas where proper documentation can literally save you should an issue arise down the road. Use clear and easy to understand language in the initial offer letter as well as any subsequent discipline or termination paperwork, getting signatures from the employee on everything along the way.

3. Lack of Policies & Procedures

Without a clear and well-written employee manual or handbook, employees lack direction in regard to conduct, attendance, work ethic and even how you expect them to dress in the office or out in the field.

Don’t just hand them the manual on their first day and forget it. Take the time to (1) walk through the manual to insure they understand it, (2) get them to sign the last page to confirm that have received and agree to the terms of employment and finally (3) keep it updated with new policies and procedures as they are released to your staff.

4. Terminations

Victoria does a great job covering this in a recent PowerTips TV Episode, How To Fire an Employee “The Right Way” but in summary, handling a termination calmly and professionally is the best route no matter how badly the employee has performed. Victoria’s advice was spot on and included:

  • Having clear and concise documentation
  • Including an additional person in the room during the meeting
  • Honest feedback, but no discussion
  • Treating the employee with dignity and respect on their way out

Share time!

What are some HR headaches that your remodeling business has experienced and how are you avoiding them now? Do any of these above ring a bell? Are there others we are missing? If so, Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Tim Faller’s 4 Ways to Improve Your Production Meetings

Is this the scenario for your production meetings? People file into the room in about the same order each week. They sit in the same chairs or lean against the wall in the same place. They sit quietly while you “discuss” information that you think they will appreciate.

Then you discuss each job and what is going on there. When you are done, you respectfully ask if there are any questions and you get a silence. Then everyone hurries out to do the things they love to do.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be that way!

There are four things you can do to make production meetings better for everyone. For those of you that only have a meeting twice monthly or once per month, you may want to consider holding meetings more often, but these 4 tips still apply.

1. Use the time to say thank you or send out praise.

This is a universal truth, people respond to praise better than anything else. So just in case you haven’t thought about this, going through every job is probably not about praise but about fear for your team. Fear of being off budget, fear of being off schedule, fear of having to justify how the job is going.

So, save the project reviews for your weekly meetings with the on-site manager and use the production meeting to let someone share how they solved a problem that others may face in the future. Also, take time during the week to “catch someone doing good” then bring that up. Learn about the accomplishments of your team in their personal lives and mentions those.

2. Use the meetings to solve problems and develop the team.

Successful remodeling companies create an environment where employees feel that they are on a team that communicates openly and works together. So, discuss what problems the team faces. Be sure you listen and hear what the production team shares. Make a list. Then start working on the solutions as a group.

One company I worked with recently in Seattle has done a great job with this, however to get people talking, it took handing out a couple of gift cards to a local coffee shop. Once the team saw that the general manager was serious about making progress they have chipped in and have really been contributing. Rumor has it that no one is late for a meeting anymore.

3. Focus on forecasting rather than regrets.

One of the major challenges for all remodeling companies is getting job managers to look forward. So instead of having job managers coming to a meeting to talk about what has happened on past projects, have them come and share what is going to happen going forward.

This creates the chance for everyone to get an idea of what others are doing and collaborate on personnel, if needed. It also “forces” them to look ahead and be prepared instead of getting hung up on what has happened in the past.

4. Shake things up

As with almost anything in life, variety is the key. Do not do the same thing week after week. Mix it up. You should always be praising someone. But beyond that, use some meetings for systems building and problem solving. Use some for simply having a good time. Use some for forecasting and letting people share the good that is going on with their jobs.

For example, you can create a pattern by having the forecasting meeting on the second Wednesday of each month and the systems meeting on the third. But even with that mix it up, don’t run the forecasting meeting the same way each time.


With just a little bit of creativity and planning your meetings can be effective and helpful. What about you? Are your production meetings effective? What are some ways that you have made them stronger? We would love to hear how your team has improved your production meetings in the comments section below.

6 Ways to Motivate Your ENTIRE Team

I was reading an article in INC Magazine about motivating sales teams and I noticed that many of the concepts suggested to push a sales team to succeed, would also work nicely for everyone in the company.

So, this article talked about different ways to motive a sales team, beyond of course a commission check, which is often what so many businesses focus on.

Perhaps because so many remodeling companies out there are sales & marketing focused, I wanted to share these 6 ways to motive your ENTIRE team for success.

1. Set goals

Again, beyond any type of quota or commission, what are some group and even individual goals that you can set to keep everyone moving forward?

Get to know your team… what motivates them? Food? Free time? Stuff for the office? Perhaps create a contest or fun way for team members or departments to compete for a prize.

2. Focus on Purpose

Share the mission of the company at your weekly, monthly or quarterly meetings; make sure everyone is aware of the vision and how each of them plays an integral part.

This is especially important to the younger people on your team… they love that stuff and it’s been proven that turnover decreases as more team members commit to a common mission.

3. Build Trust of Leadership

Nothing kills morale more than when a team no longer respects or trusts their leader.

Build trust by being a “firm & fair” manager, being direct and straightforward as possible and make your team feel appreciated and engaged.

4. Work Across Siloes

As your team grows each department may begin to internalize and “silo” and this can breed finger-pointing and blame when something goes wrong.

Think about how your sales & production teams interact, for example.

Come up with some team building exercises you can do, where teams are made up of representatives from various department and each team must solve a problem, puzzle or challenge.

5. Create a Culture of Recognition

While some team members feel more comfortable receiving praise and recognition than others; it’s a great way to motive the team and call-out individuals who go above and beyond.

Don’t just do it at the end of the year… get on a regular schedule of recognizing these “go-getters” at weekly or monthly meetings.

6. Get Creative

Recognition means way more when it’s memorable and personal…

Monthly winners get to sit in a special chair at the weekly meetings and park in the VIP spot for a month. Send a letter home to the employees family sharing the news of the recognition. That always goes over well!

Call them out on social media so their family and friends know what a great job they are doing too.

How about you?

How do you motivate your team members? What tactics have worked best for you? What tactics haven’t worked? Please share your experience in the comments below.

And, if you haven’t subscribed to PowerTips yet, please hit the button at the end of this video.. right after the bloopers…

Thanks, and I’ll see you next week.

[Podcast] Episode 2: Building an Effective Emergency Succession Plan with Philip Anderson

In our second episode of PowerTips Unscripted, Victoria and Mark spend some time with Philip Anderson, a long-time Remodelers Advantage member and well-respected industry leader.

Philip Anderson is the President of HDR Remodeling, a successful Design + Build firm that he founded over 30 years ago in the Berkeley / Oakland / East Bay Area in California.

The topic of this episode is Emergency Succession Planning, or how to plan ahead in the instance of a short or long-term absence of the business owner or key personnel. Philip discusses how his firm was able to build an effect succession plan, not only for the long-term once he retires, but in the case of a sudden departure from the business.

Unfortunately, Philip’s plan was put to the test when he suffered a stroke a few months later and his business was able to continue during his extended leave.

Some great advice shared by Philip:

  • Don’t limit the plans to just the owner, include key personnel in sales, production, finance, etc.
  • Develop separate plans for short-term, intermediate and long-term or permanent absences.
  • Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for each position so those stepping up have some direction and documentation to follow.

Philip does a great job with the “Lightning Round” and “Five Words of Wisdom” segments. Some great advice shared by one of our industry’s finest. Enjoy!

Click Here to check out Episode 2 and download a copy of Philip’s ESP Document.

PowerTips Throw-back Thursday: “9 Keys to a Company Wellness Plan”

The Holidays can be a tough time to stay on track of personal wellness, especially when it comes to indulging in the great food, treats, drinks, etc. and exercise gets tougher with colder weather hitting much of the country.

Today we’re throwing it back to a PowerTips TV Episode that takes a closer look at implementing a wellness plan, not only for owners and managers, but for the whole team as well. Get your team on track to hit the ground running (literally) in the New Year… Enjoy!

length 3:39 (not including bonus content)

Have you ever wished you were in better physical shape? Do you find yourself watching your weight at home but totally ignore calories when you’re at work? Or are you working so much that you’re not taking the time you need to work out and be healthy?

Well, in this week’s episode, I’ll give you a blueprint for creating a company-wide wellness plan that’s sure to get everyone in shape! A huge thank you to the Bellamy Construction team for inspiring this awesome episode of PowerTips TV!

What about you?

Do you have any other suggestions on how to implement a wellness plan for your team? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!