[Podcast] Episode 52: Changing of the Guard: The Unfortunate Side Effect of Growth

Most entrepreneurs want to build a bigger company, but understand that many of their existing processes don’t scale. You go back to the drawing board and make some changes. But the sad truth is that it’s not just systems, but people, who fall behind, dragging the business with them.

In this episode, Mark’s flying solo, and tackling a subject too many business owners try to avoid. The sad side effect of growth is that some of your best, longest-lasting employees simply can’t keep up with the new demands of a larger business.

The first thing to do is recognize it. If they’re still doing a great job, but lack enough time, hire more help. But if the tasks and duties themselves are overwhelming, you need an action plan. Mark talks about what to look for and how to handle it, including:

  • The difference between generalists and specialists
  • Continuing education and coaching
  • How to present the problem
  • Finding a new role — or not
  • When to cut your losses
  • And more…

If you’ve run into this sticky situation, tell us about your experiences in the comments — what did you do?

Click Here to Listen to Episode 52 >>

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.

Key Roles Sales Can Play to Reduce Slippage

Here at Remodelers Advantage we set aside the month of June to focus on an issue that plagues most service-based businesses, but can be a critical metric in looking at the success of a remodeling firm. Last year we named June “Slippage Awareness Month” and this year you will see content submissions from our consulting, sales and production experts here at R/A. Enjoy!

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One of the riskiest maneuvers in your remodeling business is the handoff of information from Sales to Production. Too often, it’s where slippage begins.  

Slippage happens at the beginning of the process because details of the project are hazy. Without clear background information, the Production team must diagnose a problem on the fly or ask the client questions that should have been answered well before. Taking guesswork and hesitation away from your Production Team is critical to reducing slippage and boosting profits. 

Knowing the roles your salespeople must play can help. Those roles go well beyond a static job description of duties and responsibilities, it’s how an effective Salesperson functions within your company. Like an actor, an effective Salesperson slips in and out of roles seamlessly when working with clients. Understanding these roles is key to properly executing the crucial hand-off from Sales to Production. Here are a few of the roles your Sales staff must play.


Like a good therapist, it’s essential to listen, not just hear, what clients are saying. Salespeople need to understand the “why” of the project. If Production knows why the client is remodeling, it enables better decision-making when faced with roadblock.  

For example, if the team knows the clients are renovating to sell the home in a year, they’ll be better prepared with a suggestion if they discover a hidden condition — advising the best solution when it comes to resale value. 

Knowing the why behind a project will ultimately empower the Production team to be more efficient and adaptable. 


It’s time to put on the Sherlock Holmes hat — Sales has to solve the ultimate mystery within the project. The constantly lurking question of “what could possibly go wrong?” 

Sales needs to ask questions, discover clues, and solve mysteries to make sure the Production Team don’t discover things at a later date. 

That could mean finding information about similar houses in the neighborhood, perhaps talking to a neighbor that has recently had a project completed. Even with the walls up, and the house intact, a seasoned remodeling detective will know what to look for above, below, and around the home to uncover a looming disaster. Let the Production team bring the house to justice, the Salesperson has to find the evidence.  


Like any great journalist, the Salesperson’ goal is to gather the details to make a great story. Ask questions to discover the clients’ personalities and goals. Find out where they’re they from, where they went to college, what they like to do in their spare time.  

Ferret out the details of the house, the clients and their lifestyle, learn about their pets, the neighbors or the neighborhood. When putting together a Client Book or a Production package, tell a story your production team can’t put down. They have to know what happens to the dog on Tuesdays, and why they can’t park on the street on Wednesdays. When Production’s able to vigorously work through the project with limited issues, slippage will go down.  


There are many ways that a Salesperson can look at themselves as a doctor in a remodeling project. The first attribute of any good doctor is knowledge.  

Dr. Salesperson must understand how a house works, and what to look for based on the symptoms at hand. They also need to be able to listen. This could be the most valuable skill to possess when working with a new client. To properly prepare their Surgical Team (Production), Dr. Sales must to use active listening, then properly diagnose what’s ailing the house.  

Dr. Sales also needs a good bedside manner — able to comfort, set expectations, and make sure the client is prepared for a successful project.  

Going Beyond the Job Description

Take a closer look at the roles your Sales Team plays, and how to build on them. Look past the formal tasks and responsibilities set out in a job description and work with your team to expand their roles based on individual capabilities and talents. By adapting these roles and playing the parts, the sales process becomes the catalyst for reducing slippage.

[Podcast] Episode 21: How Powerful Beliefs Can Transform Your Business with Ari Weinzweig

Stepping outside the world of remodeling for a moment and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome a an entrepreneur, author, speaker and a visionary to Episode 21 of PowerTips Unscripted.

Ari Weinzweig is a founder and co-owner of Zingerman’s– an amazing company that started as a single location deli 36 years ago and has grown into a $60 million dollar organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Rather than replicating their deli through the franchise model, Ari and his business partner chose to develop new, independent businesses, all rooted in their local community that work together as one organization.

The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) is a family of ten businesses, each operated by one or more managing partners who share ownership and put their particular expertise to work in the day to day running of their business.

The idea for the ZCoB was laid out in Zingerman’s 2009 vision, written by Ari and Paul in 1994 and highlighted in Bo Burlingham’s 2003 article for Inc. Magazine, “The Coolest Small Company in America.”

Victoria, Mark and Ari touch on many of the things that make Zingerman’s known for their unique culture, for company growth, and for their ability to bring out the entrepreneur in every employee.

In addition to a quick summary of Ari’s background and overview of the different businesses within the ZCoB system, Ari covers just a few of the philosophies that have built the unique culture at Zingerman’s:

  • Visioning, getting clear about the future you want to create.
  • Servant leadership – leader’s job is to serve the organization, treating employees as customers
  • Teaching everyone to think like an owner and the practices used to drive that mindset
  • Open book management, open meetings, etc.
  • Treating people as intelligent individuals and asking their opinions and getting input

“When you are an owner, your personality and your values, if you live them, become the culture of your business…” – Ari Weinzweig

If you are looking to improve your business, change your company’s culture or simply want to hear from an experienced and dynamic thought-leader, don’t miss this episode.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 21 >>

If you would like to learn more about the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses you can visit their website: http://www.zingermanscommunity.com


Reviews are Awesome… Keep them coming!

We are receiving great feedback from our listeners and we have more great episodes like this one coming. If you’re enjoying our PowerTips Unscripted podcast, please spread the word by rating our show and commenting on iTunes, Stitcher, or whichever platform you use!

[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.

[Podcast] Episode 04: OSHA Regulations You Need to Be Aware of as a Remodeling Business Owner with Ben Johnson

There are few organizations that can impact a US based remodeling business like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)… Maybe the IRS, but that’s another episode.

In Episode 4 of PowerTips Unscripted, Victoria and Mark speak with Ben Johnson about OSHA regulations, enforcement and how they can have a huge impact if not handled correctly.

Ben Johnson is an attorney at the Nilan Johnson Lewis law firm in Minneapolis and is well-versed in matters concerning OSHA. He represents companies involved in business litigation, including issues that commonly arise in the construction industry, like contract disputes, defect claims, and warranty disputes. He also specializes in defending companies in matters involving personal injuries, product liability, and workplace safety.

Victoria, Mark and Ben discuss matters such as:

  • Clarification of the 10-employee Rule
  • Building OSHA compliance planning & training into your employment documentation
  • Preparing you and your team if an OSHA Inspector arrives on one of your job sites
  • Which issues are the most commonly cited by OSHA Inspectors
  • How to be proactive by utilizing OSHA resources such as training & free consultations
  • New regulations concerning exposure to airborne Silica on the job site
  • The impact the new administration will have on OSHA regulations & enforcement

If you need to reach Ben, his contact information is:
Ben Johnson
Shareholder at Nilan Johnson Lewis PA
(612) 305-7693

OSHA Online Resources mentioned in this episode:

Click Here to Listen to Episode 4


Would love some feedback…

Any experience with OSHA regulations or enforcement? Please share your comments and advice below.

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

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.

Special Edition of PowerTips TV: Award Winner

We wanted to kick off 2018 PowerTips TV with a special edition Throw-back. Right before we closed up shop for the holidays, we received word that our own Mark Harari won a MarCom Gold Award for his work on the Summit Kickoff Video we presented in Minneapolis in September.

According to their website, “MarCom Awards honors excellence in marketing and communication while recognizing the creativity, hard work and generosity of industry professionals.”

“Since its inception in 2004, the MarCom has evolved into one of the largest, most-respected creative competitions in the world. Each year about 6,000 print and digital entries are submitted from dozens of countries.” That’s a big deal… Great Job, Mark!!

Whether you were able to attend Summit or not, watch this video to get you and your team pumped for a great start to 2018… Can’t wait to see everyone in New Orleans in September!