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.

[Podcast] Episode 7: Is an ESOP Right For Your Remodeling Business?

When it comes to succession planning and determining an exit strategy from your remodeling business there are plenty of options to consider.

Many of our Roundtables members have either sold or handed their businesses off to the next generation, for example… but all of them will tell you that making that determination early in your company’s lifespan can be critical to the success of your plan.

In today’s Episode of PowerTips Unscripted, Victoria and Mark explore an area of succession planning that is somewhat new to the remodeling industry, by talking with Anthony Mathews, a thought-leader in the area of creating and maintaining ESOPs, or Employee Stock Ownership Plans.

Anthony has spent the past 40 years helping business owners and employees transform their companies into communities of stakeholders through the creation and maintenance of ESOPs – many of them for construction companies. Most recently Anthony has spent the last decade at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego, teaching future business leaders and advisors.

Anthony describes what he refers to as a “Succession Crisis” in this country where closely held companies get to the end of their life span and simply close or liquidate. When that happens, the owners may (or may not) receive full value in the business, employees lose their jobs and towns and cities are faced with yet another business that is no longer a part of their business community.

Anthony, Victoria & Mark discuss:

  • What type of company sets up an ESOP? Size? Number of Employees? Characteristics?
  • What is the process of establishing an ESOP?
  • What are some of the challenges companies face?
  • What makes an ESOP different than a 401K, Profit Sharing or other plan?
  • What are the Tax Advantages that companies and employees will see?
  • How does having 10-30 owners effect the company culture?
  • Anthony’s 4 phase process of determining if an ESOP is right for a business


Click Here to Listen to Episode 7


Is an ESOP right for your remodeling business?

If you are a current R/A Roundtables Member, Anthony has offered a FREE initial consultation to help determine if an ESOP is the right solution for your company.

Anthony can be reached using the following contact information:

Anthony Mathews
Rady School of Management
University of California, San Diego
Office: (858) 822-6010
E-mail: amathews@ucsd.edu

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.

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.

How and When to Hire Your First Remodeling Salesperson

Building out a sales team can be challenging, especially for business owners who haven’t done it before.

I think it’s safe to say that most Remodeling company owners are directly involved in the sales process for their companies, if not being the main sales person… So when is it time to add a sales person and how do you do it effectively?

In today’s episode we will take a look at the “WHEN TO” and “HOW TO” when it comes to growing your sales force. What are some of the things to look out for and why hiring salespeople can be different than a typical employee.

What about you? When did you bring on your first sales rep? Did you find a good one, and if so how did you do it? Any problems or horror stories that you can share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Here is the link to the previous PowerTips TV Episode that Victoria talks about in this video.

How To Fire an Employee “The Right Way”

Letting an employee go is one of the most unpleasant parts of owning or managing a business.

We all want our employees to be fantastic in their jobs… to be so wonderful that we never have to think about firing someone. But that’s not the real world, now is it?

In today’s episode we’re going to talk about how to fire someone the right way and give you a few tips and some advice to keep in mind.

Do you handle terminations differently? Is there something you do that helps things end on a positive note for both parties?

Please share your experience in the comments below. And, if you haven’t subscribed to PowerTips yet, please do so by visiting our YouTube Channel.

PowerTips TV Throw-back Thursday: “How to Combat the Labor Shortage”

This week’s throw-back episode goes back to 2015, but the topic remains a top discussion point at almost all Roundtables Meetings here at Remodelers Advantage.

According to a recent article in Fortune Magazine, “60% of contractors reported difficulty finding skilled workers in the third quarter of 2017 due to an ongoing skilled labor shortage…” and “Along with the struggle to find qualified workers, 91% of contractors are at least moderately concerned about the skill level of their workforce.”

Throw in a few major hurricanes in the Southern states and the situation only becomes more critical.

Watch this episode and share any ideas or advice you may have used to win this war!

length 3:10 (not including bonus content)

I talk to dozens of remodelers each week and one of the most common concerns I hear these days is, “I’m trying to hire more people and we’re not finding anyone.”

Well, unfortunately, this situation isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, experts predict that high employment in the construction industry will be around for years, so it’s time to start creating a strategy that will help you keep production going and quality levels high.

I’ve discovered that there are ways to build a workforce that can handle the growing labor demand and in this week’s episode, I’ll share the four main keys to doing it.

What about you?

Do you have any advice for R.A. Nation? Share your knowledge in the comments below!


Job Description Creep: “and All Other Duties Required”

The phrase at the end of most job descriptions, “and all other duties as required” is one of the most dangerous expressions a remodeling company can include when looking for your next team member. While it is intended to capture any additional items that are not included in the overall description, it often has very adverse effects.

He’s not your Type

By including the “all other duties” phrase in your description you run the risk of attracting
the individual that really is not motivated to do the job and therefore needs the statement. This individual is always waiting to be told what to do, does not show initiative on their own and often needs to be directed.

Whether the “all other duties” phrase is included or not, it is critical to vet-out this type of person in your hiring process and hire people that are self-initiators.

In addition, you need to identify this quality in your existing team members and either correct it or let them go as soon as it rears its ugly head. This business is tough enough without having to monitor every employee to see if they are doing their job “and all other duties as required.”

Production Managers at-risk

In my experience, adding this “all other duties” phrase can be particularly impactful in the Production Manager role. Most people that move into this role are highly motivated, experienced and very driven to do whatever is necessary without additional tasks being assigned.

Because many Production Managers are skilled at many of the functions of remodeling, including the “all other duties” phrase can lead to them taking on additional tasks, regardless if they have the time to do them. This not only increases the likelihood of primary tasks not being completed on time, it also leads to increased hours for the PM and job burnout.

Without spelling out the job description in detail, the production manager’s primary role is to manage production. There are some pre-job-start functions that accompany this but in general when the job is sold, the production manager and his/her team take over.

As the economy continues to improve, the number of inbound calls taken by a company expands as do the sales. It puts a strain on the sales-to-production process so typically a company begins looking for ways to increase the speed that projects get turned over.

Very often estimating is the process that is turned over to the PM as an “all other duties required.” If a PM is not a solid estimator or is not effectively trained to capture all of the non-production related expenses (overhead, sales margin, etc.) damage to a company’s GP can be fast and critical.

Don’t take it from the field

Another task that often gets assigned to the Production Manager is the ordering of materials and job scheduling. Often there is a presumption that the PM, being as talented as he/she typically is, will be smarter than the field staff so they should order materials and create the job schedule.

Not only does this take time away from their primary roles of managing people and production, it robs the Project Managers or Lead Carpenters of the very tasks that create ownership and efficiencies.

In some instances, the Production Manager takes on these additional tasks to compensate for lack of ability in the Job Manager. Instead of training a Job Manager to do their job properly they take the tasks on themselves and work 60-70 hours a week and eventually burn-out and leave.


So how do we fix Job Description Creep?

  • As you grow, invest in the right people before the function is required. This allows for proper on-boarding and training before their role is critical.
  • Resist the urge to take on work unless you have the structure (manpower in sales & production) to produce it effectively and at your desired GP.

In our Production Manager Roundtables we have found that if a PM can clearly define the additional tasks that they have either been assigned or taken on, they can focus on their primary roles of managing people and production. These “and all other duties as required” tasks can be properly assigned, distributed and trained, leading to greater profitability and job satisfaction.