Get SMART: Making Your Resolutions Stick

It’s tradition. With all the best intentions, you made resolutions for 2020. Maybe it was personal, to lose weight, quit smoking, work out more, or spend more time with your family. It’s also a great time to refocus on your business, resolving to boost your net profits, save more cash on hand, or hire a new employee.

It’s also traditional that those well-meaning resolutions don’t stick. Most never take hold. It’s possible some of those promises have already been broken, in just six short days. In fact, according to recent studies, about 64 percent of resolutions don’t last past the end of January.

So if you’re still hanging on, or you need to get back on track, there are ways to help you succeed and beat the statistics.

It’s All About You

The first thing to do is to make it personal. Any lasting change you make must come from inside — not from external forces like your spouse or business partner. Making a life or professional change will only work if you are self-motivated. But that doesn’t mean you have to do this in a vacuum. Enlisting others in keeping you accountable can help you stick to your goals.


Our Roundtables members are well acquainted with SMART goals. It’s a system of creating goals that works well in business, and can be just as effective when tackling more personal projects. There are a couple different meanings for the acronym, but for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, remember these terms:

  • Specific. Set your goal so that it’s clear, concise, and concrete. That’s pounds lost, say, rather than just “losing weight.” Or you’ll have a clear job description written for a new hire by Feb.1.
  • Measurable. That’s the beauty of the specific goal — you build the measurement in.
  • Achievable. Set a goal you can meet, don’t go for pie in the sky.
  • Realistic. It’s a goal that’s within reach, even while doing everything else in your busy life. If you’re starting from zero, saying you’ll go to the gym every day before or after work is just not going to happen for that long.
  • Timely. Set deadlines for incremental and total progress.

Break down your goals into smaller steps. Celebrate your small victories and don’t dwell on a backslide. Keep at it, consistently. Once you’ve changed your mindset, established momentum, and created healthy habits, reaching your goal will get easier. 

And if your resolution in 2020 is to improve your remodeling business…

No better way to get a jump on the new year than attending the Extreme Business Makeover event in Baltimore on January 28-29. Two days of interactive, thought-provoking presentations, break-outs and panel discussions with some of the remodeling industry’s best and brightest.
Click here to register >>

3 Things That Will Make Employees Quit

When it comes to beating the labor shortage, retaining good people is more important than ever. There are plenty of job openings and other great companies to work for. We talk a lot about wages, benefits, and company culture as reasons people stay or go. Especially in a small business, sometimes it comes down to whether the company owner is doing the right things.

A big part of knowing what to do comes from understanding what not to do. Which is why a post from The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) grabbed attention. It calls out the 8 Things Managers Do That Make Employees Quit

Since SHRM’s members work at larger corporations with many layers of senior and junior management, not all the advice is helpful for a smaller business, but here are three that apply no matter the size of your company.

Setting Inconsistent Goals or Expectations

This is often a question of time. Remodelers work in a deadline-driven environment. But if everything is rushed and urgent, your team is stressed and under pressure — which leads to key components getting lost in the mix, costing even more time. To solve these problems, you have to work with your team  to prioritize the tasks at hand. You need to sit down and see what goals may overlap or be in conflict with each other and create systems that help take the pressure off.

Putting People in the Wrong Jobs

This happens when job descriptions are loose or you’re making do with a small team and tasks get added that are outside of a person’s skillset. It’s easy to do when things are busy. But if a previously top performer is suddenly not doing so well, it’s time to take a breath and see what’s changed. Look at what role originally asked for, and what it’s become. There may be a way to reorganize tasks and responsibilities to align more closely to your employee’s skills and interests. If not, it may be time to find someone else who can fill the new role.

Creating an Unsafe Space

You’ve heard so much about creating an inclusive and respectful company culture, where people feel safe enough in their jobs to ask questions or find a better way to work. If your team meetings are quiet and always agreeable, it may mean your people are too scared to speak up. A little friction is actually good, it means people are thinking about the way they do their jobs, and feel as if they have a stake in the company. You can foster this by owning your weaknesses and holding yourself accountable in the same way your team is. Ask questions, and listen to the answers. 

Taking a hard look at what you bring to the table is key to being the kind of leader people want to work for. As a business owner, you set the tone. Being transparent in your expectations will go a long way toward making your company successful, by keeping your employees happy and effective.

Building Your Remodeling Team Is Like Fishing

I love to catch fish. I didn’t say I love to fish. There’s a difference. I love to put fish in the cooler so I can use them for food or bait. True fisherman love the activity of fishing. If they catch some fish, that’s good, but a day fishing with no catch is still a good day. That’s not me.

To get the results I want — more fish in the cooler — I have to better prepare. But I’m terrible at prep for fishing so I don’t get the results I want. My fishing buddy, Brian, actually looks up information on line and reads it. He subscribes to an email chain where people share where they are catching fish and how. He prepares. So guess what? When he’s on board, I catch more fish. 

How does this apply to your remodeling business? You have to be honest with yourself, and build your team to fill in where you’re weak.

What Do You Really Want?

Identify what you want to do. Be completely honest. Do you really want to make money over and above your salary? Or is providing a good income for yourself enough? Do you want to be a full-blown company, or is designing and building one project at a time enough? If you want the business, the net profit, and the multiple jobs that running a company requires, what weaknesses are getting in the way? 

A contractor told me one time that he could sell anything. When you looked at his net profit you could see why. His prices weren’t high enough to sustain his business. Other remodelers have hiring problems — they keep bringing peopleon, but they quickly quit. Instead of admitting that maybe they could us some help hiring, they just say, “no one wants to work.” Just admit your weaknesses! 

Build a Team to Get You There

When it comes to fishing, I don’t like to do the prep. So, I take Brian along to help. If deep down inside you can admit a weakness, build a team that fills in the spaces. If you’re not selling jobs at high enough prices, get someone that can estimate the job properly and mark it up. Then you sell it for that. Don’t say “we can’t sell it for that” and drop the price.

If you can’t keep employees, get someone who can manage people well and let them do that. Imagine me having Brian on the boat and he says “let’s go over to 100 feet of water because that’s where people are catching the fluke,” and I say, “you know, Brian, I’ve been fishing for fluke all my life and I think we’ll stay right here.” No, I start the motor and get to 100 feet of water, and I get happy because I catch fish! Not listening to Brian would be like a remodeler that has really good people on staff, but tells them it’s good enough the way it is. Build a great team and let them work their strengths.

Learn from those doing. If I want to catch fluke I have to learn from those actually catching fluke. If I want to catch black bass – the same thing. My team, Brian, helps me with my weakness through what he learns and it leads to my success. When we come in we can say “look what we caught!”

Many people working for remodelers are highly motivated to see the company succeed — it actually identified as the second-highest motivator in employees. They read books, go to training, and participate in conferences, all so they learn what really works. Let them have an impact on your business. But remember you’ll learn best from people that have met your goals, not just those known for running or working in a great company. Just because someone has a reputation for being a great company doesn’t mean they’re accomplishing anything you want to learn. It‘s like a boat named Fish Slayer that never leaves the dock!

Team Building Will Be a Major Topic…

At this year’s Production Conference in Orlando! Building an effective and productive team will be a theme running throughout many of the presentations provided by some of the industry’s finest production “gurus.”

As you can see in the post above, team building is such a critical piece in the process of improving your remodeling business. Don’t miss this opportunity to attend… or send your Production Managers, Project Managers and Lead Carpenters! Register Today!

How Do You Measure Up: Benchmarking Net Profit

Information is power, and powerful, when you’re trying to run and grow your remodeling business. So you carefully track your numbers and your data. You can measure your year-to-year progress that way.

But how do you stack up against other remodeling companies? To truly gauge where you are now, where you want to be, and how to get there, it’s vital to have benchmarks from the rest of the industry.

If you want to be great, you’ll set those benchmarks — and goals — based on what the best in the business do.

One of the benefits of being a Remodelers Advantage Roundtables Peer Group member is the twice-yearly benchmarking of company performance — and all the data that comes in from R/A members makes for a valuable resource for charting progress and growth. Our members go through the numbers, see who’s doing what and share how they got there. Working in their peer groups, and looking at benchmarks set by the whole membership, remodelers are able to share their successes, see the places where they need improvement, and offer help, ideas, and support.

Out of all the data we can look at, one of the key indicators of the health of your business is your net profit.

Net profit is the amount of money left over after paying for all your job costs and overhead. Overhead should include your salary, plus the other costs of doing business, like:

  • Rent
  • Marketing
  • Payroll for office and administrative staff

What’s Good?

You need regular net profits to give yourself more choices in how you grow, how much money you can save, or how much you pay to hire the best people. In the remodeling industry, eight to 10 percent of net profits in the usual goal. The top 25 percent of all our Roundtables members hit that 10 percent benchmark consistently, well above the industry average.

While it’s a relatively simple calculation, net profit depends on so much more — your gross profit on every job, which means pricing, estimating, and scheduling every job with great accuracy while keeping overhead low.

What’s in Your Wallet?

Another benchmark of your business’s success are your cash on hand, or your liquid assets — and these are tied directly to your net profit. You should aim to have enough liquid assets available that are equal to between four to six month’s worth of overhead — something to get you through in case of a dry spell or an emergency.

Many of R/A’s top performers aim for and maintain liquid assets to get them through at least six months, and some are able to reinforce their safety net with a line of credit they can use if necessary.

Having that safety net can help you get your business through the bad times — a weather event, a bad hire, a project that goes sideways for another reason. But if you can consistently hit a 10 percent profit, and keep enough cash on hand to get you through those tough times, you’re well on your way to having a top-performing company that will grow and succeed.


More Benchmarks & Best Practices in Our Webinar

Net profit is just the start. Find out how you stack up in job costing, owners compensation, and work/life balance, and learn best practices in sales, marketing, team management, and more in the free webinar “How Do You Compare?” that Victoria will present on Thursday, May 16, at 11 a.m. ET. We’d love to “see” you there, so click here to register!

Delegation & Accountability: Get Your Employees Thinking & Acting Like Owners!

So many remodeling companies start small, with the owner doing almost everything. But as your company grows, and you’re running multiple complicated jobs, trying to do it all only holds you back.

But it’s hard to let go.

You know you have to delegate some of your duties, but too often that merely leads to micromanaging, frustrating you and your employees. When you’re in the thick of it, handing off some of your responsibilities can seem like the last thing to do — you don’t have enough time to explain it all, you don’t want to lose control, or you think you can do it better.

Learning to delegate is only part of the solution. Accountability has to be baked into the process to make it work for everyone. For to trust, and for your employees to fully understand what you want them to do.

The Cycle of Accountability

Everything about delegating duties to your employees properly revolves around clear agreements about who is accountable. Delegation is created in three distinct steps:

  1. Responsibility
  2. Self-Empowerment
  3. Accountability

Having clear agreements clarifies individual roles and responsibilities. To create a clear agreement about what you need an employee to do, follow these steps:

  • Create the task
  • Define what the outcome should be
  • Outline the actions it will take to get there
  • Set the deadline
  • Discuss the stakes — what happens if the goal is met or not.

It may take more time than you think you have to go through this process, but it’s time well spent. It will lead to your employee owning that task and feeling responsible for its successful completion.

Empowering Employees

It’s your responsibility to make your people feel empowered and supported — not abandoned — by you. Initially, that means scheduling regular check-ins as the task is in process. If there are problems or challenges, allow the employee to come up with solutions, then discuss.

Remind them that they are ultimately responsible to finish the task by the deadline.


The beauty of the clear agreement is that you and your employees can see whether they accomplished the delegated task. If they didn’t, you have a method to point out what went wrong and how to do it better next time.

You won’t have to do this every time — as your people take responsibility and understand outcomes, they become self-directed and empowered. They become more invested in the success of your company, and you get more time to grow it. Don’t be afraid to delegate!

Want More on This Topic?

If you are in Las Vegas this week for KBIS, Steve Wheeler will be presenting this topic at the Voices From the Industry Conference. Click Here for more Information.

It’s Your Choice: Be a Manager or a Friend

You run a remodeling company. You want to be a good boss. Or you just got promoted or got a new job as a Project Manager. Either way, you’ve got people depending you, but you’ve also got to keep your eye on the bottom line.  

How are you going to do your job? Isn’t being a manager and being a friend more or less the same thing?   


The demands and responsibilities are different. To be effective, you need to know the difference.  

A Manager 

A manager works with other people to achieve results. Ideally, those desired results are clearly defined and goals are set to meet them. The goals are referenced when working with the employees being managed.   

As a manager, when you clearly define the goals and results, you leave little room for interpretation and deviation. 

Make no mistake, managing is hard. You have to take care when setting expectations, and make workers accountable. You have to earn the respect of your employees, and inspire them to do more, and better, than they could on their own. 

The relationship between managers and their staffs is primarily objective. 

Think of the good managers you’ve worked for. When you think of a good manager, it’s someone who cares about results and helps you do more than you thought you were capable of.  

A Friend 

Now think of the good friends you’ve had in your life. They care about you, are there for you. The relationship you share is the most important thing. 

A good friend listens. They don’t try and fix things. They slow down and take the time to understand. Advice is offered — but only if you ask for it. 

The relationship is primarily a subjective one. 

When you think of a good friend, someone who really cares about you comes to mind. 

Your Choice 

All of us have experience being a friend — OK, at least 99.9% of us do. It comes with being alive and being part of different communities. 

But when most of us become managers, we have no experience being one. We got there because we were good workers and moved up the hierarchy, or took a chance and opened a business. Too often, you have no clue how to manage people. 

Unfortunately, not much formal training is offered when that happens. Especially when you’re managing people who were your peers, it’s easy to slip into also trying to be their friend at the same time. And nobody wants their friend telling them what to do, how to do it, and when it has to finished. 

You have to make a choice — what do you want? You can’t be both. If you don’t want to be a manager, that’s fine. 

If you do want to be a manager, now you’re responsible for finding training and learning the skills you need to be successful. 

It can be a difficult task, but it’s actually quite similar to how you learned to to be a good carpenter.  You read, you watch, you listen, you ask, you try, you screw up — and you learn.  

The deal is, you need to decide. It’s impossible to be both a person’s friend and their manager. How do I know? I learned the hard way. My advice is to avoid doing that to yourself. 

How do you handle it?

We would love to hear from you if this is something that you’ve struggled with in your business. Is something you’ve been able to overcome? How do you handle the scenario of being a friend and manager to those you work with? Leave a constructive comment below… We would love to hear from you!


It’s Halftime: Reviewing Your Company’s Mid-Year Performance

You lead a team of remodeling-industry professionals. You all set out to make this a great year for your company — a victory — and now it’s halftime!  Take the opportunity to head back into the locker room (or your office) to review your business goals and look ahead. Will 2018 be a win? What strategies will you use in the second half to make that happen? 

Unlike Hollywood’s version of halftime — the coach giving a rousing speech to a captivated team while the soundtrack swells — halftime for remodelers is about analysis and adjustment.  

You have to assess performance — what’s working and what’s not. Ask the question: “Where do we exceed expectations and where are we lagging?” Halftime is for making your objectives clear, so that all your team members know what to do in the second half to win the year. 

5 Critical Steps To Take at Halftime to Boost Your Chance of Victory 

  1. Have a clear measure of victory for 2018. Do you have a budget? What are your expectations for sales, gross profit and net profit? What should your balance sheet look like when the year ends? These numbers should be clear, written and shared with the team. 
  2. Know where you stand right now. You should have accurate financial statements through the end of June. You should know whether you’re ahead or behind. These should be in writing and shared with the team. 
  3. Understand what’s working and what’s notKnow what’s driving your numbers. Know your lead sources. Determine how many leads converted to design contracts, and how many those converted to construction. Are we finishing jobs on-time and on-budget? Are our customers happy and sending referrals? Are our employees motivated and committed to staying part of the team? Get the best information from those who actually do the work.
  4. Determine what to adjust. You can’t fix everything at once, and you don’t want to get away from the fundamentals of your business. In most cases, small, incremental improvements should be made to improve performance in the most critical areas.
  5. Manage, support and motivateBe sure your schedule leaves ample time to manage your business, while supporting your team to keep them focused and motivated to their best. Your job is to create the plan, call the plays and keep individual performances on track for the benefit of the team as a whole.

You have the same amount of time in the second half as you did in the first, so don’t panic. Take a breath, take some measurements, and use second half to make 2018 the victory you were expecting! 


Want More Halftime Strategies?

Don’t miss the Free Webinar coming up on on July 25th “Mid-year Check-up: 7 Key Strategies to Get Back on Track!

Doug Howard and Tim Faller will walk you through various ways to analyze your progress so far in 2018 and make key changes to help build your business. Doug will present the business perspective and Production “Guru” Tim will address the production side.


[Podcast] Episode 23: Managing Your Customers with Chip Doyle

As a business owner, it seems like you manage everyone — your staff, your crews, your kids, your pets. But if you — and especially your designers — aren’t managing your customers, says Chip Doyle, you’re wasting time and losing out on potential profits.

In this episode, Victoria, Mark and Chip discuss how to break up bottlenecks and speed up the process of handing off from Design to Production. By effectively managing client expectations, setting clear goals and deadlines, and guiding clients intentionally, you can avoid having projects park for too long in design and selections. “Time kills deals,” says Chip.

Chip has been in the sales industry for 28 years, and training with Sandler for nearly 16 years. He’s a sought-after speaker, and will be on the main stage at our Remodeler’s Summit in September, and co-authored Selling to Homeowners The Sandler Way. Chip has a licensed training center and trains companies of all sizes in Pleasant Hill, CA, helping them reach their full potential, exceed expectations and continue to grow.

Empowering designers to guide, and ultimately lead, clients through the design process can increase your profits by 25%, Chip tells our hosts. Some of the ways to get there include:

  • Cutting design time in half, without cutting corners
  • Giving designers the right role models
  • Managing “genius attacks”
  • Setting clear meeting goals and timely next steps
  • The importance of deadlines — for clients
  • Getting projects through that would otherwise stall
  • The traits to look for in a designer — toss the DISC assessment
  • And, as always, much more…

Click Here to Listen to Episode 23 >>

To learn more about Chip and what he can do to help you grow your company, check out his website at

Spread the Word about PowerTips Unscripted!

As always, if you have a topic that you would like us to cover or know of an industry contact, author or thought-leader  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 andStitcher.


[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:


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 20: Constantly Improving Your Business Using Kaizen with Michael Sauri

Kaizen means (literally) “Change for Good,” and that can mean REALLY good things for your growing remodeling company. This process of constant improvement, with every team member participating, allows your company to constantly raise the bar on its target metrics.

In Episode 20, Victoria and Mark learn more about the Kaizen practice of process improvement by welcoming Michael Sauri, CEO of TriVista USA, to the show.

Michael and his wife Deborah started TriVistaUSA in 2005 with the goal of providing an outlet for creativity and a Ritz Carlton-level client experience. “Our Thoughtful Design Builds Fine Living,” is their mission statement and their mantra as they bring phenomenal, award-winning design to the Design/Build community in the Washington DC area.

The Kaizen practice focuses on improving existing, standardized processes by eliminating waste and was first practiced in Japanese businesses after the World War II.

Michael provides some great insight on how TriVista has adopted Kaizen throughout his business and includes:

  • The background of Kaizen and how TriVista got involved
  • Hiring and developing a team within the Kaizen structure
  • The differences between Kaizen and other process improvement practices
  • 3 metrics of measurement to measure client satisfaction
  • What a Kaizen Event is and what the goal of the effort is
  • Issues and examples where Kaizen improved their business
  • Managing team buy-in into the process
  • And More…

To learn more about TriVistaUSA, visit their website at


Click Here to Listen to Episode 20 >>


Tell everyone you know about PowerTips Unscripted!

As always, 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.