Becoming an Employer of Choice

It’s 4:15 on Wednesday afternoon. Your production manager, who’s been with you for more than 18 years, walks into your office and gives you notice that he’s retiring at the end of the month. While it’s not a complete surprise, the timing was much sooner than you expected. However, he says concerns about his health made his decision more immediate.

So you’ve just added “hiring a production manager” to your list of tasks and responsibilities.

While you have to fit it in among your many other duties and project, it’s a critical task. Everyone agrees that hiring just the right person is critical for the company. So you plunge into the hiring process by putting together an updated job description, placing ads, spreading the word, and hoping the right person is available at the exact time you need them. It could be weeks or months before you fill that position. 

Get Better Odds

By contrast, you’d never wait until you were just about out of projects to begin marketing your company and looking for new customers. Even when your company has plenty of work, you continue your marketing efforts and strategy, getting your message out and keeping lists of potential customers for the future. 

Remodeling companies should approach recruiting the same way.

Marketing as an Employer

Business owners should brand and market their company as an “employer of choice,” always looking for talented people that could really add to the team. The company should be able to articulate why it’s an attractive place to work as a complement to its marketing outreach for new clients. 

The good news is that if you’re already marketing your company to clients through your website, social media channels, and other functions, you’re already in a strong recruiting position. People want to work for successful companies. If you’re featuring endorsements of your work for happy clients, use that model to feature happy employees through testimonials about working at your company. Shine a light on fun team outings or celebrations. Work on your company culture and your employees will be your best recruiting tool, in person and through your marketing.

Fill the Funnel

It’s a much better scenario to have a file of people that would love to come to work for the company, with the ability to reach out to one of them as soon as you know the production manager position is opening up. 

Companies should continually work to market themselves as an employer of choice. You should have your own unique selling proposition for recruiting, detailing why a person would want to work with you, and about your company’s culture. The importance of making key hires when needed can make all the difference in the life of an organization. This is a key strategy for growing a successful company.

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“Goals to Actions, Actions to Results”Charting Your Course for 2020
with Doug Howard

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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.

Provide Education and Development to Attract and Keep Employees

The labor shortage in remodeling is a fact of life, and you’ve got to do more than just hand out a paycheck to keep your employees happy and engaged. One of the best ways to do that, according to a recent survey by the Harris Poll, is to create opportunities for your team members to learn and develop their skills.

A whopping 70 percent of employees surveyed say they’re at least somewhat likely to leave their present job to work for another company known for investing in workers’ education and development, according to the survey.

Three out of four respondents say they feel they’re on their own with their development. 

Put those two findings together, and it’s clear that keeping good employees depends on supporting their training and development, and providing a way to help them learn and add skills and knowledge.

Training on the Job

While some training can be done on-the-job and on the fly, having a more structured and repeatable process makes it easy for your team to understand and use it — and it can help you in finding the kind of workers you need.

At Harth Builders in Spring House, PA, a longtime Roundtables member, it’s called the ladder of opportunity, a step-by-step systematic approach to training and keeping good people. It’s a roadmap they’ve developed to show the potential growth to their field workers, and acts as a valuable recruiting tool. You can hear more about it on Episode 28 of The Tim Faller Show

You can also talk to your suppliers, manufacturer reps, and trade partners to set up short, specific, training opportunities for your production team.

Other Learning Opportunities

While taking someone off of a job site or out of the office during the kind of business surge remodelers are experiencing seems like it would put you behind, making that kind of investment in your people will pay dividends later. You’re more likely to keep that employee, and they’ll learn skills that will make jobs go faster, cut down on mistakes and wasted time, and ultimately make you more profitable.

Obviously, we here at Remodelers Advantage strongly believe in education and skills building in every facet of the remodeling industry. We’re not alone though — our friends at NARI have a variety of continuing education courses and certifications that will sharpen the skills of your field staff, as well as regional events.

Trade shows are filled with educational opportunities, and you don’t have to be out an arm and a leg on air fares and hotel costs — look for those regional events that may be a day trip. Even if there’s no conference program — or you’re not sure you want to pay extra — just being on the show floor and watching live demonstrations can teach new skills and techniques. It’s also a lower-cost way to dip your toe in and see what you and your team can learn.


Learn How to Grow Your Business & Build Your Team…

The theme at this Year’s Remodelers Summit is “The Art of Growth” and you will see by the featured speakers, detailed agenda and successful firms that have chosen to attend, that there is no better event to help you grow your business and build your team. This event is filling fast but there is still time to REGISTER and save $150.00 off the on-site registration. See you there!

Help for Beating the Labor Shortage

There’s a federal program that can help you get workers from outside the remodeling industry trained and paid while learning the skills you need them to have.

The Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act took effect in 2014, and is designed to help unemployed people get jobs, training, education, and support to get a foothold in a new career path.Implementation of the grants is handled by individual state offices.

The On-the-Job Training Program

WIOA funds are allocated through your individual state and local resources. The On-the Job Training Program is part of WIOA, and is designed to help employers hire and train skilled workers while getting reimbursed. Through the OTJ program, you can get help::

  • Finding Workers 
  • Training them
  • Paying for training 

You can get reimbursed up to 50% of the costs to provide on-the-job training for individuals hired if you meet the program’s criteria. The new hire has to be unemployed at the time of the hire.

Find Your State

If this sounds like a resource you’d like to use to find, hire, and train workers for your office or in the field, the Career OneStop page explaining the OTJ program is the place to start — and then search for your state offices for more guidance.

If you’ve never heard of WIOA or the OTJ, you’re not alone. It was brought to our attention by one of our members on our Roundtables Facebook group. He recently used WIOAt to help offset payroll costs for a new hire from outside the industry. The new hire was the one who told him about it, and he wanted other members to know. It’s one of the many benefits of Roundtables — the ongoing collaboration and information-sharing that takes place in person and online.

4 Ways Your Company Culture Will Help You “Hook” New Employees

As we prepare to meet at the Annual Remodelers Summit in September, we are focusing our presentations, content, and discussions on business growth — and what it takes to take your business to the next level.

In today’s tough labor market that discussion undoubtedly turns to finding and keeping good employees. I found this article on Inc. and I think it hits on some great points on leading with your company’s culture.

Great, because if a prospective employee isn’t attracted to your company and looking to jump on board based on your culture, they’re likely not a great fit anyway. By leading with your company’s culture and personality, you make more of an impact on prospective team members than competitors who use more traditional means.

These four strategies include:

1. Highlighting Employee Stories

Think of this as an internal testimonial. You can talk all day long about how great your company is, but what prospects really want to know is, “what’s it like to work here?” No better way than to let your team share their thoughts and experiences.

The Inc. article describes a Culture Book, but the same can be achieved by dedicating a few pages of your website or blog to the effort with videos, photos of company events, team member profiles, or community involvement.

The easiest way to build this into your recruitment/interviewing process is to include team members who are willing to meet with prospects to tell them their story, answer questions, etc.

2. Change the Setting

Interviewing and meeting prospective team members is a less formal setting allows you to get a better read on how a prospect handles different social situations, and it allows the prospect to get a better view into your team’s personality and culture. Grab coffee, invite them to an after-work social hour, or perhaps include them in a community-based event.

3. No Pop Quizzes

We are HUGE believers in personality/performance analysis and testing (DISC) however use them as a qualification tool prior to meeting versus interrupting the interview and consideration process for either your company or the prospect.

4. Show Them That You “Walk the Talk”

As you describe or show prospects your culture and brand personality, show them how you implement it, or perhaps your team members can build it into their respective stories. For example, if you have an employee recognition program, SHOW it.. Dedicated parking? Wall of fame? Images from an incentive trip? Show them first-hand how it is used.

Recruiting and finding the RIGHT hires can be as challenging as finding new clients, maybe even harder. Put your marketing and sales hat on and build a recruiting/hiring process that separates your company from the rest.


Team building and Company Growth are the main themes of both the Annual Remodelers Summit and the 2019 Production Conference, immediately following the Summit on Thursday, September 26. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry.

Ep.54: Keeping Long-Term Employees with John Sylvestre

We’re once again talking about the labor crisis in the remodeling industry, but from a different angle. Developing an environment that will keep the employees you have, and help them grow in their roles, will help your company prosper.

In this episode, John Sylvestre talks to Tim and Steve about how he’s created a company that keeps employees — and keeps them happy.

John is the owner of Sylvestre Remodeling and Design in Minneapolis. He paid his way through school by remodeling and building homes and graduated with two degrees in architecture. He’s chaired the NARI education committee and the certification committee and also developed and implemented the Certified Lead Carpenter program. He has won numerous awards for his work in education including the Harold Hammerman Award from NARI. He says he has the best job in the world, drinking coffee and talking with people about changing their homes.

John’s team is filled with long-term employees — his Field Supervisor has been with him for 37 years, and was his first hire, his Production Manager for 26 years, and his Lead Carpenter for 27 years. He talks about how he finds and hires great people, and how he keeps them, including:

  • Letting people go in a direction they choose
  • Hiring well-rounded people
  • Understanding limits
  • Hiring for culture fit
  • Empowering your employees to make decision
  • Asking the right questions to spur hiring and development
  • How to train in your organization
  • Why his company’s like a hockey team
  • Mystery bus trips
  • Keeping your great people during downturns
  • Staying flexible
  • And more …

Including why having fun is so important in keeping the team members you want to remain with you.

We Love Your Ideas

Keep them coming! Send your suggestions for a topic or guest to Tim at tim@remdoldersadvantage.com.

Listen to Episode 54 >>

Ep.45: The Strength of a Technical Education with Paul Lewandowski

Technical education at the high school level seems to be fading, but it’s growing at the college level. There are more programs turning out skilled workers that can start producing for home remodeling and construction companies on Day One.

In this episode, Paul Lewandowski of Fox Valley Technical College talks to Tim and Steve about the benefits of a technical education for students and their employers.

Paul has taught residential building construction at FVTC in Oshkosh, WI, for 18 years. The program started in the late 1990s, when members of the local home builders association and the local NARI chapter approached the college hoping to start a program to train carpenters primarily for the residential market.

Every year, students build a nearly custom 2,000-sq.-ft. house for the college’s foundation, which is sold at market-rate to fund future home-building projects and scholarships. The scholarships can be used by students throughout the college, not just the building students.

Paul talks about the program, what his students learn — and how. Half of their time is spent in the shop at the school, the other half building the house. He discusses how you can take steps to get organized and help build trade programs at schools near you, as well as:

  • Where FVTC finds students
  • How he teaches quality carpentry
  • The paper test for trimwork
  • The tools required of students
  • Where they get jobs after graduation
  • What remodelers can expect from the students
  • Getting more women into the programs and industry
  • Finding trade colleges near you
  • Dealing with unions
  • And more…

The best thing you can do to solve your labor shortage and promote the industry as a great place to work is to get involved and be persistent at the local level.

Keep Talking To Us

We asked for suggestions for guests and topics, and you’re coming through — thanks! If you’ve got an idea for us, drop Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Listen to Episode 45 >>

Ep.44: Special Guest Kevin O’Connor of “This Old House”

Television is full of construction and remodeling shows, but we all know many of them leave false impressions of how fast and easy the process can be. But the pioneering program This Old House still shows viewers how complicated it can be.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the program, and they’re tackling a net-zero retrofit, a mid-century modern remodel, and spearheading outreach programs to get more workers into the trades.

In this episode, Kevin O’Connor, host of the Emmy Award-winning This Old House and Ask This Old House, talks with Tim and Steve about what you see on TV, and how it helps the construction industry as a whole.

Kevin has appeared on the two shows since 2003, and serves on the editorial board of This Old House magazine. He also hosts This New House airing on the DIY Network and Hidden History in Your House airing on the History Channel’s H2 network. Along with his four brothers and two sisters, Kevin grew up on various job sites led by his father, a civil engineer. When Kevin and his wife, Kathleen, were renovating their 1892 Queen Anne Victorian they sent an e-mail seeking advice from the Ask This Old House experts. The house call served as Kevin’s first screen test to serve as the new host (the third host in the history of the home-improvement series).

Kevin talks about the evolution of the show and about the Generation NEXT campaign, cosponsored by the mikeroweWORKS Foundation. It’s a high-profile effort to close the skills gap in the trades, encouraging young people to master those skills and look at construction careers. He also talks about the challenges of working on a job site that’s also a TV shoot, including:

  • Scheduling
  • Scrambling and adapting
  • More about the show’s two projects this season
  • How the show’s contractors juggle TV and their businesses
  • Using their big megaphone
  • And more…

Tim also talks a bit about how business owners can look at Generation NEXT and adapt it in their own communities to help bring more young people into construction and remodeling.

Tell Us About It

Do you have a topic you’d love to see covered or a guest you think we should interview? Drop Tim a line at tim@remodelersadvantage.com and let us know!

Listen to Episode 44 >>

Ep.37: How to Prevent Employee Poaching with Erika Taylor

Although wages and benefits are rising faster in the remodeling industry than in others, the labor shortage remains an ongoing problem. Good talent is hard to find. Many companies are poaching production staff from other firms to solve their problems.

In this episode, Erika Taylor talks to Tim and Steve about the issue, why it happens, and how to structure your company to keep your workers from being lured away. It goes well beyond wages — and Erika also discusses the results of a national survey of pay and benefits from Professional Remodeler.

Erika Taylor is director of content for Professional Remodeler. She’s also served as an editorial director with Hanley Wood and as a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Her work has been published in Los Angeles magazine and the LA Weekly. A native of New York and California, she currently lives in Dallas.

You have to fully engage your employees in your company to reduce the risk that someone else can woo them away. According to the survey, remodelers say they plan wage increases across the board and remodelers are more likely to offer benefits than other small-business employers. So throwing more money at the problem isn’t going to make it go away, because more money is out there anyway. Erika tells you how to proactively structure your company so employees want to stay with you, including:

  • What goes into a great culture, and why you need to have one
  • The importance of training to beat the labor shortage
  • Taking a hard look at what it’s like to work for your company
  • How to hire for culture
  • Identifying and living your company values
  • Why you should have quarterly check-ins with your employees
  • Identifying areas of growth for your people
  • The importance of trust and transparency across the board
  • And much more…

To learn more about developing your company culture, Tim highly recommends reading First Break All the Rules, from Gallup — it’s a great companion to this episode.

Listen to Episode 37 >>

Ep.35: Find Great Employees with Effective Marketing with Jack Jostes

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