Leading Through Crisis

While you may have emergency plans for your business in place, it’s pretty long odds you had anything prepped for a business disruption caused by a global pandemic. 

Even in the best of times, being an effective leader is challenging — no doubt about it. For those of you who’ve had to put your business put on hold, and those who are preparing for it, it’s even harder. 

With that in mind, this article from the Harvard Business Review, “Are You Leading Through the Crisis … or Managing the Response?” has some insights and inspiration you can use right now. 

The authors have studied crisis management for almost 20 years, and say that crises are often over-managed but underled. They’ve put together four traps a leader might fall into during turbulent times.

1. Taking a Narrow View

Your brain is hard-wired to hyper-focus on only the threat. However, leaders need to be able to pull back and see the whole field — what’s happening right in front of you and all around you. Take a broad view, including near-term and long-term challenges. 

2. Getting Seduced by Managing

Managing a crisis can give your adrenalin a boost and be thrilling. The authors liken it to your kids’ sugar high, though. That surge is followed by a crash. Instead, keep taking that long view, and anticipate what’s to come in the next week, the next month, even the rest of the year. You need to delegate, support, and trust your team as they also make tough decisions.

3. Overcentralizing the Response

In other words, you can’t control everything. Instead, seek order rather than control. Order means people know what’s expected of them and what they expect of others. 

4. Forgetting the Human Factors

A crisis is a crisis precisely because it affects people — but that human factor too often can be eclipsed by numbers and spreadsheets and emergency measures. 

Lead your team by helping them all understand how they can contribute — and recognizing that effort.

Coronavirus Planning and Your Remodeling Business

As novel coronavirus Covid-19 cases continue to multiply throughout North America, it’s time to plan for how it may affect your business, your employees, and your clients. The situation is changing quickly, so stay informed through reputable news and public health sources.

Covid-19 causes a variety of symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, and fever. More severe cases can lead to viral pneumonia. There is no vaccine and no antiviral medications have been developed for it. Luckily, the majority of those infected will not have life-threatening complications. But the virus is highly contagious and spreads quickly and easily.

From the Top

The Centers for Disease Control has issued interim guidance for businesses and employers. The CDC recommends actively encouraging sick employees to stay home. This may mean implementing flexible sick-leave policies, and plans for potential absenteeism, including:

  • Creating flexible sick-leave policies that do not penalize employees for staying home when sick
  • Not requiring a healthcare provider’s note for sick employees — doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals may be too busy for that
  • Allow your employees to stay home to care for sick family members
  • Give your office staff the flexibility to work from home
  • If an employee becomes ill at work, they should be separated and sent home

According to the CDC, it is possible for a person to be infected by touching a surface with the virus on it, and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. Within your office and facilities, emphasize hand-washing and good hygiene, as well as increased attention to cleaning frequently touched surfaces including doorknobs, phones, keyboards, countertops, workstations, and the restrooms. Provide disposable wipes and hand sanitizer, if available.

At the Job Site

Equip your field crew with cleaning supplies, disposable wipes, and hand sanitizer for use in vehicles and on-site. Review good hygiene practices for your field team and have your lead carpenter or project manager enforce them for your team and all subs on site. And it’s an ugly job, but designate someone to be responsible for ensuring the surfaces on portable toilets are clean at the job site — contact with fecal matter from an infected person may transmit the virus. So provide disinfecting hand wipes.

Give your project manager or lead carpenter discretion to send sick workers and subs home. Because remodeling takes place in people’s homes, you should require your clients to let you know of any illnesses in the family. Work will have to stop if anyone in the household has to be quarantined in the home.

For the complete CDC instructions, access the document here: CDC.gov

Review Your Insurance Policies

Take some time to review your insurance policies — your own health insurance, that of your employees, and your business policy. In the case of Covid-19, talk to your agent about your business interruption insurance. Because you work in people’s homes, it’s not only your employees missing work that could cause delays. 

Check Your Cash Flow

Any disruption in your job schedules mean fewer payments coming in. We advise having enough liquid assets available 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.  If you don’t have enough cash on hand to get the company through a lean period, it’s time to get your financial house in order. You may want to reinforce that safety net with a line of credit — read Victoria’s article on choosing between a line and a loan to use if necessary.

Have a Business Continuity Plan

Once the threat of illness has passed, you need to be able to operate your business and move forward quickly. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has great information for businesses you can use to create an extensive plan. Here is a PDF that will help you prepare and tailor a plan that works for you.

Don’t Panic, But Stay Aware

Panic is contagious — maybe more so than the virus. Open communication about changes in your sick leave policies, and understanding from everyone involved, will help inform and empower your team. 

Developing the 6 Domains of Resilience

When you own a remodeling company, the one characteristic that’s the most important to have — in my opinion — is resilience. 

Resilience is the ability to learn from your setbacks and mistakes. Resilient small-business owners learn how to turn mistakes into opportunities. They learn to look past the immediate setbacks and keep their eyes firmly on their long-term goal. 

Essentially, small-business owners must learn to see the forest for the trees and not get hung up on the minutiae. The details of the setback or the finer points of the mistake don’t matter. What matters is how you deal with those setbacks and keep moving forward.  

I recently read an article from an organization called Hello Driven, which identified six domains that have a significant impact on your resilience. Here’s a synopsis. 


Hello Driven says vision is the most important of the domains. Vision is about your sense of purpose, goals, and personal vision for yourself. This is the most important domain because all other domains are guided by what you want to achieve. 

Having clear vision allows you to be decisive when facing tough choices, and to maintain perspective when facing challenges. What’s important is being specific and clear. The more clarity you have, the easier it is to make decisions — you know what’s important and what’s not. This helps you stay focused. 


Composure is about regulating emotions when big and little things happen. It’s the ability to be calm when you’re facing conflict or hearing about a sudden change at work. It’s not wasting energy on stuff like traffic jams or inconveniences. Composure in these instances is important because becoming emotional prevents you from thinking clearly and critically. 


Creativity and innovative problem solving is incredibly useful when facing challenges along the way. This is what the reasoning domain is all about — taking action ahead of time to prevent things from going wrong in the first place. In fact, it’s mostly about proactive action. This is like going to the dentist regularly so you won’t need a root canal later. Think proactively through how things may go wrong and take action ahead of time to prevent or minimize impact.

Plus, a high reasoning ability means you welcome a changing environment because you know that it always brings hidden opportunities. By maintaining your composure and knowing what you want to achieve, change is no longer a threat. You can look for things others might have missed, helping you to succeed.


Persistence is the key. Einstein pointed out the importance of persistence for success when he said that “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” In a small business, success is not a given. You need to be willing to work hard and smart and stay with a problem if you hope to achieve something. You also have to realize that mistakes will crop up regularly,  take them in stride, and learn from them. 

Be realistic about your goals. Research shows that those who are overly optimistic about succeeding are less likely to, since they tend to give up at the first sign of trouble. What’s more useful for success is to have a sense of “realistic optimism.” That means you’re hopeful about your ability to succeed, but realize the road will be tough and full of challenges. 


In a complex world, few of us can achieve anything meaningful alone, so it’s crucial to build support networks. These function as a safety net while creating one for others. This is where Roundtables comes in. Participation in the special Roundtables Community can be a major asset in helping you create and maintain resilience. 


Good health means looking after your body through eating right, making time for regular exercise, and getting quality sleep. A healthy body provides a strong foundation for your own resilience so you can focus on your sense of purpose and goals. Good health is not the ultimate goal, but instead enables you to achieve your larger personal vision.

What’s great about these examples is we absolutely have the capacity to build and improve our own resilience by paying attention to each of these domains. Strengthening one’s resilience is a lifelong and ongoing journey. Your efforts here improve your quality of life while directly contributing to the success that you can achieve in business and in life! Here’s to a fabulous future for all of us.

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.

[Video] All Together Now: Getting Your Team to Buy In

Growing your remodeling company often means you have to change your processes and systems to keep operating efficiently. And as hard as that can be, sometimes it’s the easy part. The challenge comes with getting your team on board with you.

It’s common for some employees to ignore the new systems and keep doing what they’ve always done. They may fear or fight the new methods because they don’t understand the reasoning behind it.

In today’s PowerTips, we take a look back at a PowerTips TV episode that shows you how to get buy-in from your team.

Victoria details how to get your employees on board with the new processes that will help you grow, by making them understand what it means to them — and your clients, including:

  • Getting discussions flowing
  • Setting goals
  • Making commitments, and keeping them

Change can be hard. But if you ask the right questions, have good answers, and put a premium on open communication, you can get your team working with you, not against you.

PowerTips Book Recommendations: July 2019

With the holiday coming at the end of the week, you may take a long weekend — or are already on vacation. It’s a perfect time to grab a good book and get some reading done. We ask our PowerTips Unscripted guests about their favorite business books every week. Here are some of the answers, as well as why these books are important to them — and may become your own favorite.

Tim Faller

R/A Senior Consultant and Master of Production 
Episode 67: Kicking Off Slippage Awareness Month
Episode 50: LIVE from the Extreme Business Makeover
Episode 08: Zero Punch List Production

The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability (Amazon)

Tim likes this book’s take on accountability, and getting employees to take ownership of the larger goals to create ownership of their own performance.

Liz Moisan

Product Innovation Specialist at Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle
Episode 64: What Healthcare Can Teach Remodeling about LEAN

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High (Amazon)

Liz says she uses what she learned from this book at work and at home, because it focuses on ways to communicate when there are strong emotions, high stress, and opposing opinions.

Mike Foti

President, Innovate Building Solutions, Cleveland
Episode 57: How to Capture Cost-Effective, Exclusive Leads

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t (Amazon)

From a leadership standpoint, Mike says, this book cites the importance of having leaders who are humble, and who respect others, to the success of your business.

Allison Iontasca

Owner,  F.H. Perry Builder, Hopkinton, MA 
Episode 56: The Secret to Successful Employee Reviews

Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness (Amazon)

This is a workbook for developing your personal vision, your personal balance sheet, and how to put learning goals in place to develop it. Take the time and you’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself, says Allison.

Paul Kowalski

Owner, PK Builders, Charlotte, NC
Episode 58: How LEAN Principles Have Improved My Business

The E-Myth Contractor: Why Most Contractors’ Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Amazon)

Paul says this book was a game-changer for him, and got him working less in the business, and more on the business,  

Successful Team Building Starts at the Top

Almost every organization, at one time or another, talks about their workforce as a team. It sounds friendlier, and puts less emphasis on differences in roles and jobs. But not every company works as a team, getting better results, and lessening friction.

It’s more than a feel-good term, and if your remodeling company isn’t running as smoothly as it should, refreshing yourself on the principles of teamwork can make a big difference. As you continue to face labor shortages in the industry, creating a cohesive team can allow you to do more with less, avoid burnout for you and your employees, and make positive changes in your company culture.

From the Top

Any team needs leadership — without it, you’ve got a loose group of personalities who may or may not find a way to work together well. As a team leader and builder, your first steps are to establish relationships based on trust and loyalty. If you trust your team, as individuals and as a whole, they’ll trust you.

Herding Cats

As we’ve all heard, there is no “I” in team — there are a lot of them. You have to manage all those individuals to bring them together. As a manager or owner, you’ve got to get in the weeds and mediate and resolve conflict between individuals, keeping them pointed toward larger collective goals.

The University of California Berkeley recommends delegating problem-solving tasks to your employees to encourage collaboration and helping them feel part of a whole. At first, it may take a little more time to get a decision than if it was made unilaterally, which is why many avoid it.  Over time, however, the process will become second-nature — and take some of the little stuff off your hands so you can concentrate on longer term goals and how to get there.

Taking Measure

You’re probably already doing individual performance reviews, but one of the best ways to establish and encourage teamwork is by establishing team values, setting team goals, and evaluating your team’s performance as a group. Look at:

  • Why it’s important to do their jobs well
  • Define what success as a team looks like
  • What it means to live your team’s values

Encourage Listening & Debate

To get your employees to come together, you have to remember that they may all be a little scared to speak up, for fear of offending you, the boss, or making waves with their co-workers. Others may tend to come in like a bulldozer. By encouraging them to brainstorm together and work through conflict to reach the best decisions, you inspire their creativity.

As a leader, your first priority in getting to a team decision is to stimulate the debate. Remember that employees are often afraid to disagree with one another and that this fear can lead your team to make mediocre decisions. When you encourage debate you inspire creativity and that’s how you’ll spur your team on to better results.

If you need to brush up on your leadership skills to build and run your team, many of our Roundtables members, facilitators, and podcast guests recommend The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni.

[Podcast] Episode 54: Solving the Labor Shortage with Paul Eldrenkamp

Regional remodeling companies are desperate for more good labor. Regional carpentry programs are constantly on the lookout for good jobs for their students. How do you bring these groups together effectively?

In this episode, Paul Eldrenkamp talks to Victoria and Mark about the program he and his local NARI chapter have developed to bring students and remodeling companies together,  and what you can do in your area.

Paul works for Byggmeister, a design-build remodeling firm based in Newton, MA. He’s working closely with his NARI chapter to build better connections to carpentry students and teachers at local high schools and vocational schools.

His first outreach experience stemmed from a talk he did at a Boston-area high school about green building practices. The school reached out for help in preparing their students who weren’t going to college to enter the workforce with those building skills.

It grew from there. At first, Paul tried building an outreach program through the company, but it was overwhelming their resources. Working through other NARI with other interested member companies, a workforce committee was born. He talks about how they did it, and the benefits, including:

  • How to find people in the school systems and state agencies to help
  • Creating internship programs
  • The big hurdles, and how to get over them
  • Coaching kids toward lifelong success
  • The benefits to your own team
  • Budgeting internship hours
  • Identifying good candidates
  • Increasing diversity
  • The responsibilities of the industry
  • And more…

The future for the Boston program is bright, filling open jobs with candidates who might not be seen otherwise. If you’d like to reach out to Paul about your initiative or for help starting a program near you, send him an email at paul@byggmeister.com.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 54 >>

[Podcast] Episode 51: Deploying the Elam Ending in Your Business

We’re getting esoteric today — applying a sports concept to business. Not too long ago, Mark read an article and shared it with Victoria about fixing something that’s broken in basketball — the intentional fouls at the end of the game to stop the clock.

Nick Elam is a Mensa member and basketball superfan, who was frustrated by the stop-and-start slog the end of close games as the team behind tried to get ahead by stopping the clock in the final minutes.

In his Elam Ending, the game clock is turned off at the first whistle with four minutes or fewer remaining. The teams then play to a target score equal to the leading team’s score plus seven points. The first team to meet or exceed the target score wins. It effectively stops the need to intentionally foul.

So what does all this have to do with the remodeling business? Fair question.

You may need to change your rules, you may need to change your strategy. When the rules that make your business work start hindering it, what do you do?

Look at the frustration points and think creatively to figure out whether your rules need to change. Maybe your change order process works perfectly until the final weeks of the job, and then it all goes sideways. Think about changing the rules of the game for those changing circumstances.

Let us know what rules or processes you’ve changed or amended through creative thinking. Let us know in the comments. No harm, no foul. See more about the Elam Ending in Sports Illustrated, and here’s a link to The Basketball Tournament’s wiki and how it has implemented it.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 51 >>

[Podcast] Episode 49: How, Who, and Why to Build a Leadership Team with Steve Barkhouse

You’re not running a successful company unless you have a good work/life balance. But there’s only one way to sustainably grow your company without sacrificing your life, and that’s by having a strong leadership team.

Steve Barkhouse stops by to give Victoria and Mark a crash course in how and why you should have a leadership team — and who should be on it.

Steve is the president and co-owner of Amsted Design-Build in Ottawa, ON. Steve has a well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful, logical, and caring business owner. Steve founded the company in 1989, and it now produces  over $10 million annually. He’s a long-time member of our top-performing Roundtables group, and the recipient of the 2018 Remodelers Advantage Impact Award.

Steve and his co-owner decided to start a leadership team at their owners retreat about a year ago. They researched the different models, and picked the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Steve talks about why EOS was the right fit for Amsted, and also about the other systems they didn’t pick. He details their process, including:

  • The differences between a leadership team and a management team
  • The importance of having a facilitator
  • How they picked their leadership team and got lucky
  • The six benefits of a leadership team
  • How often they meet
  • Who runs the meetings
  • What the agenda is
  • And a whole lot more…

Forming the leadership team was the best decision he ever made. “Outside of joining Remodelers Advantage, of course,” he says.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 49 >>