Make Time for In-Office Training

Remodeling companies are missing a great opportunity for job training by limiting it to the work site. Yes, there does have to be on-site training to learn a skill, but it might take longer because everything is being taught on the job. 

Here are some ideas to make the most of training your field staff in your office.

Have a Set of Plans

Develop a set of plans that introduce the trainee to terminology and ideas you use in your business. These should be simple plans that introduce the basics. Label everything — headers, jacks, rafter cuts, rebar, footers, etc. Let your employees study and review them, and then have them fill in the blanks on another drawing with the labels left out. They’ll get familiar with terminology and locations, and they’ll need a lot less time from the trainer or a supervisor on the job site — giving everyone more time to get the work done.

Hit the Books

Build a list of books relevant to the remodeling business — and require your new employees to read them. Ask the employee to invest in buying these books — either in print or a Kindle edition for their own education. Let them have some skin in the game of growth. As with the plans, there must be some follow up in the form of testing, or at the least conversations to see that they’re learning while they read.

Don’t forget magazines, either in print or online. Buy the Journal of Light Construction. Get the free ones that are out there. Read them yourself and then make it a game to see if your team members can answer basic questions that you found that apply to your business. You could have them come to a company meeting and share what they’ve learned.

Make it a priority to do some part of your new employee training in the office — build it into the job schedule, and into their job reviews and as the basic competencies they have to master. That can include training on the devices and apps you want them to use in the field. New members of your field team will learn faster and better with a mix of in-office and job-site training.

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!

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.

4 Key Pieces to a Better Remodeling Project Handoff

Many remodeling companies do a handoff process shortly before a project starts. If you don’t, here are the basics. Sales, Design and Production meet to go over the job. The purpose is to get the Production staff acquainted with the job and free up Sales and Design to focus on more sales.

The meeting can be as long as several hours or as short as half an hour, it depends on the content and the details a company wants to discuss. There are common elements that go into handoff meetings:

  • Plans and the scope
  • Trades that will be included and their contracts for the job
  • Items that are selected and — most importantly— ones that are not

Too often, known problem areas get no attention. But this is probably the most critical topic to discuss. The Lead Carpenter or Project Manager can read all the other information during a separate planning time, but what invariably causes problems is the information that’s not written down.

There are three main areas that are essential but aren’t discussed with production enough, and one more that I’d like to see become standard.

1. The Clients

Not just their names, but how they make decisions, who cares the most about the kitchen, what seems to be their biggest driver for this job, and what about family life?  The Salesperson has usually discovered all of these and has tried to incorporate into the project. If they’re not shared, the on-site manager will invariably make a mistake that will violate something the client assumes is known.

2. Problem Areas

There are always problem areas hidden in the plans and scope. We know they’re there and Sales and Design knows. So talk about them them up front — get it out of the way so the job manager knows the Sales and Design team has thought about these things. The alternative is the Production team discovers them later, and will almost always have a negative reaction.

3. The Budget

We’re always messing with the budget to “get the job.”  The reality is that in some cases we feel we have to, and in other cases we just do. So in the handoff it’s good to alert the site manager about any places that Sales or Estimating thinks are tight or simply have been cut to get the job. This gives the site manager has time to prepare, and it develops trust for their team mates.

4. The Visuals

Recently I worked with two companies that were doing things I thought were very cool during the handoff meeting. Both were centered on visual cues.

We know that the Sales process is visual — clients look at pictures, samples, and often 3D drawings. But then we hand production a 2D set of plans and a written scope.

One of these companies shares the “Inspiration Pictures” that led the client to actually do the project. This gives the site manager an idea of what the client expects. Now, they may have had to tone it down to a budget, but at least there is a real vision for what the client wants.

The other company is sharing a 3D rendering the client sees as part of the Sales process. The site manager now can imagine what the product should look like.  If there’s anything that reality deviates from the 3D vision, it can be addressed before the client sees it in place.

The main idea to remember about this handoff meeting is that the job details are a little incidental. The most important aspect is getting the site manager ready to interact with the client.  If you can effectively set that stage, you’ll have no trouble building the thing!


PowerTips Book Recommendations: February 2019

Every week we ask our PowerTips Unscripted guests to name their favorite business book, and the choices can be surprising — either because they’re new to us or because they’re old favorites that are worth reading again. 


Mike Medford Sr., Medford Design Build

The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale
Mike’s pick is one of those classics, and it’s a book that comes up time and time again as a recommendation in the podcast.


Josh Kelly, and Parker & Sons Inc.

Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling — Master the Art of Persuasion, Influence and Success, by Jordan Belfort
Josh recommends this book to boost your sales game — or for those who are selling for you. It’s an especially deep dive into how to persuade others, negotiate, and become a master salesperson.


Steve Barkhouse, Amsted Design-Build

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman
This book looks at how to strengthen six key components of your business. Steve says it’s a great guide he and his business partner used to implement Amsted’s new leadership team.


Jackie Shaw, the founder of Get Organized! LLC

Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police, by David C. Couper
It may not seem like a business book a QuickBooks guru would love, but Jackie says that though it’s about policing, it has great lessons about the principles of leadership and what that means for an organization.


Chris Katkish, InSite Builders and Remodeling

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, you also have to read this book. Chris says it taught him to be organized, by giving him a system for dealing with everything re;ated to his business.


Judith Miller, facilitator for Remodelers Advantage

Construction Contractor Survival Guide, by Thomas C. Schleifer
The lessons here are applicable to all remodeling companies, says Judith. The author identifies the 10 reasons contractors fail, and how to avoid the pitfalls.


Tanya Bamford, managing director, R/A Marketing Inc.

The Sales Bible, New Edition: The Ultimate Sales Resource, by Jeffrey Gitomer
While this book if filled with great sales tips and techniques, Tanya loves it for the remodeling industry because of its emphasis on outstanding customer service as a sales tool.


What’s on Your Desk or Tablet?

What books have you read recently? Let us know in the comments, and tell us why you recommend them!

Disclosure: The links provided above are Amazon Affiliate links and that means, at no additional cost to you, Remodelers Advantage may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Maintaining a Strong Company Culture as You Grow

Company culture — we talk about it frequently in our Podcasts, PowerTips Blog posts and in the Roundtables meetings with our members. It’s an important factor in attracting new employees, and in keeping your existing staff happy and productive.

A good company culture encourages growth, and in this business environment, many remodelers are taking on more jobs, adding new roles, and hiring people to fill them. Especially in a growth spurt, the culture will change, so it’s important to understand how to keep those changes positive.

It’s become such a part of business-speak, it’s easy to blow past just what a company’s culture really is. It should come out of your mission statement, your values, your systems, and business practices. You may even have crafted a statement about what your culture is. But defining it doesn’t really tell you everything. You have to look at your people to see it in action, and as the business owner, you have to look hard at yourself too.

From the top

As an entrepreneur, your company had a culture even when it was just you at the beginning. As you added one or two employees, it became something else, almost by accident. If that happened, take control now. Define your core values, and create systems and practices that reinforce that, from customer service to internal interactions. Your culture is lived by everyone in the company, and affects how they interact with others — inside the company, and with clients and subcontractors.

A strong and positive culture depends on every employee understanding your company’s mission and vision. Your employees will look to you to model those values. If it’s not authentic, they’ll know. If you say, for example, that you value a healthy work/life balance and don’t demonstrate that yourself, you’re sending a bad message. If you — as the boss — do take time off but are stingy or openly resentful about others doing so, it’s an even worse message.

A healthy company culture is tied to values, but also to goals and objectives. As you grow, you’ll find it helpful to to refine and detail those goals and objectives to each department. Celebrate the wins — not only the big milestones, like a finished project, but the smaller, incremental ones like a lead qualified, sale made, or design for a client completed.

Growth & change

Clear communication is always a key component of a healthy company and a positive culture, but it gets harder as you grow. You’ve got staff in the office and out in the field, you can’t be everywhere at once, and most people are focused on their part of the whole process.

Have weekly meetings for the entire company, with brief updates from each department (even if it’s a one-person department) on their activities and objectives for the time period. Seems like a simple step, but it makes a huge difference. Otherwise, everyone’s operating in a vacuum. The larger you get, the more important the regular communication of progress and goals as a company becomes.

Make sure you explain how all the different activities tie together. If a new marketing initiative is bringing in leads, and sales is closing them at a good rate, then design and production know they’ll be busy soon.

Trim as needed

You may also find that as your company gets bigger and your culture changes, some of your employees aren’t growing along with you. Put in the effort to get them up to speed with the changes. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to fire them for the good of the company. This can be extremely difficult if it’s a longtime employee, but a grumbling old-timer can quickly turn new employees sour, or send them out the door for a better fit at a different company.

If you’re in growth mode, you know how hard it’s been to get there. Creating or resetting a strong culture to live your values, and demonstrate them to your employees will help you find — and keep — great people who want to do great work. With you.


What About You?

What are some ways you and your company have maintained, or changed, company culture as your company grew and became more successful over the years? We would love to hear some success stories out there! Use the comments section below to provide some feedback, we would love to hear from you.

5 Keys to Strategic Planning for Your Remodeling Business

It’s that time of year again — when we look back to see what worked and what didn’t for your business, the good decisions made and others you’d change. Did this year bring the success you’ve been building toward or was it a challenging year that fell short of your goals?  

But it’s also time to look forward. To figure out and where you’re headed and move you closer to your long-term goals. For this, we look to strategic planning. 

Strategic planning is the process organizations use to clarify the long-term direction of their companies, define a company’s mission and vision, set priorities, align the team, allocate resources, and translate those goals for the future into projects and budgets that can are implemented in the short term. It defines the work in the coming year that will get your organization to your destination in the years to come. 

I get the pleasure of working with companies by facilitating two-day strategic planning events for their remodeling companies. Based on those experiences, these are the five keys to good strategic planning to do now. 

No. 1 Involve the Whole Team 

Schedule your strategic planning event at a time your whole team can attend. Involving the whole team improves the process by having more input, broader discussions, and a better understanding of the process when it’s time for implementation.  

No. 2 The Right Setting 

Get out of your office. Hold the meeting off-site, at a location that’s comfortable and — if possible — inspirational. Participants need to be able to focus; away from distractions but also be in a place that inspires creative thought. You don’t have to go far, but you do want to get out of your own space. 

No. 3 Set Your Destination 

You can’t get to your destination if you don’t have a map. Start by defining where the company is going. Pick a point in the future (three or five years) and describe in detail your vision for the company: 

  • Your revenue goals 
  • The type of projects you’ll be doing 
  • What your role as the owner will be 
  • How the company structure will change to meet the revenue goals 

Be sure to get good input from everyone. The clearer you can paint that picture, the better the entire process will go. 

No. 4 The Current State: SWOT & KPI 

Describe in detail where the business is now. Start with a SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Look at this at both the company and department level. Talk about processes and areas for improvement. Make that conversation about processes, not people. Then, define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you’ll all use to measure operational improvement and the distance to your goals. 

No. 5 Budget and Plan for the Coming Year 

Finally, the goal of this meeting is to leave the process with an operating plan and a budget for the coming year. Set priorities for the team, detailing what role each member will play in the company’s success and how performance will be measured. Make a commitment to keep the team updated regularly throughout the year and avoid chasing new ideas and new projects that take the team away from the core mission.  

Follow these five steps to set your course, make strategic decisions, identify priorities, define roles, establish a budget, and build morale. If you do this well, you might just be setting the stage for the coming year to be the year you have been waiting for.


FREE WEBINAR: How Effective Remodeling Leaders Use Strategic Planning to Get Ahead

Tuesday, December 4, 2018
11:00am – 12:00pm ET

It’s that time of year… Looking forward to 2019 and setting goals, budgets and expectations. Join R/A Director of Consulting, Doug Howard, for a FREE WEBINAR as he walks you through how to set up that process within your organization. As you gather your team for your annual planning meeting, Doug will give you the tools and resources needed to make the most of your time.

[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

Tim Faller’s 4 Ways to Improve Your Production Meetings

Is this the scenario for your production meetings? People file into the room in about the same order each week. They sit in the same chairs or lean against the wall in the same place. They sit quietly while you “discuss” information that you think they will appreciate.

Then you discuss each job and what is going on there. When you are done, you respectfully ask if there are any questions and you get a silence. Then everyone hurries out to do the things they love to do.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be that way!

There are four things you can do to make production meetings better for everyone. For those of you that only have a meeting twice monthly or once per month, you may want to consider holding meetings more often, but these 4 tips still apply.

1. Use the time to say thank you or send out praise.

This is a universal truth, people respond to praise better than anything else. So just in case you haven’t thought about this, going through every job is probably not about praise but about fear for your team. Fear of being off budget, fear of being off schedule, fear of having to justify how the job is going.

So, save the project reviews for your weekly meetings with the on-site manager and use the production meeting to let someone share how they solved a problem that others may face in the future. Also, take time during the week to “catch someone doing good” then bring that up. Learn about the accomplishments of your team in their personal lives and mentions those.

2. Use the meetings to solve problems and develop the team.

Successful remodeling companies create an environment where employees feel that they are on a team that communicates openly and works together. So, discuss what problems the team faces. Be sure you listen and hear what the production team shares. Make a list. Then start working on the solutions as a group.

One company I worked with recently in Seattle has done a great job with this, however to get people talking, it took handing out a couple of gift cards to a local coffee shop. Once the team saw that the general manager was serious about making progress they have chipped in and have really been contributing. Rumor has it that no one is late for a meeting anymore.

3. Focus on forecasting rather than regrets.

One of the major challenges for all remodeling companies is getting job managers to look forward. So instead of having job managers coming to a meeting to talk about what has happened on past projects, have them come and share what is going to happen going forward.

This creates the chance for everyone to get an idea of what others are doing and collaborate on personnel, if needed. It also “forces” them to look ahead and be prepared instead of getting hung up on what has happened in the past.

4. Shake things up

As with almost anything in life, variety is the key. Do not do the same thing week after week. Mix it up. You should always be praising someone. But beyond that, use some meetings for systems building and problem solving. Use some for simply having a good time. Use some for forecasting and letting people share the good that is going on with their jobs.

For example, you can create a pattern by having the forecasting meeting on the second Wednesday of each month and the systems meeting on the third. But even with that mix it up, don’t run the forecasting meeting the same way each time.


With just a little bit of creativity and planning your meetings can be effective and helpful. What about you? Are your production meetings effective? What are some ways that you have made them stronger? We would love to hear how your team has improved your production meetings in the comments section below.