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Generic Contractors Are Fading Away, Brand Names Are Shining

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Wed, Nov 13,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Generic Contractors Are Fading Away, Brand Names Are Shining

Generic contracors going out of business

Remember the isles of generic vegetables at the grocery stores back in the recession of the 1990's?   Just like the manufacturers of those cans of generic vegetables, during the recent recession many contractors put themselves into a commodity market where the consumer chooses product based on price.

Manufacturers of those generic foods told us what was in the can was the same thing you would get if you bought the name brand products.   They also told us that the reason they could sell at low prices was because they didn't do any advertising and skipped the fancy labels on the can.   Essentially during the recession of the early 90's manufacturers of these products were banking on cash challenged consumers being attracted to their low prices for what they claimed to be the same quality of products they would get if they purchased the more expensive name brands.


Here today, gone tomorrow

My recollection is that those products occupied a few isles at the supermarket during the early years of the recession and consumers did give them a try.  But, by the end of the recession consumers stopped buying them and the isles went away.   My theory is that consumers discovered the products weren't the same quality as the name brands, the quality of the food often varied from purchase to purchase, and even at a lower price buying them just wasn't worth it.   I can tell you from my own experience that my kids wouldn't eat the generic spinach.  For my family saving money on generic foods really didn't save us any money at all because what we bought didn't serve the purpose for buying it.

Branding for contractorsI would suggest the same thing is currently happening to many contractors who resorted to similar tactics.  To lower their prices they too at the start of the recent recession took on generic labels and stopped doing any marketing and advertising.  They also offered their services with the promise that even at low prices consumers would get the same quality project the well known name brand contractors were offering.  Like the generic food manufacturers of the 90's, now that the economy is improving, these contractors are  finding it hard to sell anything at all.


Here’s my message

This should serve as a wake-up call for contractors who want to stay in business and actually earn enough money to live well, maybe even eventually be able to retire when their body's give out due to old age.   Let's face it, if your selling strategy is to be the lowest price, you need to be the loser to win.   When consumers are short on money they may be willing to give you a try, but if your offering leaves a bad taste in their mouth they will likely go back to buying from the name brands as their income improves.

If you are having a hard time accepting my thoughts in this article just take a look around you.   All over the country I am hearing from name brand contractors who are overwhelmed with work, are raising their prices and desperately need more staff to help them get the work done.  At the same time generic contractors are complaining that they have very little work and consumers inquiring about their services are still aggressively beating them up on price.  Like the generic vegetables, I am pretty confident many contractors with generic labels will soon be gone from the isles where consumers shop for a contractor.


Why contractors have to sell on price


Think about it.  

If you brought a 30 pack of generic beer to a Super Bowl party, would your buddies let you in?


Topics: New Business Realities, Differentiating your Business, Marketing Considerations, Customer Relations

Benefits Of Helping Lead Carpenters Become Managers

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Sep 17,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Helping Lead Carpenters Become Managers Benefits Them And The Business

Why use lead carpenters


As a construction company moves into a true Lead Carpenter system, managers and lead carpenters may become confused and insecure with the idea that the lead carpenter isn’t always “working” or “productive”; at least in the traditional sense.  Knowing in advance that this can actually happen is a great way of avoiding the confusion and insecurities.  A lead carpenter in training might not necessarily like what’s happening, but being forewarned and understanding that this is a typical side effect helps to relieve the stress and speed up the transition.


Motivating them to make the changes

It’s a fact of human nature for any of us; being required to leave our comfort zone for a new way of doing things creates resistance.  You can defuse that resistance by helping your leads discover the new opportunities this change can bring about for them as well as your business.


For them: A chance to create their own destiny:

lead carpenter system benefitsWith the right manager and company, a good lead carpenter has a huge opportunity for personal and professional growth. Proper training as well as the ability to implement what is learned creates many opportunities for a lead carpenter. As we implemented the system at my remodeling company, our leads discovered that this new role generated a variety of benefits for them. For example; our leads discovered that they could delegate to others those activities that they preferred not to do.  At first this included activities like roofing, insulation and siding. Soon they discovered that if they could find a landscape subcontractor to supply laborers to dig footing holes, they no longer had to dig those holes (provided the cost was within the project’s budget, including the lead’s management time).

For the Lead Carpenter it created a way to control what they did and didn’t do on each project. They also recognized that they had more physical energy left on Friday afternoon. This was an immediate benefit to their social and family lives, but was also a long-term benefit in terms of their careers. Mastering a lead carpenter system certainly can prepare that person for future management roles, or simply allow a carpenter’s body to make it until retirement.

Benefits to the business:

Mastering a lead carpenter system



As a company, we discovered that these personal benefits for our leads had created other residual beneficial effects we had not originally anticipated. This type of delegation quickly became a way of doing business.  As the company grew, the need for more subcontractors grew as well. Soon our leads were finding, qualifying and developing relationships with new subs.  They were also helping us find good carpenters to hire who also wanted to become lead carpenters.  The benefits to the business were many…  


Some of the benefits my company came to realize included:

  1. The ability to grow the business quickly but with control
  2. More sub contractors to choose from, particularly when current subs can’t meet the scheduling requirements of a growing company
  3. Higher volume of production without increasing the number of production employees
  4. Why use a lead carpenter systemFewer risks of losing and replacing in-house production employees
  5. Subs observe your company style and culture, like it, buy into it, and might even consider becoming an employee
  6. Provides a great way to discover and observe potential employees
  7. Might unleash hidden talents in your current employees
  8. Customers will love the efficiency and quality of an organized and talented production team
  9. Customer satisfaction is easier to achieve
  10. Customers want “their lead carpenter” to return for their next project
  11. The business makes more money
  12. The owner and management staff can concentrate their efforts on other pressing issues or new business opportunities



Topics: Success Strategies, Team Building, Lead Carpenter System, Customer Relations, Keeping More Money, Creating Referrals

How Contractors Can Manage Allowances To Protect Profits

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Sep 12,2013 @ 06:00 AM


How Contractors Can Manage Allowances To Protect Profits


Does this sound familiar?

Problems managing construction allowances


During the design of the project the clients insisted that a $5.00 per square foot allowance for  an “in-stock” kitchen backsplash tile was plenty. During construction they picked out a handmade tile from Spain that sells for $22.00 per foot, takes 5 weeks to get and requires significantly more labor to install than you assumed for the self-spacing stock tiles. The project will be ready for the tile work next week; however the clients finally selected and ordered the above mentioned Spanish tile late last week. The clients insist it won’t be a big deal. “You can keep the project moving.  Finish everything except the tile then return when the tile comes in.”


Déjà vu, again?

If the story above sounds familiar, you probably also know the gross profit, scheduling and customer satisfaction implications such a scenario can have on your business. While this provides justification for your mark-up on the direct costs of a project, is it even worth trying to explain all this to your clients? Rather than risk such a conversation, many contractors will simply charge for the difference, eat the mark-up, pay the extra labor cost to the tile sub and hope it never happens again. Surprise, the same problems surface when the clients select the floor coverings!

Problems related to allowances will never go away completely. However, you can implement several strategies to manage their impact and protect your mark-up/margin requirements.


Being proactive is the key

Managing construction allowances to protect profitsProjects are most profitable and clients are happiest when everything happens as originally planned. Any changes to that plan can cause frustration for either party and may reduce your ability to get referrals if the client sees the changes as your fault. Before allowances throw a monkey wrench into your schedule, help prospects discover what will happen if selections are not made on time, or they choose products that will not be available when needed to keep the project moving as planned. Make sure you do this and mutually agree on things before you allow them to become clients!


Examples of proactive discussion topics:

  •  If you are remodeling their kitchen or perhaps the only bathroom in the house, will it be a problem if the project is not completed when originally agreed?
  • Are they willing accept and to pay for the additional costs related to pulling out of the project and then trying to return later?
  • If you do have to leave, how would they feel if you have to finish someone else's project before you return to complete their project?
  • Please feel free to add your own in the comments section below


Just talking about these considerations is not enough.

Manage Allowances To Protect Profits


After having proactive conversation with your prospects document their responsibilities in your agreement and what will or will not happen if they do not follow through.  Without clear consequences, and understanding the impact of those consequences, prospects become customers who assume they are always right!

Looking for more help with estimating and managing allowances? 

Check out the workshop titled: "Estimating, Pricing and Producing Successful Projects". 

Estimating seminar for contractors

The workshop is being offered several times at different locations between now and the end of the year.  Its also approved for 6 MA CSL Continuing Education Credits if you need to renew your MA Construction Supervisor License.


Topics: Managing Allowances, Success Strategies, Customer Relations, Keeping More Money, Plans and Specifications

3 Ways Contractors Can Be Small But Smart

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jul 09,2013 @ 06:00 AM

3 Ways Contractors Can Be Small But Smart

Small but smart contractor


If you consider your business to be a smaller company, and prefer to stay that way, why try to copy or conform to the way larger companies do business? Instead, be different! Be small and smart!  Look for what the big guys can’t or won’t do or maybe what they can’t do as well as your company.  Here are three ways smaller construction and remodeling businesses can beat the big guys.


Provide a more personalized service, and then find the clients that want that kind of service.

contractor blogTypically in larger firms most employees are specialist.  Each employee on the team will do just one part of the process, such as just the design or just the estimating. Because of this, clients working with larger businesses may never really get to know one employee very well. A smaller company has the possible advantage of having the same person sell, design, estimate, and help manage the project. Certain clients will be attracted to this type of relationship. To get in front of prospects who want this kind of service you need to market the advantages that come with it, otherwise prospects will assume you’re the same as the other companies they can work with.  Writing about how you do business and sharing stories about how and why your past customer benefited can help point interested prospects your way.  Doing so within your blog is a great way to get the message out.  


The people who represent your company should be ambassadors.

Jobsite ambassadors


In many situations, your employees will have much more personal contact with clients than the business owner or manager. Attract and train good employees, then create or maintain an atmosphere that fosters a desirable company culture. People buy from people. A happy team of employees with great people skills, who believe in their company, will demonstrate that message through their actions and attitudes. If your ambassadors are thinking and acting as ambassadors, clients may be motivated to use your firm again and perhaps also refer you to new prospects. Many contractors share that those client types and their referrals will often request a specific employee or lead carpenter as a condition of doing business. Consider whether your clients are buying what you build, or maybe how your team builds it.


Get your prospects to help you identify and sell your difference

When you meet with a prospect, why not ask what they don’t like about working with the larger firms. Better yet, ask them what they think might be advantages of working with a smaller firm. If you are careful not to lead them to a predetermined conclusion, you might just find new ways to service them and attract similar prospects.

What remodeling customers want


Try this next time you interview a prospect: Ask them why they think other prospects chose to work with your company rather than the big guys. Almost every time, their reason will be exactly what they are hoping you will do for them. Rather than give them a reason to say no by discussing other possible reasons, find out why they answered the way they did. Get the “why” behind the “what”, and then work with what you discover.


Something to ponder as you think about the future of your small but smart business

Differentiation for contractors


“Just because you’re following a well marked trail, it doesn’t mean whoever made it knew where they were going”






Topics: Success Strategies, Differentiating your Business, Marketing Ideas, Culture, Customer Relations

How Joe Is Keeping Customers Happy As The Remodeling Economy Rebounds

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jun 25,2013 @ 06:00 AM

How One Contractor Is Keeping His Prospects and Customers Happy As The Economy Rebounds

Busy Contractor


As the remodeling marketplace picks up the amount of work a business owner must get done is also picking up.  The challenges of keeping up can become multifold depending on the type of work you sell.  For example, for many full service remodelers, not only is the number of projects increasing, so is the average project size and therefore the number of details to be handled for each project.  If you downsized your staff during the recession to control costs you might want to consider staffing up again if you want to keep your customers happy and help your prospects make quicker buying decisions.  Another good reason might be that you want to have a social life again someday.

One contractor’s success story

Joe Levitch of Levco BuildersOne of my coaching/mentoring clients, Joe Levitch of Levco Builders LLC in Boise ID, recently shared with me that he was having challenges getting prospects to pick out products and make decisions during the design phase.  This prevented him from finishing up their agreements in a timely manner and getting new jobs started.   He was also having problems finding the time for ordering and procuring products during production as well as closing out jobs due to the number of small details to be managed at the end.  All of this was getting in the way of Joe growing his business and being able to keep up with the pace of sales.   He shared with me that worrying about getting everything done was often times getting in the way of being “fully present” at meetings with clients and prospects. Joe referred to it as feeling like spinning plates in the air.  He said he didn’t want to get to a point where he dreaded another new lead phone call coming in and wanted to be sure he served his clients in the best way possible.

To address his challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of a recovering marketplace Joe created a job description detailing the help and skills he was expecting and used it to recruit and hire the right person to add to his team to work with him and his clients.  By working together with his new hire Joe reports that he now has time to work on the future while his new office person works on the current. 

So far so good

Creating happy remodeling customersThe changes Joe has made provide a better level of service and attention to current prospects and customers, and, at the same time, gives Joe the time and ability to also fully focus while meeting with new prospects for the first time.  By sharing the workload with the right person and using the right process Joe has improved the service his company delivers and his customers are very happy.  He says he now looks forward to working with new prospects as their calls keep rolling in.



Topics: New Business Realities, Success Strategies, Recruting, Business Growth, Sales Considerations, Mentoring/Coaching, Customer Relations

After Bad Experience Contractor Shares Thoughts With His Employees

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jun 13,2013 @ 06:00 AM

After Bad Experience At His Own Home, Contractor Shares Thoughts With His Employees

Tim Piendel of GreatHouse Atlanta


Guest Blogger: Tim Piendel is the Principal of GreatHouse Atlanta, a full service design/build remodeling firm serving north metro Atlanta. Reach him at or 678.352.1035.




Back story to this guest blog

Contractor email to employeesTim is one of my coaching/mentoring clients.  We have been working together to help Tim grow his business and put a plan in place so he can slowly reduce his day to day involvement by empowering current and new employees as his business evolves.   Tim shared the email below with me after sending it to his employees.  In the email Tim shares a challenge he had with a painting contractor doing work at his own home as a way to help his employees understand how GreatHouse wants to build and protect its brand.  With his permission I am sharing it with you.


Here is Tim’s email text.

ALL GreatHouse Employees and Subcontractors:

I just wanted to share with you an experience I recently had with a contractor since I don't want this happening with our jobs. It is my intention to stay successfully in business and I want you to be part of that success.

Here's the story…

Just recently I had some painting work done on my home. There were two parts to the project, a preparation and a completion. The contractor came to my home and performed the first part of the project but did a poor job. I pointed it out and gave the person a chance to fix it but I was given excuses. I talked it over with my wife and we fixed part of the project ourselves and called the contractor back to fix the issue. They came back and saw what a corrected preparation should be like but offered no apologies, just excuses. They finished the preparation fine after that, but I, as a homeowner had to initiate it. 

The next step was to complete the project. This was an exterior project so it was expected they would not be here when the rain had made completing the project impractical. However, there was no call. Kind of obvious, but still, a courtesy call is always welcome. The next day came and was ideal for completing the work. However, the contractor was a no show and a no call. This is unacceptable. Now, with rain coming in again, the project was delayed another week. At this point, as a homeowner, I am frustrated, mad, and have lost confidence in the contractor. This all could have been remedied with a simple communication. 

Lessons learned…

1. NO MATTER WHAT THE JOB, DO IT RIGHT! Shoddy workmanship always cost you more in the long run. Return trips always cost more in dollars and confidence.

2. DON'T MAKE EXCUSES. APOLOGIZE AND MOVE ON! A customer does not want to hear excuses; they just want honesty and closure. Besides, you'll dig yourself a deeper hole.

3. YOU CANNOT OVER COMMUNICATE!!!!!! Call, text, email…whatever is appropriate, but do so promptly and often.

4. AGAIN, YOU CANNOT OVER COMMUNICATE!!!!! When you don’t call to say where you are and they are expecting you, they are just sitting there boiling and waiting to pounce on you and make your job harder and unpleasant.

You may think that your job is only to complete your service or product but that is only part of it. We are PRIMARILY in the customer service business. We have fabulous clients! By the nature of our business, we are invited into people’s homes and we must respect their rules and timing. We must earn and keep their trust. They must have CONFIDENCE that we will complete the project correctly, on time and on budget. That's what we do.

Thank you for your time. As always, feel free to contact me with any question or comments. I want all of us to be successful. I am willing to help anyone that needs help.

'We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.' - Aristotle



Tim Piendel


GreatHouse Atlanta wr

Topics: Team Building, Differentiating your Business, Production Considerations, Mentoring/Coaching, Guest Blogs, Building Relationships, Marketing Considerations, Culture, Customer Relations, Sage Advice

3 Ways Surveying Your Clients Can Add Value to Your Business

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jun 11,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Erica Engleand of GuildQuality


Guest Blogger:  Erica England is the Marketing Communications Manager for GuildQuality, the leading customer satisfaction surveying company for remodelers, home improvement contractors, and home builders. Supported by comprehensive reporting and marketing tools, GuildQuality helps its members promote their quality to stand out in a competitive market. For more information, visit


3 Ways Surveying Your Clients Can Add Value to Your Business

Guild Quality customer surveysWhile surveys aren’t a new concept for companies, if executed correctly they can deliver significant gains for your customer relationships. Think about it, your client may not feel comfortable bringing up any constructive criticism or concerns unless they have a forum to do so. Chances are if your customers aren’t sharing their concerns with you, they are sharing them elsewhere. Avoid this scenario altogether and make the first move to open up the door to communication with your customers.  If you’re thinking about introducing surveying into your company’s process, here are three ways it can add value.

1: Achieves Honest Assessments from Clients

In order to get the most out of your customer surveys, your client needs to feel as though they can be open and honest about their likes and dislikes regarding their project. The only way to ensure your customers are being 100% candid is to take yourself out of the equation and allow a third-party customer satisfaction surveying company to step in. The authentic commentary you’ll receive can help pinpoint your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

2: Measures Performance and Satisfaction

Guild Quality net promoter scoreOnce you have your survey process in place, it’s time to analyze what your clients are saying about their experience. Many companies calculate their net promoter score (NPS) to measure satisfaction and brand loyalty. The core of NPS is the likely to recommend score. Within GuildQuality’s surveys, a similar likely to recommend question is asked and measured on a 0 to 4 scale.

The satisfaction metric that most of our members use is the percentage of 4′s received, or, in some cases, the percentage of 3′s and 4′s. They focus on the likely to recommend question, but also zone in on other questions that are important to their business or are problems they need to address.

While surveying itself is important, it’s what you do with the feedback that can impact your business the most. Many of our members review each survey response together as a team at weekly meetings. This helps them to boost morale and create team engagement, as well as, develop a culture of customer focused employees.


3: Identifies Brand Ambassadors

Surveying clients also allows you to determine who your biggest fans are. Now you should leverage those relationships and empower your evangelical customers to promote their experience with your company. Think of these clients as your brand ambassadors. Equip them with your company’s business cards, web address, and especially social media links to share with their family, friends and neighbors. Homeowners are willing to give quality referrals for companies they appreciate.


Using customer surveysThe best remodelers and home improvement professionals understand the importance every customer’s experience has on the growth and reputation of their company. They survey customers in order to stay on point with their company’s delivery of service excellence. If you are interested in more tips for strengthening relationships with your customers download our free white paper, Guidebook to Nurturing and Leveraging Customer Relationships. 



Topics: Marketing Ideas, Guest Blogs, Customer Relations

The Crazy Things Home Owners Say To Contractors

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jun 04,2013 @ 06:00 AM

The Crazy Things Home Owners Say To Contractors

Crazy things customers say


Any contractor who has been in business even for a short time has probably had to shake his/her head at something a prospect or client has said during conversation.  Often times the statement or question might be the result of the homeowner’s honest ignorance about how construction and contracting work.  On the other hand sometimes it seems the logic behind their statements comes from left field or maybe even from some distant galaxy!

Here are a few that I have experienced and one recently shared with me by a contractor I work with.  I thought it would be fun to share these and see if others would share some of their own experiences about what crazy clients and prospects have said to them.  Remember, the purpose is to be fun and informative.  Please be professional!


You pay your guys $75/hr!

Crazy things prospects sayWhen I owned my remodeling business I had one prospect question me about a quote I gave her for some repair work at her home.   She asked me what I was charging her per hour for the carpenter who would be doing the work.  I told her the hourly rate would be $75.00 per hour.  To that she responded in a very dramatic tone; “You pay your guys $75.00 an hour?”  

I was dumb founded and had no idea how to respond to that one.  What does it say about our school systems and or the intelligence level of consumers when they think a business charges $75/hr for services rendered but then turns around and pays the person doing the work the full $75/hr?  Did that woman think I started and ran a business just so I could collect money and then turn around and give it all away, no money to cover overhead costs, labor burdens and profit?


It’s your fault my basement is flooded

Crazy CustomersOn another project my remodeling business was working on, a kitchen renovation, the client’s basement flooded during a heavy rain storm.   Their gutters were packed with leaves and as a result the water on the roof just flowed over their gutters and right into the areaway for the basement access door.   This all happened overnight after my employees had left for the day.  

The customer called us first thing the next morning to complain and said it had never happened before and must be our fault because we were there doing work on their home.   Of course we panicked thinking it was a broken pipe.  When we got there and discovered the real reason for the flood the home owner actually told my carpenter she would not hold us responsible for the flood if we cleaned her gutters and pumped the water out of her basement for free!


The Angie’s List complaint tactic

customer problems for contractorsOne of my consulting/coaching clients told me one of his customers complained about a 1/32” gap in a miter joint on a built-in cabinet he built.  The customer went on to make a big stink about it and made some threats.  Then the customer told the contractor to forgive the final payment due or “ I will go to every place I can find you on the net and write a bad review”.

The contractor told me he did stand up for himself and called the customer's bluff.  Eventually he was paid in full but said it was very stressful. I don’t know about you but I would call that blackmail or maybe even extortion!  Think about that scenario.  What would you do?  Would you stand up for what’s right and demand your final payment?  A bad write-up on Angie’s list could cost a business far more in bad PR than the balance of money due.  Plus, it’s my understanding that businesses can’t be proactive about writing reviews about their clients at Angie’s List, they can only try to respond after a member customer has already posted a negative review.   Just ask Chris Dietz about his experiences with the Law suit he is going through regarding a review posted by one of his customers on Angie’s List and Yelp.


"The Vendor Client Relationship - In Real World Situations"



What about you? 

Have you experienced some crazy conversations and or comments from home owners during your years of experience as a contractor?  Please share them with the rest of us so we can all shake our heads and have a few good laughs as well!


Topics: Videos, Fun Stuff, Customer Relations

Contractors Are You Sure You Are Working With The Right Vendors?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, May 19,2013 @ 11:02 AM

The Marketplace is Improving; Are You Sure You Are Working With The Right Vendors?

Building product supply and demand

The marketplace seems to be picking up for contractors.  Many are reporting increased leads and sales.  With increased demand for the products contractors need to build their projects we will definitely see supply and demand challenges with local lumberyards, the big boxes and specialty product vendors.  This supply and demand challenge is one of the reasons many in the construction industry are predicting as much as a 25% increase in cost on many building products.  Although contractors need to be aware of these increases as they price their projects, I suggest they also need to make sure the vendors and suppliers they purchase their materials and products from will be prepared for the increased demand.

If you are a contractor who has been buying on price from vendors who have been selling on low price to get your business, you might want to think twice.   If that vendor has a good business, low or no debt and is using efficient business systems and technology to keep their costs low, you may be OK.  But if your vendor has very high debt, has cut back on staffing, equipment and service, just so they could sell at low prices, their business may not be prepared for a surge in sales as the economy improves.

Choosing and keeping the right building product dealers for your business and your customers

Here are some things to think about regarding the vendors you are currently using.  This same list can also help you decide which vendor or vendors you should work with going forward:

    • Many lumberyards and specialty dealers are short staffed.   To save money and to stay in business many of these businesses have reduced staff during the recession and often times the people they let go were the higher paid employees.   If this is a tactic any of your suppliers used they may have let go many of their most knowledgeable staff.   The remaining staff, often less skilled and far less knowledgeable about building products, construction and contractors, will be challenged to serve contractors as the number of contractors doing work and buying materials picks up.
    • Lumber supply and demandBuilding product suppliers who have high debt may not be able to finance the cost of increasing their inventories to keep up with the predicted supply and demand challenges as the economy improves.   If this happens at your supplier you may find that many products, even common commodities like framing lumber, will be out of stock.  Imagine going to the lumberyard first thing in the morning to get the materials you need to frame a deck or reframe that kitchen, only to find out you can’t get what you need.  To keep working that day you might have to pay for longer lengths than you need, or might even have to drive to a different supplier in the hopes that they will have what you need so you can work that day.  Remember, if you lose two hours chasing materials, in reality you also lost two hours of productive time on the job.   That would mean you lost a total of four hours you could have billed your client for if the materials were already at the jobsite.
    • Choosing building product vendorsLumber and building materials dealers who cut back on staff may also be challenged to help you sell to your customers.   If you had a customer who wanted to see the door, cabinets or windows you recommend, will you be able to send them down to your local supplier to see the products they are looking for?  What is the condition of the showroom?  Is there going to be anyone there to make and take the time to meet with and help your customer?   Will the person working at that dealer have the sales skills, product knowledge and knowledge about you and your business to help you make the sale?


The risks of low price

Selling on low price typically puts any business on a path to failure.  Sure, it may seem to help things at first when money gets tight.  However, unless they can ramp up their businesses, and do so before the market place improves, they will be forced to play a game of keep up and catch up as their customers’ needs and demands for products and service increases.   Working with a low price vendor might seem attractive, but can you be confident they will have what you need when you needed it?   If they require a deposit on special order items, are you confident they will still be in business by the time you expect delivery of what you ordered?   What will your customers think of you and your business if their project start date gets delayed and or the completion date gets extended because you can’t get what you need from your vendors to keep their project and your business on schedule?


Low price LBM dealers


Choosing the wrong vendors by saving a few bucks on materials may cost you and your construction business lots of wasted time, money and the valuable referrals your business has enjoyed from what used to be happy customers.  I highly recommend you choose your vendors wisely!

Topics: New Business Realities, Working with Vendors, LBM Related Topics, LBM Dealer Topics, Business Growth, Production Considerations, Building Relationships, Customer Relations, Keeping More Money, Sage Advice, Shawn's Predictions

Is He Or She Really A Lead Carpenter? Probably Not!

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, May 09,2013 @ 11:47 AM

Is He Or She Really A Lead Carpenter?  Probably Not!

What is a lead carpenter


I was involved in the creation of the NARI Certified Lead Carpenter Program.  NARI did a great job putting that program together.   When the certification was created it included a definition for what a lead carpenter really is.  Unfortunately even though experts on the system helped define for our industry what a lead carpenter is, many remodelers and construction companies have ignored that definition and have decided to create their own definitions.   Without endorsing and enforcing a common definition across our industry every carpenter can have the title of lead carpenter.  This waters down the title and leads to confusion for employees, employers and, more importantly, consumers.  Also, I don't think it’s fair to true lead carpenters, those who have achieved the skills and experience to be a true lead carpenter, if we allow impostors to receive and use the title.


NARI Definition of Certified Lead Carpenter

Certified Lead Carpenter“A lead carpenter is involved in tasks and has responsibilities beyond the technical production aspects of a project. He/she is responsible for customer contact and communication, supervision of subcontractors and employees, managing the job site, scheduling, and safety issues. The success of a remodeling project during the production stage is the primary responsibility of the lead carpenter.”


NARI’s Certified Lead Carpenter Training Program lists the following seven basic responsibilities for a Lead Carpenter:

  1. Lead Carpenter dutiesCustomer Satisfaction
  2. Material Take-offs, and Orders
  3. Job Site Supervision, Protection, Cleanliness, and Safety
  4. Carpentry Labor
  5. Supervision and Scheduling of Subcontractors
  6. Building Code Inspections
  7. Project Paperwork


Job Description for a Lead Carpenter

An Overview of the Lead Carpenter System


Are you misleading your carpenters and your customers?

Just because your carpenter is the most experienced at the job site, and or is the highest paid employee at the job site, those characteristics don't make him or her a lead carpenter and does not justify giving him/her the lead carpenter title.  Plus, unless your business setup and systems have been specifically designed to support a lead carpenter system, how could a true lead carpenter actually perform their job duties?  

Project estimate for lead carpenterFor example, if your business can't or won't share the job estimate and pricing with a lead carpenter, how could he or she manage a project to meet the budget?  If the project specifications are inadequate, and or the business doesn't have a sales to production handoff process, the lead carpenter will need to be micro managed and or will need to constantly interact with the sales person who sold the job to know what to do and what to do next.  


If you hire a real lead Carpenter will he stay?

Lead Carpenter compensationI am also aware of true lead carpenters who were hired as lead carpenters only to find out that they couldn't act as lead carpenters at the business that hired them because of the reasons shared above.  When they find these conditions at their new job they quickly realize their opportunities for career and compensation growth are dramatically compromised.   So many left for a different business and opportunity where they could use their skills and continue to advance their careers.

With the economy showing signs of improvement, and as the volume and pace of remodeling and construction increase, there will be high demand for the skills and responsibilities a true lead carpenter can bring to the job site.  Businesses without true lead carpenters in the field will have much higher overheads than those that do.  In a competitive marketplace businesses using a real lead carpenter system with true lead carpenters will definitely have a competitive and a profitability advantage.


When to Implement The Lead Carpenter System?

 The Benefits of Implementing a Lead Carpenter System(2 Videos)


Is he a lead carpenter


So, is he or she really a lead carpenter? 

Does your business really have a Lead Carpenter System?


Topics: Careers in Construction, Recruting, Lead Carpenter System, Customer Relations, Business Planning