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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

Five Ways To Think Like A Business- For Construction Business Owners

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Apr 25,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Melanie Hodgdon, Business Systems Management



Guest Blogger: Melanie Hodgdon is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor who has been providing financial analysis and QuickBooks training for contractors since 1994. She’s the co-author of A Simple Guide to Turning a Profit as a Contractor.  Melanie and Shawn often coordinate their efforts when helping remodelers develop financial systems for their businesses so they serve the contractor, not just their accountant.


Five Ways To Think Like A Business For Business Owners

How to think like a companyI work with many companies in transition. The steps from being a “guy and a truck” to having an office and a bookkeeper and field employees are frequently challenging, but the milestones are pretty easy to identify. Ray the Remodeler used to work out of his house, but now he’s got an office. Bill the Builder used to pound nails, but now he does sales and supervises a crew. A less easily-measured but potentially even more important milestone is when the owner is able to recognize and maintain separation between himself (his personality, his idiosyncrasies, his strengths and weaknesses, his preferences, and his habits) from the company for the sake of the business.


See yourself as a business ownerAdding the trappings of a business (office, staff) without shifting attitudes about the business has held many owners back and limited the potential growth of their companies. As long as they see themselves as remodelers, rather than owners of businesses that deliver the service of remodeling, they risk seeing their businesses as extensions of themselves, reflecting their own strengths and weaknesses. They also tend to see their companies as being so unique that they can’t be run using best business practices.


Have you ever said anything like this?

  • “If I used that kind of markup in my area, I’d lose all  my customers”
  • “Yeah, I’d love to job cost my labor but I could never get my guys to fill out timecards accurately.”
  • I’m just too busy to keep up with the paperwork, so I really can’t count on my financials.”
  • “Sure I’d love to hang up my toolbelt, but there’s nobody else who can do what I do.”
  • My customers would never stand for me creating change orders for all the little extras we do; I just either eat it or try to make it up somewhere else.”


If you have, this is exactly the kind of self-defeating head talk that will keep your business not only dependent on you, but restricted in scope and sophistication to the limitations of your energy.


Here are some suggestions:

  1. You are not your business. Don’t allow your personal limitations to hold it back. So you stink at paperwork. That shouldn’t doom your company to have paperwork that stinks. Hire somebody who just loves paperwork to take care of it for you, but only after you have determined what information you want and worked with him/her to make sure their method of data entry is going to get you what you want.
  2. Chasing profit, not dollarsChase profit, not dollars. When owners start talking about how much their sales have increased, I remain unimpressed. Sales are nothing. Profit is where it’s at. Let’s say your volume is $600,000 in year 1 and $900,000 in year 2. A 50% increase, right? Wonderful, right? Maybe yes, and maybe no. If in order to sell and produce 50% more you had to hire a production manager, an estimator, and a salesperson and that caused a significant increase in your overhead, you could wind up with a lower net margin at the end of year 2. You might even end up with fewer actual dollars of profit to say nothing of the added stress of running more or bigger jobs. Know what numbers to watch, how to interpret them, and what to do to improve them.
  3. Plan for growth. Contractors who wouldn’t build a dog house without detailed plans all too often “build an addition” on their business without even a napkin scribbling. In other words, they add personnel, equipment, or practices but fail to integrate them into an overall plan. The result can be as disappointing as buying twenty 2x6-8’s when what you really needed was ten 2x6-16’s.
  4. Avoid basing business decisions on your gut. Thinking like a company instead of an individual can protect you from making decisions that, deep down, you know are bad. Do an “at cost” project for a friend? Hard for you to turn it down, but a justifiable decision from the standpoint of the business. Hanging on to those dead weight employees because you dislike conflict? It may be hard for you to let them go if you’re thinking like a kind uncle, but much easier if you’re thinking like a business.
  5. Stop trying to do everything yourselfStop trying to do everything yourself. If you haven’t already figured this stuff out on your own, hire somebody who has helped hundreds of contractors understand their numbers, replace habits with systems, and achieve a healthier relationship with their business. Comments from my clients reveal that many contractors struggle with the business side of things.  Would you like to move “…from being clueless & frustrated to confident and comfortable….”? Would you find it “…refreshing to speak with someone who actually knew what they were doing, understood what (you were) trying to accomplish, and just made it happen.”? Are you sick of being “…lost in a sea of numbers…”?


If your business had a voice, would it be offering you the very same advice?


Topics: Business Growth, Financial Related Topics, Earning More Money, Mentoring/Coaching, Guest Blogs, Business Planning, Sage Advice

In Remembrance of Walt Stoeppelwerth: Godfather Of Remodeling To Many

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Wed, Feb 20,2013 @ 05:19 PM

In Remembrance of Walt Stoeppelwerth: The Godfather Of Remodeling To Many

Walt Stoeppelwerth


On February 18th, 2013 Walt Stoeppelwerth passed away.  Walt was the President of HomeTech Inc in Bethesda, MD for over thirty years.  I have always been an admirer of Walt and all he did for me as well as our industry. Walt Stoeppelwerth's obituary only offers a small piece of what he did in his lifetime. 

During my early years as a remodeler I observed that Walt made many predictions about the future of the remodeling industry.  Those predictions included trends, challenges, shifts, business systems and methods of production.   Many of his predictions came true.  For a whole variety of reasons, other predictions may have been challenged by a lack of continuous development or adequate leadership within the industry.  Regardless, Walt kept beating his drum about what our industry needed to keep top of mind.  Until that is, he could no longer fend off the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease.


Walt help shape the Remodeling Industry

What I observed to be unique about Walt was that he not only predicted the future, he also participated in making it happen.  I suggest he was a visionary with a unique ability to identify, fully understand and solve existing as well as future challenges within the industry.  He would share his observations, speculate on the likely consequences if the challenges were not addressed, and suggest or predict the solutions he felt would address the challenges.   His brilliance was his ability to then create and provide the required solutions, and, through his consulting, direct others who wanted to participate in making the evolution happen.  

The Godfather Of Remodeling Although some feel such tactics might be self-serving, I disagree.  It is my opinion that Walt was a truly caring person who loved and gave his best to the industry, always willing to help people.  I think of him as a man who did and gave great things to the industry and the people he loved, and he found a way to be well paid while doing so.  By being well paid, he could afford to keep doing what he did and, perhaps more important, he kept getting better at it!  A good example for all of us to consider for our own businesses.

Walt was always up for a good debate about industry topics. 

Fortunate for me, I got to have many of those debates with Walt.  His purpose was never to prove anyone wrong or demonstrate his authority and knowledge.  Rather I observed his purpose was to always gain additional understanding and insight from others, so he could then use what he learned to complement what he knew and in turn offer better solutions to those he worked with.  I always left those debates with more knowledge and a greater understanding of each topic we explored.  In many ways he was a mentor to me.  I was and am still today honored to have taken his spot as a columnist for Remodeling magazine.

Carrying on Walt's example

The Godfather Of Remodeling Walt Stoeppelwerth


From what I observed, Walt lived the value of continuous improvement.  His business model was not reactive to the perceived and often misguided needs expressed by remodelers and industry partners, but rather proactive in creating and providing the solutions and the guidance remodelers and industry partners really needed to improve and foster true success.

In summary, Walt had the intimate knowledge, insight, creativity, resources, contacts, relationships and solutions to change the industry and cause tremendous social benefit at the same time. 

When people feel better about themselves and their businesses, they listen and seek for more of what helped them. Additionally, many then share what they have and know with others with the hopes that they too will benefit.  Walt was a master at setting that example and making it happen for so many remodelers.

I am grateful for his example and for all I learned from Walt.   He may have left our industry, but he will never be forgotten.  I know many of you feel the same way.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and memories about Walt and what he did for you and your business.  I’m sure his family will be grateful to know.


Thanks Walt.


Topics: Remodeler Education, Future of the Remodeling Industry, Careers in Construction, Lead Carpenter System, Mentoring/Coaching, Opinions from Contractors, Leadership

Contractors: How To Work With Generation Y From One Of Them

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Feb 17,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Mark Brown


Guest Blogger: Mark Brown is a student at BYU-Idaho where he studies Construction Management. He currently lives in Spokane, WA, working as a carpenter and studying online while his wife finishes her Bachelor’s degree in nursing. This article is a shortened version of an essay titled “Is Generation Y learning how to learn?” written by Mark for a research writing class. It has been revised to help contractors working with Gen Y employees.


Advice For Contractors On How To Work With Generation Y From One Of Them

Generation Y in construction“Things just aren’t the way they used to be” is a lament often heard from aging generations. However nostalgic and skeptical this observation may be, it is definitely true. Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) is growing up in a world completely different than their parents. Today we are surrounded throughout our waking hours by new technologies and devices that feed us steady and seemingly infinite flows of information, providing us with instant connection to knowledge that used to be much more difficult to acquire. Obviously, things are not the way they used to be. One can’t help but wonder; how do these changes affect our daily lives?  The way we work?  Our relationships with others?  The way we see ourselves?  How we learn?  

Contractors today face an especially daunting task trying to teach the business to a generation that learns completely different than the average hard-knocks PhD. Understanding these differences is essential to utilizing the huge talent Gen Y possesses and snuffing your own doubts of any hope for the future. 

The way Gen Y learns is fundamentally different than their parents.

Hiring Generation Y


They process information about ten times faster, they expect free and instant access to all this information, and they wonder what everyone else thinks about it all. Most have grown up learning on a computer from the time they were in grade school. Google is their main professor and they’ve learned to research as fast and efficient as possible. Capitalize on this. Gen Y can sail through tasks you find yourself poring over for hours like learning new scheduling software, Google Sketchup, or computer networking. They love to share what they’ve learned and can help you learn faster.



They can learn fast and perform consistently

Like a Southern California piece-work carpenter, Gen Y loves to have their work lined out and ready to tackle. This may be frustrating to those who value someone who can see what needs to be done and figure out how to do it, but think of the value of someone who can learn fast and perform consistently. Gen Y is also extremely adaptable, so they can learn how to be the leader who takes charge. They just need a better reason than, “Because that’s how it’s done you idiot!”

Can, will you give them what they want?

Contractors hiring generation YGen Y has often been accused of wanting everything right now that their parents spent 25 years earning. However fair the accusation may be, it definitely reveals something about Gen Y. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more ambitious bunch. If they know that you can give them something they really want, they will follow whatever path you draw for them to get it. You can build them in ways that you never could with a burnt out 50 year old carpenter who’s been swinging a hammer the same way since he was 18.

The construction industry has seen some dismal days as of lately and those who have spent nearly a lifetime in it may not wish others the same. But, I hope they can see the promise that exists in the younger generation and take some time to be coaches and mentors to those who are ready and more than capable of taking the industry to the next level.


Topics: Hiring and Firing, Success Strategies, Worker Training, Careers in Construction, Recruting, Mentoring/Coaching, Guest Blogs, Opinions from Contractors, Generation Y

Carpenters Should Read This Before They Interview For Their Next Job

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Feb 14,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Carpenters Should Read This Before They Interview For Their Next Job

career opportunities for carpenters


If you’re a carpenter looking for a better job and career opportunity you might want to consider a lot more than just compensation before you decide which remodeling or construction business you will work for.  Sure, what you get paid is important.  However, considering how much money you will make over the course of your entire career might make far more sense than only considering how much you will get paid next week.

At the Providence RI JLC Live Show coming up in March I will be presenting a seminar titledA Call to Action and an Opportunity for Carpenters and Business Owners” on Saturday morning March 23rd from 7-8:30 AM.   At the seminar I will be sharing some strategies carpenters can use to help them if they would like to improve their careers and compensation.  This same information can be used by business owners if they want to attract and keep quality carpenters for their production teams.

how to make more money as a carpenter Below is a list of some of the considerations an aspiring carpenter might want to use when searching and interviewing for a new job and career opportunity.  As part of my presentation I’ll be reviewing and discussing this list at the seminar.  My hope is that by discussing these considerations attendees can determine whether they are working at the right company already, whether they should consider looking for a new company to work for, and how to evaluate the businesses they interview with.


Topics to be discussed at the JLC LIVE Seminar

The Company You Keep: Financial Considerations

    • career opportunities as a carpenterDoes the business have a financial budget for the year?
    • Can and does the business run budget to actual reports to track progress?
    • Does the business have a formal estimating system and method?
    • Does the business share the estimate with field staff?
    • Does the business do job costing on a consistent basis?
    • Does the business share job costing info with field staff?


The Company You Keep: Company Structure Considerations

    • Carpenter careersDoes the business have an organizational chart you can look at?
    • Do they have a growth plan and organizational charts to show future staffing needs?
    • Do they have and will they share written job descriptions?
    • Do they use a production manager driven or lead carpenter driven production system?
    • Does the business have a place of business?
    • Does the business operate legally?


The Company You Keep: Opportunity for Advancement

    • Carpenter trainingDoes the business plan to advance employees as it grows or hire to fill future positions?
    • Has the business defined career paths for employees, in writing?
    • Do job descriptions include educational requirements and or expectations?
    • Does the business have an adequate budget for employee education?
    • Does the business have a formal and scheduled review process?
    • Does the business have an objective method for establishing compensation rates?


The Company You Keep: Current Leadership

    • JLC LIVE seminar with Shawn McCaddenWhat are the goals of the owner; Practice vs. growing business?
    • Is the owner a craftsman or business person?
    • Is middle management already in place?
    • Is the owner or manager “present” at the job interview?
    • Does the owner share financial information with employees?
    • Does the owner conduct him/herself in a professional manner?


Thinking about attending this JLC LIVE seminar with Shawn?

Below is the summary slide from my presentation.   In case you’re considering joining me that morning, the slide should help give you an understanding of what I’ll be discussing at the seminar.

Career options for carpenters


Other seminars Shawn will be presenting at JLC LIVE in Providence RI:

EPA RRP Certified Lead-Safe Renovator Training & Certification (Also covers MA and RI Certification)

Three Keys to Building a Profitable and Sustainable Business

Leadership Skills For The Lead Carpenter

Topics: Success Strategies, Worker Training, Careers in Construction, Earning More Money, Mentoring/Coaching

Checklist for Contractors Offering Snow Removal Services.

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Feb 08,2013 @ 09:17 AM

Checklist of Consideration for Contractors Offering Snow Removal Services.

Making money doing Snow removal


When winter snows and ice dams hit many contractors see offering snow and ice dam removal as an opportunity to make money.   If you’re considering snow removal as an opportunity for your business thinking ahead about how and where you offer it, as well as how you will perform the work, can help protect your business from inherent risks.  Thinking ahead about your approach can even help you drum up additional work after the snow has disappeared.

Offering snow removal services makes sense for many contractors 

After all, if work is slow during winter months, snow removal can bring in extra revenue.   Also, many projects come to a halt when the weather makes working outside impractical or makes going in and out of a building while working on interior renovations dangerous and messy.   If you price it correctly, offering snow removal and ice dam removal can help keep employees working and help contribute gross profit to cover business overhead.

How the snow removal checklist list came about

Offering Snow and ice removal servicesSeveral years ago I helped one of my remodeler coaching clients plan out how to offer and perform snow removal services.   He called me because he realized there were a lot of things he should consider before just sending his guys out with there with shovels and axes.  Below is a list of considerations from my coaching session notes created during my discussions with him.   By sharing my notes my hope is that you will find them helpful, you will price the work for profit, you and your employees will be safer while performing the work, you can use the opportunity to create new customers and you will generate future work from those that hire you.


Checklist of Snow Removal Services Considerations for Contractors:

  • Suggested he consider the work is labor intensive, he will not be earning his typical gross profit on subs or materials, be sure to price hourly rates accordingly.
  • Agreed on $300 first hour with two men, $80/hr per additional man hour.
  • 4 men doing it currently.  Full employees with Workers Compensation (WC) coverage. 
  • Charging for snow removalDiscussed properly equipping his employees to avoid risk and health problems. Confirmed he has fall protection equipment needed to meet OSHA requirements and employees know how to use it.  Should try to do as much of the work as they can from the ground.
  • Confirmed that he knows which WC classification workers will be in while doing the work and what rate he will be charged on all related payroll.
  • Discussed a variety of ways to do the work to limit residual damages.
  • Discussed setting realistic expectation with clients before doing the work. Agreed that only using a verbal agreement about services would not be acceptable.
  • Help home owners understand nature of the work, let them know that damages will happen and that he cannot guarantee preventing leaks or any possible damages inside or outside.
  • Suggested he have an agreement; created and or reviewed by legal counsel.
  • Suggested he disclaim in the agreement any water damage prevention and or remediation responsibilities.
  • Target market area Look at the work as a good way to meet new clients.  Because there might be more demand than he can service, be selective about who he will work for, make sure they fit within his target customer/location niche.
  • Suggested he make follow up calls to verify home owners are all set and happy, ask if they should come back if it keeps snowing.
  • Collect contact info including e-mail addresses so he can re-market for future work.
  • If he uses any subs make sure they are properly insured and follow OSHA requirements.  Make sure subs know not to attempt to solicit or accept any work from his customers.
  • Keep emergency contact info on site and or in each vehicle.
  • Suggest he ask about future work, both snow related and remodeling.
  • Could create a checklist of things to ask or tell customers related to the work and future work; what his company does.  Said he has already created a simple sheet listing other work they do.
  • Suggested he should be prepared regarding how to differentiate his business from other businesses offering the work. Discussed one way is to offer all clients an insurance certificate that lists the home owner as an additional insured, sent direct to the client from his insurance agent before work starts.  Verify his agent is prepared and capable to do so.
  • Suggested considering doing a YouTube video commercial about the service and put it on his website ASAP.
  • selling Ice dam removal servicesDiscourage use of Red Bull, maybe even coffee. Suggested hot chocolate and donuts.
  • Suggested refrigerator magnets would be a good leave behind.  Also consider 5-5-10 door hanger package we had discussed on a previous call about jobsite marketing.
  • Asked him what his top three takeaways from our discussion were:
  1. Caution regarding liabilities, set expectations with clients in writing.
  2. Realizes the marketing opportunity, concentrate on working for his target customer.
  3. Keep an eye on the big picture to avoid liabilities and not miss an opportunity by being blinded by a just getting the work done mentality.


Topics: Success Strategies, Differentiating your Business, Earning More Money, Marketing Ideas, Mentoring/Coaching, Marketing Considerations, OSHA Considerations, Subcontractor Considerations, Legal Considerations, Prequalifying, Seasonal Opportunities

You Need a Target Before You Can Target Your Marketing

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Dec 23,2012 @ 06:00 AM

You Need a Target Before You Can Target Your Marketing

Target Customer for remodelers


Recently three of my consulting/coaching clients have started the process of updating their web sites.   All three of them had sites that were created several years back and have since sat on the web with few if any changes, updates or the addition on any new content. Only one had a blog. All three of them also came to realize that prospects were not finding their sites via search engines.   However those prospects were going to their sites to find out more about the remodelers after they already had a first meeting and became aware there was a web site to look at. As a result of my questions and little follow-up discussion with their prospects these remodelers came to realize they essentially had static on-line brochures that offered little to differentiate their businesses from other remodeling businesses. And, they also learned that their sites did not attract prospects or help them move them along to a decision during the sales process.

targeting remodeling customersI’m sure this story is true for many remodelers. If you’re one of them and you’re tired of never ending sales cycles, having to sell on price, working for people you’d rather say no to and you can’t seem to generate enough volume and or gross profit to have a healthy business; it’s time to decide who you want to target for prospects and start strategically marketing so they can find you and so you can convert them into customers.


Think of it like this 

The target below offers a shooter points no matter where the bullets land, as long as they land on the paper.  However, if the bullets land in the center the shooter will get far more points than if they hit somewhere around the perimeter.  The goal for the shooter should be to calibrate his or her weapon and then properly aim so the bullets hit the center each time.   The same holds true for remodelers.  If your margins are low because you’re not hitting the paper, or if you are and you’re only getting low scores, it’s not the targets fault and it’s not the weapon’s fault, it’s the shooter who needs to make the adjustments.

target customers for remodelers


Need help?

Remodeling customer demographicsOne resource remodelers can take advantage of for help with better targeting is their vendors.  Vendors who carry well known product brands know which demographic of customers buy different products based on their quality, benefits and related cost.   They also typically get support in this area from the product manufacturers and distributors they do business with.   If you establish a relationship with a good vendor who offers marketing help and support, it can be like having a whole team of marketing experts working on helping you find more and better customers.   The great part about it is that helping the remodeler helps the vendor, the distributor and the manufacturer all at the same time.  When something gets sold everyone one wins!

Recently I had a discussion about this topic with Marshall Baser, Business Development Manager for AW Hastings in Enfield CT.   Hastings is a distributer that specializes in the Marvin Window and Door brands.  Marshall and his team work with the vendors they supply to help remodelers and replacement contractors improve their businesses and therefore sell more.   One way they do so is to help contractors better target their marketing to the right prospects for the different price points of windows Marvin offers.  In addition to help with strategy, Hastings also helps vendors and remodelers attract quality leads through joint advertising that highlights the remodeler, the dealer and the products. If that has you excited you’ll love the fact that Hastings and their vendor partners typically share the cost of the advertising with the remodelers they work with. 

Marketing strategies for remodelersReady for the new normal?

Being successful and profitable as a remodeler is and will be different as we eventually enter into an improved economy with new and changing customer demographics.  Smaller remodeling businesses with fewer resources need to find ways to gain an edge in the marketplace.  I think Marshall summed it up really well for these businesses when he shared this advice:  "Contractors should consider aligning themselves with retail suppliers who truly understand them and their business.  They should get to know each other well, and create a strong business partnership with one another.  A quality retailer can be a tremendous resource helping the contractor improve their overall business volume and profitability through the products that they sell, as well as through the value added services that they offer, including targeting the right prospects for those products."


Topics: Working with Vendors, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Marketing, Mentoring/Coaching, Business Planning

Going From Carpenter to Businessman as a Remodeler

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, May 15,2012 @ 06:00 AM

Going From Carpenter to Businessman as a Remodeler

from carpenter to business owner



I received the follow question from a carpenter via the send a message function of my web site:

“Where is a good start for a carpenter to become a business man as a remodeler?”



Here is my reply:



Differentiation for remodlers and design buildersThanks for your question.   It’s a great one! I’m glad you are asking before you start out on your own.  That makes you very different than most. 

I suggest you find a mentor to help you get started.   Find a person who has done it before so they have the experience and knowledge to guide you.   Even if you have to pay this person it will end up being an investment that can be quickly paid off if you do your part because you will get going toward success much faster and will save a lot of money in tuition at the lumberyard school of hard knocks.

One of my current remodeler clients got his parents to finance the coaching and mentoring I am giving him to help him get going.   We prepare reports for him to share with his parents so they can see how the money is invested and so they can see how he is doing regarding actual profitability against the plans and budget I have been helping him with.  In actuality it’s the same information any business owner needs to know how the business is doing.  It’s the same information a bank would want to see if it loaned you the money.

Why remodelers fail


 Thinking about and planning what you will do before you get going is critical.   

Consider this: "You can either set up what you want to have happen or you can settle for what you get."

For a good overview see if you can find the book below.  It’s an old one that is out of print, and some of it is dated, but I think if you read it you will get a lot of good info to consider before you get started.  Try Amazon to find it.


Professional Remodeling ManagementProfessional Remodeling Management

By Walter Stoeppelwerth

Using the book as a guide, find out about all the legal requirements, insurances and all the overhead costs you will have before you start.   That’s what I did before I started my business.   Then, do a budget so you will know what to expect for costs and what markup to use so you don’t guess at it.

 Keep in mind, 9 out of 10 contractors will fail within 10 years.   You can beat the odds by doing your homework before getting going.

Keep me posted about how you are making out.  Let me know if I can help.


Topics: Questions from Visitors, Starting a Business, Success Strategies, Mentoring/Coaching, Business Planning

Afraid To Hire Employees For Fear Of Running Out Of Work For Them?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Mar 29,2012 @ 11:02 AM

I’m Afraid To Hire Production Employees For Fear I Would Run Out Of Work For Them

Help wanted remodelersWhile at JLC LIVE last week in Providence RI Many remodelers shared with me that they were seeing positive signs like increased leads and project budgets, and are now booking more work recently than they have experienced in the last several years.   Having scaled back their staffing due to the recession they expressed concern about hiring production employees to meet the demand only to have to let them go if the demand softens.   They were looking for solutions for their businesses that help keep good employees working full time.  There are no guaranteed solutions.  However with some planning and committing to some changes about how you do business, you can make it happen.   Here is some of the advice I offered these attendees:


Such a problem to have!

It’s a good problem to have, provided you can find a solution.  Unfortunately there is not a single silver bullet solution. Success with this challenge requires the remodeler look at and adjust several areas of his/her business.

Hiring a Lead CarpenterOne thing I recommend is finding a real lead carpenter who can actually manage the job onsite with little interaction with the business owner after a proper hand-off of the project.   For this to be successful the remodeler must look at what information needs to be collected and prepared before the hand-off from sales to production, conduct a successful hand-off, and actually empower and allow the lead carpenter to be a lead carpenter. 

Unfortunately many remodelers are challenged by this because in the past the hand-off after the sale involved the owner handing off the project to himself; so the business never developed processes and project information packages adequate enough to successfully delegate to someone else.


Can you go it alone, or will you need help?

Control Freak remodelersThis change in business style is understandably difficult for someone who has in the past been in total control of everything in their business and has relied on micromanagement to get things done.  Making the change requires new business practices and the changes can be fast-tracked with some mentoring/coaching to help the remodeler get through the structural and emotional adjustments required.

The main reason I suggest adopting the lead carpenter system and hiring a lead carpenter as a major part of the solution to this challenge is because if successfully implemented, the system allows the business owner the time and ability to concentrate on doing more marketing and selling, thus making sure there is adequate work coming in to keep the new hire(s) productive and continually employed.   


Coach for remodelers and design builders


If you are looking for help with this or similiar challenges contact Shawn about his Consulting, Coaching and Mentoring Services to discuss how he can help.




Topics: Hiring and Firing, Production Considerations, Lead Carpenter System, Mentoring/Coaching