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To Really Take Advantage of Design/Build Rethink What You know as Normal

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Jun 03,2016 @ 05:00 AM

Design/Build Coaching


A lot of remodelers have contacted me recently looking for help with Design/Build.  Unfortunately many think they are doing or claim to be doing Design/Build, but they are not.  I know this because I know what Design/Build is, how to market it, how to sell it and how to manage it.  I find it sad to see how many hours and dollars are lost and wasted by contractors trying to figure out how to do Design/Build.  Worse, many pretend to be Design/Builders and actually have no idea what they are missing out on through their ignorance.

I find too many contractors pretending to do Design/Build lack the skills and experience to do it right.   Unfortunately their lack of knowledge coupled with their decision and or stubbornness to figure things out on their own leads to them to repeat the same mistakes so many other remodelers made before them.

I suggest there is always more than one way to do things.  I also know that the many things you are concerned about changing were things that I found were holding back my company and our ability to attract the right clients and project types for Design/Build.  I too was hesitant and said no one would pay that much to design and estimate, and pay for it in full up-front.  I also said people would not give up bidding.   I also said they would never go for Design/Build if they could not have the plans unless they also contracted for the construction. 


I was wrong and I was really glad I found out I was wrong.

Evolving to Design/BuildYes, becoming a real Design/Builder will be an evolution of change, if you are willing and able to commit to making the changes. The changes will not be easy and will require getting out of your current comfort zone to gain new experiences and results.

In the beginning selling real Design/Build will be challenging.   If you do it right you will come to trust Design/Build and so will your clients.   Here is what one of my clients shared:

“Shawn McCadden is the best business mentor and coach I have ever met.  He has a special talent for getting right to the heart of an issue, helping you find the solution that is right for your situation and then helping you implement the solution and monitor it.  His communication skills enable him to relate to a wide variety of people in ways that make his message interesting, understandable and memorable.  I have called on Shawn many times to help me through situations and am always glad I did.”

Selling Design/BuildTrust is earned.   If you do Design/Build well with some clients they will come to trust you and will then let those they refer you to know you and your process can be trusted.

Just remember there are plenty of contractors already doing the things you are challenged to consider doing.  Once I discovered that fact I knew I could do it too.



Topics: Business Management, Design/Build Process, Building Relationships, Opinions from Design/Builders, Creating Referrals

Reading ROI For Contractors: Maximize Results Reading Business Books

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Feb 03,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Jim Lex, Better Homes and Remodeling


Guest Blogger: Jim Lex is the owner of Better Homes and Remodeling, a Design/Build firm serving the greater Atlanta area. His passion is to make homes better by designing and building spaces that serve better!  As a full service remodeler, he also offers home maintenance and handyman services. On the national level, Jim supports the construction industry by teaching classes on lead, mold and radon.  I ran into Jim on LinkedIn.  He participated in a discussion I had started about great business books for remodelers.  I liked some of the comments he added to discussion regarding his approach to reading and asked him to do a guest blog.

Reading ROI For Contractors: How To Maximize Results When Reading Business Books

Reading for a Positive Change

Reading for remodelersReading can be a powerful tool to help grow your remodeling business. However, reading is of little benefit when it is done casually. Casual reading works fine for the news, novels, and entertainment.  But with business, casual reading isn’t enough because it brings only casual results. As contractors, we need great results with measurable change.  If you haven’t been getting that from your reading, then perhaps it’s time for a reading pathway.

Reading for a Positive Change is a reading pathway involving several key steps that culminate in both personal and business growth.

Read wisely and widely

A wise king once said, “You can get anything by either wisdom or money, but being wise has many advantages.” So be sure to read wisely and widely to get all the advantages.

  • lots of books for remodelersRead wisely – Identify industry movers and shakers, ask for their referrals and check online book reviews. Starting with the right book ensures you are getting the best answers and insights.  It will save you time and money.
  • Read widely – Remodelers tend to be strong on technical skills and product knowledge.  But your positive change might be elsewhere like your presentation, office, or running your business. Read widely to improve your skills in other vital areas such as selling, design, marketing, managing, communicating, finances, technical/computer, building processes, and so on. Your width and depth in reading supports you like the width and depth of a foundation supports a home.

Great reads don’t always cost a lot.  With Amazon used books, I recently obtained several excellent business classics ($20 and up new) for as low as $1 each.

Read actively

To get the most from any read, begin with a posture that is open minded, disciplined and focused. Avoid early judgments of new ideas as you may miss the very thing you need most. Be sure to notate and contemplate:

  • Reading pathwayNotate – Use 1, 2 or 3 stars for anything you MUST remember or implement.  Highlight key concepts and paragraphs. Underline key industry words, phrases and clauses.
  • Contemplate – Review your learning notations.  Think about how and when you should be using your underlines.  Review your highlights and stars.  I often use times away from a book, such as driving, to process how challenges can be solved.  Questions I might ask myself include, how could I have closed that missed sale? What more could I be doing to obtain customer loyalty? How can I better manage customers expectations? After asking yourself insightful questions, talk it over with someone. It’s extremely beneficial to hear yourself processing it.  

Implement for a positive change

At the end of the day, if you don’t learn something new, understand it in your own words, and then implement it for a positive change, nothing happened! So don’t wait. Do something now while it is fresh in your mind.

  • Reding ROI For RemodelersBegin using the underlined words immediately.  It will increase your communication and professionalism.    
  • Create a one-page summary of takeaways as bullet points. It will help “nail down” what you learned.  At the bottom, write page #’s with “future” points to revisit.
  • Write implementation goals with start and finish dates. Work it and track your progress.  The success of your implementation is your return on investment.  And who doesn’t love a good ROI.

If your reading hasn’t been bringing great results with measurable change, then perhaps it’s time for a reading change.  A reading pathway can make a big difference and bring immediate results in your remodeling business!

** Quotes are proverbs from the wisdom literature.

Topics: Fun Stuff, Success Strategies, Guest Blogs, Opinions from Design/Builders

General Contracting Starts With a Good Construction Contract

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Dec 30,2012 @ 06:00 AM

General Contracting Starts With a Good Construction Contract

Diane Menke and Tamara Myers


Guest Blogger: Diane Menke, VP/Operations Manager of Myers Constructs, Inc.  Diane Menke (left) and Tamara Myers (right) are the co-owners and principals of Myers Constructs, Inc., an award-winning design to build firm serving the greater Philadelphia region. A certified Women Business Enterprise, Myers Constructs is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, NARI, and NKBA.



General Contracting Starts With a Good Construction Contract

Construction ContractOver the years, I have heard from many contractors — some of them with very big companies — about how they handle drafting their business contracts. Many times, these documents consist of a collection of "stuff some guys I know have in their contracts" cobbled together. It doesn't even occur to these business owners that laws vary by state, or that they might need an expert to customize contracts to fit their own business's unique needs. By not having a professional create legal documents that fit a clear sales procedure and overall company goals, they are putting their company at serious risk. I know because we learned the hard way, too. 

When we first started our business, we used "homemade" and very simple carbon copy contracts that Tamara put together over the many years she was a carpenter working for herself.  Basically, it stated: "Seller will do X for Buyer for $Y." Like most carpenters and trades people, Tamara loved working with her hands and helping people. Carpentry was a joyous creative outlet for her. At that time, if a customer didn't pay, Tamara would "make nice" in order to "keep the peace and her good name" and move on to the next project. Lucky for Tamara, most of her customers were good people, the projects were small, and she probably didn't lose as much as she could have. 

What motivated us

Remodeling ContractIn 1998, we incorporated as Myers Constructs, Inc., because we had taken on a huge and complicated renovations project. We knew we needed serious business structures in place to protect us, so in 2001 we asked Dana Priesing, an attorney who is now our office manager, to read our contracts to look for problems. (She had us sign a contract before she did so!) Dana interviewed Tamara to better understand how she sells, and how our customers buy, and then gave us a few recommendations right off the bat:

  1. Don't give away design work. That was a huge lost income stream. It drained endless hours of Tamara's time, and sometimes we didn't even get the project. Dana advised us to bill for it, and she created a contract just for design work. We can now use the same contract if a customer with an architect needs consulting work during the design phase. 
  2. Our income streams should be separated out, and clear and simple contracts should be created for each one. We now have one for fixed price contracts and one for time and materials contracts, which are typically smaller, simpler projects.
  3. Don't use "softening statements" EVER in contracts. By softening the rules, boundaries and regulations of our agreements, and by being vague about price, payment schedules, and customer expectations, we had unintentionally created confusion. Our customers didn't know what we needed from them in order to do a good job, so Dana created a contract for us that clearly and separately identifies buyer's and seller's responsibilities, rights, and remedies.

 Protecting our investments

Contract Clauses for construction contracts


Our company supports a lot of people. We have invested decades into it, and we are depending on it to help us retire. It deserves great contracts to protect those objectives. And great contracts mean we can sleep soundly at night because we know we are doing what we agreed to do at the right price, and we are protected against any possible issues that may arise.


Liked this guest blog?   You might like this one too:

What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!


Topics: Legal Related, Contracts, Guest Blogs, Legal Considerations, Opinions from Design/Builders, Design Options

What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Dec 28,2012 @ 12:23 PM

Guest Blog: What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!

Reva Kussmaul, remodel coach

 Guest Blogger: Reva Kussmaul, owner of Remodel411.  Reva began her practice as a remodeling coach in 1998.  Reva believes that remodeling should be a 50/50 relationship and if it wasn’t cultivated as such - nightmares can occur.  According to Reva, those nightmares are typically caused by a gap in communication and it could come from either side.  For Reva it became quite obvious that someone who knew about and cared about both sides was a missing piece to the puzzle of remodeling nightmares.   So, she decided that both homeowners and contractors could use a coach when it came to their relationship - the remodeling relationship that is.  In this guest blog Reva talks about the difference between an designer and a decorator.  Check out her book: Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship


What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!

The risk of low price remodeling


I'm constantly running into consumers who, not only used the lowest priced proposal and bidder, they also want me to offer the lowest proposal to fix the work “done wrong” and yet provide the highest quality work.

I've looked at three "done wrong" electrical jobs in the past four months and one shower installed incorrectly as well. When I advise the homeowners about exactly what’s wrong and what it will take to fix it, they're blown away at my pricing.

I get very clear about what the costs are and why, even to the smallest details;  like "materials don't just appear - someone has to go to the store, wait in line, load the truck, use the gas to go to and from then get the materials to the job-site - all of which is part of the cost."  

If it’s too good to be true…

I understand home owners’  “wishin' and hopin” aspect of wanting the lowest price to work out; plus get high-quality work and having no change orders.   But much research has to be done by the contractor to know if such WILL be the case.  I always give my potential clients a possible change-order scenario regarding something that just isn't visible when going out to look at a project.  Plus, I usually have my sub go in the attic and under the house to check joists, plumbing, electrical to see just what might be change-order possibilities waiting to happen.

If he finds something questionable, the beauty of technology these days is - he takes a picture and shows it to the homeowner immediately, along with an explanation of the problem.

So, it's not accepting the lowest price that is the homeowner's challenge. It's "hoping" it will turn out the best and everything will work out as intended. Again, as I state all the time, it's a 50/50 relationship, not a one side is wrong all the time scenario. It's about clarity of communication on both sides. And, until both parties know and recognize this we'll keep hearing the stories and there will be a constant need of fixing the "jobs done wrong!"

Contractors must stop under-bidding. 

under bidding remodeling jobs


They should be honest about what things cost.  Being in business as a contractor is not a hobby, it's how we earn a living.   Homeowners must be willing to do the research it takes to find out why things cost what they do and stop wanting to get things "on-the-cheap".     I have found many homeowners who get it and, unfortunately, many who don't. Contractors can separate themselves and their businesses by helping them.

Solving this problem should also include a “how is your relationship with money” conversation; both about the giving and the receiving.  If either party is vague about their discussions about money think of it this way: 

“What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness!”

Welcome to Vagueness wr

Love this industry and I will continue to move toward win/win rather than making either side wrong!

Making everything that goes or has gone wrong one-sided is to live in the problem and not become part of the solution.  I've had “homeowners from hell" and, on bad days and during some tough years, I’ve probably been thought of as a “contractor from hell".  For many of us it’s simply being human and bringing our personal “stuff” into our work.  Happens in every area of life and, truly, that is where the work lies.

Remodeling customer from hellI know there may be some web sites out there focused on making the contractor wrong but please keep the above in mind.   It’s a relationship and absolutely not a one-sided affair.  It’s a 50/50 and must be treated as such.

Let’s get out of vagueness!

Happy Remodeling!


Topics: Differentiating your Business, Guest Blogs, Customer Relations, Plans and Specifications, Opinions from Design/Builders

Does CNBC News Interview With Deitz Show Media Bias?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Wed, Dec 19,2012 @ 03:53 PM

Does CNBC News Interview With Dietz Show Media Bias? 

Check out this video of a news interview with Chris Dietz, the contractor who is suing his client, Jane Perez, for defamation related to her Angie's List and Yelp Reviews of Dietz and his business.   Based on the questions they ask him they either:

  • They did not prepare very well
  • They weren't listening to his answers
  • They don't understand why he is doing what he is doing
  • Or, they want to put their own spin on the situation. 

Check it out and let us know what you think.  You'll have to watch a commercial first.


 (Click here to take the quick Dietz Lawsuit Survey)

Click here for updates and information about the Dietz defamation Lawsuit


More possible Meida Bias?  Check the link below out and you decide:

A Woman Is Being Sued For Posting A Negative Review On Yelp

ACLU, Public Citizen to fight lawsuit over negative Yelp review  (Check out my comment, should be the first one, assuming they publish it after reviwing it)


Topics: Videos, Dietz Lawsuit Related, Opinions from Contractors, Opinions from Design/Builders

Designer or Decorator – Know and Manage the Difference

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jun 12,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Designer or Decorator – Know and Manage the Difference

Reva Kussmaul, remodel coach

 Guest Blogger: Reva Kussmaul, owner of Remodel411.  Reva began her practice as a remodeling coach in 1998.  Reva believes that remodeling should be a 50/50 relationship and if it wasn’t cultivated as such - nightmares can occur.  According to Reva, those nightmares are typically caused by a gap in communication and it could come from either side.  For Reva it became quite obvious that someone who knew about and cared about both sides was a missing piece to the puzzle of remodeling nightmares.   So, she decided that both homeowners and contractors could use a coach when it came to their relationship - the remodeling relationship that is.  In this guest blog Reva talks about the difference between an designer and a decorator.  Check out her book: Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship





Designer or decorator, whats the difference


Contractors & Homeowners:  There is a distinct difference between someone who chooses pretty things for the home (see the definition for decorator below) and someone who knows what choosing pretty as well as designing for the building/installation of pretty is (see definition of designer below).

Designer:  A person who plans the form, look, or workings of something before its being made or built; a creator, planner, inventor; maker, architect, builder.

Decorator:  A person who decorates, in particular a person whose job is to decorate the interior of someone's home, by choosing colors, carpets and furnishings.


Many decorators call themselves designers and they are far from it

I’ve worked with them, so I know.  Now, I’m not making them wrong for what they do, I’m saying how they define themselves is incorrect.

Perhaps it’s easier to sell one’s services if called a designer as opposed to a decorator - maybe more money can be charged?!  However, there is a very important difference.  When a decorator, who sometimes has no true knowledge about building, has a plan B with possible change orders for “unforeseens”, etc.; the project suffers UNLESS they have consulted with the contractor and are willing to refer to their expertise.  Then, we have what is called “a team” and an experience is created.

Design/Builders can offer the full service option

This is also part of the remodeling relationship I write about in Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship. My advice to homeowners - choose a design-build firm that is full-service and if you feel a need to have someone help you decorate with pretty, simply ask if their company is staffed for that service as well.  Save yourself time, money as well as emotional fall-out.  In the long run, this is what will create a great remodeling relationship.

difference between a decorator and a designerMy suggestion to design/build firms is to have a decorator either on staff or one you’ve built a good relationship with available to you, that is willing to work in conjunction with the designer and/or contractor as far as the pretty aspect of such things as tile lay-out, mirror and sconce placement goes.  This is where creating a team comes into play.  When all parties are able to communicate clearly with one another and work together everyone wins.  That’s the whole point - everyone does what they’re good at, has a good time and works together so more business is forth-coming.

It’s about clear communication and teamwork

A great team, which includes quality craftsmanship, is what creates a win/win experience for all involved. It’s not about anyone being right or wrong, it’s about creating an amazing experience.


Topics: Guest Blogs, Plans and Specifications, Opinions from Design/Builders, Definitions, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals

Guest Blog: Design Build Definition; Ours or Theirs?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Mar 06,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Robert Wright Guest Blogger


One Person's Opinion: Robert Wright

 His Dad a civil engineer, Rob has grown up around construction sites in Canada from a young age. In the early 1990’s, he and his Dad set up a construction company and took on projects in the commercial and residential fields.  In 1994, he joined and took over Citadel Renovations in Ottawa. He has been active in the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association for many years, including holding the position of Renovation Council Chair in the past and now sits on the Health and Safety Committee.  He also continues to volunteer at Algonquin College on the Advisory Committee of the Building Construction Technician program.


Design Build Definition

Design build discussion and conversationEveryone seems to be getting on the design build bandwagon lately.  Strange, I was talking about it and trying figure it out over 20 years ago.  The more things change…..

What is design build anyway?

I have in past newsletters suggested my thoughts on what design build is.  Basically its a process where the homeowner(in this case); the builder, and design pro in a collaborative process ensure the homeowner receives value for dollars invested; and the design to project completion experience is pleasant.

This seems to me to be a valid starting point for the design build definition.  We would all look at the various parts of this and based on our experiences have some comments about how to improve this – usually to have our viewpoint take priority.  This conversation is ongoing and I would strongly suggest that our professional associations should get involved in this conversation and set the standard.

This is not a new idea; the architects do it; the engineers do it; doctors do it; and everyone’s favorite whipping boys - lawyers do it also.  I have long considered myself a professional, and think its high time that, we in the construction industry and the renovation industry in particular, need to be considered professional and that what we do is an honorable way to earn a living.

So what is the alternative?  Have something imposed on us...

Goverment regulations affect remodelersWho is going to impose this definition on us?  The least evil choice is going to be the insurance industry.  At least they have contact with us, try to understand us, take our money and provide a service in return.  You can also sit down with your insurance provider and discuss how you can cut costs and increase protection.  This allows us to come to an agreement we can live with.

Who else is going to impose on us?  Courts – they don’t like us, because they don’t understand us.  What makes perfect sense to us makes no sense to a judge and to most lawyers.  So what happens when you get an unhappy client and a lawyer that doesn’t understand construction?  A whole lot of pain for you, and a new way to do things for all of us because our lawyer said so.

Worse case scenario is to have the government impose it on us.  Do I need to say anything but lead? 

So what can you do about this? 

Get involved and insist that your HBA knows about it, gets it sorted and ensures that it is accepted.  Its about your controlling the situation and not the other way around.

Topics: Defining Design/Build, Guest Blogs, Opinions from Design/Builders