David Crane of Crane Builders, in Nashville, Tenn., says that his current volume is a third of his 2008 volume. He noticed a slowdown last summer right as he was completing five large projects that ranged from $500,000 to $900,000. Since then, the largest project he has completed has been a $250,000 remodel. “Since Jan. 1, I’ve had more leads than a year ago, but a year ago we were not looking at anything under $500K, and now the average job is only $40,000.”
With the lower volume, Crane could not maintain his staff of 10 full-time employees. Now, Crane is the only person who works full-time, and he has four part-time employees.
“We had five lead carpenters. We let three go through attrition,” he says. There also were not enough leads to support his full-time salesperson. He also cut two office staffers to part-time at four days per week. However, he found one of them a full-time job with a subcontractor, so he now only has one part-time office person.
In the field, Crane has a production manager who works four days a week and two part-time lead carpenters who work 20 to 30 hours per week.
Crane spends his time on sales and marketing. “The most important task these days is sales,” he says.
He is also reaching out to architects. He is calling the architects he has worked with to find out what they might have on their schedules for the coming months and is setting up lunch appointments with architects who are not familiar with Crane Builders. These calls and appointments have generated a few leads.
Crane says that there is good news on the horizon. In the past month, he has responded to bigger and better leads, and other area remodelers are also seeing an uptick. “We have had about a dozen people in the last four to five months who have told us, 'We want to do the job, and we want you to do it, but we want to wait for the market to be better,'” Crane says.
He feels that by the end of the summer, he might be able to expand the part-time schedule for his four employees to full-time. Since he receives one to two resumes per week, he began interviewing potential employees. “We have four or five [candidates] we have talked to and feel good about. We wanted to find sharp people, so that we are ready when we are ready to hire,” Crane says.