Money talks when it comes to choosing products on time. By Jim Cory

Bill Owens, owner of Owens Design/Build, Powell, Ohio, was playing a waiting game. Clients took so long to make decisions about their projects -- colors, products, what stays, and what goes -- that jobs were thrown off schedule. "Final product specs and decisions were the No. 1 issue," he says, for both production and sales at his company. Most affected was production on kitchens and baths, followed by large additions. Clients, it seemed, had the most trouble making up their mind about light fixtures and plumbing fixtures.

So six months ago, Owens came up with the idea of offering clients a 1% discount if they would commit to making the decisions in a timely manner. Here's how it works.

Well before contract signing, the production manager and salesperson are responsible for coming up with and presenting to the homeowners a list of product and other decisions to be made. If everything is decided before the pre-construction conference, the client receives the full 1% discount. If at the pre-construction conference most of the decisions have not been made, clients are offered a half-point rebate at that point as an incentive to speed the decision-making process up.

Owens describes the system as a "management tool" that helps to make clients accountable in the selection process. Time frames and meetings could only accomplish so much, "but if you put a monetary incentive in front of them, that's a good way of doing it.

"The important thing is to give them enough time," Owens says. "You don't want to set them up to fail. You can't hand them a three-page list for a kitchen remodel two days before contract signing." The goal, he says, is to "get it down to where we have as tight a job package as possible" to eradicate the concerns of production mangers about specifications. Owens says that at some point soon he expects to see 7 out of 10 of his clients earn their full point discount.