One of the bigger challenges of the economic slowdown is achieving a healthy balance between your available workforce and the homeowners’ demand for your services. Imagine that two new large jobs suddenly become a very real possibility. You can’t take them on without hiring, but you can’t afford to hire without more certainty. Add to this the fact that hiring can be expensive, if you do it carefully and account for training and the learning curve. So what do you do?

  •  Decide based on the sure thing. Many remodelers mistakenly make hiring and spending decisions based on what they think will happen, and not what they know will happen. Don’t commit to new people until the contracts are signed and the deposits are in hand.

  •  Hire only when you have a backlog. How big depends on your projected annual budget and average employee productivity.

  •  Pay overtime. If you’re burdened with deadlines and your future is hazy, pay your current crew whatever overtime wages are necessary to get the jobs done on schedule. Paying overtime is less expensive than hiring briefly and then laying off. It can also provide a psychological boost to your staff. They appreciate the chance to make more money, and you’ll strengthen their morale and loyalty by investing in them instead of someone new.

—Tim Faller, Field Training Services,