By Walt Stoeppelwerth. Are you thinking about hiring a handyman or starting a handyman division for your company? There's very likely a need for it in your area. But before assigning a staff member to be your company's handyman division or running out and hiring someone, it's important to be clear about what a handyman is, what he does, and what kind of client expectations exist.

Rudiments of the job

The basic job requirements for a handyman who works for himself and a handyman who works for a remodeling or handyman company are the same. The handyman functions as a multi-skilled individual, and for that reason he'll need to have experience in carpentry, drywall, paint, simple electric, plumbing, HVAC, flooring, and windows. In other words, a handyman should know all the essential aspects of basic maintenance, repair, and product installation.

Apart from job skills, image -- the ability to take a professional approach to the process -- counts. If you or your company are not supplying him with a truck, the handyman should have a neat, washed, and well-maintained vehicle. It's essential he show up on time for every job. Once there, he should introduce himself, inventory the house while the customer has a chance to look at the company presentation book, then write up a contract for the work.

An individual handyman should be able to manage a job all the way through. To start with, he needs to figure out the necessary tools and materials, so as to avoid a return trip. In addition, a handyman should be able to work by himself. He should also be able to estimate how much each different project will cost including materials, labor, overhead, and profit. A handyman must not only be able to write up a basic contract for each project but explain the process, justify costs, and conduct a mini pre-construction conference to answer customer questions.

When the job's done

At the completion of the work, the handyman should develop a punch list to assure that the work's been done properly. He should also ask the customer to sign a certificate of satisfaction. The handyman must then collect the check or obtain a credit card number. The premises should always be left maid clean.

A qualified handyman should also be able to make an inventory of the house for the company's records. This will include the age and condition of the overall residence, as well as the age and condition of all of the appliances, HVAC systems, plumbing and electrical equipment, roofing, siding, windows, and other parts of the building. Once recorded, this information can be used to solicit additional work as well as to educate the customer on the condition of the property.

Key to success

One secret of successful handyman companies, large or small, is that they constantly try to offer additional services to their clients on every job or trip to the property. A good handyman can usually sell up even if it's nothing more than changing the filter in the furnace or caulking the tub in the bathroom. What a handyman should strive for is to convince his customer that one phone call or visit is all that's needed. At that point, he'll do the job himself or, in the case of more sophisticated jobs, recommend somebody who can handle that project.

The customer-for-life concept is an important part of the handyman business. Studies show most houses require service three to five times a year. Today's homeowners -- especially baby boomers and the elderly -- often lack the time or skills to attend to those requirements. Simple demographics -- the number of boomers and seniors -- mean increased demand for handyman work.

Mark Robert Halper
Photo: Mark Robert Halper

Next month, we'll look at how to pay handymen and how to price handyman jobs. --Walt Stoeppelwerth is a publisher of management and estimating information for professional remodelers. (800) 638-8292;;

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