Wasted time accounts for 2% to 3% of annual sales at most remodeling companies. Do the math, and you'll see how poor time management can erode your net profit.

The chart on this page assumes you have five employees in the field. Each costs your company $35 per hour ($20 salary plus $15 in taxes, benefits, and overhead). And, each wastes a half hour a day (conservatively) on distractions such as late starts, unscheduled lumberyard runs, personal phone calls, smoking breaks, and mistakes that need to be fixed.

As you can see, every minute counts in protecting the net. Here are some suggestions for keeping your crew on task:

  • Limit chitchat with clients. Have an “upfront agreement” specifying when you'll be free to talk each day. Isolate your working area using black plastic sheeting or plywood.
  • Document “internal change orders,” so your boss, salespeople, or others understand the time they waste.
  • Monitor the weather, and develop contingency plans.
  • Schedule daily breaks, and use a cell phone or other timing device to mark their start and end.

I'm all for socializing because it builds camaraderie and encourages communication, which can prevent mistakes. But it can be scheduled. To start the day on time, for instance, have your crew arrive a half-hour early to enjoy coffee and doughnuts off the clock. Or motivate good behavior: “If we finish this by 4 p.m., I'll buy the doughnuts tomorrow!”

Next month: the daily planning period.

Tim Faller, Field Training Services, www.leadcarpenter.com.