Do you ever wonder why your business is plodding along when the remodeling business down the road, which began around the same time as yours, is booming? It can be frustrating when two remodelers appear equal at the outset, but the scale of success eventually tips in one company's favor.

Whenever I've encountered this disparity — and I've seen it a lot — I've come to the same conclusions about the cause. One business owner has facilitated an evolution, and the other has incited a revolution. Both remodelers may have started out with a truck, a good set of tools, and a helper, but the decisions they made from day one predetermined a certain level of achievement as each business grew. And now one company is thriving and the other is barely surviving. Here's why.

Revolution (The Project Manager Model) In the beginning it's you and your carpenter on a job. You make the decisions and your carpenter follows your orders. When you're finished with one job, you move on to the next one.

As you grow, you book more jobs, you hire more carpenters, and you are the production manager for everything on the books. You still make the decisions and all of your carpenters follow your orders. The business is getting bigger, and you're getting busier. Now your carpenters call you several times a day to ask for instructions, even when the new job is the same as the old job. You start to feel like a baby sitter. The cell phone becomes a way of life. A typical day involves putting out fires. You spend your evenings and weekends meeting with prospects, writing estimates, calling subcontractors, and falling into bed. Tomorrow the grueling cycle starts all over again.

Eventually, your wife revolts. She threatens divorce because you have no time for her or your kids. Your best carpenter revolts. He thinks the company is a mess. He has his own truck and tools, and he tries to convince his best friend to join him in his own business. You revolt. You think the only way to get a handle on things is to downsize, take on fewer projects, and do more yourself. Your business stays small and you stay tired.

Evolution (The Lead Carpenter Model) In the beginning it's you and your carpenter on a job. You act as your company's first lead carpenter, and you train your carpenter on how you make decisions and run a job. You empower him and soon he becomes a lead carpenter.

As you grow, you book more jobs and you hire two more carpenters. You train one and your lead carpenter trains the other. You eventually grow your team so that you become a production manager who acts as a coach.

Now you have several lead carpenters. Your team is well-trained and qualified to make key decisions without you. Employees seek guidance from the lead carpenters and you are free to navigate the business, meet with prospects, run estimates, and book future work. You're home in time for dinner with your wife and kids.

Eventually, you begin training your best lead carpenter to promote him to project manager. He tries to recruit his best friend to work for your company. Your business gets bigger, but there are systems in place so that the business can run without you. You have more free time and your wife begins planning your next family vacation. You even make long-range plans for retirement.

In a resomeone always loses. But with evolution, things can grow to the next level or be replaced by something even more efficient. You can train and grow your team, empower them to be leaders, and create systems that help the business run itself. The best way to become just like that booming business down the road is to evolve. Or, you could become very tired. Maybe even extinct.

—Shawn McCadden, CR, CLC, recently sold his Arlington, Mass.-based design/build remodeling business to its employee-managers. In his second career, he is director of education for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide. Send e-mail to