By Jim Cory. A little more than six months ago, Jill Liptow, owner of The Remodeling Center, a $1.7 million remodeling company in Pewaukee, Wis., held an off-site meeting in which she asked field personnel what they found most stressful about their jobs. Her project managers and lead carpenters told her they often felt projects were simply dumped in their laps.

To remedy that, she started organizing jobsite walk-throughs with salespeople, designers, field staff, and subcontractors. The meetings take place before a final estimate is prepared. The idea, Liptow says, is to get feedback from the field and use it to fine-tune the estimate.

"From a design perspective, we can figure the basics," she says. "But design generally doesn't build anything. A production manager might look at a situation and realize it would take an entire day to get the materials -- drywall, say -- up to the second floor. Or that you'll have to remove one thing to get to something else." That input from production means time estimates, and therefore price estimates, are closer to reality.

The meeting is scheduled for a time when the design is complete and almost all product selections have been made. Liptow guesses that, on average, the walk-through results in a 5% difference in the price of the estimate. "And it's more to the plus side than the minus side."

Since the company instituted the practice, Liptow says, every job has been more profitable. The walk-through essentially helps eliminate materials handling mistakes and costly oversights that would have involved extra work and upped the final cost.

In addition, the walk-through has lifted morale by drawing field personnel into the process of planning for the project. "It makes [subs and carpenters] more of a team," Liptow says. "You're not just throwing them a binder and saying, 'Here, build this.'"