Shawn McCadden fondly recalls the early years when he took on small jobs for “old ladies” for whom he'd fix windows and doors, then chat and have a snack. “It was great experience,” says the former remodeler and now director of business innovations for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide and a REMODELING columnist. “It was a way to generate cash flow and build trust with people. They become great referrers.”
While McCadden used small jobs as a gateway to larger projects, many remodeling companies continue to focus solely on smaller jobs, and still others maintain separate small-job divisions to keep from turning over these jobs — and profits — to other remodelers or handymen.
HOW SMALL IS SMALL? Defining a “small job” is difficult. Is it measured in size? Scope? Dollar amount? What makes a job small and not a handyman project?
In terms of dollars, a small job might cost between $20,000 and $40,000, suggests remodeling consultant Victoria Downing,
For Dale Nikula, owner of Encore Construction, Dennisport, Mass., which has a small-jobs division, a small job is “anything under $75,000, excluding kitchens and bathrooms.”
At Jud Construction in Muncie, Ind., which focuses on small jobs, “a small job is between $5,000 and $15,000; the company's average job is $8,000,” owner Jud Motsenbocker says.
A small job might be one that takes just two to four weeks to complete. “We rotate four to six small projects in a month's time,” says Steve Klitsch, whose Creative Concepts Remodeling, in Germantown, Md., does about 70 small jobs (each less than $50,000) a year. The key to keeping things moving successfully, Klitsch says, is having the right tradespeople. “Each [of our] trades is familiar with the habits and routines of the others since we've been together for so many years. It's as if I'm a conductor and have recruited an orchestra with the musicians keyed in to play when necessary.”
In general, small-scale jobs also require less paperwork and few, if any selections, and are easier to schedule. “We have two crews that do an entire bathroom start to finish without bringing in anyone from the outside,” says Peter Lehrer, co-owner with Ken Perrin of Artistic Renovations in Seven Hills, Ohio. “We can manage these jobs with a phone call.”
Regardless of these factors, all agree that none of the small jobs they take on are handyman jobs.
“Handyman [jobs] can be done in a day or less,” Downing says. “A small job requires more use of a company's systems. It requires you to go through the processes to make sure you're doing it right.”