Chris Gash
Chris Gash

When Jim Basnett, owner of Basnett Design/Build/Remodel, in Littleton, Mass., laid off staff — the company shrank from 13 staff to seven — during the recession, much of the work they had done reverted back to him, including sales, administration, design, and production. The company’s production coordinator handled estimating, permits, and change orders. “I knew it wasn’t a good model,” Basnett says, “if I was to ever make a profit again.”

Basnett wants to grow the business, but he currently can’t afford to add salaried employees, so he has:

  • Hired a commissioned salesperson to focus on converting leads to sales.
  • Subcontracted production of small projects, such as baths and repairs, to an independent carpenter.
  • Asked a designer — a past employee who had started her own business — to design the cabinets for his projects.
  • Enlisted a former carpenter, looking for supplemental work, to design and install closets for the closet system Basnett’s company represents. Sales were down because Basnett hadn’t had time to design and complete these projects.
  • Outsourced interior design work. The company has always outsourced these services for clients and will continue doing so.

Proving Ground

Including the interior designer, Basnett now has a network of five subs to help produce projects. Subcontracting the work has also allowed him to test the market to assess the viability of certain services, such as handyman and closet systems, before making them a permanent part of his business.

But it’s the salesperson who has had the biggest impact. With Basnett sacrificing his sales focus to work on other aspects of the business, profit margins had slipped. His commissioned salesperson has a vested interest in maintaining profitable margins.

Basnett continues to handle a portion of the sales, but his goal is to decrease his involvement as the salesperson, an architect, responds to more leads and becomes more comfortable developing the project through to the construction contract.

By using this community of subcontractors, Basnett has time to market his company, which includes networking with architects. “I have to get things going to get the phone ringing,” he says. —Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.