See if any of this sounds familiar. When you started your business, hiring another employee was a huge step. But you added a carpenter to free you up to sell jobs, order materials, and do the bookkeeping, such as it was. Over the years, you made your daughter-in-law your bookkeeper, your son your salesperson, and you made that first carpenter the production assistant, then the production manager, and so on. As your company grew, you hired and promoted as though you were playing neighborhood pickup ball, choosing your team from the folks who happened to be around. Your company was like a family. Right?

Here's the reality. That family is dysfunctional, marginalized by your own hiring practices. Because you've homegrown so many of your employees, you have a hodgepodge of folks who aren't superstars, in positions that are crazy quilts of tasks stitched together to match their skills. You do a lot of pinch-hitting for weak players — but you want to play pro ball.

Here's how to turn your team around.

  • Step one: Draw an organizational chart for the company you want to be. Research how remodelers with similar volume and average job size are organized. Read articles and books; call buddies who work in other areas. Make your chart job-centered, not people-centered.
  • Create departments. For remodelers, that usually means administration, marketing, sales, and production. Make the chart hierarchical and show who reports to whom. Only department heads should report directly to you, the company owner. Carpenters report to your production manager, who reports to you. Clerical assistants report to the office manager, who reports to you.

  • Step two: Draw a chart of your current organization and write down the major job functions that each person performs. Grade each person on an A-B-C scale. Use plusses and minuses for a more precise evaluation. Decide if your company really has room for C players.
  • Step three: Figure out how you'll get from where you are to where you want to be. What steps do you need to take? Which employees are keepers and which are not? Plan to take just one step at a time, as you'll need to keep the company operating and morale high. Start re-writing job descriptions (yes, writing) for each position.
  • Step four: Root out the bad apples. In your employee assessment, did you puzzle over employees who deliver results but have serious attitude problems? Maybe they don't think company policy applies to them. Maybe they disrespect their co-workers or talk down about the company or walk around with a gray cloud over their heads. These are toxic employees who are destructive to your company. Try as you might, it is virtually impossible to change attitudes.
  • Step five: Make your first move, then let the dust settle. Then make your second move, and so on, until you gradually have the team you want.
  • What about employees who have great attitudes but can't seem to do the job? You have two choices: either train where you think they might benefit, or gently, diplomatically, and empathetically move them on. Tell them that you are reorganizing positions, and that the fit is not there. Give them a severance. Let them phase out. It will be painful, but it will help you create a company that runs more efficiently, productively, and harmoniously.

    In summary, think of the challenges ahead like a chess game. If you're good, you'll have the next five moves planned in your head. But you'll take them logically and in turn, and you will get where you want to go. —Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc., in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5620;;