Officially, the recession may have ended, but I know lots of remodelers who are still lying awake at night worrying about where the next job will come from. What worries me more, though, is that they won’t care. After such a long period of scarcity, there is a real danger that remodelers will fall into the trap of jumping at every job that comes along and, worse, will return to doing things the way they’ve always done them.

This happens with real famine, not just the metaphorical kind. People who are rescued from malnutrition often eat too much of the wrong food too soon. Starvation alters body chemistry, and simply returning to one’s previous diet can change nutrient intake too abruptly. This causes “refeeding syndrome,” which can lead to serious — and sometimes deadly — complications.

Business Metabolism

The temptation in lean times is to take every job that comes your way just to get the ball rolling again. That impulse is even stronger when the economy finally begins to rebound and things start to percolate again. But, like feasting after a famine, taking on too much of the wrong work too soon can have dire consequences for your business.

The most obvious fallout comes from cutting prices. This is counterproductive under almost any circumstances, but slashing margins after a long period of reduced revenue makes it even harder to get back on your feet.

Less obvious, but often more damaging, is the opportunity cost of being tied up with a project and a client that aren’t a good fit when something better comes along.

Every time you take the wrong job for the wrong client at the wrong price, it makes it more difficult to land the right job for the right client at the right price. It forces you into choosing between two bad options: you can pass up the work you should be doing or you can take it on anyway even though you’re already maxed out. Either way, you upset your business metabolism. Instead of growing healthier, your company becomes weaker and more vulnerable.

Starting Over

Wasn’t that the mistake you made when you first got started in this business? The excuse back then was that you didn’t know where your sweet spot was or who your ideal client should be or how much to charge for your work. Fair enough, but that was then.

Today, things are different — or at least they can be. If the recession has any plus side it’s that it stripped away everything that was nonessential and inefficient and gave us all a chance to start over.

Don’t squander that rare second chance by repeating the mistakes of the past. It’s time you changed your diet.

—Sal Alfano, editorial director, REMODELING.