The phones are ringing and jobs are selling, remodelers tell us, but challenges remain. Buyers still lack urgency, and job sizes remain smaller with more practical scopes of work. Here’s a checklist of behaviors that have helped our clients keep their businesses healthy during this economic storm.

Keep Spirits High

Including your own. Your staff must see light at the end of the tunnel to work hard. It’s up to you as owner to carry the banner, keep everyone focused on the vision, and communicate that their work is significant. Celebrate even small wins. Use sincere praise lavishly. Turn goals into games with modest, non-monetary prizes, such as a cookout served by you.

Take care of yourself, too. Manage your working hours, get plenty of exercise, and take occasional getaways.

Market Aggressively and Wisely

Marketing has attained priority status. That means an enhanced budget in the range of 4% to 5% of projected company volume. Spend that money wisely: Be active in organizations that attract your prospective clients, and pursue a diversified mix that emphasizes person-to-person contact. As you step up spending, track every dollar. Know your costs for each lead, appointment, and job from a particular source.

Is your website optimized for searching? Visit Website Grader ( to find out. Does your site include the kinds of moderate projects that speak to many of today’s prospects?

Are you communicating regularly with your database of clients and company friends? They are your strongest salesforce, but only if you stay top-of-mind.

Sell Consultatively

Today’s tough sales climate means going back to the professional basics. Renew yourself through training, and re-learn how to qualify prospects. Say goodbye to the slap-dash order-taking that preceded the recession, as well as the frantic “consider every job” panic that the recession induced.

Qualifying is the antidote to feeling like you’re running in circles. If you’re worn out on sales, you’re a goner. Weed out poor prospects at the first appointment. Save your best service for homeowners who fit your profile. And if they don’t buy immediately? Find ways to stay in touch.

Scour Overhead for Savings

Get your entire team on this one. Review every line in your budget. What can you dispense with entirely? Can you rent out that unused building space, or move the office back home? What can you renegotiate: rent, insurance, photography? Nothing is sacred.

I hope you’ve already gotten rid of the C-players on your team. If you still need to cut, home in on the B-players. If you can’t afford any more staff reductions, think differently. Would it be better to reduce salaries overall, including your own? It’s a great time to hire, too, but only if you really need people today.

End Leakage in Estimating and Production

It’s a great time to renegotiate with (and add to) your list of vendors and trade contractors. Major vendors may be willing to add a few percentage points to your discount, give you a quick-pay discount, or negotiate for co-op marketing money.

Have you considered subcontracting all or part of your carpentry? This can be done without compromising quality. The more you subcontract, the more your estimate costs will be fixed and you’ll be able to adjust as needed with the ebb and flow of work.

Smaller jobs require more simplified systems. Review how to fast-track projects, especially those of handyman size, lest you spend too much overhead on too little potential gross profit.

What other money-saving (or money-earning) opportunities have you found? E-mail them to me and I’ll share them in a future column.

Mark Robert Halper Photography

—Linda Case is founder of Remodelers Advantage, a national company that gives remodelers the tools to achieve consistent profitability and success through one-on-one consulting, the Roundtables peer program, and an online learning community, Advantage Associates. 301.490.5620;;