Good news! The remodeling industry’s confidence in the future is picking up, as evidenced by materials suppliers, news reports, research organizations, and, most importantly, remodeling contractors. Many report a recent surge in sales and leads — a welcome change for those strapped with aging accounts payable and uncomfortable loan balances.

As your cash flow improves, prioritize how you use it. Each of these investment suggestions will cost money and will take time, but they should prove to be real investments, not expenses.

1. Develop a Long-Term Perspective

Knowing what you know now, how can you better predict and prepare for the next economic downturn?

Find a mentor with a track record of success and the willingness to invest the time to understand you and your business. Make this relationship an ongoing commitment; establish and stick to a consistent schedule for meeting or talking with him or her at least an hour a week. It’s possible that this person will work with you at no cost. More likely, expect to pay at least $5,000 per year. Better to predict and control your future than simply be subject to whatever happens.

2. Improve Your Sales Skills

Selling isn’t what it used to be. Memorized responses to objections no longer cut it. Find a sales training program that helps you manage the psychology of selling. I took three years of weekly sales training during the early years of my business. Sticking with the training and having a coach to guide me helped me “own” a sales system that became second nature. It dramatically improved my ability to close and allowed me to become selective about my customers.

Expect to invest about two hours a week and $5,000 to $7,000 per year for sales training.

3. Use Technology as a dashboard

Here’s your goal: no more paper systems or micromanaging. Regardless of the technology you choose, make sure it lets you create a dashboard of key metrics that you can review at any time. With these metrics, you can easily assess your business and keep your employees accountable in their respective roles.

Estimated budget: $5,000 to $10,000 or more for the initial purchase; more for setup, training, and dual data-entry while you wean yourself off your old methods; and approximately $2,000 per year for updates. That’s a large investment, but good dashboard technology can facilitate huge long-term benefits in terms of efficiency and controlling overhead costs.

4. Advance Your Business Acumen

Most remodelers have little business training beyond what they’ve learned on the job. Now is a good time to change that. Find training that helps you anticipate future business needs and balance your systems appropriately; being great at marketing, for instance, is worthless if you can’t control production costs. Focus on your weak spots.

Estimated cost: $5,000 per year for owners, and at least $1,000 per year per management employee, including training costs and time.

5. Build a Great Website

If your website is like an online brochure (it sits, waits to be found, and does little for your business), rebuild it to establish your brand and help you sell. Maintain it continuously, update it regularly, and use search-engine optimization to attract people to it. Your content should not only help prospective clients get to know your business, including testimonials from past customers, but should help them prequalify themselves as prospects — or not.

Estimated cost: $200 to many thousands for the site-build alone, depending on whether you or someone else does it, plus ongoing time to keep it current.


—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies.