Due to the recession, for the past few years remodelers have had to run their businesses in survival mode. But no one wants to just survive, right? If this is true, why would so many remodelers run their businesses in survival mode in a good economy as well? If your business has always been in survival mode, you probably need to rethink whether you should be in business. If you’ve been in recession survival mode, perhaps this article will help you plan your transition from surviving to thriving.

Survival Mode

Operating in survival mode is stressful for the business, the owner, and for employees. Accumulated stress can really wear you down. Many remodelers tell me that they have been working too many hours, are tired, and lack motivation. They’re not sure how to shake these symptoms and get back to working on their business rather than in it.

Making the switch to thriving will be hard work, but relying on hard work alone won’t be enough. Relying on luck isn’t a sound business practice either.

Owners might be wise to read Bo Peabody’s book, Lucky or Smart, a short, easy read with some great insights. Peabody suggests business owners should be smart enough to know when they have been lucky, and lucky enough to know when they have been smart. He also reminds readers that the smarter they work, the luckier they will be.

Making the Switch

Getting out of survival mode can be just as stressful as being in survival mode. The only way to reduce stress and stay in business is to get to the other side. You must first decide if you have the drive, energy, frame of mind, and knowledge to do so on your own.

After the 9/11 attacks, I assessed this reality for me and my business and decided I’d be better off with help. I had a family counselor who helped me alleviate stress so I could stay motivated. I turned to a Sandler Training coach to help improve my leadership so I wasn’t contributing to the challenges my employees were already facing.

Having this support provided three benefits. First, it was a great relief to have someone to talk to and vent about issues. Venting helped me unload most of the stress and move past it, which improved my attitude and day-to-day performance and increased my energy level. Find a coach or counselor you trust who will allow you to vent. Paying someone to listen to you might seem like a tough expense to justify, but trust me, it’s a good investment.

Second, it was helpful to have a mentor — someone who had been through similar challenges and could guide me through the changes I needed to make in my business and my personal life.

The third benefit to working with a counselor or mentor is having someone hold you accountable to the commitments required to make the transition to thriving mode. When I work with remodelers, I start by asking for their permission to hold them accountable, and I hold them accountable in a way that is comfortable for them. This helps both of us because it is respectful and it limits stress in what will be an ongoing relationship.

It’s ideal if you can find one person to act as both business adviser and a life coach. This will save you time and money because if you work with two people, you will likely have the same conversations with each of them. But, if one person can’t provide the help you need, don’t compromise just to save money. You may need unique skills or a professional degree. I helped a client discover that he needed more than just business consulting; he also needed help to overcome some personal challenges, and he eventually found a counselor with whom he felt comfortable.

The pace of economic recovery is still very unsure. I think we are on our way, but it will be a gradual process with some tough moments along the way. Rather than expecting an overnight switch into thriving mode, start making changes now. A gradual but steady evolution assisted by the right people will make the process more manageable.


—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. shawnm@charter.net.