Peter Pagenstecher believes that career employees are the backbone of the remodeling industry, and he has spent considerable time developing a “uniquely qualified group of dedicated professionals” at Pagenstecher Group, most of which have been with the Kensington, Md., company for about 10 years. The most frustrating part of the downturn, he says, is that this “championship” group can’t practice their craft.
Office manager Loretta White has been with the company since 1997. She started as an administrative assistant handling bookkeeping tasks, but quickly became proficient at those duties, so Pagenstecher “just kept on layering responsibilities.” White now runs the office, with an assistant, doing the accounting, screening potential clients, preparing sales packages, and, more recently, handling service calls. With White taking care of all these tasks, Pagenstecher says, “the rest of us can manage or design projects and not have to worry about what goes on behind the scenes.”
The company encourages training, and over the years, White has signed up for various classes, being proactive about education to enhance her skills.
White says that communication is the key to companies keeping employees long-term — something that has been especially important during the downturn and also when Pagenstecher split with his previous business partner. Even with difficult topics, White says, “be proactive about talking about it early.”
She points out that it’s important for management to encourage employees to ask questions and to view change as an opportunity. “We all have to step up and work harder and work smarter,” she says.
Pagenstecher adds that he appreciates the additional responsibility that each of his employees has taken on during these tough times. “There are certain sacrifices working for a place like this that you have to offset,” he says, such as extended paid time for family leave. “The cool part of owning your own business is that you can do those kinds of things.” His advice: “Be supportive of your staff as people, not just as employees.”
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.
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