Consumers want to be able to customize what they buy, at least in some small way. A recent article, “Shoppers Now Accustomed to Customization,” points to Starbucks as the company that made it OK to be particular, with modifiers like “no-whip.” The article cites other examples: “Apple with its iPods and computers, Harley-Davidson with its motorcycles, Nike with its NikeID shoes that allow customers to personalize their choices online .... [All] have been particularly adept at creating products that let consumers alter them to their own tastes.”

Yet another article, in TheNew York Times, warns that some hard-line restaurants and cafes are just saying “no to the 21st-century conviction that everything can be accessorized to the customer’s taste.”

So what does all this have to do with you and your remodeling business?

Bending over backward gets old after a while. The more you do it the less valuable you are in the eyes of your marketplace. Why? Because being clear about why you do what you do is what makes you different and what makes you attractive to the marketplace.

Fine Line

You must decide what is non-negotiable, what makes your company the good company that it is even if a client wants you to do something else.

For example, your client wants to purchase all the plumbing fixtures. But your best practices include purchasing all the fixtures so you have a high level of control in delivering the project on time and on budget with few surprises. Your choice now is to work with a person who does not respect your way of doing business or to bend the rules and accept responsibility for the consequences — because your client won’t!

At the same time, you need to be just flexible enough so you don’t scare people away. I remember a client who wanted payments hinged to performance benchmarks instead of the bi-weekly schedule that was acceptable to most of our clients. It wasn’t a deal-breaker. We would hinge payments to the start, not the completion, of aspects of the work in a way that basically gave us the money we were looking for approximately every two weeks. He got what he wanted and we got what we needed.

The art of business involves deciding what is important and what you can be flexible about. But be too flexible and everyone loses when you go out of business.

—Paul Winans, a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage and a consultant to remodeling contractors, helps people who are too busy making not enough money be more successful.