I recently spent two days in San Francisco with 30 remodelers from around the country, all seeking the same thing: the mythical, magical silver bullet. We talked about marketing, sales, estimating, and job costing, and drilled deep into overhead, markup, and margin. The stated goal was to improve their management skills; the unstated mission was to learn how to regain what was lost when the bubble burst.
Of the many things we in the remodeling industry lost, confidence is close to the top. Because confidence is an integral part of the silver bullet of success, it’s difficult but essential to regain it.
The first step is to get and stay personally healthy. This means eating and sleeping right, exercising, and controlling your vices, including frustration. Seek balance and calm within yourself and project that to the outside world.
Here are some ideas, ordered by importance, to help regain company health and with it your confidence. Check off the ones that you’ve already got handled, then focus on what remains.
1. Customer satisfaction. Without it, all the financial planning in the world is a waste of time — you’ll end up competing only on price and lose the advantage that a well of satisfied clients provides. If customer satisfaction is already excellent, be sure to “touch” all those happy clients during the next few months with phone calls, cards, and even small personal holiday gifts. One remodeler personally took poinsettias to 30 such clients in December and the reconnection led to some good projects in the new year.
2. Leadership. Send an employee satisfaction survey to each of your employees and trade contractors. Schedule personal time with them to ask for feedback about how the company can become better. The respect you gain from these important team members is essential to your future.
3. Finances. Develop three company budgets for the new year — best, good, worst — and figure out which changes to make to be profitable in each one. Do the same for your personal budget as well. If you find that you need to either dig out of debt or increase savings, get on it. Wasting time will only cost more money.
4. Internal systems. Estimate better to win more jobs; produce according to the estimate to protect gross profit; and control overhead to protect net profit. Streamline and simplify internal systems where possible to provide a clear line of sight on the prize — net profit — for all team members.
Now here’s the silver bullet: Consistently do these things month after month, year after year, and you’ll have regained your confidence! The bubble years may never return, but you’ll be successful in the “new economy.”
—Judith Miller is a Seattle–based remodeling business consultant and trainer. remodelservices.com