Every mistake is also a learning opportunity. That's why I stress the importance of a daily debriefing for business owners. Whether you spot a huge mistake or it's just business as usual, every day presents an opportunity to find ways to improve the systems you have in place so that you can constantly grow your business. It can mean the difference between a remodeler who has 10 years of solid experience and a remodeler who has one year's experience repeated 10 times. The first guy gets better as he goes; the second guy makes the same mistakes year after year.

The key to daily debriefing is not to get bogged down worrying about the time it takes to review your operation. Performed on a regular basis, it soon becomes a habitual part of the overall work process to think about the cause and effect of any business event. Improvements that seem ever so slight can have a big impact. Plus, everyone in the business gets to participate.

Ordering Around Here's an example from when I was still involved in my remodeling business. When we needed to have materials delivered, we would fax an order to the vendor. If somebody thought the fax hadn't gone through, they simply faxed it again. Easy enough, right? But one time we ordered a whole bunch of gutters for a job, had them delivered, installed them, and then received a call from the homeowner the next day telling us about a second order of gutters that had just been delivered to his frontyard.

Clearly there was a kink in the system.

We immediately debriefed about the systems we had in place for vendor orders, discussed the recent confusion with a few vendors, and made an adjustment to our fax form that added the following language: “Please fax back order confirmation. Do not duplicate this order.” This way, if the same order form with two transmission times showed up, our vendor would have to share some ownership in the fulfillment process on their end. Our responsibility was to confirm the orders, which also helped prevent duplication. We never had the problem again.

Seminar, Please Of course, the debriefing process doesn't guarantee that you will find every answer on your own. In addition to learning as you go, you should learn from those who have gone before.

That's how, when I ran my remodeling business, I earned the nickname “seminar man” from my employees. Back then, I was so hungry for the latest information to implement in my company that I constantly registered for trade shows, association classes, and any educational opportunity that might help take my company to the next level.

I'm not sure why more remodelers don't take advantage of these same outlets today. There are so many more opportunities available now, but it's almost as if remodelers won't consider a sales training course until they have no sales. Where's the rationale for that?

My team was a bit pessimistic at first. When I would come back from a meeting with all these great ideas that I wanted to implement, they would say, “OK, what are we going to change now?” But eventually they saw how these changes improved the company's bottom line as well as their own. It wasn't too long before they started asking, “OK, what are we going to implement next?”

Daily debriefing — and improving systems with our own ideas as well as with proven ideas from outside experts —helped my company grow, helped people get promoted, and helped everyone earn more money. The results were obvious, and before I knew it, everyone looked forward to these sessions as a way that we could all grow together.

—Shawn McCadden, CR, CLC, recently sold his Arlington, Mass.-based employee-managed design/build remodeling business. In his second career, he is director of education for Dream-Maker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide. Send e-mail to shawnm@charter.net.