As the economy improves, I predict there will be great opportunities for carpenters to advance their careers and their compensation. Remodeling businesses that scaled back during the recession will need to ramp up again as the workload increases. These companies will need highly skilled carpenters, but more importantly, they will need staff with technical knowledge and advanced jobsite management skills to oversee less-skilled staff.

Carpenters who already have or who gain these skills and knowledge will be in high demand and will be able to command better compensation packages than the average carpenter. My dad once put it this way: “The carpenter who knows how can always find a job. But the carpenter who knows why will likely be the boss and earn more money.”

If you are a carpenter, consider whether being a carpenter is just a job or the start of a rewarding, prosperous career. If you’re planning on a career, consider your earning potential as your body ages and your productivity declines. If you know the why and have management skills, you can continue to earn more money as you age. But if you only know the how, you will eventually be replaced by a younger carpenter who also knows how. Here is some advice as you go forward.

  • The organizational chart for a growing remodeling business offers many positions and career paths. Learn about them so you can home in on what motivates you as well as identifying the position that has the earning potential to support your long-term goals and prepare you for retirement.
  • Make sure you are working at a growing, financially healthy business. If not, start looking for a new place to work. It’s best to work for a company that’s in the early stages of growth — you’ll have more opportunities and will gain a depth of experience in multiple areas that working for a business where the growth is well under way does not provide.
  • Reflect on what you have observed about your current employer during this recession. What skills did they lack or lose that compromised the business when they had to cut back? Consider the training you need to add those skills and seek opportunities where you can gain experience and succeed using those skills. By doing so, you’ll protect your current job and enhance your résumé.
  • Before moving into a new job, consider whether that position will be secure during the next recession. Make sure you have a combination of skills that make keeping you on staff a no-brainer.

I’d also like to offer a message to business owners: If you plan to grow your business as the economy improves, you should already be seeking and/or grooming good carpenters to be lead carpenters and project managers. If you don’t offer employees the opportunities they desire and deserve, another remodeler will.
And remember, without the right trained staff, you will remain overwhelmed and overworked because you will have little choice but to micromanage their activities. And they won’t enjoy that anymore than you will.

Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute, he speaks at industry events and consults with remodelers.

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