Mark Robert Halper

This recession has taught remodeling business owners many lessons. But business owners are not the only ones who have learned from this experience. Employees have also kept their eyes open during these challenging times. The recession has helped them see what works and what doesn’t work in a remodeling business. But more importantly, they have learned what does and does not work for them. If owners want to retain and attract smart employees during the economic recovery, they need to prepare now.

Smart employees have a long-term perspective regarding their careers. They don’t just take any job; they look for jobs with the potential to improve their future.

What distinguishes smart employees from average employees is that they not only watch your business, they have been watching other businesses as well. As long-term thinkers, many of them are planning where they want to be when the market recovers.

As businesses pull out of the recession, these employees will be watching to see if the business and the business owner will be able to get back into growth and profitability mode. They want to see if their employer can provide them with new and better opportunities. If they don’t like what they see, or they see greener grass elsewhere, for the sake of their future they will most likely move on.

Evaluation Points

Some things smart employees are watching for at your company and with your competitors’ businesses:

  • Direction: Smart employees want the leader of the business to be confident, and they want to have confidence in that leader. They want to work at a business that has strong ethics and is moving in the right direction. They want a place where they can grow and earn more money as the company grows and profits. If these employees don’t see profits on the horizon, they know there is little hope for improved compensation.
  • Career path: Smart employees want a company that offers career growth and the educational support required to get there. They want more than a promise — they want to see a business plan that explains how the company will implement processes that will ensure the promised growth and when that will happen. They want to see where they fit into that plan and they want a way to measure results. Smart employees think “career,” average or desperate employees think “job.”
  • Job conditions: Smart employees want to work in an environment free from hostilities and one that is sensitive to work/life balance. They work to live, not the other way around. They also want to be appreciated and recognized for their contributions and accomplishments. This is one way for them to measure the success of that business plan.
  • Pay and benefits: Average employees assume, or have faith or hope, that their compensation will increase. Average business owners have this same mentality. Smart employees never rely solely on faith or hope. Smart employees, like smart business owners, work toward future goals. They set up what they want to have happen rather than relying on hope or simply settling for what they get.

Smart employees also understand the value of their total employment package, including benefits. They take the entire package into consideration, not just wages, when they are thinking about switching to another business that offers a pay increase.
If you have survived the recession, don’t assume that you can take a break. Now is the time to start planning for how you will embrace the eventual recovery. Create your business plan for 2011, assemble a budget to anticipate and validate the financial realities of your plan, and share your plan with your employees.

As you do business in 2011, measure against your plan and budget and share that progress with your team. Your company’s and your employees’ future will depend on what they see.

—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies.