Robert Ullman

As you roll into the New Year, many of you are probably looking to hire an employee or two. Demand for remodeling services is up. You’re working too hard. And, as a result, the question is: Who should you hire and when?

A remodeling company likely has one employee who also happens to be the owner. That owner is doing everything, often working 80 to 100 hours a week. Much of what the owner finds herself doing is nothing like what motivated her to start the business in the first place. How could she have known about all that would need to be done if she had never owned a business before?

The first hire is typically a carpenter or two. The tasks that this position fulfills are the ones that the owner might be the most familiar with and, therefore, can successfully delegate.

It goes without saying that the first hire for any position tends to be a learning experience. If the hire doesn’t work out, look for the lessons learned after you let someone go.

A common dilemma in the first stages of hiring employees is whether to hire an office manager or a production manager. I suggest hiring an office manager. It’s easier to find a capable office manager than it is a production manager. In addition to taking responsibility for lots of tasks that the owner never wanted to do in the first place, the office manager will also be very helpful in the owner’s search for additional employees.

Once the office manager is on board, the owner can start the search for a production manager.  The first production manager hire will likely be expected to run his or her own projects, in addition to managing the work of the other employees in the production department. The owner will soon find out that it is best to have the production manager only manage the work of others, as managing projects of his own will invite distraction and, consequently, create the potential for the company to lose money.

With a good production manager on board, the company can now build its staff of lead carpenters. These folks are a bit easier to find than a production manager. The production manager and the office manager can assist the owner in finding and vetting candidates.

If a company is doing design build work, it will likely require a designer and an estimator. This frees up the owner to manage the work of others and sell for the company. 

A designer can take on the responsibility of helping the company’s clients with selections, a process that can be very distracting and take lots of time. An estimator can do all of the estimating, including soliciting proposals from trade contractors and vendors. The estimator might also get help from a skilled production team member with estimating in-house work, and from the designer with the pricing of finishes and fittings.

What does the owner do with a solid team in place?  She does what got her into the business in the first place: helping clients find good solutions to the problems that they have with their homes. The owner manages the work of others. As a result, she starts to live a life that is not totally consumed by work.

Sound appealing?  Start building your company now and reap the rewards as you do so.