Many remodelers and construction companies have ignored industry definitions and come up with their own job description for a lead carpenter. This can lead to confusion for not just the company, but for its clients. Giving the title of lead carpenter to a carpenter that does not perform lead tasks as defined by the industry is not fair to true lead carpenters.
Just because your carpenter is the most experienced carpenter on the jobsite, or is the highest paid of your jobsite employees, it doesn’t make him or her a lead carpenter. A lead carpenter is defined by NARI as someone who is responsible for customer satisfaction, material take-offs and orders, jobsite supervision (including protection, cleanliness, and safety), carpentry labor, supervising and scheduling subcontractors, inspections, paperwork. According to NARI’s definition, “The success of a remodeling project during the production stage is the primary responsibility of the lead carpenter.”
Using a lead carpenter system begins with setting up your company to support that system. If you don’t provide the carpenter with the job estimate or budget, how can he or she manage a project to meet that defined budget? If the project specifications are inadequate, or if you don’t have a formal sales to production hand-off, someone will have to micromanage the carpenter or the carpenter will need to constantly interact with the salesperson who sold the job to know what to do. If you don’t trust the carpenter to interact and communicate with clients, ask yourself why. Is it your lack of systems or trust in their ability, or does he not have the skills of a true lead carpenter?
I know some lead carpenters who were hired as lead carpenters, but were not able to take on the responsibilities for the production stage because the business didn’t have a true lead system in place. They quickly realized their opportunities for career and compensation growth were dramatically compromised. Many left to work for another company where they could apply their hard-earned leadership and management skills.
You may opt to not use a lead carpenter system and have a foreman take on most of the management responsibilities. Think about the carpenters on your staff. Will they be happy in their current role indefinitely? Or do you want to institute a system that provides something to strive for and trains them to meet that goal? Also be aware that businesses without a lead carpenter system have a higher overhead than those that do. In a competitive marketplace, a remodeling company that uses a true lead carpenter system will have a competitive and a profitability advantage. —Shawn McCadden is a former remodeler and a co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute. He now consults with remodelers. firstname.lastname@example.org