When Spivey Construction, in Indianapolis, was preparing materials to distribute at a home show, the company created a list of questions that homeowners should ask contractors before they sign on to do a project with them.

Many of the questions on the list, now posted on the company’s website, are common sense, says vice president of sales and marketing, Lynn Gallant, but they help to logically lay out all the issues for prospective clients. “We wanted it to be informative and set us apart from our competition,” she says. “It gives [home­owners] more things to think about.”

The company’s design and estimating representatives do not generally provide the form to potential clients, as each rep prefers to communicate the benefits of working with the company in their own way.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.

“Homeowners think all companies are created equal,” says Lynn Gallant, vice president of sales and marketing for Spivey Construction. This question helps to differentiate her company — in business almost 60 years. “It’s our image, professionalism, credibility, and longevity that, in any market or economy, a client will hopefully look for,” she says. Such differentiation is especially important when services such as Angie’s List compare a company like hers to one in business for less than five years.

Insurance is always an issue, Gallant says, but especially so in a downturn. Insurance agents have told her that when companies are cutting costs in tough times, insurance is often the first item they drop.

“It’s more important now than ever to talk to suppliers,” Gallant points out. Suppliers and dealers can tell a homeowner about the length of the relationship they have with a contractor and if that contractor manages money well and pays bills on time.

“Our business is 70% to 82% repeat and referral,” Gallant says. “That is what is sustaining us now.” A high number of repeat and referral jobs indicate to homeowners that past clients are happy with the remodeler’s work and are willing to recommend them and use them again.