Optimists by nature, most remodelers are also good, caring people — admirable traits that often, unfortunately, conflict with one another. Because we're optimists, we want things to work out, such as new hires and big projects. Because we care, we want to give the employee or the client plenty of time to reach the potential we saw in them in the first place.

Sometimes we ignore or downplay trouble signs — poor performance by a new employee, or a client's apparent inability to keep appointments, for instance. We view small glimpses of sunshine as reasons to hang onto hope. We sometimes get the desired results, but we question whether it was worth the effort. More often than not, we spend way too much time and/or money waiting for something or someone to change.

Sound familiar? Maybe you, too, suffer from what I call “relentless hope.”

SELLING SHORT The most typical example of relentless hope that I see with remodelers involves hiring a first salesperson. One of the biggest problems is not knowing whether our motivation is truly to hire a salesperson or just to pass on sales responsibilities from ourselves to someone else. Because we often really want to abdicate sales duties and believe that things will work out as planned, we become blind to certain realities. The difficult part is knowing when to keep working and when to give up.

After hiring my first salesman, I found myself looking for reasons to keep him. I didn't want my plan to fail, so I assumed that the sale he made after two months, for instance, was a signal that the turnaround was coming. I also let hope distract me from the mounting evidence that suggested otherwise. Past clients assigned to him weren't buying, for example, and follow-up proposals were taking too long or not going out at all.

Think back to your own experiences along these lines. Were there telltale signs along the way that you downplayed, ignored, or outright missed?

DEFINING TERMS I find that two general circumstances lead to relentless hope: unrealistic expectations and/or not enough clarification on how we will measure success or failure. Here's how to avoid the relentless part of hope.

First, define your goal. Do you need a new salesperson to reach greater sales goals, to pursue possibilities you're too busy to focus on, or to free you up to do something else?

Second, define what you don't want. In my case, I didn't want to be the person to train the new salesperson. Maybe you don't want to jeopardize your company's professional image or go into winter with an inadequate volume of pre-sold work.

Next, define your limits. Consider putting a monetary cap and/or a time limit on the investment. I gave my first salesman six months for his commission on actual sales to exceed the salary I would pay to help him through the training and ramp-up period.

To make these conditions real, write them down, and post them somewhere that is visible to you, the salesperson, and a trusted independent observer, such as your spouse or sales trainer (in my case). Empower that observer to pay close attention and to advise you if they think things aren't working out. Others can sometimes see issues that we cannot.

My first salesman didn't work out. Letting him go wasn't easy, but it wasn't a surprise to either of us. Because I had defined the relationship and how I would measure his performance, we both saw this as a business decision rather than a personal failure. I was able to move on and use what I had learned to try again.

Did I know the second person would work out? No, but I did a better job of defining and managing expectations, my own as well as the salesperson's. As it turned out, that second hire proved to be a great investment.

—Shawn McCadden is a nationally known writer, speaker, trainer, and award-winning remodeler and home builder. He sold his Arlington, Mass.-based employee-managed design/build remodeling business in 2004; shawnm@charter.net.