It takes a lot of overhead and management to complete the more than 600 “process points” Orren Pickell Designers and Builders touches on during a remodeling project. That's why it developed a process it calls “Remodel Lite” to deal with smaller jobs.

Orren Pickell began as a custom home builder in suburban Chicago 30 years ago, and when he began taking on remodeling projects 12 years ago, he adapted existing processes to do so. “If we're doing a half-million dollar remodeling project,” says remodeling group manager Lisa Pickell, Orren's daughter, “people feel comfortable and confident going forward with all those steps. As soon as you try to follow the same steps for a $60,000 bathroom renovation, you get bogged down. So we've streamlined the process. Streamlining, not skipping,” emphasizes Lisa.

When a small project (financially capped at $75,000, unless selections add costs) comes in, it is turned over to the maintenance group, one of seven separate LLCs within the $60 million company.

In Pickell's standard process an architect spends a lot of time with a client. In Remodel Lite, the in-firm architect still meets the client once and creates working drawings, but the superintendent in charge of the job uses the architect and the selections and project coordinators “as a support division rather than a client-facing division,” Lisa says.

In the field, the superintendent uses remodeling carpenters, for example, to reconnect a sink or set a countertop, rather than calling in different subcontractors. The estimating process is streamlined as well —from 30 days to three.

Clients have one person who is their point of contact, and even though six people might be involved in their project behind the scenes, clients might only meet with two.

The process, Lisa says, “condenses pre-construction time from 150 days to 45 days. You get money in faster and you get out of the project faster. And clients are happy.”

Since implementing the process in September 2005, the company has seen a few changes. The maintenance group, which has different insurance requirements — it doesn't incur the same risks as the rest of the company — is able to use smaller subcontractors, lowering insurance costs. And, by hiring a superintendent to do just the small projects, Pickell has lightened the workload of the superintendents on larger jobs. In terms of finance, it's early, Lisa says, “but we have noticed increased customer satisfaction. Referral is a big part of remodeling. If we can create positive touches in people's lives, they'll think of us. The reason we do $20,000 or $30,000 jobs is that we can touch lots of people during the year.”

Orren Pickell's “Remodel Lite” work-flow chart helps track the progress of remodeling jobs under $75,000. Following this system has cut preconstruction time from 150 to 45 days and the estimating process from 30 days to three.