"An absence of problems is what a remodeler is buying."

These are the words from Paul Winans, an Oakland, Calif., remodeler and former president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. He said them Thursday morning, as part of a panel that addressed and fielded questions from building products manufacturers at a "State of the Industry" breakfast hosted by Hanley Wood (publisher of REMODELING Magazine).

Through conversations with contractors and homeowners throughout my five years or so covering the industry, I've found that the majority of remodeling projects or remodelers that go wrong do so because of a lack of understanding between them and their customers. What's no big deal to you because it happens all the time is a very big deal to your client, because theirs is perhaps the only remodeling project they've ever gone through. It's certainly the only one that currently affects them. If they are unhappy with any part of the job, they aren't going to call you for their next project -- and they aren't going to recommend you to any of their friends who need a remodeler.

Paul's statement this morning -- "An absence of problems is what a remodeler is buying." -- struck a chord with me, because it's identical to the attitude of the majority of homeowners when they are choosing a remodeler. Indeed, it's a sales message that many remodelers use -- selling "value" over price.

If what a remodeler is looking for in a building manufacturer is exactly what a homeowner is looking for in a remodeler, why can't remodelers understand the concerns homeowners have during their remodeling project?

I certainly don't have the answer to that question. But as remodelers, you are customers as well as contractors. I would suggest that you always keep your clients in mind as you make business decisions, especially those that will affect a particular project. For example, think about how frustrating and troublesome a late delivery can be to you, and think twice about delaying a project's start or end date, because it's bound to create the same problems for your clients. By applying your experiences as a customer to your decisions as a contractor, you'll bolster your clients' satisfaction -- and your repeat and referral rate.