As we analyze who our competition really is, we realize that it is not other remodeling companies. Our biggest competition comes from our clients themselves -- from their other priorities, but also from their inability to make decisions. These competing interests result in too many potential projects never getting built or being postponed. They end up in "let-me-think-about-it" land, and our clients regret their decision -- or indecision -- later.

Help homeowners help themselves ...

Although you will never bat 1.000, you can reduce the number of cancellations and non-starters. The fundamental issue for many homeowners is that they don't know how to decide whether to proceed. In their mind, the number of details and unresolved issues is overwhelming. They are not stupid, but they are ignorant about the decision-making process. In your role as "sage" or adviser, you need to provide solutions not only about the remodeling project itself but also about how to make good choices in a timely manner.

I have found that if I can frame the decision by asking a series of three questions, I can almost always get a yes or no answer. I begin with the general and move to the specific. For example, I start with these three simple but powerful questions:

1. Are you comfortable with the advice and direction I have given you?

2. Are you comfortable with the investment (in time and energy as well as money) for the project?

3. Are you comfortable with our relationship and my company's abilities to create a successful project?

If the answers are Yes, then you can tell the client that you don't see any obstacles to proceeding. This is not a "suede shoe" technique; it's part of being professional. Most homeowners don't want to put their project on hold and want you to help them decide to move forward.

... and then help yourself

The power of three questions is also useful in other aspects of our remodeling business decisions. When deciding whether to hire or fire someone, for example, here are three questions to ask yourself:

1. Can this person do the job? (Are they competent?)

2. Will they do the job? (What's their attitude and work ethic?)

3. Do they fit into your team? (Will they fit your company culture?)

If any answer is No, your decision is easy. Any Maybe answer shows you what areas to explore further before making your decision.

The three-question method also helps you evaluate your own company. For example, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Why should this client buy my product or solution?

2. Why should they proceed with me?

3. Why should they proceed now instead of waiting?

If you don't have good answers to these questions, how would you expect the client to have the answers and to proceed with you?

Using three questions to frame decisions will lead to better outcomes in both your business and personal life.

--Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling and Case Handyman Services, Bethesda, Md., and the author of 30-Day Remodeling Fitness Program. He can be reached at (301) 229-4600 or