Versatility is the Key We do all sorts of projects: kitchens, bathrooms, additions, decks, porches, basements, windows, siding, roofing. So if my leads were only able to complete one or two "specialties," I'd have a big problem when it came to scheduling. Imagine if we sold a bunch of kitchen remodels within a few weeks' time but only had one guy to work on them. It'd take years to get them all completed. Having well-rounded, versatile leads allows us to move each job off of our scheduling board quickly.

Familiar FacesWe don't use subcontractors all that much; our guys do pretty much everything except plumbing and electrical. Because of this, it's important that our carpenters have all the skills necessary for any and all remodeling projects. It's inefficient to be sending guys back and forth, from job to job, just to handle one little thing.

Plus, we've found that it gives our clients a little more peace of mind. There's a certain comfort that comes with having the same person there to take care of all your needs.

It's rare to find someone who has all these skills before we hire him, so we do need to train most of our new crew members in one way or another. Often, we'll have them teach certain skills to each other while on the job. Sure, it's a little extra time and money, but well worth it in the long run.

We've found that it's good for company morale and employee self-esteem, too. Our guys know they have a chance to advance in their careers with us. They see the investment we make in them, and they return that loyalty.

Brian K. Altmann
Dutchess Building Specialists
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Big50 2003

Experience CountsWe use subcontractors on all our window and siding jobs, and we only work with companies that specialize in one or the other. We've found that is the best bet in terms of ensuring a high-quality job. There are probably 100 different applications you could encounter when you're installing windows. Naturally, then, I want the guy who has the most experience with that product.

Likewise, there are dozens of different things that can go wrong when you're installing siding. I want the guy who knows what he's doing. As far as I'm concerned, if you're a siding contractor, then you're a siding contractor. Period.

It's also a good way to sniff out the truck-and-ladder guys who don't do the kind of quality work we expect. A lot of these types of contractors take whatever they can get; you rarely see them specializing in just one thing. If a company only does windows, then there's a better chance that they are doing them well.

Keep 'em Busy

For our gutter protection systems, we employ our own installers. Back when we got started with gutters, there weren't any subs that did the work, so we trained our own people. Some company owners, particularly those at smaller companies, might balk at having such a large group of specialized employees. Every business is different, but it's worked just fine for us. We have enough work to keep our guys busy. We don't have to worry about sending them off to window and siding jobs in their downtime.

Hugh Harris
Dixie HomeCrafters
Chamblee, Ga.
Big50 2003