Question 1: Looking back over the last three to four years, what were your biggest mistakes?

Tim Burch, Burch Builders Group

Tim Burch,   Burch Builders Group
We have grown a tremendous amount in the past three to four years. Our company policies were in place, but as an owner I was stuck with trying to wear too many hats. It became obvious that our next move was to hire a general manager. This has been the most important personnel move we have made. I am free to work on global/strategic initiatives, business development and client relations. My biggest mistake was waiting on this hire. Craig Durosko,  Sun Design Remodeling Specialists

  • Making excuses for underperforming employees, not firing them quick enough (fire quicker, hire slower).
  • Manage transitions better.
  • Not replacing myself in my roles fast enough.
  • Not being present in the moment.

Peter Feinmann,  Feinmann Inc.
Grew the company in 2006 and 2007 without the right management structure to oversee the growing staff.

Craig Durosko, Sun Design

Dennis D. Gehman,   Gehman Custom Remodeling

  • I’ve been too optimistic; we should have downsized (had layoffs) much sooner.
  • Gave up gross profit to keep our people employed.
  • We should have made people (clients and general public) aware that we will gladly do small projects.

Alex Iosa,  Iosa Construction Corp.
I believe our biggest mistake in the last three to four years was not having an Internet presence sooner. Our website has been the central hub for all of our marketing and advertising. It has become an essential part of our company.

Paul Irwin,  Pattern Builders
No shortage of big mistakes here — and in many categories: business and personnel, marketing, sales, employment, management, and finances — but my biggest screw-ups often have a common theme: ignoring my gut when I sensed something wrong and moving ahead, anyway.

One big sales mistake was selling a $275,000 job even though I felt the husband was an abject ass — he treated his wife poorly in front of me, and more than once. I ignored it, partly because I felt that I needed the sale, and partly on the grounds that we would be dealing almost exclusively with the wife during design and construction. Wrong. When it came time to pay the final bill, the husband stepped in and tried to renegotiate contract terms during our close-out meeting.

Paul Irwin, Pattern Builders

It turned out that they kept separate checkbooks — she wrote her checks for the first half of the job, and he wrote his checks for the last half of the job. He refused to pay for extras that his wife had approved, and he tried to strong-arm me by trying to settle the bill for $25,000 less than what was owed. I eventually succeeded in getting full payment through arbitration — a year later — but at a painful loss of time and energy that would have been better spent anywhere. Chris Landis,  Landis Construction Corp.
Letting C players hang out too long.

John Murphy,  Murphy Bros. Designers & Remodelers
Tried to produce as much as we sold as fast as we could instead of working harder with less people to establish a bigger backlog of work. I always have been driven to grow, albeit profitably, but I would rather not grow and be profitable (2008) than grow and struggle — which is what we did in 2007

Jane Regan,  HB Building and Design
The one single big mistake made was signing a client’s contract instead of our own, and not having our attorney review it before signing it. We did it in "good faith." Although the work we did was beautiful, and without defect, the wording led to a series of premeditated lawsuits by the client’s attorney. No one made any money on this project, except the attorney.

Jane Regan, HB Building and Design

The other mistake was taking on a design client and forfeiting the design fee. Any time I have done this, the client has turned out to be overly demanding and excessively cheap. In short a real time-waster and money-loser. The last and most important lesson I learned was to never give the client a list of the design elements/specs that are going into the remodel. They will go shop them from other dealers (who will beat your price just to make the sale) or online, where they will buy them to save a buck or two. If you have a client like this, it’s best to just focus on the remodeling, don’t try to make money on selling them anything more than say, the cabinetry, and let them shop away for everything else!

Alex Shekhtman,  Elite Remodeling
Holding on to my employees for too long after I realized that business is down, hoping I can recover.