Charles Steck

When do full-service remodelers lose money on small projects? When they gloss over details. If you’re still in the large-volume mindset, you’ll face major challenges in producing smaller jobs. Avoid the chaos.

  • Plan. Really think about how to sell, staff, manage, and produce small jobs, and not just to do them quickly. Do not drop meetings because everyone is out selling work. Do not stop looking at your numbers because a client can only meet at a certain time.
  • Avoid mental lapses. Remodelers sometimes dismiss small jobs as unimportant. The thinking “We’re only replacing a window” is a huge mistake. If the carpenter lets down his guard and fails to properly clean up, for instance, the client will still be upset. Clients expect the same service regardless of job size.

Small jobs may also inhibit the thinking: “There’s not enough money in this to ... (fill in the blank).” In reality, small projects need to be sold at higher margins so the same processes can occur each time.

  • Do what you did for the large jobs. From whole-house remodels to handyman work, the production steps are essentially the same. Gather information, create an estimate, sell the work, and turn it over to production. Then, production plans the work, executes the work, collects the money, and you learn from the process.

The key difference is that you will need to compress these steps into a shorter period. Instead of a two-week window to plan a project, your lead carpenter may have two days. Rather than ordering components as the work unfolds, he or she shouldn’t even see the job folder until all orders have been placed. Skipping or short-circuiting steps can be disastrous. Want to keep your impulses in check? If you hear anyone saying, “We do not have time for that on this job,” then make time.

—Tim Faller is president of Field Training Services, author of The Lead Carpenter Handbook , and a long-time proponent of this system.