Our company is doing more small jobs in the $10,000-to-$50,000 range, especially bathroom and kitchen remodels. Though physically smaller, many of these projects require the same number of selections as large projects, but in half the time. Bathrooms and kitchens also tend to be more personal because of their impact on the family, making every decision critical for the homeowner.

To help control the outcome, we do a lot of up-front design work and we try to gauge the client’s style early on so we can direct them to products that fit the renovation. We talk to clients about products, showing them those we like and letting them know why.

To help with the selections process, we schedule a shopping day to facilitate the client’s decisions — in many cases, you can set the project’s direction in one trip with just a little hand-holding. This gives us input on what we think will work best for the project and it can save weeks of downtime spent waiting for clients to make their choices.

This process also helps to control the allowances you’ve placed in the contract because you can provide real-time pricing to help the client make a decision.

14%: The difference between estimated budget and actual expenditure for projects under $5,000 - HomeSight study licensed by Meredith Corp., conducted by CNW Research, 2006/2007

Vendors stock fewer products these days, so many items have a long lead time and you need to include this time in the schedule (especially with a small project, since any delay can erode your profit).

Bath vanities can take six to eight weeks to ship from the time they’re ordered. We won’t start on a bath project until we have a confirmed delivery date for the vanity. We can’t afford a two-week hole in the schedule because we’re waiting for product. Most tile orders take seven to 10 days, but specialty tile can take three to four weeks. And for plumbing products, the client selection must be done early so we have information for the rough-in.

We are very hands-on with small projects so we can meet our completion date, including supervising subcontractors. Our employees also have the “do what it takes to get the job done” mentality.

—Andy Hannan is production manager of Mark IV Builders, in Bethesda, Md.