An Essential System The lead carpenter (LC) is not a man; it's a system. I've been attempting to perfect that system since about 1989. The training never stops. We insist that our lead carpenters come up with most of the solutions to jobsite problems — from material lists to contacting other trade contractors. They are encouraged to talk to the customer to sort out problems and form a business relationship. We encourage them to enhance their own skills and continually upgrade their tools.

The LC is essential to our operation — to any remodeling company that wants to split crews and run more than one job at a time.

Good for Everyone By dealing with one customer at a time, the lead can handle problems more effectively than an owner acting as a micromanager. When clients deal directly with the owner, the owner is often pulled away to a meeting or the bank; he or she has different job responsibilities. The carpenter can stay on site.

This allows me to work in my company the way I want to. It allows me the flexibility to do what is most important — company improvement, coaching, public relations, and management.

Initially it was difficult to give up the power and control as an owner. But having a lead carpenter system empowers another person. They find their own way to do the job better and faster. They will save time and materials and will find their own greater level of effectiveness right on the job. They begin to build their own team in the field and know who works well together.

When I see satisfied customers and the lead has produced the desired results, I know there's no other way of running a job.

Tim Britton, CGR
Tim Britton Construction Services
Falls Creek, Pa.
Big50 2002

A Better Way In most cases, as a company grows, the number of jobs grows. Consequently, the number of lead carpenters must increase, because the theory of the lead carpenter (LC) system is to have one LC remain on the job every day until the job is complete.

The project manager (PM) system is a better way for those companies that desire to grow and remain profitable. Since implementing this system more than 10 years ago, I believe it has greatly contributed to our success. The PM system better controls in-house labor because it uses subcontractors. Job costs can be fixed, charging labor hour overruns to the sub.

Plus, while the LC spends all his time on one job, producing, for example, $50,000, an effective PM can run at least three (or more), producing $150,000 or more in revenue.

During a slow economy, when volume decreases, the company is less affected with the PM system. You can avoid hiring subs. And when your LC quits or gets fired, finding another is difficult. With the PM system, that challenge is more manageable.

Proof in Numbers Some will say the LC system better serves the client because of the constant presence of a company employee on the job. I would refute this argument by comparing our return client and individual referral percentage — approximately 70% — to those companies using the LC system.

The PM system is not without challenges, but it is more effective than the LC system. I am so confident that I predict project management will become the preferred production system for the remodeling industry.

Jim Strite
Strite Design+Remodel
Boise, Idaho
Big50 1989