Chris Gash

In a variation on the jobless recovery theme, more remodelers are cautiously gunning for growth without incurring the fixed overhead costs of permanent or full-time hires. The Internet and social networking — virtual and real — are turning up some promising arrangements.

In Tampa, Fla., Rossi Construction hired a former client to work as an “outside sales rep” on a commission-only basis. Owner Jason Rossi cites increased sales and brand awareness as key advantages. At Superior Home Services, in Washington, D.C., the outside sales rep is a person whom owner Daniel Steinkoler met at a project open house. Besides providing overhead savings, the arrangement helps him managerially. “In my experience, salespeople seem to operate best when left to their own devices,” he says.

They do, however, need training and guidance, given their independence. Rossi says that his outside sales rep had “a rich background in high-dollar sales” but not in remodeling, so he trains the man through on-site meetings, role-playing, blueprint reading, and project walk-throughs. Steinkoler’s outside sales rep attends weekly meetings, visits jobsites, and networks, lining up introductions to architects and other potential partners.

Specialized Expertise

For remodelers seeking highly specialized expertise, an option is an outside CFO. At WicksteadWorks, an Atlanta remodeling company, owner Frank Wickstead keeps day-to-day accounting in-house but farms out CFO duties to a woman at an accounting firm known for high-level construction knowledge. He credits her with helping him write and police the budget, benchmark spending, and gauge company health via five key indicators, as well as “keeping [his] paranoia at bay,” Wickstead says. “I have a great staff, but it is good insurance to have someone else poking around in the books.”

Growing numbers of other remodelers are also turning to “virtual assistants” (VAs) for remote administrative and marketing help. Sources for these include and

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.