Jim Mirando Jr. knows that one of the most difficult parts of moving a remodeling business forward is stepping back from being its primary rainmaker.

Mirando, owner of Excel Interior Concepts & Construction, in Lemoyne, Pa., has struggled with that particular step for a long time now.

For many years, “I've gone back and forth, trying not to be the primary salesperson,” he says. Inevitably, he would “jump back in” when sales went off track, then “back off again, realizing I'm needed in too many other places,” he says.

Illustration: Chris Gash

This year, to help reach what has been a difficult goal, Mirando has set a lower bar for his own sales. He aims to reduce his percentage of total company sales from 41% in 2007 to 25% or less in 2008.

He realizes that to truly lead and grow his business, he will have to jump out of the trenches permanently. “I could have a tremendous sales year,” Mirando says, “and the company would still not be doing as well as if I focused on being a leader and the president of this company. I simply can't be the primary salesperson any-more; it takes too much time.”

LET GO — A BIT Any number of reasons can compel remodeling business owners to train others to step into their long-held sales positions. Perhaps the most common is Mirando's: a desire to grow the business. To paraphrase one remodeler, “Either you get some help or the wheels start coming off the bus.”

Still other owners make the change in order to put a succession plan in motion, to focus on other passions within the business, or to escape burnout.

When it comes to moving away from being the primary (or only) salesperson, though, the “why?” isn't as difficult for remodelers to figure out as the “how?”

How exactly do you shift from the comfort zone of owner-salesperson to the unfamiliar terrain of sales manager-coach-trainer? Even if you're at ease being in front of clients and selling to them, how do you find, hire, and develop the salesperson who can fill your shoes?

And, at an even more basic level, how do you overcome the fear of letting go?

Take Mirando, for example. He has had salespeople in place for years; hiring and training salespeople isn't a hurdle for him. Regardless, he says, chuckling, “I do definitely find it to be a challenge.

“It's a hard decision because I know I'm very good as a salesperson. But am I necessarily going to be as exceptional as a sales manager? There's definitely a risk,” he says. “The more removed you get from the day-to-day sales work, there is a risk that you can lose touch with what's going on. But I've decided that, you know, I have to give it a go.”

There's also the lingering concern over trusting other salespeople to take care of particular clients the way he would, Mirando admits.

Indeed, learning to delegate sales doesn't always come easily to owners who have spent their entire career building and nurturing their business.

“In remodeling, what you typically see are smaller businesses that have started with a single owner and then grown,” says Tim Frost, president of Peregrine Contracting, in Underhill, Vt. “As an owner, you're forced to wear so many hats. Then, once you get to the point where you have to replicate yourself and build a sales team, it's a huge hurdle. It's difficult to pull away.”