Photo: Steve Johnson

In J.M. Barrie's classic children's tale Peter Pan, Peter and the Lost Boys are in dire need of Wendy. Wendy is sensible and mature — the perfect counterbalance to Peter and the Lost Boys' impulsive and childish behavior. So what does that have to do with home remodeling? Quite a bit, actually.

Our industry is predominantly composed of men. Although an increasing number of women are entering the profession in various capacities, they are significantly outnumbered. And just as Peter comes to rely on Wendy for stability and nurturing, many remodelers have a Wendy on staff who holds things together for the business. Often the office administrator is a woman who plays the role of “mother hen” to the field crew: “Where are your time sheets? Don't forget to get your vacation request in on time.” Where would our businesses be without someone setting and enforcing these rules?

Leadership Role I've worked in the industry for more than 20 years and have found that many construction sites are so testosterone-laden that they start to feel and sound like frat houses. The music is loud, the language is salty, and I've seen more than one jobsite prank send someone to the emergency room. Just as Peter and the Lost Boys refuse to grow up, these happy-go-lucky workers cling to their immature behavior as a way of keeping work “fun.”

The jobsite can be a place without such inappropriate behavior. For craftsmen who have honed their skills, the opportunity to demonstrate their craftsmanship is a real pleasure.

Having competent, temperate individuals on staff provides professionalism and polish for your company. Couple this with good craftsmanship, and you will present your company in the best light for homeowners. Women can play a role in providing that leadership and positive professional image. If we had more “Wendys” in design, sales, production management, and the trades, the residential remodeling industry would benefit tremendously. The qualities that a Wendy possesses include maturity, a nurturing nature, and composure under pressure. It also helps if she can reduce client apprehension with an easy, confident, approachable personality. A smile and a warm voice go a long way toward achieving remodeling success.

Reward Wendys Often the first interaction a potential client has with your company is with the office administrator — usually a woman. If that person is well-trained and respected within the company, she provides a huge advantage to the business. Her ability to gather pertinent information from the prospect and, more importantly, to establish rapport, places her in the same category as the sales staff. In fact, one remodeling company with which I recently worked recognized the importance and value of its office administrator beyond her gatekeeper role. They found that she was great at getting prospects to open up and reveal their real agenda and their real pocketbook. So the company started offering her commissions if those prospects with whom she worked ended up as clients of the business.

There are still plenty of Peter Pans and Lost Boys trying to make a living without having it interfere with their quest for fun. Unfortunately, they may not realize that they need Wendy to save them from themselves.

Of course, not all female employees act like Wendy. You may end up with a Tinkerbell in the office who enables the men's poor behavior, letting them get away with it because “boys will be boys.” The point is that women, in general, have the relationship-building and organizational qualities that sophisticated buyers are looking for. Support and recognize their strengths, and everyone will benefit. —Joe Dellanno, president of Design Solutions, a national design company based in the Boston area, offers professional business coaching services, including gatekeeping, for remodelers and custom home builders throughout the country. He can be reached at [email protected].