Set yourself apart.
If you or your workers have the skills, expand your custom offerings. Doing your own millwork, providing design services and offering unusual products that can’t be found at the local home-improvement warehouse store will help you create a niche that’s less susceptible to periodic downturns.
Aim for zero.
Zero punch, that is, as in a non-existent punch list. Get your entire production team onboard with meeting this goal and, one respondent says, you’ll increase efficiency and create good working conditions for your subcontractors by giving them more opportunities to reduce cost and build future business.
Build your value-engineering skills.
Once you’ve got the project, go over the details once again to see what simple adjustments could reduce installation labor needs and lower overall project costs. Share the savings with your customer, says one reader, “but reward yourself for your experience.”
Stay in touch with your client once the project begins to get their input on progress and quality. Also, once the project is signed, meet with your designer and project manager to review all orders, to protect against overlooked items and duplications.
Know what you’re getting into.
In remodeling, a thorough understanding of existing conditions is critical to maintaining schedules and margins. Take time upfront to study the current structure and systems, and you’ll save labor and aggravation in the long run.
Plan for success.
“It all comes down to planning — right down to the last nail,” says one reader. Once the schedule is in place, follow it at all costs. As a second respondent says, “Every day on a job is money.”
"If you can condense three four-month jobs into three three-month jobs, you can have one more job in the year.”
Protect yourself against change orders.
Make sure you’ve clearly outlined project scope, and then don’t be afraid to charge for changes. Include a time-and-materials clause in every contract to cover unexpected or extra work.
When you’re setting up for a job that will last for more than a couple days, gather all the tools you’ll need in a lockbox on-site, and have your materials close at hand. Preparing ahead of time will keep the project on schedule once work begins.
“If you can condense three four-month jobs into three three-month jobs, you can have one more job in the year,” says one respondent. “In a perfect world, this would increase your bottom line 33 percent.”
Treat employees as an asset, not a commodity.
The current slowdown may mean a bigger employment pool to draw from, but that doesn’t make experienced and loyal workers any less valuable. Turnover and training cut productivity and project quality, so maintain fair pay and practices to keep your operation humming.
in the loop.
Make sure your employees understand every project’s plan, including the number of hours budgeted for their efforts — and then hold them to that schedule. Workers who finish up more quickly could gain a reward.
35. Don’t forget the subs.
They might not be on your payroll, but you still want them on your side. As one reader notes, “They are more apt to do a few things for me at no charge because I really take care of them.”
Get them out of
their comfort zone.
Encourage employees to explore more efficient approaches to their tasks, instead of relying on their standard way of doing things. Again, if new methods speed completion or improve quality, a reward is in order. “This could be as simple as a pizza coupon,” says one reader.
"Figure out what you do that turns dollars, then delegate the rest.”
Make sure they
make the grade.
With work slower for many remodelers than it was even a year or so ago, many are looking at cutting payrolls. Now can be a time to evaluate performance and remove those employees you may have thought you were too busy to do without — this means judging on performance, and not making simple last-hired/first-fired decisions.