While You're Here…

How many times over the years you have been remodeling have you heard the phrase, “While you're here…” — hundreds maybe even thousands, right? It may be good news or bad but we usually take the time to check it out. Why, because it is usually a compliment. By that I mean we are about to be asked to do some more work for an obviously satisfied client and that is good. It could come at the time when we are up to our necks trying to get the project ready to deliver on time. Then, “while you're here” can be bad and the last thing we want to hear. The same statement can be about a good thing or a bad thing or in between. That's why I'm calling this column, While You're Here …so we can cover a wide range of subjects.

We are going to try to pre-sent some good ideas, some warnings and some problems in this column. There are seldom less than two good ways to do something and lots of bad ways. I would like to hear about crazy things that have happened to you on jobs; things from which we might offer an escape or for which we might suggest a solution; maybe even do a little networking about our businesses and have some fun in the process.

What kind of fun? How about talking about the need for a system to verify your appointments — from someone who showed up a week early for a surprise party at his office for a friend's birthday, try to talk your way out of that one, they still make fun of me (he kept the present though). In another case, I sent a client out to look at a lot for a proposed house and she came back to tell me there was a house already started on my lot. A builder decided to save the money a surveyor would have cost to lay out the house. You can imagine the conversation I had with the developer. Yeah, as we all know this kind of stuff does happen and there's almost always a lesson to be learned along with a laugh or two. Those are a couple of mine; I want to hear about some of yours, the ones we might be able to print please.

My design/build company was as big as 20 people doing about $4 million annually in the middle ‘90s and a stabilized, $1.1 to $1.3 million in the past five years with four or five people. Like everyone else, we were small and got bigger on a planned track (with a few potholes along the way) and then we got smaller on a planned track. I won't tell you we always made money, BUT we always tried to do things on a profitable basis using both forward and backward looks to be sure of our position. In 35 years in business, you see a lot (in both directions) and you get to solve a lot of problems. Remodelers are good problems solvers. We'll use this column to talk about some of the problems we run into in business, some of the solutions that worked and some that didn't (but should have).

The smaller companies that do remodeling have their own special set of problems, some of which are there just because the companies are small — we'll look at some ways to help that. Bigger companies sometimes think that because they are big and sophisticated that they define the right way to do things, and we'll have some fun trying to poke them in the sides or to get them to admit they have problems, too.

We plan to take these problems seriously and to offer solutions that can help you. However, we don't want to be so serious that we don't have some fun laughing at ourselves and about the humor of the remodeling industry. You won't read about what color is hot or what appliance is not. Being a successful remodeling contractor is a good get-rich-slow scheme and we'll see if we can't help with some suggestions for you, While You're Here…

M M “Mike” Weiss has been a full-service remodeler for over 25 years. As an instructor for the CGR and CAPs programs, he spends many weeks each year on the road teaching other remodelers. He is also a past chairman of the Remodelors Council of the NAHB.