Myth No. 4: 'Small Remodelers Don't Need Schedules'

A couple of years ago I taught a class on scheduling for remodelers in Minnesota. I told the attendees that large companies scheduled all construction activity by default and — if they could imagine it — insisted that the schedule be used for managing the job. They used really far-out stuff like working hard to stay on schedule; even trying to gain time whenever they could.

I had a room full of remodelers, but no one was big, just small companies where the boss wears a tool belt much of the day. (Sales, bookkeeping and estimating hats go on in the “off” hours — sound familiar?) I stuck my neck out and said the schedule was even more important to the small guy. Well, there wasn’t any applause. As a matter of fact, one of the guys down front told me, “Man, I’m working nine to 10 hours a day. Then I make calls and work on estimates at night. I don’t have time to look at a schedule.”

He didn’t get any applause. But more of the audience agreed with him than with me. So, who’s right? Does the schedule do anything for the smaller company? Let’s see if it’s myth or fact.

Let’s assume that you have good procedures; are a reasonably good estimator; have trades that work with you pretty well; a lot of work, potentially; and, one more thing — some good competition.

You know your costs. And you mark up your work enough to give good service and put some money away — if everything works as planned. Of course, here in Indiana it always does, but I’ve heard rumors that in other places “stuff” goes wrong — no shows, late decisions, etc. OK, I’ll be serious. But promise me you’ll at least give this idea an honest shot.

The smaller you are, the more valuable your time is. You have a lot of hats to wear but you only have one head. If you have to make one extra trip to the job or to get material, that trip is paid for out of the profit, not the estimate, because you didn’t plan to make the extra trip. I call those Profit Eaters. Your nine- to 10-hour days might not all go away, but physically preparing a schedule and getting “buy-in” from your trades and suppliers will make the days more like seven to eight hours; and you won’t be beating your head against the wall so much. It is those times when you are under the gun and frazzled that you forget something and there goes that extra trip which just adds to the problem. It’s kind of like, Ready, Fire, Aim! All the pieces are there but you shoot your dog instead of the turkey.

Schedules are the best way to make sure that all of the things will happen and as close to on time as possible. How? Because you look at the schedule today to see what is suppose to happen next week (and the week after) and call to remind those people to show up. Or you call the client to remind them to pick the cabinets. Or you call the painters to schedule priming of the walls. No, it’s not foolproof, but it does work, and your trades will react positively to it because you have your act together better than your competition. That gives you an edge and it makes you money by getting rid of some of the Profit Eaters.

Who knows, you might save enough time to see one of your kids’ games or to take your spouse to a movie, imagine that . . . 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.

And while you’re here . . . Agree? Disagree? Want to know more or even argue? Send me an e-mail with your ideas or suggested topics, we’ll think about them and see what we can do.