On the Job

Rather than boast about his company’s new system for delivering remodeling projects on time, Gary Demos, president of Dave Fox Remodeling in Columbus, Ohio, sounds more like a person who has a healthy respect for the difficulty of what he and his team have accomplished.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Demos explains. “And in our company, we really had difficulty completing projects on time. There were some stressful times as a result of that.

“That is when I did my research and began my initial planning for the program,” says Demos. “The goal was to clean up our act, with respect to the time frame that we completed projects in.”

Researched in ’02 and implemented a year later, the program ­— called ACT, short for Always Complete on Time — has brought structure to their process and a degree of control for employees and clients. The result, says Demos, is a much better customer experience.

The ACT program is comprehensive, beginning with how the customer’s initial contact with the company is handled and extends to a series of planned follow-up calls that go a year beyond final completion. Importantly, all this information has been documented, put in a book form, and distributed to all team members.

The first bit of heavy lifting in the ACT process begins with the design/sales staff at the time they first meet with a prospect. Depending on the type of job in question — from kitchen and bath remodel to exterior makeover — a general time frame is clearly communicated to the customer.

“From the outset,” says Demos, “we don’t make quick statements just to make a sale. We are very careful to educate them about the remodeling process and to properly set their expectations.”

Once a sale is made, the project moves to one of three interior designers on staff, who are assigned to guide clients through the selections process. The interior designers explain to clients that much of the timeline is determined by how quickly and decisively they can be with their selections. Once made, all orders and special orders are run through the company’s ordering specialist, who provides “a second set of eyes” to ensure that the orders are correct, says Demos.

“Obviously, a key component of getting a job done on time is having the right product there and not having delays because the cabinets don’t fit,” Demos explains. “Particularly with special orders, we try to catch anything that we can upfront.”

Once selections are ordered, all jobs move to an in-house project review meeting. These meetings occur about two weeks before a job is scheduled to begin. Sitting at the table are: the design/sales consultant, the project manager, and the interior designer who review all the plans and specs on the project. The meeting is the project manager’s first chance to see the project before it is officially handed off to him or her to manage until completion. If the project manager sees a problem with any part of the project, he or she has the power to reject it and to send it back for revisions.

“We give [our project managers] this power to accept or return projects because we are holding them accountable for completing the schedule written in the contract.”

Once approved, the project manager then creates a bar chart schedule for the job in Microsoft Project. This document becomes part of the contract with client.

Work begins after a preconstruction walk-through with the client. Rules of the job, like which bathrooms can be used by staff, are clearly spelled out. Later, during build-out, two “quality control” meetings are held to ensure that proper progress is made.

“We want the client to feel like we are in control,” says Demos. “We don’t want them to feel like they have to be watching to make sure we’ve done our job.”