Teamwork can be Critical to Success

It takes two to tango. All for one and one for all. There’s no “I” in “team.”

Our society is littered with clichés, songs, phrases and well-known references that allude to the nature of teamwork and togetherness. A strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie is particularly vital to successful remodeling jobs. In fact, 97 percent of remodelers recently surveyed by Qualified Remodeler indicate it is important to communicate with team members about plans that affect the company. Most agree sharing information and working together toward a common cause plays a huge part in their company’s success. In addition, open lines of communication, accountability, proper training and clearly defined job descriptions play a role in a team’s success.


Accountability Matters

Marty Morse, owner of Davis, Calif.-based Morse Remodeling Inc. is proud of his well-established team and the company culture he maintains. “We have a really good, cohesive team,” he says. “A lot of people have been retained for a long period of time; one employee has been with me almost 15 years.” As with any company, however, some degree of turnover should be expected and planned for. One way Morse plans for turnover is by holding employees accountable.

“The key to maintaining accountability is having a lot of checks and balances,” he says. “On top of that, have really good standard operating procedures. You can’t be accountable without making sure everybody knows what their role is in the company and what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Beyond SOPs, Morse emphasizes the importance of having thorough job descriptions. He has defined each role in his company, so when an employee tackles given tasks and skill sets they’re able to climb the ranks based on the next level of job description. Morse also conducts questionnaires with his customers. “We find out what the customers are pleased with and they’ll put down specifics. That’s a good way to recognize really good, thorough work from our employees.”


Building a Team

Larry J. Sandles, CSP, CMP, CGB, CGR, MIRM, CAPS, vice president of design-build firm SandStar Remodeling, Punta Gorda, Fla., lists three criteria to building a team. “One is lead by example,” he says. “My partner and I would never ask any of our team to do something they would not see us do on any given day. Make the goal crystal clear, which for us is our company culture that we deliver an exceptional experience to every client every time. Every person in our company understands this is the main focus of our company. Get the right people on the bus; one wrong person can cause total chaos to your team. Every member must understand they are a stakeholder, and the success or failure of our company depends on each and every one of us.”

Remodeling work is done mostly by in-house staff, and new home construction is mostly done by subcontractors at SandStar Remodeling. “However, most of our subcontractor/vendor partners have been with us for years so really they are just an extension of us and very important members of our team,” Sandles says.

Morse also frequently calls on the same subs. “A good percentage of our gross revenue is going to trade partners we’re managing,” he says. “We try to have two or three legitimate, quality contenders at every trade we can call upon.”

When Morse brings new talent into his company, he sticks to a tried and true process. “We go through probably a two- or three-interview process,” he explains. “They actually go to our jobsites, we quiz them and they talk to our lead carpenters and our project managers. We spend a lot of time doing the research [before offering a job], which is a really good use of time.” After the person is hired, he or she will spend time in the field with experienced employees, learning and participating in hands-on training.

Morse also focuses on cross-training, which he says is key so people can fill in and help out if someone goes on vacation or is otherwise out of the office. “That also gives employees opportunities to promote and shine in situations like that,” he says.


Ensure Clear Communication

In a profession where employees spend a lot of time on jobsites, communication can be a challenge. Today’s technology, however, has made that barrier less substantial. Sandles says his company does everything via email. Team members also have smartphones, and the company is experimenting with using iPads in the field. Although multiple client, prospect, sub and vendor meetings occur each day, most employees start and end the day in SandStar Remodeling’s office.

A successful internal team is also dependent on external factors — in particular, customers. Morse and Sandles speak to the importance of effective client communications contributing to a team’s success; clients should know the structure of the team they are hiring and how communication works within that team. After all, the customers are the ones who will live in the space being remodeled, making them very much a part of the team.

“This industry is driven by communication and it all starts with the game plan. Before the project even starts, we educate our customers and let them know their first step in communicating with us if they have any issues is going to be contacting the lead carpenter,” says Morse. From there, the lead carpenter communicates necessary information to the rest of the team. “It’s critical that information exchange goes through the team in the proper manner.”


Work Hard, Play Hard

Sandles and his team, which includes about 20 members between the remodeling and new home divisions, partake in team events three or four times a year. Activities have included picnics, fishing, parties or other employee-suggested events.

“We have [office] group meetings often so all can have input and share comments, concerns, frustrations and kudos,” Sandles says. “We are a small group and pretty tight; we share successes, dissect problems and enjoy each other. We work hard but also celebrate achievements. Our culture is nurturing and we enjoy the interaction with each other; we have a totally open-door policy. Typically everyone is involved in any given project in some form or fashion so we all take an ownership role.”

Morse and his company also enjoy each other. They’ve participated in barbecues, swim parties, camping at a nearby lake, whitewater rafting, kart racing and are planning a paintball tournament. Other ideas include parachute jumping and wine tasting. Morse Remodeling also participates in a fundraiser by a local, nonprofit art center called Junk to Genius. “We put our team together, and it’s a fun, competitive event where you create art from a pile of junk you’re given,” he explains. “We all look forward to getting together on a Friday night, taking this junk and making a sculpture out of it. It’s been a really good team-building exercise.”