One of the biggest challenges general contractors face is the intermittent nature of remodeling work.
Weather is one challenge. Rain can scuttle and delay jobs and wreak havoc on schedules, and when winter rolls around, jobs can vanish completely for months at a time.
Managing your sales pipeline is another challenge. How do you avoid a boom and bust cycle of job-job-job-job-job, followed by nothing-nothing-nothing-nothing?
How do you develop a year-round business so that you don’t cycle through feast and famine?
There are two ways:
Diversify. General contractors can grow their companies by adding a reliable indoor specialty to their repertoire. If you specialize in window installation, fences and decks, exterior siding or roofing, you’re already working with customers who are eager to improve their homes. Why not add an interior specialty that will allow you to further serve those same customers? Adding a specialization like kitchen remodeling to your existing business allows you to offer more to your existing customers, and their word-of-mouth referrals about your new line of business will expand your customer base. That means you’ll have more consistent work — even during the cold or rainy months when outdoor remodeling typically goes on hiatus.
Salt Lake City contractor Russ Outsen opened his kitchen remodeling business eight years ago. Before then, he’d specialized in decks, fences, patios and cement work — all work that relied on nice weather. Rain delays were bad enough, but winter meant an annual four-month freeze on his earnings.
“It was tough to make it,” he says. His initial motivation was to plug that four-month gap in his earnings — but he also realized how much he enjoyed working inside. “Of all the contracting, this is the least-taxing on the body.”
Now, kitchen remodeling has become his primary focus, and he finds himself “dominating the valley” with his refacing and granite countertop work.
A more manageable sales pipeline. Kitchen remodeling is good work for several reasons. Kitchen remodels are consistently one of the most popular home improvement projects, and since it’s an indoor project, you don’t have to worry about having your work schedule rearranged by Mother Nature. The predictability means that with strong, consistent marketing and sales, you can keep your project pipeline full.
To grow your remodeling business, it’s critical to have a solid marketing plan and strategies in place for how to reach new prospects and build relationships. A lot of contractors tend to book sales in bunches and then schedule jobs back-to-back-to-back, only to realize at the end of Job No. 3 that their pipeline is completely empty. To avoid dry spells, marketing needs to be an ongoing effort.
Kitchen Solvers has seen that pattern play out with its own franchisees over the 31 years the company has been in business, and it has developed training programs to help contractors better manage the sales cycle.
Probably the single biggest mistake contractors make is focusing solely on customers who are ready to sign on the dotted line. Since remodeling projects are major investments for homeowners, we’ve found that the decision-making process can take months, sometimes even years. How do you determine how quickly a customer might make a decision, and how do you build trust so that when a customer is ready, they will come to you? You need to listen well and communicate in ways that will make the homeowner comfortable with you and confident in their eventual decision. You need to act more like a consultant and less like a pushy sales guy. If you build trust and stay in touch with people who need your advice, the sales will flow in steadily.
The best thing about this approach is that it’s applicable to any kind of remodeling — not just kitchens.
Larry Schaffert, who started Schaffert Construction in Frederick, Md., in 1989, added a Kitchen Solvers franchise in 1998 and says the systems and training have been a big boost for both sides of his business.
“It gives you a framework in which to better operate your business,” he says.
Gerry Henley has more than 35 years of experience in the remodeling industry and is President of Kitchen Solvers, a Wisconsin-based franchise that provides systems, support and buying power to 75 franchisees in the U.S. and Canada. Learn more at kitchensolversfranchise.com.