Trade Secrets

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Experts in the remodeling industry offer suggestions for recruiting new employees; certification training for employees and balancing volume against quality of work.

July 01, 2007

>> If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at jonathan.sweet@reedbusiness.com.

Find them before you need them

It's nearly impossible to find a good employee quickly.

But that's what too many remodelers try to do, waiting until somebody quits to start looking for the next hire. Building a good team takes more planning than that, though, says Neal Fiske, owner of TriplePoint Construction of Gulfport, Fla. Before Fiske owned TriplePoint, he was a national recruiter in the high-tech field, finding employees for giants like Hewlett-Packard.

That process usually involved building relationships over a period of time with talented employees rather than just quickly making an offer — an approach he now uses in the remodeling field. Fiske meets many contractors through his participation in local associations, and when he hears people are unhappy, he'll talk to them about where they want to go with their career.

"Sometimes it will lead to something right away, but in other cases it's been more than a year before someone has come to work for us," he says. "I just make sure I stay in touch with them, even if it's just a 'How are you doing?' every once in a while."

Fiske cautions that recruiting from other firms is a fine line to walk, which is why he tries to target only employees he has heard are unhappy with their current company.

"You don't want to get that reputation of raping and pillaging the competition," he says.

Staying successfully small

For Living Improvements, bigger wasn't better.

The Stafford, Texas, company has had volumes above $3 million in the past. Last year, the company had just under $2 million in business, a change with which President Roland Younger is quite happy.

"We were larger, but it lowered the quality of the work, it wasn't as enjoyable and frankly, the bottom line wasn't as healthy," he says. "We were spread too thin, and guys would hurry through jobs to get to the next one."

It's always a struggle to find good employees, and his core group couldn't get the jobs done and still maintain the quality the design/build company was known for. That left Younger, his clients and his employees unhappy.

"When you keep the quality of work up, the employees are happier doing it," he says.

After 28 years running his company, Younger realizes he doesn't have to have every job and that the most important thing for him and his employees is quality of life. That's why his employees don't work weekends or late nights.

"It can be tough to say 'no' to clients, but it's so much easier to turn it down when you realize you don't have to have it," he says. "We have a system here, and we know the limits of that system."

The advantage of certification

In the crowded Phoenix remodeling market, standing out as a professional firm can be an important advantage.

That's why Kirk Development Co. makes sure its entire six-person sales staff has professional certifications. All have either a NARI CR or NAHB CGR designation, and five have also earned NAHB's CAPS certification.

"When we tell customers we're certified, you can definitely tell they feel it's a more professional operation," says company President Tom Sertich.

In many cases, people are already certified when they come to work for Kirk. If they're not, he makes sure they attend certification classes right away, not only to help from a sales standpoint but also to help them better understand the industry.

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