Differentiating Your Business

The mood was unusually somber among the remodelers attending the NAHB Fall Boards in September.

September 30, 2002


Kim Sweet

The mood was unusually somber among the remodelers attending the NAHB Fall Boards in September. A number of people talked about trying to sell their business or just getting out of the industry. Most conversations echoed what I have been hearing for months: Business is soft.

That hasn't necessarily been the case for everybody. Single-line remodelers are doing well, as are firms in regions with little land left for new construction. Smaller companies that specialize in smaller jobs also have been holding strong.

But many of the big residential projects are just plain gone. Even as some remodelers report a resurgence in calls and contract signings after we safely passed the first anniversary of Sept. 11, few expect a return to the heyday of 2000.

Some companies will fold, undoubtedly. In some instances, that will be the owner's choice. In others, the owner will struggle to sell, then struggle to produce, and then give up or go broke. When times get hard, focusing on the day-to-day is not enough. Now more than ever is the time to work on your business instead of in your business.

In Atlanta, home to a number of sophisticated remodelers, design/build firm SawHorse Inc. has spent the past year helping EarthCraft House adapt green-building techniques for remodeling and then training all its employees in those practices. As we explain in this month's cover feature, it's one way of differentiating SawHorse from the competition.

Company president Jerome Quinn and vice president Carl Seville even aligned their brand with EarthCraft. SawHorse now includes EarthCraft information on its Web site and in the folder it presents to clients, and it co-brands marketing materials with the EarthCraft logo. In the Atlanta area, EarthCraft is probably better known than most building-related organizations because it has certified more than 700 new homes in the past three years and is on track to certify another 1,000 in the next year.

Especially in a state such as Georgia, which doesn't require remodeling contractors to hold a license, it's smart to market your credentials and alliances to demonstrate to consumers your commitment to professionalism and quality.

Just don't forget to demonstrate those commitments to yourself and your employees as well. It's a commitment that Sandy McAdams is demonstrating to herself and her employees, and now to all of Professional Remodeler's readers through this month's Project Spotlight. McAdams has the knowledge to realize that a 27% gross profit per project isn't enough to sustain her company and has the courage to admit it and do something about it. That has meant reorganizing her staff, pursuing educational opportunities and exposing herself to criticism from peers. It is painful now, but the change will pay off for her and her customers.

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