How to Handle The Ups and Downs

Here are ideas that remodelers can use to help spirt their business through the downturn.

March 31, 2009

Paul Winans

In my work as a consultant to remodelers, I am hearing from clients about the challenges they are facing. A downturn looks different in each person's world: A signed job (or two or three) is canceled. Permitting obstacles delay or prevent a project from starting. Pricing pressures tempt or force the reduction or absence of profit, as work is needed simply to cover overhead — and so on.

It is worth noting that there are remodelers who have work and are doing more than well. Why? To some extent the answer to this question is the same for both situations, both good and not so good. For most remodeling companies, getting the job or not getting the job makes a huge difference. If your company does 20 jobs a year and you don't get 5 in a row, that can be devastating. On the other hand, if your company gets an unusually large job the business can be carried for several months until more sales occur. It doesn't take a lot to make a big difference, one way or the other.

So what can you do?

Consider all possibilities. In general, people tend to get wrapped up in the way things are. But that is just the starting point. Take some time for yourself to reflect on what you would do "if." Many of us never think about such things — we just work a little harder and a little longer thinking it might make the difference.

In the meantime, we are miserable, finding little satisfaction with anything.

Break the patterns and do something different. A client loves to fish but had a hard time finding the time to do so, particularly with the down market he is in. Then he realized he could take a great client fishing, building the relationship that will translate into more business and referrals, while doing what he loves. What is the equivalent for you?

Live in the present and let the future pull you forward. It is very hard to get up every day and go to work when yesterday was not as successful as you wanted it to be — more of the same old, same old, with likely the same results being realized.

That mindset can cripple your business. You set the tone for your entire company. If you are in sales, it is imperative to be focused positively on your future and not anchored by a yesterday you wish you had never experienced. How can you do that without being a wishful thinker?

A client was experiencing real hurdles with his team. They just were not performing the way he thought they could. At the same time, he was not clear about his own goals, the life he wanted for his own life and for his family.

Sales were down. Getting people to commit was impossible. This was before the downturn.

He started getting clear about the life he wanted. He began by doing some simple exercises that got out of his head thoughts that were in there but to which he was not paying much attention. The resulting clarity changed his expectations of his people so that everyone in the company feels more successful. Clients are signing contracts and the company has work, even when many other companies don't.

I am not saying it is magic nor that it works in all cases. I do think that being clear about the point makes you more effective in all areas of your life, not just in business.

Remember that tomorrow will come. For many of us, our work is how we define ourselves. After all, we spend most of our life at work. Running a small business is very hard, even in the best of times. It does not take much to make it close to impossible to succeed.

I remember in the early '90s living through a set of circumstances that felt like a perfect storm. I had several difficult remodeling clients, the prospect of no upcoming work and new challenges every day.

I found that stepping away, even in little ways, made a big difference. Carving out some time for me to stop being a remodeler and to be a person made me able to be more effective at my work. For me, it was taking walks; reading; spending time with my wife and children; and taking inexpensive, short vacations.

You are not your business. Things will get better. What do you want your tomorrow to be? Craft a vision that will pull you forward. And start living it today.

Author Information
Paul Winans CR works with Remodelers Advantage, the premier peer group and consulting company serving the industry. He is a founder of Winans Construction, which he and his wife, Nina, sold in 2007. He can be reached at

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