The Value of Good Advice

I recently received a call from a remodeler who was behind on his estimating. He said he had 16 estimates on his desk waiting to be completed. I was dumbfounded. I asked him if these were small projects that could be done quickly, and he said “no.” His average job size was $40,000, so the 16 estimates waiting on his desk ranged in size from $11,000 to over $140,000, based on his preliminary guesses. I asked him when he was going to find the time to complete these estimates, and he said he was going to have to “burn the midnight oil.”

This remodeler is playing a “numbers” game. If he does enough estimates, he will get a certain number of jobs from those estimates. Here is the problem-he is laboring under the mistaken belief that he is selling a product. Remodeling is not a product, like a car or a television. There are numerous purchases that consumers can search for the best price and not worry about getting an inferior product. For example, when you can get a better price for a specific car from dealer A than from dealer B, it makes sense to buy that car from dealer A. New homes are somewhat similar. New homes are sold on a cost per square foot basis. This is how you compare new home prices. This is not the case with remodeling. Remodeling is a relationship business. We don’t sell a commodity-we sell a service. Remodeling should never be priced on a per square foot basis. There are too any variables. But it is incumbent upon us, the remodeler, to teach homeowners about these variables. It is up to us, to educate the homeowner about the “process of remodeling.” It is up to us to help homeowners understand the service we are providing. We are not just managing a project; we are managing a process. To be successful in remodeling, you must manage the process as well as manage the project. We need to make the homeowners we work with aware of this.

In a remodeling project, homeowners are putting one of their biggest assets, their home, at risk. They will frequently spend thousands of dollars to have work done on this primary asset. When most projects start, varying degrees of deconstruction take place, where floors and walls are torn away from their home. This is followed by a period of reconstruction, where a parade of strangers comes into their home to do a variety of projects homeowners don’t really understand. Remodeling someone’s home is invasive, messy, and will interrupt virtually every routine the homeowners’ follow. Homeowners understandably get very uneasy during this process. Most have never gone through a major remodeling project, so they don’t know what to expect. A good remodeler helps homeowners understand the steps involved in this difficult process, and guides them through this difficult time. Helping homeowners deal effectively with this process is one of our biggest jobs. If you want to “sell” homeowners on the service you provide, show them the way that you will guide them through this very demanding process.

Several years ago, I interviewed several homeowners who were very happy with the results of recently completed remodeling projects. These were “battle tested” veterans of remodeling, and they wanted to tell me about their projects. They wanted to talk about the good remodelers who had worked on their homes. I asked them to describe some personal characteristics of these remodelers, and they gave me the following 4 attributes:

  1. Honesty, integrity
  2. Good communication skills
  3. The ability to empathize
  4. Long-term relationship oriented

In the same interviews, I asked them to describe what attributes were present in the construction companies these successful remodelers ran. Here are the attributes they described:

  1. Quality construction
  2. Clear builder specifications
  3. Good company organization
  4. Ability to provide “price checks”
  5. Ability to provide value engineering
  6. Company responsiveness
  7. On-time performance
  8. Fair price
    1. At the completion of these successful projects, price was only one of eight important considerations these homeowners identified. Having the benefit of hindsight, they understood the value of the service they received. Price was not their primary consideration. Good service was. Remodeling is a relationship business, not a numbers game.