By Scott Avery
Hardwood flooring contractors and retailers have seen a dramatic shift from the business model of a few years ago. In the past, new construction dominated the market and oftentimes it seemed contractors almost forgot the remodeling market. Today, though, it’s the opposite: Now that the new construction market has softened, demand for residential remodeling has increased. This change has led to builders becoming remodelers, and flooring businesses that relied on new construction may want to take note.
Our company has been working strongly in the remodeling community for the past six years, and it can be the source for either a steady revenue stream, or it can lead to a lot of lost time and profit. Here are some things we’ve learned about working with remodelers:
Some wood floor contractors forget that a contracting business is actually a business and not a hobby that pays wages or a salary. Priority No. 1 in any remodeler/specialty trade relationship is money, and you need to get paid on time. Businesses do not run on smiles and funny jokes; they run on cash flow, and if you let that get off track, then the problems trickle downhill. My children are always hungry, they get clothes dirty and they need a bath every now and then, along with a bed. The stammering excuses of a remodeler who is unable to pay on time once quality work is completed do not pay for my family to live well. If you are witnessing a repeated pattern of payment issues with a remodeler, then I strongly encourage you to dump the relationship. Businesses are only as strong as the leader, and failure to pay is a sign of a struggling business.
In the trades, your primary goal in any great working relationship should be to establish respect for your knowledge. But, you have to earn respect instead of just constantly bragging about your skills. “Perfect” is a subjective measurement, but being consistent in quality and being solution-based are traits for a flooring contractor to aspire toward. I’ve found that most remodelers appreciate flooring contractors on a project who are able to keep track of all the details specific to their trade and keep the project humming along. So, if you like the general contractor and you want to impress him, then make sure that you and the tile setter are clear on the transitions and go ahead and make them while you’re on the job site. That extra foresight will pay dividends in keeping a smooth relationship.
The other trade contractors on a remodeling project can make this work fun, and they can also turn into a great network of referral partners. In particular, if it is my first time working for a general contractor, I like to tap the brains of the other subs on the job to find out his job site management habits and overall trustworthiness. One big red flag to watch out for is a lot of turnover in the specialty trades that work for that remodeler—it likely means there are problems with the remodeler. It also means that the team of trades could have trouble getting into a flow of working together.
Time efficiency is the real key to ensuring profitability when working on remodeling projects. Scheduling problems manifest more frequently in remodeling work than in new construction because it is impossible to know what is underneath floors and behind walls before you begin tearing things apart. It is important to align with an experienced remodeler, because he will be able to foresee problems earlier in a project and will give you more notice of roadblocks so you can balance your workload more easily. Constantly juggling your workload with less than two weeks’ notice can wreak havoc on your stress levels and severely affect your ability to manage projects and keep sales on track.
It appears that due to the struggling economy and the housing lending restrictions we’re experiencing right now, remodeling will continue to dominate demand for the trades. If you choose to grow your business in this direction, then my best suggestion is that you focus on quality working relationships that make you money. Your time is valuable, and choosing to work with remodelers of character today will bring rewards tomorrow.