Are You Tolerating These Things in Your Remodeling Business?

by Kacey Larsen

Let’s face it, we all tolerate certain things in life in order to get along with others and to live our lives without generating excess stress. Essentially, we have to pick our battles. The same is true in business. But there are some things that, if tolerated, can seriously hold back business growth as well as potential profits. The list of potential business irritations to tolerate can be very long for an aspiring remodeling business owner; however, here are a few that I suggest you should address. Be honest with yourself about these items. And, if you are tolerating any of these things, decide whether you will keep tolerating them and also think about the potential long-term consequences that may come with doing so long term.

Toleration of Certain People

This applies to employees, subcontractors and even customers. Employees who are not willing or able to grow with the business as it moves forward can become anchors for your business, dragging along underneath your ship and slowing down the journey. The same applies for subs.

For example, if you desire to speed up your estimating and sales efforts, and certain subs can’t or won’t give you unit costs for their work, find a new sub who will. If they don’t honor their scheduling commitments, find another sub or two who will. As an FYI, it’s a lot easier to do this if they don’t have to tolerate waiting for you to pay them.

As one industry consultant said at a seminar early in my remodeling career, “Never carry an employee longer than his or her mother did.”  The same logic applies for subs. Jettison the wrong people quickly, or they will definitely compromise your goals and potential equity.

Allowing the Wrong Clients to Get the Jobs You Want

Some remodelers prioritize the project types they want and tolerate whom they will work for to get such projects. This happens quite often when you get “invited to bid” on projects designed by an architect and never get to meet or prequalify the prospects until you “win” the job.

If prospects and customers are unrealistic about their expectations and/or do not treat you and your staff with the respect you all deserve, find ways to redirect them so you can work together amiably or move on to new ones.

For example, if clients have not been making progress payments on time, going forward, clarify in your contract as well as during your sales process that payments are due when ready to start milestone phases of your projects. Be sure they understand your contract states that if payments are not made on time, you will be leaving their job to work for someone else.

Also, let them know that you will not be returning until you finish the other job—of course, assuming they have paid you the additional $750 fee to have you pull off their job, clean up and then remobilize when you do eventually return. Provided you are proactive about this, potential customers who think it’s OK to delay payment will either decide to follow your polices or work with another remodeler.

In addition, you might want to realize that customers who think not paying on time or disrespecting you is OK probably hang out with other people just like them. Those are referrals you might avoid rather than tolerate. They too could be anchors holding business growth and potential profits in place.

Bad Cash Flow by Financing the Job For the Client

Not charging enough for your jobs doesn’t cause bad cash flow; it causes an inability to ever pay business and even personal bills. Bad cash flow happens when, assuming you price your jobs for profit, the money for the job is going out faster than the money coming in to pay for that same job. If you are pricing your jobs for profit, you should also be writing payment schedules so your business is not taking the risk of financing those jobs for clients. Let’s face it: The airlines don’t let you pay after the plane lands. Your business shouldn’t wait to get paid for the framing and framing lumber until after the framing has been completed. A possible exception is when you are earning an adequate return on your risk in interest earned and/or higher job profit. 

What Are You Tolerating About Yourself?

Tolerating the situations that I shared above may have happened in the past simply because a remodeler lacked any insight or experience in these areas. Now that you have read this and/or if I have pointed out things you have already experienced in your business, you must decide what you will do to stop tolerating them.

But what about you? Are you tolerating things about yourself that get in the way of your potential success? Do you tolerate people because you are afraid of confrontation or finding their replacements? Do you have cash-flow problems because you are afraid to talk about or ask for money?

As a business owner, only you are to blame if you tolerate things in yourself that you would never allow if you had a general manager. Perhaps you should change who you are or hire a general manger who won’t tolerate the things holding back your business. Watch out though: Your new GM may decide not to tolerate you for too long. QR

McCadden is a speaker, business trainer, columnist and award-winning remodeler with more than 35 years of experience. He can be reached at

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