One of the biggest causes of aggravation for contractors is employees and subs not performing to expectations. Make them accountable for their work and a lot of your stress will disappear.

Getting them to buy in requires Total Quality Management (TQM). Quality is measured from two perspectives: that of the internal customer (everyone involved in making money off the job) and that of the external customer (the homeowner). The process requires regular meetings to measure quality and trigger improvement initiatives. In attendance are accountants, managers, the sales/ estimating personnel who generate the project, and the employees and subs responsible for installing. At your meeting, review each project according to these criteria.

  • Was the contract clear and understood by field personnel?
  • Did the specifications, drawings, and paperwork explain the project?
  • Were the homeowner's expectations clear and understandable?
  • Were additional work orders needed to fill gaps in the original agreement?
  • Did the homeowner order additional work beyond the original agreement to enhance his or her level of satisfaction with the project?
  • Was the project properly estimated for labor, materials, and pricing?
  • Was the homeowner satisfied with the completed project?
  • Did the homeowner pay in full? If not, why not?
  • Was the job performed within budget?
  • Was there a “Beat the Budget” bonus or other recognition?
  • Answer each question on a 1-to-5 scale, with 5 being highest. If a score is low, discuss the reason. Don't issue blame. Instead, come up with ideas for improvement. If the boss wants the employees or subs to take responsibility, he should avoid pontificating. In fact, it's best if he's not even there.

    TQM meetings aren't an overnight wonder. It takes patience, determination, and commitment to get this process into your business culture. Once you do, you'll be amazed by the results. —Richard Kaller once owned a network of five home improvement companies and is a former director of the National Roofing Contractors Association. He operates Certified Contractors Network (, a training and educational organization.