Some home improvement contractors think replacing one or two windows isn't worth the time, and fend off prospects with minimum order requirements. Others see such customers as bigger jobs in the making. “We don't have a minimum order, and I think that puts people at ease,” says Phil Reilly, owner of P.F. Reilly & Co., in Chico, Calif. “We know if we make them happy on a couple of windows, eventually they're going to want to do the whole house.”

Michael Sullivan, of Lifetime Aluminum Storm Window Corp., a 50-year old company in East Hanover, N.J., agrees. Sullivan says his company gets about five calls a month from homeowners who only want one or two windows replaced. “When we do come across one, we service them like any other customer,” Sullivan says. He acknowledges that salespeople often don't want to run such leads because there's little earning potential in it, and installers are reluctant for the same reason. Still, “I have my sample in the home, and the neighborhood. I've got my foot in the door,” he says.

Follow-Up and Financing Sullivan guesses that about 70% of such customers go on to buy more windows at some point. Until recently, Lifetime Aluminum left it to the one-window customer to follow up. Now, using Marketsharp, a management and marketing software system, the company tracks small jobs and reconnects via mail.

Reilly suggests money is usually the reason homeowners hesitate. “Sometimes they want to pay as they go, for one or two windows at a time,” he says. “But if you can show them the right financing and a payment plan, you can get the whole house done now and they can still pay a little at a time,” he adds.

Set the Stage One tool for growing small jobs: Measure all the windows, no matter how small the job.

“I always try to, even if they're pretty set that they only want to do two,” Reilly says. Measuring all enables him to “give them some options and show them how affordable it would be to do the whole house,” he explains. “That way, if a homeowners want to do the other windows next year, they have an idea of how much it will cost, and we have it in our records.”