August 2004 Table of Contents

Featured Articles
Be Yourself

If someone had told me when I launched my business 20 years ago that I'd be spending $1.5 million a year on advertising, I would have told them they were crazy. Yet that's what we spent last year. And when I look at the dollars spent, for the return, I'm glad to spend them. Read more

Deck Builder's Toolbox

Building decks is no walk in the park: Digging post holes, driving lag screws, nailing joist hangers, notching 6-bys, and screwing decking takes its toll on your tools and your body. Having some deck-dedicated tools can cut time off your next job and conserve your energy. Read more

What A Trip

What's it worth to you, and your company, when you can get past customers to bring you new business? Carl Hyman, chairman and part-owner of Alure Home Improvement, figures it's at least worth the cost of a trip. Read more

Help Wanted

Last August, Joe Zisman, owner of Ambassador Home Improvements, in Harrisburg, Pa., started looking for someone to oversee the company's marketing. The job involves managing a mix of more than 25 lead sources, including telemarketing, print, electronic media, and a new canvassing effort. Today, after interviewing more than 40 people and spending several thousand dollars advertising the position, he's still looking. Read more

Fast Track Fast Track

New Pro's sales, which rose 60% to $18 million in 2003, were up another 20% through the first quarter of this year, double the expectations of senior management. The company's now looking for an additional 6,000 to 8,000 square feet of warehouse space somewhere near its headquarters. Presuming that's found, it will provide only temporary relief as New Pro moves forward with plans to open one branch each year for the next six years, all outside its home base in New England. Read more

Legal Eagle Consumer Complaints

Sooner or later, no matter how hard you work to run a perfect business, you're going to run into a problem with a client. When that happens, you could be faced with a complaint from your state attorney general, a local attorney, or a consumer affairs agency. Here are things to keep in mind when handling such complaints -- and tips for avoiding them: Read more

Top Jobs Top Jobs

Not long ago, Charles Ackles, of Clearwater Home Improvement, in Mystic, Conn., got a call from a customer. She'd arrived home expecting to see ladders, scaffolding, and shingles -- proof a roofing job was in progress. Read more

What Are You Reading?

Today's typical business software system can generate so many different reports that it can be too much of a good thing. You've got to be selective in what you concentrate on or risk being buried in a blizzard of information. Read more

Held to Account

Rich Friedenberg, vice president of Windowizards in Bristol, Pa., speaks for many replacement contractors when he states that, given the market's labor supply, it's impractical to deduct a portion of subcontractors' pay to defray the cost of follow-up work on a project the sub can't or won't return to fix. "It's harder to get people to work for you when you're withholding a percentage of their money" is how Friedenberg puts it. Read more

Live From Cumberland, Maryland

When the ad rep from radio station WCBC-AM called and suggested that Ray Johnson do live ads, he was reluctant. Eventually, though, the owner of Ray Johnson Home Improvement in Cumberland, Md., decided to give it a shot. Read more

Fully Loaded

You believe your marketing costs are under 10% because your last accounting statement indicated they were at 8% of installed revenue. However, the business you sold this month may not be installed for six to eight weeks. As such, you may not have a handle on what you actually spent on marketing to produce this business. Here is a realistic example of someone who frequently says his marketing costs are under 10%. Read more

In Your Face

Home shows play a big role in many contractors' marketing. Home Comfort Now, a replacement window and sunroom contractor based in East Hartford, Conn., participates in between 80 and 90 shows a year and generates 80% of its leads from these events, as well as from fairs and festivals. Read more

By the Book

When it comes to hiring a contractor, many homeowners have just one fear: that they'll hire the wrong one. So a year ago last March, Kip Lee, owner of Coastal Empire Exteriors, a sunroom and window company in Savannah, Ga., put together what he calls a "Credibility Book" for himself and his four salespeople to take on appointments. Read more

The Full Package

Jack Kostak gives his salespeople a package with everything but a bow on it. Compensation at Kostak's All-Seal Home Improvement, in Dayton, Ohio, includes not only commission but a salary, 401(k) plan, health insurance, life insurance, short-term disability insurance, two weeks of paid vacation, six paid holidays, car allowance, gas card, and a cell phone. Read more

Sales Manager Math

When do you need a sales manager, and how much should you pay that person? Those are questions owners of small but fast-growing home improvement companies eventually have to ask themselves. Read more

Star Search

Need new sales talent? Maybe you should be looking right under your nose. The installer who's wielding a nail gun today could be nailing down sales tomorrow. Read more

Spray What? Spray What?

Permacoat's owner, Norm Blair, who has also owned a separate remodeling business for 18 years, is among a small but growing contingent of replacement contractors who are convinced that, given the option, some homeowners will choose -- and be willing to pay for -- a thick liquid coating that, they say, provides the same longevity and durability as siding made from vinyl, fiber cement, or steel while lending an appealing exterior appearance to a house. Read more

The Rail Thing The Rail Thing

Vinyl deck railings have a lot to recommend them. And more than anything else -- especially to consumers who are replacing a splintered, weather-worn deck of pressure-treated pine -- what recommends them is that they're maintenance free -- or close to it. Read more

Roof Repair In Demand Roof Repair In Demand

Repairs, Townzen says, are hard to estimate, because "our salesmen don't climb up on the roof to do the estimate, and a leak is a complicated issue that needs the expertise of a roofer." Most repair jobs fall well short of the minimum $4,500 job size Townzen says the company needs for a job to be profitable. Read more

It's a Gas It's a Gas

Contractors often have an uphill battle convincing prospects that windows filled with argon and the even pricier krypton are worth the extra bucks. What you see is what you get, so if you can't see what you're getting, how do you present it to consumers? Read more

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