July 2006 Table of Contents

Featured Articles
By the Book

Often employees have no real notion of what it costs to operate a business. They think, for example, that the checks they collect go right into the owner's bank account. Profit sharing is a way to make them aware of costs. But it's hard to have a profit-sharing program if your profits are low, and many times companies don't know whether or not they're making a profit until the end of the year. Read more

Pacesetter's Perfect Storm

How a disgruntled customer's Web site helped bankrupt one of the nation's largest home improvement companies. Read more

Tough Customer Tough Customer

Ever had a situation where your rep came back with a signed contract and, as you looked at the contract, you suddenly realized that the price didn't take into account the two previous price increases you received from your supplier? Read more

Color Blinded

Few contractors target specific minority or ethnic groups in their marketing. But is this one-size-fits-all approach missing sales? Read more

Knock Knock Knock Knock

Typically, proximity or radius marketing has meant putting a sign on the lawn at the jobsite and making the rounds of the closest neighbors by one means or another. That could be by door hangers, canvassers, direct mail, phone contact, or some combination of these approaches. Read more

Plastic People

A credit card is defined as a "small, thin plastic object that allows the holder to purchase goods or services on credit." Today, credit card purchases are used for one-tenth of consumer payments made in the U.S. More and more consumers choose to use credit cards for purchases ranging from a $3 cup of coffee to a major appliance or an extravagant vacation. And while home improvement contractors are sometimes happy to take credit cards, they often prefer that customers finance jobs the old-fashioned ways: with a check or with some form of consumer financing. Read more

False Invoices, Forged Checks

The roofing company employee was moonlighting. Not only that, but most of the shingles on his side jobs came from the company warehouse. His brazenness -- he backed up his truck and loaded it when he thought no one was watching --got him caught and fired. Read more

Say the Right Thing

When managers and owners see an employee do something incorrectly, they often react emotionally and end up with an angry, defensive employee. Read more

On Second Thought

Leads today are costly, and those costs continue to rise. That's why you should think before you disqualify leads on the phone. Read more

Cashing In

Same-as-cash financing allows the homeowner to apply for a bank loan for the full amount of the purchase, defer payments for the term of the loan (generally 90 days, six months, or 12 months), and pay no interest on the loan provided the entire principal is paid back within the approved loan time frame. Read more

Raving Fans Raving Fans

Hot enough for you? It probably was if you happened to be at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul last August. Anticipating the heat, employees of Renaissance Exteriors, a Twin Cities home improvement company, handed out roughly 5,000 fans to some of the 1.7 million people who poured through the 10-day event. The fans were photographs of a company-built Georgian conservatory, printed on heavy cardboard stock and stapled to a stick. Read more

What's Your Sign? What's Your Sign?

Suppose you could parlay a current job into additional business by spending just $4. Sound worthwhile? So why aren't you putting up jobsite signs? Read more

Climb in the Blue Box

A recently published study by Media Screen found that more than half of America's homeowners begin their research into home improvement products and services by typing a descriptive phrase into an Internet search engine. Eight out of 10 of those searches use Google. Yet most home improvement companies seem to spend far more on Yellow Pages ads than on Web search engine-sponsored listings -- if they spend anything at all. Read more

Waste Not

The average owner of a home improvement business would not knowingly throw away a customer's check, leave expensive tools or equipment on the jobsite, fail to bill a customer, or give away company vehicles to complete strangers. So why then would a business owner overlook leads, which are one of the most commonly squandered assets in the business today? Read more

Going to Extremes

Like many home improvement companies, All County Exteriors in Lakewood, N.J., participates in community causes. These include the American Cancer Society, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Parents of Autistic Children. The company has also participated in 25 Habitat for Humanity building projects. "We're a benevolent company," is how vice president of operations Ross Marzarella explains it. Read more

Leave It All Behind Leave It All Behind

So-called 'leave behinds' help you keep the contract -- or position you to get it on a second visit. Read more

Close 'Em

Not all salespeople will agree, but I believe that the close is the most important part of selling. Sure, if you don't have a good product, or if you don't make a good presentation, you won't get the job. But aren't there competitors in your market with poor products and sloppy work getting jobs you want? Read more

Second Thoughts

To prevent rescissions, Mike Heisz, the sales manager of Better Living Sunrooms in Holman, Wis., ends sales calls with a bit of theater. Read more

Tidy Up

The last thing customers want after paying you to do their window job is to be cleaning up after your installers. But many window contractors don't even notice that they've left behind a mess. Sawdust around window jambs, fingerprints on glass, and a mud trail from the front door make it hard for customers to part with their money --and even harder for them to refer you. Read more

Flash Dance Flash Dance

Deck failures and resulting injuries are increasing. That trend will likely continue, due to the aging of existing deck structures and the fact that many decks continue to be installed with little regard for engineering essentials such as safe and secure attachment of the ledger board. Flashing is a big problem, perhaps the biggest one. Read more

New Lead Regs Looming New Lead Regs Looming

New regulations from the EPA will require strict standards in removal of lead-based paint. Read more

Road Trip

Roofing contractors like Kevin Shiner, president of Shiner Roofing, Fairfax, Va., aren't waiting for Detroit to come up with improved fuel efficiency in its cars and trucks. They're maximizing efficiencies throughout their organizations in order to get a better handle on rising vehicle costs right now. Read more

Google Yourself

Know somebody who is thinking about buying windows? Sure you do. Chances are you have a stack of lead sheets on your desk that contain information about where your prospects live, what type of home improvements they're interested in, and how they heard about your company. All the information you need to sell them a job, right? Read more

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