November 2006 Table of Contents

Featured Articles
Cheapskates and Chump Change

One of the most common mistakes a salesperson makes trying to beat the competition is lowering the price. Sell more than just the price and you may just end up with what you were hoping for -- i.e., a signed contract. Reflexively lowering your price means you're thinking cheap. When a sales person thinks cheap, the customer thinks cheap. It may seem easy, even logical, but it actually leads to detrimental selling situations. For instance: a price war. It's easy to beat the other guy's price by $100. The problem is that the other company will quickly counter-drop. Now you're into something, and before you know it you're trying to talk the customer into giving his business to the other guy. Either that, or a third company steps in. Read more

Special Financing Section: Loans of Your Own

For most remodelers, the offer of financing consists of matching up the customerwith a lender, whether that lender is a big finance company or a localbank. The remodeler makes no money on the deal, but also assumes no risk. Thepayoff is in the quality and volume of work they get, as well as in happiercustomers. Read more

Special Financing Section - Money for Sale

According to Bob Weickgenannt, president of Starcom Design/ Build in Columbia, Md., "Ifyou want to give your customers the best service, you'vegot to have all the cards." And, in the competitive remodeling market, yourtrump card may very well be your ability to offer financing. Read more

Big Fish

Dale Brenke rattles off the numbers. In a market with 44,000 households and 208,000 people, SchmidtSiding & Window Co. manages to get the lion's shareof the business in several of the five product lines it sells and installs. Forinstance, in 2004 and 2005, the company had the highest market shareof any Gutter Helmet dealer in the network. Read more

How'd We Do?

Iris Harrell was starting to see a common thread in the referrals she was gettingfor her business. Customers were coming to her after positive recommendationsfor her company, Harrell Remodeling in Mountain View, Calif., appearedon Angie's List (, an Internet-based business referralservice where clients grade companies based on performance. Read more

Window of Opportunity

Last April, the Tropical Cyclone Warning Center issued its first bulletin ofthe season. The bulletin concerned a storm forming in the northern Coral Sea, offQueensland, Australia. The next day, "Monica" was upgradedto "severe tropical cyclone," and on April 19 began to batterthe island continent's east coast with winds of up to 210 mph. Read more

Insurance at What Price?

Bob Priest, owner of Burr Roofing, Siding & Windows, in Darien, Conn., hadhis new salesman all but hired. The prospective employee, a married manin his late 50s, would be working for straight commission and paying his owninsurances. Then, Priest says, the candidate made some calls and found thathealth insurance for him and his wife would cost $1,900 per month. Thedeal was off. Read more

Who Does the Books?

When Jim Lett started his window and door business, A.B.E. Window & Doorin Allentown, Pa., he did everything himself -- including the books. Soonenough, however, Lett began to outsource his bookkeeping. He still does, ata cost of between $450 and $500 a month. Generally, costsat home improvement companies that outsource bookkeeping range from $200 to $1,000 per month. Read more

Canvass Kings

When Tony Hoty and Chris Thompson started Ohio Consolidated Builders, a windowand siding operation in Cleveland, 100% of their leads came from canvassing. TodayOhio Consolidated has diversified to other lead sources, includingshows and events, but 75% of the company's leads come from canvassing. Marketingcosts for canvassing, says co-owner Thompson, are about 7%, "fullyloaded, including payroll tax." Overall marketing costs for thecompany are a bit less than 10%. Read more

First Impressions

You work hard -- and pay big bucks -- to get the phone to ring. But that's only a small step toward making a sale. Once callers respond to directmail, television and radio commercials, and every other seductive measurethat you use, you need to handle them with care. Read more

Habitual Offender

When you're selling home improvement products, bad habits -- such as prequalifyingleads, failing to give a full presentation, and trying to makethe sale with promises the company can't keep -- are easy to develop. Read more

Persons of Influence

The contract is signed and the salesperson leaves, but the next day the homeownercalls to report that her son (or daughter or grandson) says the windows (orsunroom or siding) costs too much, and she wants to cancel. How do youhandle these third-party kills? Read more

Deck Builder's Tool Kit Deck Builder's Tool Kit

There's no kit you can buy from your supplier that says "deck builder's tools." But there could be, or should be. From site work to finish details, these tools will make you money: hammer is a life-saver. Blast concrete from existing footings (with bull-point or chisel), then drill for lag shields fastening the ledger to concrete or masonry. Read more


Installing windows usually isn't complicated, but it can go wrong when installers fail to pay attention. According to home improvement company owners, the most common mistakes installers make -- those that result in botched jobs, callbacks, or a blown referral -- include the following: Read more

Canvass Pros

Chris Thompson and Tony Hoty own Ohio Consolidated Builders, a replacement company in Cleveland. They also operate Canvass King, a consulting service for home improvement companies looking to develop a canvassing program. Read more

No Worries

About three years ago Jeff Roberts, owner of J.R. Door & Window, in Upland, Calif., began offering a lifetime glass-breakage warranty on the windows he installs. The promise was simple: In addition to its lifetime warranty on product installation, J.R. Door & Window would replace any glass, broken for any reason, in any window the company installed. Roberts crossed his fingers. "I was a bit nervous," he says. "I thought it would cost me a lot of money." Read more

Special Financing Section: Financing Q&A

Does offering financing make a remodeler into a mortgage broker or a bank? Is there any investment risk? Lenders and remodelers answer these and other questions that are commonly asked by contractors contemplating offering financing. The list is not comprehensive, but it covers the essentials of what to expect when adding a financing option to your business. Read more

Financing resources for remodelers Special Financing Section: Finance Know-How

Financing is an indispensable sales tool for most exterior replacement contractors, but ask full-service remodelers about it and you'll get an indifferent shrug. That, or an earful from small-company owners about how there's enough to do marketing, selling, designing, building, and following up their work without becoming a banker in the bargain. And high-end remodelers will tell you that their clients don't need financing. Read more

Staying Power

High-end siding products last a lifetime -- or until the consumer decides to change the appearance of the home. Read more

En Espa�ol

Too much work and not enough hands to do it. It's something that just about every contractor has dealt with. And these days, it often means hiring or subcontracting to people whose first language is Spanish, which complicates an already tough process. Read more

Past and Future

Ever wonder why that promising candidate you hired as office manager or sales rep crashed and burned six months later? Read more

Bringing in the Leads

At some point, as many as half the homeowners researching a home improvement project will type a keyword into an Internet search engine. You have to find a way to be there when the search results hit the screen. Read more

Call to Action

Every buyer likes a little something extra to sweeten the deal. A coupon that offers an on-the-spot discount or other goodie can fill that bill very nicely. But the same coupon that can help you make that sale "here and now" can be a bad deal for you in the long run, home improvement contractors warn. Read more

Eaten Alive

Do you have your head in the sand? Many home improvement retailers apparently do, failing to see the disaster looming before them in the form of marketing costs. Read more


This summer, a sales rep from Medallion Home Improvement in Maryland came back with an order for doors. The problem? Due to incorrect measuring, the contract price was less than half of what the company would need to make money on the job. Sales manager Oliver Schreiber sat down with the customer to explain the situation. Unfortunately, he says, "they didn't understand, and we lost it." (The job, that is.) Read more

Focus or Fail

Without a doubt, the best sales performers in the home improvement industry are those with one product to sell. Believe it or not, there are salespeople selling $2 million a year in nothing but guttering and gutter protection. How? It's all about focus. The gutter protection reps who sell millions are the ones who get up every morning looking for two houses that need their product. Read more

Color Certified Color Certified

In case being super-low maintenance and the most popular cladding material in the country weren't big enough sales tools, the Vinyl Siding Institute in Washington, D.C. has introduced a new color retention certification program for vinyl siding and related products, i.e. trim stock, J-channel, soffit vents, and so on. Products certified through testing will be awarded the new VSI logo for color retention. After all, who wants to install a product that will stay on the wall but will end up looking gnarly a few years down the road, creating a backlog of callbacks? Read more

Four By Four - Aviso Four By Four - Aviso

Hispanic workers have flooded into the roofing industry in recent years. Read more

Four By Four- Screw-Ups

Installing windows usually isn't complicated, but it can go wrong when installers fail to pay attention. Read more

On the Record

Chris Thompson and Tony Hoty own Ohio Consolidated Builders, a replacement company in Cleveland. They also operate Canvass King (, a consulting service for home improvement companies looking to develop a canvassing program. Read more

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