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As I get more completed projects under my belt, there are still powerful lessons to be learned. Some are expensive, some are painful. As I say in my Selecting a Remodeler Booklet, it is wise to select a seasoned remodeler. The problem is,

“if you always do what you always did; then you’ll always get what you always got.”

This is why I love working on the business as much, or more than working in the business.

This post is about how I was able to make a systemic solution to what I discovered was a recurring nagging problem.

Working together

Remodeling is difficult enough without having to redo things. This is why there are so many “one horse show” remodelers out there. No one can do it better than the remodeler him or herself. That is all well and good but my idea of remodeling necessitates me getting results through others.

I have always been a cooperative sort of guy. Great partnerships exist in EMS (Emergency Medical Services) where on a hot call, we rarely need to talk because we know what needs to be done. We work together in harmony to save a life. Like my dad Ed Levitch used to say, in reference to working hard together… “when I come back, all I want to see is asses and elbows”.

In my mind, the entire concept of remodeling  rests on bringing a crew of very talented people working hard together to create a project. I now believe that subcontractors and specialty contractors in general get an undeserved bad reputation. I couldn’t understand why a highly recommended subcontractor could screw up a project so easily. This became painfully obvious when we did a root cause analysis of a series of situational problems. When placed side by side, to my horror, they turned out to be a pattern of identical recurring problems. There was obviously a systemic flaw, yet I had no idea where or how to fix it. I now believe that it is the contractor not the subcontractor that holds the key to making the project go smoothly.

Subcontractor Agreement

Levco has always used a simple form to describe what we expect from our subcontractors. I figured it was worth publishing because we all need to be on the same page. I hold everyone who works for us in a subcontractor role to these standards. In the event that there are issues we go right back to the agreement. When something comes up that hasn’t been addressed, this is where it will go. I broke it up into two parts

1, Things I love

2, Things I won’t tolerate

Many companies do not even have this type of form. It was born out of frustration with the process. For years I thought this was the magic bullet to ensure my process would work. All of my subcontractors had agreed to work within the parameters, but something was still missing.

As it turned out, having this form in place was not enough. There was still a nagging problem that haunted me. The more I looked at it, the more I got stuck. Knowing full well that some of my best ideas come from being frustrated, I was not too worried. This time however, I was hopelessly paralyzed and extremely frustrated for a few weeks when I finally found a way out.

My Mentor

I was reading a self help book on business in general, when a brief paragraph recommended I seek out a mentor. It suggested that there are lots of smart people that are willing to help if you just ask. As it turns out, that was the tiny spark I needed. It reminded me that I had already developed relationships with wise, successful remodelers throughout the country, so I reached out to them. Amazingly, it was the one in my own back yard that was able to pinpoint the problem and, in a loving way, gave me a nudge in the right direction.

The problem, it turns out was deeply rooted in a flawed Description of Work document.  A pattern of small problems had turned into big problems. We were having to redo work that had already been done. In some cases work that was required had not been included in the bid. Thankfully, it appears that we have solved our problems, as I like to say, “FFN” (forever for now). Our new improved Description of Work spells out the project in a surface by surface way that explains what the finished project will look like to everyone. Perhaps this is what one previous employee was trying to tell me when she said “communication” when asked her opinion of our companies number one problem. Although I couldn’t see it then, I believe I’ve got it fixed now.

As we ring in the new year I give thanks to my mentors, my employees, my clients, and all of my subcontractors. I look forward to a year filled with clear expectations and fantastic results.

Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, email me directly or visit our contact page.

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