First Quarter Prices Released

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On 1/4/2011 we uploaded the most recent pricing data. All subscribers should have received a notification email from RemodelMAX. Some of the pricing trends that RemodelMAX chose to highlight are as follows:  

SOME COSTS GO DOWN, SOME GO UP

  • Dimensional lumber slipped a little lower during the past quarter, falling about 5% in most areas.
  • Plywood costs continued to decline by 8% to 15% during the past 3 months.
  • Shingle costs are down 10% to 15% in many areas.
  • Drywall costs continue to stay at historic lows.
  • Fiberglass insulation cost up almost 20% across the country.

 

Below are articles by two of our favorite experts in the remodeling industry.
Employee Expectations: During the recovery, smart employees will gauge your performance and the performance of your competitors.

Shawn McCadden
Remodeling magazine December 2010
This recession has taught remodeling business owners many lessons. But business owners are not the only ones who have learned from this experience. Employees have also kept their eyes open during these challenging times. The recession has helped them see what works and what doesn’t work in a remodeling business. But more importantly, they have learned what does and does not work for them. If owners want to retain and attract smart employees during the economic recovery, they need to prepare now.

Smart employees have a long-term perspective regarding their careers. They don’t just take any job; they look for jobs with the potential to improve their future.

What distinguishes smart employees from average employees is that they not only watch your business, they have been watching other businesses as well. As long-term thinkers, many of them are planning where they want to be when the market recovers.

As businesses pull out of the recession, these employees will be watching to see if the business and the business owner will be able to get back into growth and profitability mode. They want to see if their employer can provide them with new and better opportunities. If they don’t like what they see, or they see greener grass elsewhere, for the sake of their future they will most likely move on.

Evaluation Points

Some things smart employees are watching for at your company and with your competitors’ businesses:

Direction: Smart employees want the leader of the business to be confident, and they want to have confidence in that leader. They want to work at a business that has strong ethics and is moving in the right direction. They want a place where they can grow and earn more money as the company grows and profits. If these employees don’t see profits on the horizon, they know there is little hope for improved compensation.

Career path: Smart employees want a company that offers career growth and the educational support required to get there. They want more than a promise they want to see a business plan that explains how the company will implement processes that will ensure the promised growth and when that will happen. They want to see where they fit into that plan and they want a way to measure results. Smart employees think “career,” average or desperate employees think “job.”

Job conditions: Smart employees want to work in an environment free from hostilities and one that is sensitive to work/life balance. They work to live, not the other way around. They also want to be appreciated and recognized for their contributions and accomplishments. This is one way for them to measure the success of that business plan.

Pay and benefits: Average employees assume, or have faith or hope, that their compensation will increase. Average business owners have this same mentality. Smart employees never rely solely on faith or hope. Smart employees, like smart business owners, work toward future goals. They set up what they want to have happen rather than relying on hope or simply settling for what they get.

Smart employees also understand the value of their total employment package, including benefits. They take the entire package into consideration, not just wages, when they are thinking about switching to another business that offers a pay increase.

If you have survived the recession, don’t assume that you can take a break. Now is the time to start planning for how you will embrace the eventual recovery. Create your business plan for 2011, assemble a budget to anticipate and validate the financial realities of your plan, and share your plan with your employees.

As you do business in 2011, measure against your plan and budget and share that progress with your team. Your company’s and your employees’ future will depend on what they see.

Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies. shawnm@charter.net.

 

Stormy Waters: To avoid being swamped or sunk by the “rough seas” of the current market, remodeling companies need to adjust to a new course and navigate carefully.

Mark Richardson
Remodeling magazine December 2010
The most common question I am asked when I speak about the future of remodeling is, “When is it going to get better?” or “When do you think things will be back to the way they were in the past?” These questions come from working contractors who have seen dramatic changes in their market and have experienced extraordinary challenges to their success. Most are among the majority of the industry I would say about 80% who are still waiting and hoping for the conditions of five years ago.

To me, this is wishful thinking. Those days are probably gone forever, and no amount of wishful thinking or hopeful “waiting it out” will bring them back. I believe that the smart business mindset is to see the present market conditions as the new normal. Once you resolve yourself to this mindset, you can get back to being proactive and can really evaluate whether or not you have the right team to accomplish what it takes to be successful. I estimate that only about 20% of the remodeling community understands this, but those who do are seeing positive growth and profitability.

I find it helpful to think of our industry’s current predicament as a ship at sea in stormy waters. Becoming resolved to the “rough sailing” that lies ahead is a real eye-opener. Once you accept that future, your confidence builds and you can begin to plot a course that will ensure that your ship and its cargo arrive safely in the next port. This “ship at sea” metaphor reveals some important lessons:

Keep a “lookout.” Stormy waters are more treacherous than calm waters. Every decision you make can make the difference between reaching your intended destination and capsizing and sinking before you get there. As captain of the ship, you need to be alert to changing conditions while at the same time guarding against being swamped with extraneous information that could push you off course. Every decision counts, so make sure you know not only the “what” but also the “why” behind everything you do.

Batten down the hatches. You are sailing in uncharted ocean waters, not anchored in a familiar cove. Your business “ship” will take a pounding that can cause permanent damage and compromise long-term seaworthiness. For a voyage like this, you need to make sure your processes, your product, and your people are in tip-top condition.

Navigate. It’s easy to drift on a swift current, but you need to control your direction by setting a course and making whatever adjustments are necessary to stay with it. You need to be on the offensive, not the defensive, which means your business plan is more important than ever. And because you are constantly struggling against forces that can push and pull you in different directions, you need to monitor progress weekly, not quarterly, to stay on course.

Train the crew. Stormy waters challenge even the best sailing skills, so you need to ensure that everyone on your team has the knowledge and tools necessary to handle any situation. That means investing more time and energy in training, as well as committing to and communicating a vision in which failure is not an option. Strong remodeling businesses are investing three to five hours per week training salespeople, production crews, and future leaders.

Instill a work ethic. Navigating stormy waters is hard work. There’s no let-up and very little time for rest. If today’s conditions are 30% to 50% harder, it should take many more hours to accomplish the same results as it did in the past. Your employees and your trade partners need to roll up their sleeves to assist, even in areas of the business that they never addressed before. That is what hard work is all about.

Many remodeling company owners are unprepared to meet the challenges that lead to success in this environment. Commitment to the reality of the current business climate is the first step. Adjusting to stormy waters will make you and your business better, and in a few years when the waters are calmer, just imagine what you can accomplish.

Mark Richardson is co-chairman of The Case Institute of Remodeling, which provides business educational tools and events for the remodeling industry. mrichardson@casedesign.com; 301.229.4600.

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