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Nail Your Profits Like a Boss in 2022

Nail your numbers like a boss in 2022 by learning the difference between revenue, profits and gross profit margins

Do you set revenue, total sales, operational cost, and profitability goals every year – along with 3–5-year plans as part of your vision? Do you consistently nail your profit goals (or not)? What about tracking them with a dashboard of weekly, monthly, and quarterly progress – then throttling gears up or down depending on your results? If you do – then congratulations! You probably nailing your profits (revenue minus all fixed and variable costs) like a boss! Nail your numbers like a boss in 2022 by preparing for a Bust in Boom Times and baselining, setting targets and tracking progress now.

If not, then hey, it’s a New Year! Maybe a New You? Without a doubt, it’s a New Normal. And while you might be in the Boom time of your life, how long will that last? What happens when the phone stops ringing? If you fear a slowdown or economic trough is around the corner, you’re not wrong. It’s important to prepare now. So make 2022 the year to remodel your remodeling business.

Top 5 Remodeler Resolutions for 2022 

  1. Create a 3–5-year Business Strategy. We are still in a home construction expansion and growth phase – but it won’t last forever. Plan your strategy now to weather future storms. 
  2. Be intentional about your business goals. Set, track, and nail the business goals that get you from A to Z. If you know that fewer home builds and more kitchen remodels will yield more profits, then set a quantitative goal in 2022. How will you target and find customers who took out a cash-back house refinance when rates were low and ready to start their ultimate kitchen remodel in the spring? 
  3. Know the difference between Strategy and Tactics. Contractors too often attempt to reach their business goals only by applying tactics, resulting in a “try this, try that” approach. Your Business Strategy involves foresight, research, and documentation into a Strategic Plan. Everyone in your firm must know and rally around that Strategy to reach your highest-level goals. Micro-strategies within the Strategic Plan are called tactics. That’s what most contractors excel at – because you are doers and builders. 

    By setting SMART goals for your remodeling or custom home building business, you have a far greater chance of nailing your numbers in 2022

  4. Set SMART goals. Make sure your goals are each Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. For example, replace “launch a new website next year” with “respond to 10 new remodeling customers per week through our new online contact form launched by June 30.” (The tactic is the new website that hosts your online form). Speaking of forms, Aspire has great SMART Goal templates for you to use!
  5. Learn the difference between growing revenue and growing profits. Make sure you set profit goals for each different job category. While every job type has different and unique challenges and opportunities, most remodelers use the exact same pricing strategy across all jobs. Wouldn’t it make sense that a job with higher risk would have the ability to capture higher profit margin than a job with lower risk? For example, why would a whole home, kitchen, and bathroom remodel each have the same margin target?

Focus on profit margins 

Service businesses like yours – versus a product, raw material, or commodity business such as buying wood, ground hamburger, or paper clips – require a focus on profitability typically expressed  in real money like “I made $300,000 in profit.”. The area to focus on most are your 2022 profit margins. That’s the percentage of the money you keep after all your fixed and variable operating costs are backed out from total revenue. Margins are expressed as a percentage like “Overall, I took away 30% profit margin” which was $300,000 of $1 million in sales and revenue. What’s sad is that the majority of residential GCs make 10x less than this, with real average profit margins of 3%. Meaning they might have $30,000 left after a $1 million year when everyone and everything else is paid – including office space, equipment and taxes.

Why is that? Well, for one thing, most contractors don’t apply enough variable and fixed operating cost to each individual job, such as your field’s crew’s portion of total pay and benefits. That is part of a job’s labor cost. It’s that level of precision critical to nailing your profit margins – and to ensure you keep more of the money you earn. 

That way, your business becomes more stable to weather the Boom-and-Bust cycles in home construction. Stable margins (far different from price markups) prevent feast-or-famine paychecks or churn-and-burn hiring and firing. And all of this is avoided by building a longer-term Business Strategy with quantitative SMART goals. 

A good profit margin goal might read something like: “Complete 6 Kitchen remodeling projects with a sustained profit margin increase of 8-10% from efficiency improvements in 2022.” 

Importantly, Aspire coaches our clients to set profit margin goals for each different job category – something that 99% of remodelers we meet do not separate out. For example, set a 20% profit margin goal for bathroom remodeling jobs versus 18% on kitchen remodels and 13% on basement remodels – say because your customer is converting it to a game room and wine bar (with a temperature-control wine cellar of course – yes!) 

Nail your numbers like a boss in 2022 by learning the difference between revenue, profits and gross profit margins

Keep more of what you earn = profit margins

Now, how will you achieve that aggressive goal? What tactical maneuvers will you employ across your ideal job mix, target marketing, sales, scheduling, labor, and budgets – so you keep more of what you earn? Because keeping more is what higher profit margins are all about.

One tactic might be targeting budget-ready customers in older neighborhoods, then geotargeting entire neighborhoods with direct mail, doorknob posters, and customer referrals (a pre-set monetary finder’s fee) near the last 10 bathroom remodel you completed. 

Age-old limiting beliefs in the construction industry have taught many of you to track revenue, total sales, and job volume. The New Normal demands something quite different. It’s about taking home more from high revenue you already earn. 

The golden goose in home remodeling lies in tracking and boosting your profit margins. For 99% of the most talented remodelers and renovators we know, that means a fundamental shift in Strategy. 

Strategy versus tactics

Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese battle strategist, authored a book called The Art of War. Military and business strategists around the world still study it today, even though the manuscript was written over 1500 years ago. When it comes to building Strategy, Tzu captured it nicely when he said: 

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  

Aspire knows that real victory lies in keeping more of what you earn – that’s fixing your margins does for you (quite different from pricing markups – another topic for another time). Defeat may be taking on more jobs only to create more stress and chaos – that’s the noise. So, make a resolution to remodel your business by nailing your numbers like a boss in 2022. And, if you’re a NARI member, take us up on your earned 30-minute consultation with Aspire experts. 


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The Costliest Mistake Contractors Make During Boom Times 

As we head in 2022 – almost two years since stay-at-home orders impacted the U.S. construction industry – one of the top concerns we hear from custom builders and remodelers is “When is the other shoe going to drop?” and “What can I do to future-proof my business now against the next down cycle?” 

At Aspire, you’re not going to hear recycled advice like be sure to save money during the good times.” Instead, let’s go far deeper to a more granular level. First off, it’s important to know that Boom and Bust Cycles are inevitable in the residential construction industry. You’ve been around long enough to know that regardless of the cause. Construction trails the national and regional economic cycles by six to 18 months. There are also construction cycles based on technology changes, regional economics, interest rates, and yes, global pandemics too. 

The good news is that if you anticipate the next bust – you can minimize the negative impact on your business while maintaining a healthy balance in income and workload. 

A business cycle is a period of expansion followed by shorter periods of recession. When an industry is expanding (Boom), the first indicator is an increase in the competition for workers, available projects, and personal incomes. When an industry is shrinking (Bust), we see the opposite – more available workers, fewer projects, and potentially flat or decreased income.


Clever general contractors and remodelers are reducing their job load and stress right now to prepare for the Bust. Find out how to avoid the costliest mistake that contractors make in Boom Times.

Future-proof your business today

So, what steps can you take to mitigate the next Bust Cycle in the not-so-distant future? 

  1. When the industry shrinks, most contractors interpret that as a lack of available work. But a construction Bust Cycle Is better characterized as too many available contractors compared to available jobs – creating excess supply. Understanding this difference allows you to implement better strategies to manage through.
  2. Understand that revenue is a’ plenty, even in the worst times for a well-run, nimble, clever contractor. You can prosper in any economic cycle. But if you view the down cycle as just a lack of available work (demand), it can cause apathy or frustration on the contractor’s part. Instead, think about the Bust as too much competition (supply) for the $500 billion of residential construction revenue available even in the worst of years.
  3. Avoid the costliest mistake; that is, misunderstanding where remodeling profits really come from. Profitability is not revenue, sales, or job volume. It’s how much money is left over after you take out the cost of materials, labor, pay and benefits, subcontractors, special equipment, change orders, and other operating expenses.

True profitability is so critical to your long-term success that The Aspire Institute offers local Workshops across U.S. cities, and now a 30-minute coaching session free for NARI members now until June 30, 2022.

Throttle down on your job volume now before the Bust

Now for the most important thing that you can do right now! It’s counterintuitive – because we’ve all been conditioned to hustle while the going is good. 

Clever business owners know how to reduce their workload and stress right now during Booms. Aspire shows you how to nail profit margins – tracking them vigilantly – so you can create stability by only target marketing and accepting the highest-margin jobs and fewer jobs overall. 

Focusing on revenue or job volume is a very costly path. If it were about revenue size, you would expect The Truland Group, John S. Clark, Collavino Construction, and The Lamar Construction to be in business today! But these contractors are now a tiny fraction of the $100 million-plus construction firms that went bust. 

You’re still here. So, revenue generation isn’t the win. No, the real win is keeping the right percentage of the money you earn (profit margin) to help flatten the Boom-and-Bust curves.

So, start to future-proof and gain your competitive advantage now! 


Heather Srigley

VP, Marketing at Aspire

Drop me a line: [email protected]

Download our FREE REPORT called Beating the Boom-and-Bust Cycle in the Construction Industry to dig in!

For NARI members, please take up Aspire on your earned 30-minute business coaching session booking up now!



The Biggest Hiring Mistake Residential Contractors Make in Today’s Labor Market

The Biggest Hiring Mistake Contractors Make in Today's Tight Labor Market

Every so often, the tectonic plates that hold up the U.S. housing market suddenly shift in ways that rattle and destabilize everything on the surface. The same seismic forces can also create a surge in new and different homeowner demands.

That’s exactly what happened in 2020. At the height of the pandemic recession, the U.S. had 32 million unemployed workers filing jobless claims or closing shop. That, on top of months of schooling and working at home, caused many working Americans to rethink their life priorities. Over 16 million Americans relocated to new cities or states for new jobs, new lifestyles, and new homes during the pandemic recession. Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho topped the list. 

On the other hand, millions more remained gainfully employed with reduced expenses from remote work coupled with no travel vacations. Their savings accounts grew and grew. Many made big investments in retirement and real estate nests: digital home offices, basement additions, modernized bathrooms, luxurious outdoor barbeque patios, upgraded kitchens, and those long-wished-for second homes.  

You know this. The waitlist was long. You might be starting a job now that landed on your doorstep 8-12 months ago! 

This is the big one, right?  

Here we are, almost two years later. Still in one of the biggest boom markets of your lifetime. Show me the money! Do you feel it showering all over you? Do you have enough profit left over to get rid of all past debts and squirrel away cash for the next housing bust? Or at least hire more people to help with the job load? 

Because here’s the thing: Work is everywhere, but workers aren’t. 

From April-November 2021, millions of American workers have voluntarily quit jobs each month reaching a record high of 4.4 million resignations in October. They call it The Great Resignation. The Big Quit. Optimists among us call it The Great Shift. 

And It’s far from over. The quitters don’t necessarily have a new job lined up. Most are just fed up, frustrated, or worn out. They want more out of life. They are looking for a greater sense of purpose in the work, a positive culture, good managers, and yes: better pay and better benefits. 

Just like you do 

By now, you should be buying a fancy new rig, taking the family on fine vacations, paying others to run parts of your business, being able to pay the best people with the best pay, and maxing out on your retirement savings. It’s time for your just rewards.   

If all of that has already come true for you – well, you’ve earned it – good for you. If not, doing the same thing for the next two years will not change anything.  

What’s to blame? Shutdowns? Materials pricing? The tight labor market? Or just the fate of being a small business owner?  

No, it’s none of these things. You’re looking in the wrong direction.  

First, let’s look at hiring

When building your bids, what is your budget for estimating, project management, field production…even subs? You need to start with a budget and work backward to price the job correctly, right? If not, you won’t have enough to pay your people. 

It’s the same with hiring. You need to budget in advance for that innovative marketing or sales rep. Make sure their costs are built into your price before you even think about recruiting them. 

But unless you can accurately predict your future revenue and nail your profitability (the money left after materials, special equipment, labor, and operating expenses), the biggest hiring mistake you can make is hiring anyone at all.

If you’re like most general contractors, the bulk of your frustrations come from the staffing side of things. So, do you really want to hire more people to train and manage? Easier said than done. Even if you did want to staff up, how well can you compete for strong players in today’s labor market – with higher expectations around pay, benefits, autonomy, and flexibility? 

Wouldn’t you rather improve your profits with the crew you have – rather than hire more people to do more jobs and still walk away with the very same profit level? 

You see, the biggest mistake contractors make is ignoring their profit margins – and yet those margins are the biggest indicator of business success. Sadly, the average profit margin in residential construction is far too low considering the life-changing value you to deliver to homeowners. Spending more money to put more people on the payroll only worsens that situation. 

So, I’d like you to reframe your thinking from more…to better.

It’s about money you KEEP, not just the money you make

The question is this: do you want to make more money, or keep more money? I think you’d rather keep it for your family, yourself, and for your existing loyal team. That way you could provide better pay, benefits, career development, skills training, and keep your inside expertise inside. If you’ve done all that, I bet you’d like to keep some for future retirement.  

If keeping more money for a better quality of life is really what you’re after, then choose the easier, safest, more reliable path to prosperity. That’s not hiring more people. It’s not taking on more jobs. And it’s not cutting pay and benefits when the labor market is so competitive. 

It’s doing just one thing: fixing your profit margins

Let me be clear: that is different from charging more or price increases for your customers. Margins and mark-ups are completely different things. (Aspire covers this in our one-day Business Owner Workshops). 

To nail your profit margins – job by job – Aspire ensures you allocate labor costs appropriately across jobs. For example: build your own labor cost into the job equation too – say 20%. Don’t just give away your time for free. 

Profit is different from revenue or total sales – it’s what’s leftover. Revenue is all the money you make before subtracting out the cost to build, namely: project management, preconstruction job organization, materialsspecial equipment, labor with a properly calculated tax and benefit loadsubcontractors, productivity tracking and management, change orders, and any operating expenses specific to that job such as gas mileage, site permits and more. After you take all that out, you land on your Gross Profit

Once you’ve nailed your Gross Profit job by job, you still need to subtract fixed operating costs to get the total picture of your business. Fixed costs are things like office space, administrative staff, and technology (computers, software, subscriptions). Those costs are spread across all your jobs. That final bottom-line number is called your Net Profit 

Whether it’s Gross or Net, those profit margins are far too low for today’s general contractors. 

If you want to hire in today's competitive job market, custom home builders and remodelers need to fix their profit margins to afford new people.That’s why Aspires focuses on profitability as the ultimate measure of business health – rather than revenue, sales, or job volume. Because increasing those things can translate to more stress, burnout, and chaos but not more take-home pay for you or your team. That makes it hard to find great people. 

Fixing your margins means redesigning your business strategy and remodeling your business processes – from estimating and production, to sales, marketing, and yes -hiring.  

Becoming a profit-driven employer

With a profit-driven business, you can control how much of every revenue dollar you get to keep. That number is often expressed as a percentage called a profit margin. If you’re down in the single digits or teens – say, 2, 6 or 15% like we see so often – you’re not bringing home what you’re worth. 

What Aspire shows you is how to make substantial gains in your profit margins – so you keep more money. When it comes to hiring, we focus on your gross and net profit margins – because they’re the single most important indicator of who to hire (what skills and expertise), when and where to hire (labor market), and for how much (salary range). 

Unless you have a clear line of sight on your future profitability, you may not know whether you can afford to keep those great hires long-term. That’s churn and burn, and it’s expensive. 

High employee turnover in construction is double the industry average

A “healthy” employee turnover rate for businesses is 10%. But the construction industry’s turnover is more than double that at 21.4% (source: ADP Workforce Vitality Report). The cost is huge. As a percentage of income, turnover gets increasingly expensive. For example, for a construction employee who makes: 

  • $30,000 or less, the cost to you is 16% of annual base salary or $4,800 
  • $50,000 or less, the cost is 19.7% or $9,850 
  • $75,000 or less, the cost is 20.4% or $15,300 

And upwards we go. 

Talking about big profit leaks, employee turnover is huge for home builders and remodelers. So, it’s a significant risk when you hire someone you can’t afford during the boom-and-bust cycles. Sure, they might stay for six months, but then they’ll leave for a better offer – along with all that knowledge and customer loyalty. 

What you can dial up right now is retentionKeep the talented team you have with meaningful work, great career growth and development opportunities, better pay and benefits, a positive work culture, well-managed processes, and profit margin discipline. Smart leaders have also rediscovered “The Stay Interview” – the opposite of an exit interview. Instead of asking why an employee is quitting, a stay interview focuses on what motivates the employee to stick around. Your questions focus on what could be better about their work experience, and how they envision the next stage of their career. 

All these strategies are within your control – especially now when people are quitting jobs not because of pay, but because of toxic work cultures, unethical or greedy managers, chaos due to lack of process discipline, and burnout from too many hours, or not enough appreciation. 

For 2022 and beyond, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to woo away employees who long for a higher sense of purpose and outstanding management practices. 

Since November 2021, according to LinkedIn job surveys, more people are looking to change careers and industries now than any time in recent U.S. history. Younger employees – namely Millennials (born after 1980) and Generation Z (born after 2000) are especially eager to move in a different direction compared to older workers. What’s more, women changed careers 10% more than men since March 2020. Take note since we are seeing more female business owners and workers in the construction industry than ever before. 

The Great Resignation has shown us indisputably that people value a healthy work environment far above a paycheck alone. That doesn’t mean poor pay and benefits which can be related to poor profit margins. It just means today’s employees across generations highly value other aspects of your work environment. 

Fixing your profit margins is critical to attracting and retaining the best talent so you can afford them!The best part of fixing your profit margins is this: Not only can you afford to hire highly skilled talent, but you’ll also discover that you don’t need as many as you thought. 

That’s because becoming a margin-driven business – versus revenue or sales-driven – makes you far more efficient. That efficiency is what affords you the time to do the things you love. If you prefer the business development side of things, it allows you to hire a professional project manager or part-time HR expert to find great new talent in unusual places. Or, put a succession plan in place for your lead carpenter or best estimator – so you’re not left in the cold one day. 

Profitability and people go hand-in-hand

The biggest reason that contractors make big hiring mistakes in tight labor markets is from looking at the wrong measurements – namely, job volume, revenue, or some subjective measure of workload. “I’m too busy” is not a hiring strategy! 

So again, nail your profit margins first. They’re the single most important indicator of what skills to hire, who, where, when, and for how much. You may very well be willing to pay 30% more than you budgeted for a rock star if it helps with your overall efficiency. 

Aspire is not a recruiting or HR firm. But we will help you get into a solid financial position to attract, hire, develop, and retain great people with healthy pay, benefits, career growth, and a positive, productive workplace with the right combination of autonomy and connection.  

And that’s when you can become The Great Attraction in your industry as the rubble from the last two years continues to settle.

Drop me a line and share your thoughts! [email protected].

Heather Dixon Srigley
Vice President of Marketing
The Aspire Institute