The market for installed sales may be right in front of you, but the perfect team members for your installed sales department could be harder to find. Matching skill levels with positions, juggling personality types, and maintaining quality workmanship are just a few of the challenges that make recruiting among the things that can ruin an otherwise well-planned department.

MEN WITH A MISSION: Skip Norris (left) and Frank Kemo of the Building Center near Charlotte, N.C., seek workers who come equipped with experience. Photo: Charles Gupton "I think one of the biggest challenges has been to try to build a quality workforce," says Bill Huber, general manager of ProBuild's United Building Center's branch in Mandan, N.D. "We've been at this almost 18 years, and it wasn't until the last five that we've been able to attract and keep good, quality people."

Building the right team is a three-step process. Experts advise you to:

  • Determine your staffing requirements
  • Find the right people to fill those jobs
  • Find ways to work with them once they're hired.

Lumberyard managers nationwide generally agree on basic staffing requirements for their installed sales teams. It starts with the installed sales manager or division manager, who schedules the jobs, coordinates the crews, inspects the work, and performs sales and estimates when necessary. The superintendent manages the crew (subcontracted or in-house), supervises the work, and orders materials. Laborers do the installations. And office coordinators administer the activities.
IN THE MIX: An installer from the Building Center works on framing. Experts say that a successful installed sales unit calls for a blend of experience, quality work, and various types of personality. Photo: Charles Gupton Photography Huber's store exemplifies the typical staffing structure, with about 25 people in its installed sales department. "We have an installed sales manager who's in charge of coordinating all activities of the department," he says. "We use our existing sales to sell installed products, then we go right to the structure of our installers, which would be job foremen and the various workers" on those jobs.

There are variations. Bob Smith, CEO of Universal Windows based in Bradenton, Fla., runs such a big operation–15 installation crews, each with two to six workers–that his company also employs two full-time quality-control inspectors and one field manager.

"The field manager's responsibility is to oversee installation activities, including the quality-control inspections, but his bigger task is to be the liaison between the customer and our company," Smith says. He describes the field, or installation, manager as a problem solver, and says the quality-control manager's reason for being is to go to each job and make sure the installer has done the job according to manufacturers' specifications and building codes.

Dealers vary most on whether to employ full-time installers, hire subcontractors as needed, or use a mix. Rudi Lokkart, general sales manager for Hayward Lumber's operation in San Luis Obispo, Calif., says his installed sales department–which performs new and retrofit window, door and trim, and cabinet installations–uses employees to supply 80% of its installation capacity. Hayward subcontracts the rest.

"This lets us scale without impacting our core crew on all but the largest swings," he says. In addition to an installation manager, Lokkart's department staffs specific trim carpenters, carpenters' assistants, glazers, and assistant glazers.

But sometimes titles are not so well defined, says Don Morris, vice president of installed sales for Carter Lumber Co., headquartered in Kent, Ohio. This is especially true when the department is new.

"Staffing is going to vary," Morris says. "The installed sales manager may be wearing several hats until the volume picks up or he actually needs help. One person needs to multiply himself. You take on jobsite supervisors to make sure it's going the direction it needs to go. You make sure that if there are issues, the issues are headed off before it gets to the point where it could create a problem, before it costs them money."