These past several months, we've all been reeling from the downturn in the industry, looking for ways to make sure we can survive until the market stabilizes and we can get back to a "normal" business life. In some cases, I've seen LBM dealers using the slash-and-burn method of eliminating employees, cutting costs, and trying to trim expenses. Other dealers are using this as somewhat of a break and are reorganizing the workforce, focusing on training and education, ensuring their internal practices are as good as they can be, and preparing proactively as the market evolves.

With regard to installed sales, many of my clients have begun to refocus on the remodel/retrofit market. And why not? You've developed the expertise to manage jobs and have product on hand, a ready labor force (either in-house or subcontractors), and, in many cases, a ready supply of walk-in customers needing work done.

Mike Butts Who are these customers? Some are a select group of aging baby boomers, called "boomfluentials" by many due to their financial influence, who desire luxury living but want to stay in place rather than buy a new house. Many have decided to complete that luxury kitchen remodel, add the new sunroom, or remodel the master bedroom into a dream suite. And you should be right there, waiting with open arms to help them with these projects.

You already have the necessary components–the installation crews, job scheduling expertise, and ability to take care of business. Now all you need to know is how to take care of these customers. Ironically enough, this is where installed sales began for many of you: taking care of the walk-in customer who wanted a simple project completed or product installed. Now it seems that we've come full circle. Welcome back!

If you don't have these customers coming into your store, how do you get to them? Many marketing methods work, from simple newspaper advertising to electronic media, but one method is often overlooked: local home shows sponsored by the local builders association or other trade-oriented shows available to you. How about a boat show or an RV show? Sounds a little crazy, but consider this: The attendees at these shows have to pay to enter, so they are looking for something (versus a mall show where you get people wandering aimlessly with nothing better to do on a Saturday). Also, chances are they have disposable income and are generally accustomed to a luxury or higher-quality lifestyle. And that's just what you are capable of offering them.

Over the next couple of months, I'm going to re-examine the remodeling/retrofit market based on new research by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, along with recent meetings with many of my clients. We'll discuss market awareness, lead generation and follow-up, project management, and job costing. I'll also explore the labor issues that often arise in a large-scale remodeling project. So get in, buckle up, and let's go for a ride. It should be fun.

Mike Butts is president of LBM Solutions, a DeWitt, Mich.?based LBM supply consulting and training firm. 517.668.0585. E-mail: [email protected]