Terry Streich, president and co-owner of Silver Bullet Design & Build in Minneapolis, saw the need three years ago for help on the sales side. Instead of a second salesperson, he ended up with an estimator. The intent was to hire another salesperson who, like he did, estimated and supported the projects he sold. What happened, however, was completely the opposite.
The person Streich hired had been working with the company installing cabinets. Both Streich and the new hire knew he had strong sales skills, but both were surprised to find out that the nuances of working on old houses were lost on him when it came to doing the estimating.
"As a consequence," Streich says, "rather than have him sell and learn how to estimate, we decided that I would sell and teach him how to examine old houses. I would show him the clues, red flags, and who does what in a remodeling contract. If he was going to effectively estimate, he would have to learn this."
Streich kept the training open-ended, with no definite date for completion. When the new hire reached a level of understanding, he would move over into the sales function. "We began to realize what was happening," Streich recalls. "This was an effective way for us to work."
So the company kept the division of labor, with Streich doing all the sales for $2 million company. In addition to estimating all the project, the estimator also writes all the contracts and prepares startup documents for the production department. Evenly split, the job functions now complement each other.
"The stuff he''s doing requires a high level of concentration," Streich says. "By letting him concentrate, he''s more effective. He''s not distracted by appointments or with meetings with clients. He makes sure everything that''s supposed to go in an estimate and job package is in there. "The fact that I don''t like to spend my time estimating was a part of [the move]," Streich conceeds. He now spends 85 percent of his time selling and the other time "working on the business." The setup also helps Streich avoid what he terms a "natural conflict of interest." "As a salesperson [who estimates], you wind up with these debates with yourself," he says. "Will it really take this much time? I have complete confidence [now] that it''s right. I can go to the homeowner with the real numbers. I don''t have to second guess myself."