It's what we are in this business for: work, work, work. In good economic times such as these, it's difficult not to have a lot of projects going, and quite often, the pace becomes overwhelming. There is always another job that has to be squeezed into the schedule. When that happens, you start sweet-talking your installers: "If you could just get this done,” “Stay a little later,” “Could you start a little earlier?” “How about working Saturday?"

Overtime sounds good, but wait! Customers turn up the heat on us, and in turn, the pressure rises for our installers. Everyone makes an effort for the team, but burnout is imminent. Overworking installers can lead to more problems than it solves. Nobody does their best when they are worn down. Recalls go up, sick days increase, and attitudes head downhill fast.

The key is to develop solutions that fit your operation. Set up a schedule to work hard, 10-12 hours a day for four days, then allow for Mondays or Fridays off, so your installers have a three-day weekend to rest up. Try to leave a two- or three-day gap in the schedule between large jobs so there will be a slot to plug in the add-ons. And if you have no choice but to work Monday through Friday, then get a big red pen and schedule some firm time off. Don't be flexible on the red pen time, because it is just as important as any job you do.

Efficiency can help recover work time that has been lost. Pre-plan and be prepared for your jobs. A lot of time is wasted going to the supply house daily. It is understandable that a work truck cannot be a rolling warehouse, but a few extra sticks of door trim, a couple boxes of staples, and an extra few rolls of seam tape don't take up much space.

If you get a "surprise," have-to-have-now item while you're loading the truck, call your order in to the supply house. Chances are, your ticket will be filled at the dock by the time you arrive, and you can skip past the six people waiting in line.

When possible, get to the job site and start working, then break one person away to chase additional materials as needed. This helps you avoid the morning rush at the supply house as well as the morning rush hour traffic. A few minutes on the telephone with the sales person and warehouse personnel, solidifying the details on the jobs you have coming up, can be helpful in assessing your supply needs. Try to do this later in the day during off-peak hours, and not when everyone else is trying to get their questions answered as well.

If you are one of the multi-task installation companies (wood floor today, sheet vinyl tomorrow, then back to wood floor and tackless carpet), try to lump similar jobs together on the schedule. Loading and unloading the truck with a different set of tools daily eats up a lot of time. Also, the more switching back and forth you do, the easier it is to forget something necessary for the job. All the air compressors, staple guns, and staples won’t mean a thing without the AIR HOSE. I speak from experience.

We still need to keep the customer happy. It doesn't matter if you are a large operation or a two-man shop, everybody deals with pressure. It’s maintaining the balance between work and sanity that is the key. We are all limited to the volume of work we can do. Sometimes the best answer is a little used two-letter word that is very difficult for flooring installers to pronounce: NO! For hands-on contractors, if we're so busy working that we can't find the time to get the bids done, then down the line we’ll find ourselves confronted with the feast-or-famine lifestyle. Paperwork is a dreaded thing, to be sure; but staring at an empty “IN” box due to poor planning is even worse.