The Perfect Crew Size by David Elenbaum

January 17, 2012 | Whatever the typical job size for a deck contractor is varies but all contractors deal with the same decision. How many guys should I send out? Running different size crews for different size jobs is usually in the cards but sometimes the workload doesn’t come in the right order. You might end up with four 16 x 20 quickie treated decks to build this week, projects that would not support a four-man crew that typically builds your porches and big composites. Four decks in a week these days is a blessing for many guys, but if it’s just you and a helper running your production, now you’re out three weeks or more. In either case depending on how much you sold those decks for, you may have a profit disaster on your hands or worse, a production disaster. I’ve always maintained that one of the best ways to sell a deck for your competition is to have too much or too little lead-time. Managing crew size and efficiency is essential to the health of your business. So what is the perfect crew size? I don’t know. What I do know is that removing yourself from the equation, the crew size that seems to work the best and be more efficient is an odd number.

If you work on the crew, you are the master carpenter and you have a helper. Odd number (1). If you do not work on the crew, you may have a two-man crew, master and helper. If you add a third man to that crew who is also a skilled craftsman, you will see a tremendous increase in production from that crew, almost double has been my experience. One guy may do railing and the other stairs. The helper will bounce backup between the two guys and will stand around less. If you have two helpers and a master, you will go broke because someone will always be standing around, decreasing the
speed and efficiency of the other two. Odd number (3) If there are four, two masters and two helpers, you are likely paying a helper to be the extra set of hands and the clean up guy. Try dropping one and watch what happens, you will likely make more money and your production should only drop a little. If you have enough guts, add a third skilled craftsman who is an apprentice to the other two masters and you will again see an up-tick in production. Plus you are training your next crew leader. Odd Number (5) Not too many decks will support a five-man crew, but framing a house will. Several years ago I shared this equation with a friend who is a framer. He always ran a four or six man crew and complained that there was always a team that was slower than the rest of the guys. He tried my theory and it worked well for him adding to the bottom line. Why remove yourself from the equation? As a business owner your success relies on your ability to delegate, trust your people and work yourself out of a job

Good luck!