By Nina Patel. Frank Spivey of Spivey Construction has always hired independent contractors as designer/salespeople. In his 50 years as a contractor in Indianapolis, the president of Spivey Construction has found this system works well. Spivey (Big50 1987) currently has four designer/salespeople that work on 100% commission.

"The salespersons know if they get out and work hard, they will reap the return," Spivey says. He details their job description in their contract. It includes specifics about meeting the company's standards, how they get paid, a separation agreement for when they retire, and their tax obligations. He gives each of the salespeople leads on a rotating basis. The company completes 70 to 100 projects per year, with an average project size of $50,000.

The designer/salespeople set up sales calls, estimate, submit the signed contract to the office, write detailed specifications, and have selections made before construction begins. They use CAD or draw the preliminary design, then turn the drawings over to Spivey's drafting department.

Spivey says fair pay, independence, flexibility, and the support of a team keep the designers at the company for many years. The designers make their own schedules. One works at the office, another works at home, and another splits his time between the office and home.

Designer/salespeople receive a draw against their coming commission when they first start. The designers earn a percentage of the contract price of the projects they sell. "The pay system is pretty enticing," Spivey says. In fact, the Spivey system is so attractive, two designers recently retired after putting in about 30 years each at the firm.

Spivey says years ago, he hired people with a sales background and he taught them design. But the past few have been promoted from within the company. The general rise from project manager to draftsperson to salesperson/designer takes about five years.

Spivey says many remodelers think hiring independent contractors for sales cannot work. "Some think they won't be able to hire a talented person or they believe the person won't stay within the parameters of their company," he says. But whether it's an inside or outside person, Spivey believes if you spell out their duties and help them transition, the system can work.