Remodelers Advantage

Ep.75: Promoting the Young Guy with Ryan Murphy

Finding good employees and managers can be difficult — there just aren’t that many qualified workers out there. Hiring somebody young without much training is an investment, but it can pay off in the long run. If you find the right person.

Ryan Murphy is one of those people. He didn’t know anything about construction until he started working in the field when he was 19. Six years later, he’s a project manager.

In this episode, Ryan talks to Tim and Steve about his experience and growth, and how your company can find great workers and train them to move up within your organization.

Ryan is a project manager at Elite Construction Services Inc. in Santa Cruz, CA. He joined Elite three years ago as a carpenter after gaining two years of experience elsewhere. He worked his way from apprentice to journeyman after his first year. Six months later, Ryan began training to become a project manager, while still doing some carpentry as needed. 

You have to have a constant and consistent conversation with everyone you meet to find the right people, he says. Talk to family, friends, and clients even before you have an opening. Ryan talks about his experiences in getting hired, his training on the job, and how you can promote people from within, including:

  • What to look for
  • Using a visual workbook
  • When to let workers go on their own
  • How to train for growth
  • Providing a safety net
  • How to teach the office tasks
  • Teaching people to answer their own questions
  • Using technology to run jobs better
  • And more …

The biggest key to finding and keeping young workers is making them feel like they have a real future in the industry, and especially within your company, Ryan says.

Ep.74: Remodeling in Historic Restoration with Walter Beebe-Center

Any remodeling involving a historic building is complicated. You never know exactly what you’ll find hidden and what will have to be replaced. Period details have to be replicated, material that would be tossed out in a standard remodel must be saved, and old-world techniques like window glazing must be done. If the local historical commission gets involved, it can add another level of difficulty.

Remodeling historic structures isn’t for everyone, but Walter Beebe-Center and his company tackle these projects regularly. He says the company’s been lucky to work on houses that were occupied by people like Abigail Adams, John Greenleaf Whittier, Paul Revere, Josiah Quincy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alexander Hamilton. 

In this episode, Walter talks to Tim and Steve about remodeling historic homes, fixing previous work, and bringing older homes up to modern standards — with new plumbing, electrical work, and more energy efficiency.

Walter is the owner of Essex Restoration in Wilmington, MA. Upon graduating from Columbia College with a B.A. in economics, Walter gained hands-on carpentry experience by working on various building and remodeling projects in eastern Massachusetts. After five years working in the field, he (like many of his employees) attended North Bennett Street School’s two-year, full-time Preservation Carpentry program. In 1994, Walter founded Essex Restoration and began operating as a three-man company. Since then, Essex Restoration has grown to 17 employees and has served hundreds of clients. 

Walter explains the differences in working in preservation, replication, and renovation. Working with homeowners in historic homes requires compromises, in budget and function. He talks about the particular challenges and rewards of working in historic buildings, and how to preserve the charm of the old while building in modern conveniences and energy efficiency, including:

  • Figuring out how and where to add electricity and plumbing
  • Why drafts kept old houses healthy
  • How remodeling differs from “re-muddling”
  • Welding window glass
  • Working with the historical commission
  • Tunneling under an old foundation to pour new footings
  • Repairing a leaking roof without removing interior plaster
  • What a drift pin is, and how to use it
  • How to structure contracts
  • Keeping control of the budget
  • Setting a fixed markup percentage
  • Emptying a full dumpster to find an antique detail
  • The stories old buildings tell
  • And more …

If you’re interested in gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to work on historic homes, Walter advises to pair formal training with on-the-job experience.

Ep.73: Getting Young People into the Trades with a High School Summer Work Program with Stuart Feldt

We’re big advocates of getting young people into the building trades. Getting kids and their parents to understand that working in remodeling and construction can provide a great career is the first step. 

Stuart Feldt has an internship program for high school students at his company, giving them hands-on experience during their summer vacations.

In this episode, Stuart discusses the program with Tim and Steve, where he finds the kids, and how you can start a similar initiative.

Stuart founded his company, W.S. Feldt, in 1993 as a sole proprietor in Mountlake Terrace, WA. The company specializes in remodels of all types, with an occasional custom home build. This is the company’s second year of employing high school students.

Working with high school students means taking some extra time while teaching them the proper skills, and how to do them safely. But it’s an important step to ensure there will be a steady stream of skilled tradespeople coming into the industry. Stuart talks about how he started the program, and what you can do to run your own initiative, including:

  • The legal issues
  • The skills to teach, and how
  • Finding the right work for them to do
  • Being flexible
  • Accepting there will be some extra costs and inefficiencies
  • How to handle the job costs
  • The benefits of turning your team into teachers
  • The possibility of turning it into a non-profit
  • Reaching out to educators for help
  • Giving an overview of the business
  • And more …

A high-school outreach and internship program is one way to beat the labor shortage by providing a pipeline for your company.

Ep.72: The Labor Shortage from a Small-Town Perspective with Wally Staples

While driving through Maine earlier this year, Tim started wondering how a client of his there deals with the labor shortage in his small town. So he called and asked, and found out that while there are different challenges, what he does to attract and retain his people can be done in any size labor market.

In this episode, Wally J. Staples talks to Tim and Steve about how his company combats the labor crisis outside of the major metropolitan areas, where there just aren’t as many people to choose from.

Wally is the owner and president of Wally J Staples Builders Inc., of Brunswick, ME, founded the company in 1993 when he was in his early 20s. A carpenter by trade, Wally worked in the field building new homes and completing renovations until 2001, when he hired his first lead carpenter, who’s still with WJSB today. This allowed Wally to work on growing the company, and now they have five full-time, in-house carpentry crews, and have completed more than 3,500 projects. 

Brunswick has a population of about 20,000, and is somewhat of a retirement community. It’s located between two major employers —  L.L. Bean and s big shipbuilder. There’s also a strong sense of independence — many carpenters and tradespeople would rather work for themselves. Wally talks about the things you need to do to attract and keep good people in a smaller market, including:

  • How to help people adjust to new roles
  • The benefit of offering benefits — especially paid time off
  • Providing a profit-sharing program for retirement plans, and keeping it in focus
  • Talking about the importance of your safety record regarding profits
  • What not to care about in hiring, like tattoos or age
  • Getting the word out about job openings
  • Appealing to the self-employed 
  • The power of branding in recruiting
  • Why training helps keep employees
  • The zero-question job binder
  • Developing good job descriptions and processes
  • And more …

Including the company party featuring a contortionist. Wally’s tips and tactics aren’t limited to succeeding in a small market — his insights can help any company, in any market.

Ep.71: Switching to the Lead Carpenter System with Steve Nash

When remodeling companies start up, typically the owner is working in the field, making sales, estimating, and doing almost everything else to run the business. There comes a tipping point as the company grows, and one person can’t do it all. That’s where the lead carpenter system comes in.

Transitioning to that system has its challenges. Steve Nash has used the lead carpenter system for 25 years, and understands its ins and outs — and how to move to it smoothly.

In this episode, Steve talks about making the switch with Tim and Steve, how it helps a growing company, and how to avoid the common pitfalls.

Steve began working as a carpenter for his father, from his childhood all through his teens. He founded Upscale Remodeling, in Freeville, NY, in 1991 shortly after college with a bucket of tools, a new truck, and a whole lot of ambition to build a great remodeling company. Today, Upscale Remodeling is a full-service design/build firm specializing in kitchen and bath remodeling, additions, basements, and window and door replacement. The company operates out of a 5,000-sq. ft. showroom, which helps with design and product selection as well as communication across all team members. Upscale Remodeling has been using some variation of the lead carpenter system since the beginning.

He recently teamed up with another remodeler to help a growing company in their Roundtables peer group make the switch to the lead carpenter system. He walks us through the process of transitioning your team, learning as much as you can beforehand, and how to make it work, including:

  • How it can help you cope with the labor shortage
  • Understanding your lead carpenter will be managing
  • Identifying the qualities that make a good lead carpenter
  • Why your best craftsman may not be the best manager
  • Empowering your lead to make decisions
  • Pushing your lead back to the paperwork
  • Being transparent with your lead carpenter
  • Why not to treat it as a promotion, just a different role
  • How to handle a different pay scales
  • The recruitment process and identifying candidates in-house
  • The importance of involving your lead in the sales process
  • Avoiding awkward moments in front of the client
  • Coaching your lead to stay within the scope
  • How to change your markup and job costing to safeguard profits
  • And more …

Keep Those Suggestions Coming…

This topic was another one suggested by a listener — and we hope you keep them coming! If you’ve got an idea for a topic or guest, drop Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.70: Mastering the Look Ahead, Part 2, with Ben Reynolds

When you work in a remote area, where your materials are shipped on barges to small islands, and a quick lumber yard run just isn’t possible, everything just takes longer. 

So having all the details planned ahead is crucial, says Ben Reynolds.

In this episode, Ben talks to Tim and Steve about the challenges of working in Ontario’s cottage country, and how accurate look aheads are a key component in getting jobs done on time.

Ben has been the production manager at Kawartha Lakes Construction, Lakefield, ONT, Canada, for five years. Prior to that, he was a project lead — the lead carpenter managing a job site. Before joining KLC, he ran his own small company which mainly focused on new post-and-beam construction. When he was wearing the tools, his projects always hit the pre-set milestones, and he had an extremely high success rate of delivering a project on time.

KLC has different challenges than many other design-build companies, especially logistically. They deal with limited parking, moving material on boats and barges, and remote job sites. So planning ahead is key. And part of planning is looking back, keeping an accurate history of what it takes to complete a project. KLC has detailed time sheets, and can refer to experiences in the past to get accurate ideas on what it truly takes to complete a project. Ben talks about what KLC’s production process looks like, and how they plan ahead, including:

  • The different people that need to be involved
  • The two-year look ahead
  • The five-day plan
  • How to use your historical data
  • Eating the elephant one bite at a time
  • The level of detail needed in the five-day plan
  • The master production brief
  • Achieving better time management
  • Getting buy-in on the plan
  • Solving conflicts in planning
  • How to run an efficient production meeting
  • And more …

If you missed our first episode dedicated to creating your own version of the look ahead, listen to Episode 64: Job Site Look Ahead with Tom Batman & Mike Topper, of Harth Builders in Spring House, PA. 

Ep.69: Hitting Monthly Goals with Aaron Enfinger

Making sure you can hit your monthly revenue goals is key to a healthy bottom line. First, there has to be a plan and intention to hit those marks.

In this episode, Aaron Enfinger tells Tim and Steve about setting revenue and production goals, how to hit them, and why it helps prevent cash-flow problems.

Aaron is the general manager at The Cleary Company in Columbus, OH. In early 2017, he assumed the role of General Manager to address managerial needs The Cleary Company was experiencing, due to their pace of growth. 

He starts his goal-setting process with a spreadsheet, and drills down from the yearly goal to the weekly numbers the company needs to produce to hit its revenue numbers. Then he works with his production manager and office manager to carry the plan through. Aaron gives you great ideas about how you can do this in your own company, including:

  • Designing your production department to handle your goals
  • Why weekly number will fluctuate
  • What sets off alarm bells in the pipeline
  • Scheduling to smooth out seasonal differences
  • How job schedules relate to the master schedule
  • Setting up incremental milestone draws in a job
  • How often to evaluate your financials
  • Setting expectations with clients at the beginning of the project
  • Focusing your production team on their goals
  • Why a cloud-based project management system saves time in invoicing
  • And more …

Aaron also talks about how he found and used a powerful tool on LinkedIn to identify and recruit the company’s new production manager — from The Bahamas.

Click the link for the downloadable copy of Aaron’s Excel file.

Ep.68: Teaming Up with Manufacturers with Aaron Wingert

While you’re trying to please your clients, hit your schedules and margins, and juggle everything else, you can use all the help you can get. One way to bring in some assistance is by reaching out to your product manufacturers.

In this episode, Aaron Wingert discusses the benefits of having a relationship with your manufacturers with Tim and Steve. He gives us a view from the manufacturer’s perspective and insight into how a manufacturer’s representative can improve a remodeler’s business.

Aaron has been a market development manager for Louisiana Pacific for two and a half years, and his territory includes parts of Kansas and Missouri. LP is the largest engineered wood building products manufacturer in the world. Prior to working for LP, he spent nearly 16 years as a building codes inspector in the Kansas City area. 

Builders and remodelers are his main responsibility, and Aaron finds himself on job sites almost every day. Some of his visits are more like sales calls, but often it’s to troubleshoot an installation or answer a question about the materials. The biggest benefit to a remodeler to establishing a relationship with a manufacturer is understanding the products you’re selling as part of the entire project, as well as:

  • The questions to ask your reps
  • How plant visits can help your company’s sales
  • Taking advantage of rebate programs
  • Getting leads from your manufacturing partners
  • Training and education opportunities  for your team
  • Cutting down on errors in building
  • Using co-op dollars in your marketing
  • Getting SEO and social media help
  • Tapping into a manufacturer’s data
  • Best practices in handling product issues
  • And more …

Set yourself up for success by creating relationships with your manufacturer’s reps, take advantage of what they offer, and put yourself ahead of your competition.

Meet These Manufacturers at The Annual Remodelers Summit

Speaking of Manufacturers… Come meet these amazing companies at the Remodelers Summit in Orlando, FL on September 24-25!

Ep.67: Using Your Company For Charitable Giving with Russell Fuller

For many, caring for other people is just part of our world view — whether you give to charity through your church, through private donations, or through other methods like sponsored bike rides or other fundraisers. But if you haven’t considered involving your business, you should.

Russell Fuller’s first foray into giving to charity was a happy accident, he says. But then it became something more. He found that committing his company to support a non-profit’s mission wasn’t just a good deed, it turned out to be an effective marketing tool, as well

In this episode, Russell talks to Tim and Steve about what his involvement in a local non-profit means to him individually, and the positive effects it’s had on his business and team.

Russell founded Fuller Living Construction in Seattle 10 years ago, and now employs 19 people. FLC specializes in custom remodels in older homes. FLC provides for charities such as Aurora Commons and Wintergrass in Seattle.

Russell’s first five years in business were lean, but about three years ago the business found its financial footing, and he found himself with some excess money with no idea what to do with it. He accumulated $10,000 in cash in a Folger’s can in his basement. After visiting a friend involved with the Aurora Commons non-profit, which in need of funds or it would shut down. He was called to give that money. He went home and got the can and gave it to the charity (instead of fixing the clutch in his old Subaru). Russell gives 10 percent of his net profit to non-profits. He talks about the lasting impact of doing this in your business, including:

  • Why you should consider charitable giving a fixed cost
  • Giving confidently
  • The benefits in community outreach to your business
  • Why you need a page on your website talking about it
  • How speaking at the organization’s gala brings him business
  • Involving your subcontractors in giving
  • The benefits of giving early in the year
  • The gratification of knowing what your money does
  • How to involve your team members
  • The impact of giving on recruitment and hiring
  • And more …

Russell also gives great advice about how to stick to your commitment, choosing a charity, how to publicize it, and how to involve other small business donors. 

Ep.66: Production in a Large Remodeling Firm with Bruce Case

Most remodeling companies are small businesses with simple structures, and team building can be difficult. Imagine the challenges of building a real team with more than 70 people in the field and an almost equal number working in the office. 

In this episode, Bruce Case talks to Tim and Steve about what it takes to keep a large remodeling company running smoothly — especially in the production department.

Bruce is the president and CEO of Case Design/Remodeling Inc., one of the largest full-service remodeling firms in the nation. Operations are focused in the Washington, DC, area and bring clients a unique mix of design/build and home improvement services through Fred The First Name in Home Improvement. Case has extended its reach across the U.S. through a network of licensees and franchisees. Since its founding in 1961, Case has won more than 100 national  remodeling, design, and business awards, and the Case network has completed more than 100,000 renovation projects for more than 60,000 clients. Binding these initiatives is a focus on inspiring team members and clients.

Bruce started working in the business when he was 12, but initially pursued a career in insurance. He came back to the family business and had to pay his dues, working in almost every department of the company in the 12 years before taking the reins. This gave Bruce an increased level of empathy and a greater perspective on the roles within the company. He discusses the importance of the culture at Case, and how to keep it together with the right mix of people — even if that means cutting a top performer loose — as well as how Case works in production, including:

  • How to develop structure and processes
  • What it takes to change processes
  • The timeline for change
  • Taking the time to develop your people 
  • Proactively growing and promoting from within
  • Case’s professional development program
  • Reimbursing for continuing education
  • How training helps you hire, keep, and inspire people
  • Why you should micromanage a new employee — and when to stop
  • Gatekeeping the project’s process
  • How to bring ideas forward and be positive
  • And more …

Keynote Speaker: Bruce Case

We’re excited to have Bruce delivering the keynote address at the 2019 Production Conference in Orlando, FL, on Sept. 26. This event will bring more than two hundred Production Managers, Project Managers, and Lead Carpenters together for a one-day journey through the inner workings of some of the industry’s most successful and efficient Production Departments.

We are filling seats fast so don’t miss this opportunity to learn, network and connect with other industry professionals just like you!
Register today!

2019 Production Conference
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