Remodelers Advantage

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

Ep.65: A History of Production Success with Paul Winans

Experience is one of the best teachers — and today’s guest has the kind of experience that will make your production processes work better in every way. His success in the remodeling industry didn’t come easily, he adapted and changed how he and his company worked to make it happen.

In this episode, Paul Winans, CR, talks to Tim and Steve about his years in the remodeling business, what he’s learned, and how to look at production as a company-focused activity.

Paul runs Winans Consulting, in Ashland, OR. He ran a highly successful remodeling business with his wife, Nina, for 29 years before they sold it in 2007. Their systems-oriented approach, with manuals for every position which were used as part of a continuous training program, contributed greatly to the company’s success and their ability to be away from the day-to-day running of the business for cumulatively up to four months each year! Paul was a Roundtables member, is a facilitator, a consultant, and contributor to Remodeling.hw.net.

The production department is what allows your company to shine, says Paul. The biggest thing Paul did in his company was getting real about estimating for his employees’ capabilities in the real world — and respecting that. He also realized the production department was only as good as the package they were given at the handoff. He talks about how to get that process in place, and other ways to improve your business and yourself, including:

  • Understanding that all the money is made before a project starts
  • Why upfront work allows production to produce
  • Getting real with proposals
  • Relating to your competition
  • Running an effective and fun trade breakfast
  • Setting expectations
  • Making promises and keeping them
  • How to bring your mission statement and core values to life
  • Running your team meetings by not running them
  • Soliciting suggestions from your team
  • Creating bonds between departments
  • What employee longevity can tell you about your company
  • And more …

Including why not the owner of the company should only visit a job site with a production manager — and why.

Paul’s book, The Remodeling LIfe: From Laggard to Leader, is coming soon on Amazon, and is filled with stories about how business should work for you, not you working for the business.

Ep.64: Job Site Look Ahead with Tom Batman & Mike Topper

The things on a job site that cost extra time and money could be cut down, if not eliminated, through careful, detailed planning. That’s where the job site look ahead makes a huge difference.

Lumber yard runs, selections that haven’t been made, and just about anything else that comes up can be identified if you’re planning ahead.

In this episode, Tim and Steve talk to Tom Batman and Mike Topper about how their company moved to a systemized planning process.

Tom has been with Harth Builders of Spring House, PA,  for more than 15 years. He tarted as a subcontractor, and eventually was hired as a full-time employee. He worked his way up from a carpenter to Lead Carpenter to Project Manager, and is NARI-certified as a Lead Carpenter and Project Manager.

Mike Is a NARI-certified Lead Carpenter who joined Harth after relocating from Portland, OR, in 2015.

Harth turned what Tom calls a “corporate corner” and began making systems and lists to get everyone on the same page. Project Managers get involved at the front end of a project — it gives production a greater say in how the logistics must work in the real world. Lead Carpenters get involved at the handoff, when the PM and the LC put together a full schedule, and stay three weeks ahead throughout the project. It takes tracking it every day, and Tom and Mike tell you about how to incorporate the look ahead, including:

  • Making the time every day
  • The different roles the PM and LC take
  • Workin on clear communication
  • The on-site job board
  • The kind of information to emphasize
  • Labeling each day for in-house and trade work
  • The detail you need and what just causes extra paperwork
  • How to work it with your cloud-based schedule on a project management system
  • Scheduling deliveries
  • What selections can hang out for a little while
  • The 3-2-1-1 system
  • The Accountability Checklist
  • And more …

Including how to start your own Look Ahead system by getting it all in writing and spending the time upfront in the sales phase.

These Are the Types of Topics…

Imagine a room full of Remodeling Production Professionals… People just like you, trying to improve the way your company operates and delivers impeccable work at a high profit… The Topic of today’s podcast is a perfect example of the types of things we will cover at the 2019 Production Conference in Orlando in September.

This annual 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. Click Here for More Information & to Register Today!

Ep.63: Getting Selections Done Before the Job Starts with Tanya Donahue

Developing a system that makes your kitchen and bath jobs more profitable has to include getting those all-important selections done early in the process — before the job even starts.

Tim does a session on this, and it’s based on what he learned from Rhode Island Kitchen & Bath, in Warwick, RI. 

In this episode, Tanya Donahue discusses that process with Tim and Steve, and why it results in exceptional client experiences, and make everyone in the company happy and more productive.

Tanya is the president of Rhode Island Kitchen and Bath, and provides her team and her clients with proven strategic capabilities, backed by her strong record of success. She’s spent more than 25 years in the home building and remodeling industry, and her main focus is to create, communicate, and implement the organization’s vision, mission, and overall direction. Tanya is a member of the Rhode Island Builders Association, served as co-chair of the Remodeler’s Committee and is a former member of the board of directors. She was selected as a 2017 Industry panelist for Harvard University’s Joint Center on Housing Studies, and was a judge of the 2018 National Qualified Remodeler Design Awards. She was also the recipient of the 2017 ProRemodeler Extreme Sales Award.

At the company, when a job packet goes to production from sales, it has every selection made, right down to the color and manufacturer of the caulk to be used. So much money is lost when something is missing on the job. If your company isn’t doing it this way, Tanya says, it may seem overwhelming, but she tells you how to get your organization on board with making selections before the job starts, including:

  • Making the client the boss, sort of
  • Getting buy-in from sales and design 
  • How it increases productivity in design and sales
  • Including photos in the job packet for easy identification on site
  • Starting with the must-haves
  • Controlling the client through education in the process
  • Figuring out how clients make decisions
  • Why cabinets can drive their start date
  • Starting with a reservation form, and using it as a reality check on the schedule
  • The power of the visual production board
  • How to do it without a showroom
  • And more …

Integrating sales and production in a continuous communication loop from start to finish is key to the whole process.

Ep.62: Hitting a Schedule Every Time with April Bettinger

Hitting a schedule every time in construction is possible if you pay proper attention to planning and have a purposeful attitude.

In this episode, April Bettinger joins Tim and Steve to talk about the best practices and the common pitfalls to avoid when creating and managing an on-time project that ends with delighted clients.

April is the founder and owner of Nip Tuck Remodeling in Snohomish, WA. For more than 30 years, she’s carved out a respected niche in the construction industry. Her father was a custom homebuilder, so April grew up watching and learning about excellent customer service, and what it takes to build a high-quality project. April has held key roles in finance, budgeting, customer service, team building, and sales management — preparing her to own and operate her own company. Nip Tuck Remodeling was founded in 2010, with a vision and determination to create a construction company with extraordinary craftsmanship and a focus on professionalism. Nip Tuck was named a Big50 remodeler in 2018, and ranked the No. 50 Fastest Growing Private Company in 2018 by the Puget Sound Business Journal

April and her estimator create the master schedule, then it’s turned over to the production manager, who is responsible for creating and  managing the job schedules on BuilderTrend. One huge factor in staying on track once you’re in production is getting the schedules done and materials ordered a month before the project starts. She talks about why that works, and other aspects of keeping your jobs on schedule, including:

  • Why the project manager has to create and own the schedule
  • How to break the details down and work with them
  • Setting pivotal goals for each week in the schedule
  • Using goals for client satisfaction
  • Helping everyone buy in to the system
  • How much time it takes to pre-plan
  • Why you should make the time investment
  • How sales and design affect the schedule
  • Handling change orders in the schedule
  • Getting clients to think ahead during selections
  • Building in reasonable wiggle room
  • Leaving nothing TBD
  • Handling design changes and heading them off
  • Beating weather challenges in the schedule
  • How to deal with damaged materials
  • And more …

If you believe you can hit project schedules, you can. If you think it will never happen, it won’t. It’s all about the attitude.

See April Speak at the Annual Remodeler’s Summit

We’re thrilled that April Bettinger will be speaking at the 2019 Remodeler’s Summit, on September 24-25, in Orlando:

To learn more the Summit event and our line-up of other great speakers, go to Remodelerssummit.com!

Ep.61: A Half Century in Construction with David Gerstel

There have been a lot of changes in the remodeling industry — technological advances, new products and materials, building requirements, the labor shortage. But some things remain the same — you’re still pouring foundations, shingling roofs, driving nails, and working with clients.

In this episode, David Gerstel talks about the changes he’s seen over the last 50 years in construction and remodeling with Tim and Steve. He talks about what he’s learned and how to prepare for the future.

David Gerstel of Kensington, CA, has been a builder for more than 40 years, and is the author of several respected books on construction company management, including the recently published Nail Your Numbers: A Path to Skilled Construction Estimating and Bidding. His construction operation emphasizes respect for, and profit sharing with, employees, bullet-proof construction,  efficiency in the field and the office, and rigorous control of overhead. David moved beyond bidding for free a few years after becoming a general contractor, and initiated a nationwide movement away from competitive bidding and toward working in collaboration with clients and designers through the use of what is variously known as cost-planning services, pre-construction consulting,  and other terms. David continues to build and write for the sheer joy and satisfaction of it. 

After leaving college, David wanted to work with his hands. He pursued carpentry, and loved working for himself. He has pioneered many of the business practices that have become standard in the industry. He talks about the changes he’s seen, and what has remained the same, including:

  • Building a company that can handle a downturn
  • Keeping overhead low and where to invest profits
  • How he got away from free estimates
  • The organic evolution of business and businesses
  • The developer model vs. the traditional model
  • The joyful way to build
  • The best changes he’s seen
  • Why the cost-planning model encourages collaboration
  • How construction is a predictable, beautiful story that unfolds
  • And more …

Including why he loves and hates nail guns, what tasks you should use them for, and why.

Ep.60: The Sales to Production Handoff with Mike Livingston

The handoff, turnover, passing the baton — or whatever you call it in your company — is a critical step in production. Having a well-planned, tight, organized system in place is key to a smooth-running project that ends with a happy client and healthy bottom line. As you grow, it becomes even more important — and more complicated.

So much information is gathered, discussed, sifted through, and torn apart as Sales and Design meet with the client. There are so many meetings, phone calls, emails, and discussions that it’s hard to keep straight. After the contract is signed, Sales and Design are supposed to relay all of the relevant information to production. But you need a system to make sure it happens.

In this episode, Mike Livingston talks to Tim and Steve about his company’s process, having good communication, and holding effective meetings at the handoff point.

Mike is the Production Manager with Blackdog Builders in Salem and Amherst, NH. He’s been with the company for 23 years, project managing additions, kitchens and baths. As the company has grown, he has filled the seat of Production Manager. In 2018, Mike was honored as Advisor of the Year at Shawsheen Vo-Tech where he serves on the carpentry advisory board.

Mike talks about the importance of bringing the Project Manager and Lead Carpenter into the process early. This allows them to get acquainted and comfortable with the upcoming project through a detailed binder that’s been checked for completeness. Then there are two meetings before the project kicks off. Mike talks about how they got to their current system, including:

  • What a successful handoff really looks like
  • Why the handoff looks different for every company
  • The importance of communicating the client’s needs 
  • Noting existing conditions and details
  • Identifying problem areas
  • Tracking the cost savings
  • Creating mutually beneficial systems for Sales, Design and Production
  • Why questions in handoff meetings are a good thing
  • How planning time saves Production time
  • Creating a system that can evolve
  • Using the binder system as a recruiting tool
  • And more … 

Having all the details straight and documented helps the handoff run smoothly, and sets the stage for running a trouble-free and efficient job.

Ep.59: New Energy Opportunities with Jacob Corvidae

“Going green” has been a part of the remodeling and building industries for a while. But much of the eco-conscious activity has been reactive. There’s real movement now to be proactive, and that’s especially true in the energy industry. It’s undergoing a massive disruption — and that has big implications for remodelers and builders.

In this episode, Jacob Corvidae talks about what’s coming in the energy industry, and what it will mean for your business, with Tim and Steve.

Jacob is a principal in the Buildings Program at Rocky Mountain Institute, where he leads the Residential Energy+ initiative. After nearly two decades of work in sustainable community development in Michigan, he now works from RMI’s Boulder, CO, office. He’s also a co-author of The Carbon-Free City Handbook, and The Carbon-Free Regions Handbook, two guides to help local governments around the world take action faster, and reports to support contractors and builders.

Jacob’s focus is on practical methods to get to a cleaner, more prosperous energy future. The discussion ranges from macro to micro topics — from the global impacts to why residential gas stoves can cause asthma attacks. Find out what changes in energy production and infrastructure will mean to the building and remodeling industries, including:

  • What the dropping price of solar may mean for you
  • Changes in utility rates
  • How energy-efficient building will save, and possibly, earn money
  • Solar on homes as part of a community “farm”
  • The economics of clean energy
  • Infrastructure challenges and solutions
  • The rise of the all-electric house
  • Enforcement of energy-efficiency through local standards and codes
  • Staying ahead of the curve to become a local market leader
  • Educating your customers
  • The sales opportunities for you
  • Getting a strategy together
  • Reaching out to manufacturers
  • And more …

Including where to go for more information and education. To start, Jacob recommends his own organization and additional resources:

Ep.58: The Inspector’s View with Aaron Wingert

Building codes and inspection systems can vary greatly from one place to another, but every remodeler has some experience with inspections — good or bad.

In this episode, we get the other side of the story, from a former inspector. Aaron Wingert joins Tim and Steve to talk about how important it is to establish trust with your local inspectors and embrace the whole process.

Aaron has been a market development manager for Louisiana Pacific for two and a half years, and lives in the Kansas City area. Prior to working for LP, he spent nearly 16 years as a building codes inspector, chief inspector, and plans examiner in two jurisdictions in the Kansas City area. In that time, he did inspections of all phases of work, by all trades, in remodels, new construction, residential, multi-family, and commercial construction.

Aaron talks about being hired as an inspector out of the construction industry, and what kind of training inspectors may — or may not — get. When they’re on a job site, there’s a lot of pressure on them too. To work well together, he says, you have to own the work you do, and it’s critical to be at your inspections. Aaron talks about how to develop a good working relationship with local building departments, including:

  • Working with a new inspector
  • Staying on top of code changes
  • When to call the supervisor
  • Developing the ability to eat crow
  • Why playing games with your inspector is a bad idea
  • Being open to conversations and differences in interpretations
  • Why the burden of proof is on you
  • Getting scheduling straight
  • Participating in code review sessions
  • Knowing how your inspectors work
  • What worries keep inspectors up at night
  • Who’s to blame when something goes horribly wrong
  • And more …

Overall, just be human, approachable, and friendly — inspectors do want to help you, Aaron says. Get to know each other, try not to be combative, and everything will run more smoothly.

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