Remodelers Advantage

Ep.94: Bringing Military Leadership to Construction with Cody Ross

One thing Tim hears frequently in his travels and consulting with remodelers is the desire for fewer layers of management, replaced by more leadership. 

One of the best places to learn and develop leadership skills is the U.S. Armed Forces.

Cody Ross served in the U.S. Marine Corps. from April 2005 – December 2014 as a combat engineer, doing everything from infantry to building bridges, and has found his experience translates well to remodeling and construction.

In this episode, Cody talks to Tim and Steve about using military leadership techniques and procedures to positively affect the construction process and to deliver a better client experience.

Cody is the project manager at Irons Brothers Construction Inc., in Shoreline, WA. He’s been with Irons Brothers for four years, and has successfully managed the company’s largest project to date in scope, size, and sale price. 

He’s identified five big leadership takeaways from his time in the military that apply to remodeling and construction — organization of the unit, commanders’ intent, small-unit leadership, planning backwards, and the end-of-week stand down. Cory breaks them down and explains how they translate to remodeling projects, including:

  • The importance of staying in your lane
  • Describing your ideal end state
  • Recognizing who’s best suited to make decisions
  • Time management techniques
  • Streamlining meetings for efficiency
  • The importance of contingency planning
  • How delegation of authority develops accountability and responsibility
  • Handling under-performing trade partners
  • Using BAMCIS* for further planning in remodeling
  • The five-paragraph order
  • And more …

*BAMCIS is a tool that stands for Begin the planning, Arrange for reconnaissance, Make reconnaissance, Complete the plan, Issue the order, and Supervise. 

Ep.93: Women in Leadership on Site with Dejah Léger

We talk a great deal about ways to beat the labor shortage, including the importance of training and education in keeping good employees. We’ve also discussed how to promote the trades as an attractive career choice. 

There’s a third component — finding the right people. And that may mean changing your thinking about what, or who, you’re looking for.

Dejah Léger came into remodeling with no experience, but was “trained from scratch,” she says. Due to her motivation and ability to learn quickly, she was promoted to lead carpenter within a year.

In this episode, Dejah talks to Tim and Steve about her experiences changing careers to become a carpenter and project manager, the challenges, and why women are a big asset on the job site.

Dejah is a lead carpenter/project manager at Irons Brothers Construction in Shoreline, WA. The first project she led was a major kitchen remodel, and she has continued to lead multiple jobs since then. Her role as the only female lead carpenter in Shoreline is a huge advantage on many levels. It points to the many reasons women should be recruited to be bags-on, even if it means large initial investments in training. 

Dejah’s remodeling career started when one of the company’s owners recruited her at her daughter’s baseball game. Her coworkers trained her on-site, she studied everything she could at night, and Irons Brothers sends their team to training and trade shows. She talks about what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated industry, changing careers, and the advantages it gives her in the field, including:

  • Establishing authority and leading on site
  • Why the labor shortage leveled the playing field for her
  • Communicating with clients 
  • Creating relationships with subs and vendors
  • Finding safety equipment that fits
  • Training on her own
  • The physical aspects of the job
  • Using her graphic design background to understand plans
  • Why to recruit more women
  • And more …

Getting past preconceived notions of what a carpenter or project manager has always been is the first step toward recruiting and retaining good team members — and that includes women.

Ep.92: Using RFIs Effectively with Jason Brookshire

We’ve discussed adapting commercial construction systems and applications for use in the residential world. Implementing them is often met with resistance — but there are definitely processes that work well and add value.

Requests for Information are standard in the commercial construction world, but aren’t widely used in residential remodeling.

In this episode, Jason Brookshire talks to Tim and Steve about why he finds RFIs to be important to his work in residential remodeling, and how to implement your own system.

Jason has been the production manager at McBride Remodeling in Petoskey, MI, for more than four years. He has more than 15 years of experience as a commercial development superintendent in markets around the country.

In his work in commercial construction, Jason used written RFIs when clarification was needed in the scope of work from architects, owners, or other parties. At McBride, RFIs are used by lead carpenters and those in the office, creating better information flow. It cuts down on phone calls and clarifies communication. RFIs go through their cloud-based project management system. Jason talks about the advantages of using RFIs, including:

  • Building in accountability
  • Getting the details you need — when you need them
  • The type of information typically clarified
  • Getting staff buy-in
  • The time it saves
  • Who gets involved
  • How to use them
  • Simplifying change orders
  • Training your trade partners
  • And more …

The accountability and speed built in to the process are vital to growing companies, to streamline jobs and protect profits. If you’ve got questions about implementing RFIs in your company, Jason says you can get in touch with him at Jason@mcbrideremodeling.com.

Ep.91: Talking Safety with Mark Paskell

Just because you’ve never been visited or cited by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration doesn’t mean you’re following safe business practices. Even if you or no one on your crew has been injured, it doesn’t necessarily mean your job sites are safe — you might just be lucky.

Most OSHA standards apply to the residential building and remodeling industries, and require employers to protect their workers by establishing safety programs and providing training. 

In this episode, Mark Paskell talks to Tim and Steve about how to create a safety culture and the benefits of running safe job sites and protecting your team.

Mark is president of The Contractor Coaching Partnership Inc. in Sterling, MA. He founded the company in 2007 to coach and mentor residential contractors on business, systems, sales, and safety. Mark became an authorized OSHA Outreach Trainer in 2012.

Creating a culture of safety is the first and biggest thing a business can do, says Mark. It has to start at the top — owners and managers need to be on board and involved, not just those in the field. Residential standards are as stringent as commercial standards, but there’s less of a focus on meeting those standards on sites. Mark talks about the things residential remodelers and builders should focus on, including:

  • The differences between OSHA 10 and OSHA 30
  • The most cited violations
  • The top job-site hazards — and how to minimize them
  • Hiring safe sub-contractors
  • What personal protection equipment your crew should wear
  • Misconceptions about safety and OSHA you may be making
  • Putting money into the budget for safety training
  • Investing in people and equipment to attract and keep employees
  • Why safer crews complete better jobs
  • How much time to invest in training
  • Safety meetings: how often you should have them, and what to cover
  • Why you should invite OSHA to your company
  • And more …

You can download materials to help you with your safety training at the OSHA website.

Ep.90: Moving Company Culture to the Job Site with Dennis Engelbrecht

Between 1950 and 2010, the use of the term “company culture” has doubled — Tim looked it up.  But for a lot of people, it’s still a bit of a mystery. You hear about having a good culture, but it can be hard to quantify.

Often, remodeling companies can have a great culture in the office, but it doesn’t always make it out to the field staff on the job site. Sometimes the office and the job site have two separate cultures, so the team as a whole doesn’t share a company culture. Complicating matters, as you grow, your culture will change too — in ways you may not expect.

In this episode, Dennis Engelbrecht, discusses company culture with Tim and Steve, especially how to create and maintain a positive culture in the field and get everyone on the same page.

Dennis is a consultant with the Family Business Institute, of Raleigh, NC. He’s devoted his life and career to creating, improving, building, and coaching entrepreneurs for greater business success. Dennis directs the CEO Roundtables Program for Contractors, which he founded to expand upon a group one of his early clients participated in.

Company culture is a collection of a set of beliefs and behaviors that affect the workplace, Dennis says. When trying to set up a good culture, it starts with the company’s leadership. It’s not a defined set of rules, but how everyone acts. The challenge is establishing and maintaining the culture you want, one that creates a workplace people want to be in. Dennis tells you how to create and direct a good company culture, on the job site and in the office, including:

  • Why the owner needs to visit job sites
  • The crucial role of your project manager or lead carpenter
  • How to involve your trade partners on the job site
  • Keeping egos in check
  • The power of a simple greeting
  • The first question to ask on the job site
  • Praising in public, criticizing in private
  • How to manage for success
  • Sharing information
  • Changing the culture — if you’re not the business owner
  • And more …

Your company’s culture on the job site and off can give you a competitive advantage in finding and keeping good team members — a key strategy in beating the labor shortage.

Ep.89: Profit-Sharing Strategies with Shawn McCadden

Money isn’t the only way to motivate your team, but profit sharing can boost morale, productivity, and help attract and keep good production employees.

Profit sharing can be engineered into the budget so there will be funds to distribute. As long as you hit the gross-profit margin, you can set up profit sharing, says Shawn McCadden. But you have to be careful and systematic in creating the system.

In this episode, Shawn discusses profit-sharing strategies with Tim and Steve, and how to create and maintain a profit-sharing program that will motivate your field team.

Shawn is president of Remodel My Business Inc. in Brookline, NH, and is a prominent figure in the remodeling industry. He obtained his builder’s license by age 18; founded, operated, and sold a successful employee-managed design/build firm; co-founded the Residential Design/Build Institute; and went on to become director of education for a national bath and kitchen remodeling franchise company. Today he speaks frequently at industry conferences and trade events. As an award-winning columnist, he contributes to industry publications, blogs, and writes a monthly column for Qualified Remodeler magazine. You can learn more at www.shawnmccadden.com.

You must have a sensible financial system already in place to make profit sharing work, says Shawn. There’s no room for guesswork. You also need a way to measure what’s happening on a job in the same way it was estimated for apples-to-apples comparisons. He discusses how to implement a profit sharing plan and the benefits, including: 

  • Starting with best practices
  • The difference between profit sharing and bonuses
  • Considering profit sharing as an overhead expense
  • Training your staff to understand your budget
  • Testing it before you roll it out
  • Setting the goals
  • When — and how often — to distribute the money
  • Documenting your process 
  • Determining who gets how much
  • Being a competitive employer in your market
  • And more …

The labor shortage is only going to get worse, says Shawn, and a profit-sharing program — along with competitive pay, benefits, and time off — will help your company attract and keep the best employees.

You’ve Got Questions, We’ll Find Answers

This topic was suggested by one of our listeners who wanted to know how to begin a profit-sharing program. If you’ve got a question or idea for a topic or guest, send Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

New Dates for Extreme Business Makeover

Due to schedule conflicts we moved the Extreme Business Makeover to March 30 – 31, 2020. We’re still at the BWI Westin in Baltimore and we’ve added Bruce Case as a featured speaker… More content being added and we’ve got 4-5 great tools that you will be leaving with, so take a look at this event and we would love to see you there!
More information + Registration >>

Ep.88: Women in Production Management with Heather Tankersley

The remodeling and construction industries are dominated by men. Even such necessary things as safety equipment are a bad fit for the few women who are working on the production side in residential remodeling or construction.

But things are slowly changing. More women are showing up on job sites, and working in production and operations management.

In this episode, Heather Tankersley talks about her experiences as an operations manager with Tim and Steve. She discusses what it’s like to be in a management role as a woman in construction and the differences between her experience in commercial and residential projects.

Heather is co-owner of Tankersley Construction in Rancho Cordova, CA, with her husband Steve (check out his episode). Founded three years ago, it’s quickly become one of California’s leaders in residential construction by taking commercial construction principles and applying them to small- and mid-sized homeowner projects. Before working at Tankersley Construction, Heather managed complex projects for some of the largest electrical contractors in the United States. Heather’s prior project experience includes new student housing at Sacramento State University, new classrooms for UC Hastings, medical facility expansion at Folsom State Prison, and multiple VA and healthcare projects throughout Northern California. 

While still working full-time in her previous job, Heather worked with Steve to develop the new company’s processes, and they found the need for an operations manager role. She filled in. Heather manages the pre-construction phase. When the job is handed off to the project managers, Heather oversees the schedules and the progress of each individual job. She talks about what she’s learned and what her prior project management experience has helped her company, including:

  • How she got into the industry
  • Being comfortable with asking the three “whys”
  • Developing organizational skills
  • The need for good people skills
  • Her protocols for keeping information up-to-date
  • The platforms and applications she uses
  • Dealing with gender biases
  • Organizations supporting women in construction
  • Finding mentors 
  • The advantages of being a woman in residential remodeling
  • And more …

Heather says remodelers should look to recruit commercial project managers — male or female — by using the appeal of the more personal, relationship-driven work of residential remodeling.

FREE Webinar coming up in February…

Change Orders: The Top Three $$$ Mistakes Corrected

Join us on Thursday, February 20th as Tim Faller walks you through key strategies for addressing change orders and hitting your profit targets in 2020. This webinar for owners, estimators, and field staff will focus on the top 3 Change Order mistakes companies make that cost them money. We will share Spreadsheet Calculators using real demonstrations – not only how each mistake occurs, but how much it costs you as well. Each mistake will be discussed, and possible solutions presented.
Click Here to Reserve Your Seat >> 

Ep.87: Rising from the Ashes with John Murphy

We all occasionally think about the worst that could happen, like a disaster befalling your business or family. The kinds of thoughts that creep into your brain in the wee hours of the morning, that prompt you to think about how you might handle it. Luckily, for most of us, those imagined catastrophes never materialize.

For John Murphy, though, that nightmarish scenario came true when a building fire broke out in his office/warehouse and shop that housed the company’s paint and fine finishing division. The fire destroyed the building and nearly all of its contents. 

In this episode, John tells Tim and Steve the story of the fire, the immediate aftermath, and how his business survived.

John started Murphy Bros. Design | Build | Remodel in Minneapolis, MN, in 1983, just over a year after he graduated from college in 1981. John had worked part-time in construction starting in high school, and thought his degree was the ticket out of hard physical work. He started his new career in life and annuity insurance sales. After a year, he’d made only about half of what he’d earned as a carpenter. He was married with a new baby. Rather than ask for his job back, he decided to go it alone. The company was first named John Murphy Builders but became Murphy Bros. about a decade later — John’s brothers had joined the business. He says he’s still not sure his degree paid off, but he hung up his tool belt around 1997, and promoted himself to an office job.

Early on the morning of May 23 — the business’s anniversary date — John’s phone lit up in the kitchen. He heard it from his the bedroom, but didn’t answer it until it started ringing again a few minutes later. Picking up, he learned only that there was a fire at the business. He jumped in his truck, got to the office and saw all the emergency vehicles and their flashing lights. He says at first glance it didn’t look terrible from the front. The damage was immense, however. This wasn’t the only thing on his mind, either. His brother had been battling lung cancer, and died only days after the fire. John talks about how he handled it all emotionally and professionally in the short term and beyond, including:

  • Assessing priorities after the fire
  • The benefit of having strong community relationships 
  • How he and the company dealt with jobs in progress
  • The help offered by other remodelers
  • Keeping the business going forward
  • The benefits of having a second office and showroom location
  • Maintaining their public image
  • Why proper record keeping (and storage) is necessary
  • Making the company leaner, stronger, and better
  • Dealing with insurance companies
  • And more …

To help disaster-proof your business, John recommends storing your records and operating in the cloud, an annual detailed review of your insurance policies with your agent, and taking safety training seriously. Here’s the link to the security video of the fire on the Murphy Bros. blog.

Ep.86: Hindsight is 2020

If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do differently when starting your remodeling business if you only knew then what you know now, you’re not alone. 

Tim and Steve do, too. 

In this episode, the guys talk about what they’ve learned in their time at Remodelers Advantage and from their podcast guests that they wish they knew when they were running their own businesses.

They each identified the five biggest takeaways that make remodeling businesses stronger, more profitable, and built for growth. Learn what they think is important and why, including:

  • The power of job descriptions
  • Being financially transparent
  • Protecting profit through data
  • Making business decisions based on numbers, not feelings
  • Learning to sell, not just take orders
  • Getting to a zero punch list
  • And more …

Including the five states Tim still has to visit, as well as sincere thanks from everyone at the show for giving us your time, ideas, and feedback. If you’ve got an idea for a topic or guest, drop Tim a line at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Early Bird Discount Available for The Extreme Business Makeover on January 28-29 in Baltimore – Save $200 by Registering Before January 22nd

Come learn from Tim Faller and some of the most experienced, well-respected speakers, presenters and panelists in the North American remodeling industry. 

The Extreme Business Makeover is two days of interactive, thought-provoking presentations, break-outs and panel discussions with some of the remodeling industry’s best and brightest. The perfect way to prepare your company for 2020 and beyond! Register Today!

Ep.85: [Back-Up] Building a Trade School From Scratch with Richard Laughlin

We’re looking back at some of our most powerful episodes as we end the year. This episode takes a positive and proactive look at solving the skills gap in the remodeling industry. 

Richard Laughlin is taking a grass-roots approach in his small Texas town, with a trade-school program that’s beginning to spread across the state. 

In this episode, Richard talks about re-starting that local trades program with Tim and Steve, and what it does for the students and employers.

Richard Laughlin is the owner of Laughlin Homes & Restoration in Fredericksburg, TX, and is the 2019 recipient of The Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He grew up in large-scale commercial construction with his dad and grandfather, who were general contractors. He attended Fredericksburg Trades school from 1975-78, and won statewide awards in carpentry skills as a sophomore in 1976 and cabinetry in 1977 with a custom built-pool table. He started his own design build custom home business in 1984. LHR has been recognized with dozens of state and national Awards. Richard filmed several episodes of Junk Gypsy on HGTV and was on Extreme Makeover

Richard has great memories of his own trade education, but the program was later downgraded in favor of a more college-prep focus. Kids were no longer getting the kind of time and attention necessary to get construction skills. About four years ago, Richard stepped into the breach, and he appealed to his state representative to get legislation passed that would create an opportunity for skills-based education again. Richard and other builders in his area pulled together to create a trade program that gives students hands-on experience building a custom home over the school year. He talks about how the program got off the ground, and how you can do something similar, including:

  • Showing the school systems the benefits
  • Raising money for a trades program to beat the budget argument
  • Putting together a strategy
  • Getting your subcontractors on board
  • Soliciting tool and materials donation
  • Working for sponsorships
  • Being persistent
  • How it fills jobs later
  • Structuring a non-profit
  • Creating a curriculum
  • Making the time to do it
  • And more …

Restarting the trades program has been very rewarding, he says, and spreading it nationwide is the goal. Read more about it on Richard’s website, or on the Casa Uber Alles Facebook page.

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