Management

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.55: How Your Team Responds in a Crisis with Don Brees and Alex Pajic

It can take one stroke of bad luck to take a remodeling business’s leader suddenly out of the picture — either temporarily or permanently. The repercussions can be wide and economically traumatic if the remaining team can’t pull together and keep the business running.

When Rosie Romero, the owner (and primary salesperson) of Rosie On The House in Scottsdale, AZ, had an off-road UTV accident that left him severely injured, his team had to regroup quickly in an emotional time to keep the business running.

In this episode, Don Brees and Alex Pajic talk to Tim and Steve about how they — and the whole company — handled the unexpected absence of their leader and friend. For six months, the team relied on each other to continue selling, building, and performing at their peak while Rosie was recovering.

Don started working for Rosie On The House Remodeling in 2016 as the Remodeling Project Manager, and is now a Production Manager. An Arizona native, Don worked for Rosie the first time back in 1993 before venturing out to start his own remodeling, paint and drywall company. He has 37 years of construction and remodeling experience under his belt.

Alex began working with Rosie On The House Remodeling in 2017, and is a Remodeling Project Manager and Sales/Design Consultant.He has 18 years of planning, real estate development, and construction experience. Originally from Croatia, he grew up in Vienna, Austria, and worked on residential developments and projects throughout Europe. He has a passion for sustainable building, architecture, and new technologies in building design and project management.

Don and Alex talk about the first hectic days after the accident, and how Rosie’s wife Jennifer offered her support and guidance to the team while dealing with so much else. It was a traumatic and turbulent time, but they both point to how many details were already in place in the organization to help them all pull together and keep moving forward, including:

  • Why hiring the right people is so important
  • The importance of building information-sharing into your operations
  • Having outside resources in place for support
  • The adjustments they made
  • How to prepare your team for emergencies
  • Reaching out to trade partners
  • Keeping client satisfaction at the center
  • Who plays what role, and how to decide
  • The importance of having someone to trust to sign checks and documents
  • How they dealt with the emotional trauma
  • Why they’re traveling separately from now on
  • And more …

It was a trying period, but the company’s structure already in place and the team’s abilities and attitudes got them through it. Most important, Rosie’s back on his feet and continuing to improve after the accident.

Ep.54: Keeping Long-Term Employees with John Sylvestre

We’re once again talking about the labor crisis in the remodeling industry, but from a different angle. Developing an environment that will keep the employees you have, and help them grow in their roles, will help your company prosper.

In this episode, John Sylvestre talks to Tim and Steve about how he’s created a company that keeps employees — and keeps them happy.

John is the owner of Sylvestre Remodeling and Design in Minneapolis. He paid his way through school by remodeling and building homes and graduated with two degrees in architecture. He’s chaired the NARI education committee and the certification committee and also developed and implemented the Certified Lead Carpenter program. He has won numerous awards for his work in education including the Harold Hammerman Award from NARI. He says he has the best job in the world, drinking coffee and talking with people about changing their homes.

John’s team is filled with long-term employees — his Field Supervisor has been with him for 37 years, and was his first hire, his Production Manager for 26 years, and his Lead Carpenter for 27 years. He talks about how he finds and hires great people, and how he keeps them, including:

  • Letting people go in a direction they choose
  • Hiring well-rounded people
  • Understanding limits
  • Hiring for culture fit
  • Empowering your employees to make decision
  • Asking the right questions to spur hiring and development
  • How to train in your organization
  • Why his company’s like a hockey team
  • Mystery bus trips
  • Keeping your great people during downturns
  • Staying flexible
  • And more …

Including why having fun is so important in keeping the team members you want to remain with you.

We Love Your Ideas

Keep them coming! Send your suggestions for a topic or guest to Tim at tim@remdoldersadvantage.com.

Ep.51: Getting a Trade Show Education with Lauren Moore

We’ve talked about trade schools and skills training, but today we focus on what you can learn at trade events. Attending and sending your team can broaden everyone’s skill sets and knowledge bases.

In this episode, Lauren Moore discusses what goes on behind the scenes at shows and events with Tim and Steve, why you should consider attending, and why sending your team is great idea.

Lauren has been in the conference planning and continuing education industry for almost 10 years. She started out working within medical education and is now concentrating on construction professionals. Lauren’s goal is to curate the best, most timely, and well-rounded education programs possible for her attendees. Working with industry professionals, she organizes and manage over 150 sessions and 75 speakers annually at the JLC Live events as well as the Remodeling Show co-located with Deck Expo. Each education program takes up to 10 months to plan and produce, forcing her to become a master in organization.

If you’ve never been to a trade show or conference, Lauren says you should just start on the show floor, and maybe one session in the conference program. Then look at it from your team’s perspective — what do they need to know? She stresses the importance of:

  • Live demonstrations for technical education
  • What you can learn from distributors
  • Why networking is a huge education component
  • Why the admission and other fees can turn into savings on the job
  • Getting continuing education credits
  • How to set it up for your team
  • And more …

Including where to find the free beer. Every little bit of knowledge gained can save time and money on the job site, paying dividends on your investment.

Keep It Up!

We’ve gotten some great suggestions so far for topics and guests — share your ideas with Tim: tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.50: Choosing Estimating Software with Jef Forward

Estimating accurately is critical to the success of any remodeling business. As you grow your business or hand off estimating to an employee, having the right system in place is paramount. It can feel like an overwhelming decision — there’s so much software available. The wrong decision will cost you lost revenue, but even worse — lost time.

Fortunately, there’s a simple strategy to help you navigate this very important decision.

In this episode, Jef Forward talks about estimating software with Tim and Steve. He’s worked with several estimating software packages and systems over the years, and shares what he’s learned.

Jef Forward is the founder — and co-owner with his wife Monica — of Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor, MI. For more than 20 years, Jef has performed every role within the company, including designer, laborer, carpenter, bookkeeper and estimator — you name it, he’s done it. Now with 24 employees, Jef has two full-time estimators.

Start your decision-making by looking at two factors — getting the estimate itself right and how the program’s output will be presented to someone other than the estimator — especially your clients. The first step is to not look at any software, Jef says. You can get distracted by all the bells and whistles of new programs and miss whether it will really work for you. He talks about the vetting process, what it can do for your estimating, and some of his favorite software choices, including:

  • How to create a Process & Needs document
  • Integrations with other programs
  • Deciding on must-haves and nice-to-haves
  • Mixing and matching vs. all-inclusive systems
  • Not looking for quick fixes
  • Evaluating and testing
  • Who to involve in making choices
  • The fine art of guessing
  • What to do by hand vs. what’s automatic
  • Slicing and dicing information
  • Client presentations and reports
  • And more …

Choosing the right estimating software for your company depends on many factors, but the work done up front will ensure you’re not saddled with a system that doesn’t fit. Taking the time and involving the team will help you make the right pick.

Tell Us More!

Do you have a suggestion for a topic or guest for an upcoming episode? Send Tim an email: tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.47: An Introduction to LEAN with Doug Howard

Today we’re talking about LEAN in Production. Doug Howard has been helping remodeling companies see how they can make their processes better, cut wasted effort, and streamline their systems for better profits.

In this episode, Doug talks to Tim and Steve about what it can do for your company — especially in Production.

Doug Howard, RA’s director of consulting services, is an entrepreneur, government official and small business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in leading organizations and assisting his client companies.

LEAN is the idea of having principles and practices to fuel continuous improvement.

One of the best things about LEAN is how clear and simple the concepts are to understand — it works as well for small- to medium-sized companies as it does for huge global enterprises. Doug talks about getting from your current state to your future state with fewer steps in your processes, and where to start, including:

  • The Eight Wastes, and how to eliminate them
  • How to apply the Five Whys to Production to find the root cause
  • Addressing the workplace with the Five Ss
  • How LEAN works with the Zero Punch List concept
  • How it improves the customer experience
  • Why LEAN is like a GPS
  • Involving your subs in the process
  • Conditioning your thought process for the long haul
  • And more …

Including Tim’s interpretation of what LEAN stands for. You’ll learn how to build a system that fits your business.

 

Want to Get LEAN? Online LEAN Course Enrolling Now

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What’s on Your Mind?

If you have an idea for a guest or topic for the show, let Tim know at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.
 
 

Ep.45: The Strength of a Technical Education with Paul Lewandowski

Technical education at the high school level seems to be fading, but it’s growing at the college level. There are more programs turning out skilled workers that can start producing for home remodeling and construction companies on Day One.

In this episode, Paul Lewandowski of Fox Valley Technical College talks to Tim and Steve about the benefits of a technical education for students and their employers.

Paul has taught residential building construction at FVTC in Oshkosh, WI, for 18 years. The program started in the late 1990s, when members of the local home builders association and the local NARI chapter approached the college hoping to start a program to train carpenters primarily for the residential market.

Every year, students build a nearly custom 2,000-sq.-ft. house for the college’s foundation, which is sold at market-rate to fund future home-building projects and scholarships. The scholarships can be used by students throughout the college, not just the building students.

Paul talks about the program, what his students learn — and how. Half of their time is spent in the shop at the school, the other half building the house. He discusses how you can take steps to get organized and help build trade programs at schools near you, as well as:

  • Where FVTC finds students
  • How he teaches quality carpentry
  • The paper test for trimwork
  • The tools required of students
  • Where they get jobs after graduation
  • What remodelers can expect from the students
  • Getting more women into the programs and industry
  • Finding trade colleges near you
  • Dealing with unions
  • And more…

The best thing you can do to solve your labor shortage and promote the industry as a great place to work is to get involved and be persistent at the local level.

Keep Talking To Us

We asked for suggestions for guests and topics, and you’re coming through — thanks! If you’ve got an idea for us, drop Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.43: The Importance of Job Autopsies with Chris Beck

A good job autopsy can lay the foundation for better processes and more profits for your company. But you have to do it right. Some companies use them like a club, which leads to finger-pointing and the blame game. Some owners just brood over the numbers and do nothing. But the numbers tell the story, and doing the forensics can tell you how to improve.

In this episode, Tim and Steve talk to Chris Beck of Normandy Remodeling in Hinsdale, IL. Normandy Remodeling has just started involving Production in the job autopsy process at the close of a project.

Chris has been with Normandy for 11 years. He started as Superintendent, and was promoted to Production Manager in April 2015, then Director of Production in January 2018. In 2018, it marked the fourth year in a row of record produced volume. Last year, they completed 220 jobs.

Chris began involving Production in Normandy’s job autopsies last year. Previously, the autopsy had been more focused on sales and design. He saw slippage increasing, and needed to figure out why that was happening. He discusses how what data to look at, and how having Production in a job review can make significant changes for the better, including:

  • How to make changes so you’re not repeating mistakes
  • Getting involved in the financials
  • Changing processes
  • Why it can help you refine your cost book for the higher-end projects
  • Avoiding finger-pointing and blame
  • Why an interactive culture makes it all easier
  • What to document and why
  • Bringing it all together
  • Handling issues before the job ends — or even starts
  • How much time it takes
  • And much more…

Including how to pitch it to your owner if your company isn’t doing a post-mortem. Taking the steps toward doing a complete job autopsy can take you from good to great, and find extra profits for you company.

It’s Your Turn

We’re getting great suggestions for topics and guests — what do you want to hear us talk about? Shoot Tim and email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com with your ideas about subjects to cover and guests to talk to!

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