Management

Ep.32: The Importance of Hands-On Tool Training with Gary Katz

Skills training is a hot topic, but too few companies are doing anything more than discussing it. The industry can no longer count on anyone else to do the basic training for trade skills, those in the remodeling business need to do it to help solve our labor shortage.

There’s also a fear of training employees, just to see them leave with their new skills to work for someone else. But training your employees will help the industry as a whole, and that means taking responsibility and doing something about it, says Gary Katz.

In this episode Gary tells Tim and Steve about why — and how — companies can commit to training their people to keep up with new technologies and products, and build your business.

Gary is the publisher of THISisCarpentry.com, an online magazine devoted to craftsmen and craftsmanship. For two decades he has been a frequent contributor to Fine Homebuilding, Journal of Light Construction, Fine Woodworking, and other leading trade magazines. Gary’s books include The Doorhanger’s Handbook, Finish Carpentry: Efficient Techniques for Custom Interiors, and Trim Made Simple. His DVD series, Mastering Finish Carpentry, sets the standard for professional video instruction in the construction trades. The Katz Roadshow provides hands-on training at lumber yards and other locations to share techniques and best practices with industry professionals.

To ramp up your in-house training, you have to create a systems-based approach to everything your people do. Everyone has to do everything the same way, and having a dedicated training facility is ideal — but you can train your team without it. Start by reading your trade magazines, go to demonstrations at trade shows, and create a library of DVDs. Gary shares his insights on training, including:

  • Why everything moves — and how understanding that changes the way you build
  • Why training will actually help you keep the employees you want
  • How to ultimately pass the cost on to your clients
  • The steps to getting into a training mindset
  • Making it fun 
  • Unleashing the power of true craftsmanship
  • Tips on vetting new products
  • And more…

The underlying importance in training is teaching your people how to think, to figure out how to to adapt techniques to new materials, products, and tools. To find out more about training your team, and where to find the resources to do it, email Gary at gary@garymkatz.com.

Ep.31: Tim and Steve’s Top 10 Episodes (So Far)

We’re taking a stroll down memory lane, to pick our Top 10 moments from our first 30 episodes. These episodes discuss the big ideas that can really change your company and how you do business. Every time we talk to a guest, we come away with something new. Although we look at Production, our biggest takeaways are how important it is to involve your whole team, from Sales to Design to Production, and to make work more meaningful and fun.

If you’re new to the podcast, or may have missed a couple episodes, here’s a handy list of links to the 10 episodes Tim and Steve consider their best so far, and why. The subjects and guests cover a lot of ground, so take a look and then give them a listen!

No. 5

Steve’s Pick

Ep.04: Running Effective Production Meetings with Teri McDermott. Teri came back from our Production Conference in 2017 and completely blew up her company’s process. She realized they were doing what they’ve always done, and it was going nowhere. She got her team involved, getting feedback to make their meetings more meaningful. She paired Design and Production people to talk about the problems, how to solve them, and changed the entire dynamic of how her team worked together.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.23: Controlling Scope Creep With Sales Change Orders with Will Giesey

Will talked about something that could change the industry across the board. By introducing the idea of a core scope of work, with change orders occurring during the design process, you can cushion the blow of escalating prices on clients while maintaining margins. Will’s Production Manager Ryan Stiffney joined us, and talked about how important it is that their clients are already used to change orders and how it reduces stress for everyone.

No. 4

Steve’s Pick

Ep.12: Making the Transition from Home Building to Remodeling with Kevin Gregory

Kevin talks of his experiences and the differences in speed and quality between large-production new-home building and remodeling, and why things are the way they are. Learn about how you can successfully make the change to remodeling — where turnaround time is longer, quality has to be better, and you interact much more with clients — and how to lead workers through it.

Tim’s Pick:

Ep.01: Hiring Out of Trade Schools with David Keebler

Tim expresses some disappointed in our industry not getting new people into our business and not taking responsibility for making it happen. In this, our first episode, David talks about his company’s active involvement in their local trade school — and talks to one of its graduates, Al Chieffo, a carpenter who was hired right out of school.

No. 3

Steve’s Pick

Ep.10: Customer Satisfaction; Communication & Setting Expectations with Sal Alfano

Sal just showers you with wisdom, Steve says, and he draws on deep and wide experience in the industry. He talks about craftsmanship, communication, and running efficient projects. You can hear Sal discuss the importance of transparency in the industry, and how to protect your body when doing physical work.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.30: Building Systems in Production with Brad Hogan

If you can create only one system, it’s the process map — figuring out what happens in the entire process from the first client call to closing up the job. Once you’ve got that in place, you can go back to create systems for each step and department.

No. 2

Steve’s Pick

Ep.09: Keeping Craft Alive & Closing the Skills Gap with Rob Yagid

Rob took it upon himself to change something in the industry by leading the movement to celebrate the trades as a real career path by founding the Keep Craft Alive initiative. Created to help close the skills gap and encourage training and education, the campaign funds scholarships and publicizes the campaign in media outlets, and has popularized the hashtag #KeepCraftAlive.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.25: How to Fire a Client with Jackie Stezik

Every contractor has thought about it, and wanted to do it, but Jackie has fired clients — four times, in fact, and always for the good of her team. The first step is getting your contract language in line, and creating a process that allows you to get out of an abusive or dangerous situation.

No. 1

Steve’s Pick

Ep.03: Zero Punch List Production with Michael Barkhouse

Michael focused on solving the fatal flaw in a project — how to leave no error or step behind. He explains how to set your standards and expectations, and how to make that happen in real life. Getting to zero starts with sales, and continues through the process. If everyone expects it, the team’s behavior changes.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.05: Creative Ways to Motivate Your Production Team with Brad Yetman

For Tim, it’s not so much about the games, but about creatively motivating your people and making it fun. Using contests and games motivates people and makes work more enjoyable. You have to identify the problem you want to solve, figure out how to keep score, and let the team figure out what the reward should be.

We’d love to hear from you!

If you’ve got an idea for a topic, or have solved a nagging Production problem, let us know. Shoot Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com. And if you’re enjoying The Tim Faller Show and learning while you do it, please spread the word and leave us a review on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

Ep.30: Building Systems in Production with Brad Hogan

Systems aren’t just for manufacturing or assembling a fast-food burger. There are tasks remodeling companies do every day, week, and month on every job. As your company grows, building systems into your business and production processes to standardize this work is a necessary step to avoid total chaos and wasted time.

In this episode, Brad Hogan drops by to talk systems with Tim and Steve, and how they’ve made a huge difference in how his company works.

Brad’s the Production Manager for Hogan Design & Construction, a full-service  design/build firm  in Geneva, IL, 45 miles west of Chicago. Hogan Design & Construction  works on commercial and residential remodels. Brad started with the company  in 2002 as a laborer. He worked his way up the ranks, becoming Production Manager in 2011, and began developing, changing and implementing the systems that make Hogan Design & Construction the premier choice for remodeling in the western suburbs of Chicago.

The tipping point comes when you have more than one person handling everything, says Brad. Then you have to pin things down. To start, put together an outline of the project, from first contact with the client to the end of the job. Figure out how to repeat successes and avoid the mistakes you’ve had on previous jobs. A good set of systems allows you to track it all to see what works and what doesn’t. Listen as Brad explains how to get started building your own systems:

  • The Top 3 systems you need to implement
  • Being open to changing the processes
  • Talking with your team
  • Getting people to buy in
  • When to allow some flexibility
  • Creating stop-gaps outside the systems
  • Legal issues that may come up
  • Setting expectations for trade partners
  • And more…

It’s all about getting things done, creating structure, and making sensible, repeatable processes. Brad also gives Roundtables a shout-out for making him able to get all these systems tightened up and in place.

 

Ep.29: Talking Job-Site Safety with Dale Nikula

Accidents happen on the job,  and luckily most are relatively minor — cuts, bruises, maybe stitches — but they can be more serious. Then everyone tightens up and pays attention, but that attention tends to fade. Getting jobs done once again becomes the focus, with maybe a few thoughts toward what could have happened. But a major accident could put your company out of business.

Dale Nikula and his company faced the worst that could happen. In 2003, one of his project managers died of head trauma after a fall.

In this episode, Dale talks to Tim and Steve about leading his company through that loss, and getting through the regulatory investigations. He had to take a hard look at how to keep his company thinking about safety — all the time.

Dale is the president of Encore Construction in Dennisport, MA. After working for his father for many years, he founded his own company in 1995 as Dale R. Nikula Co. Inc. Dale had established a reputation as an outstanding carpenter, but clients quickly discovered that he was equally talented at leading people and projects. The company grew steadily as word spread about Dale’s high standards and commitment to his clients. In 2003, Dale renamed his company Encore Construction to reflect the team of carefully selected project managers, designers, and craftspeople that joined him to serve customers.

After the fatal accident, Dale took important steps to keep his company together and get through the investigations. But he went a step farther, concentrating on how to keep his job sites safer, including hiring a retired OSHA official to consult and help create a formal safety program. It has to become a part of your production program, Dale says, and go beyond merely meeting requirements. He shows you how to create safer work sites, including:

  • Managing safety on a day-to-day basis
  • The critical nature of a job-site presence
  • Why OSHA never considers anything an accident
  • Naming a safety officer who’s in the field
  • Making the safety officer accountable
  • The two-strike rule
  • Covering safety in your budgets
  • The quality of safety equipment
  • Getting sub-contractors to buy in
  • And more…

Safety has to be top-of-mind, not an afterthought. One accident can put you out of business overnight. It’s a heavy topic, but one you should face head-on.

Ep.28: Building the Ladder of Opportunity with David Keebler

Hiring and retention are big issues everywhere. As much as we talk about salary and bonuses, the way to get workers to stick around isn’t always about money. It’s more about the culture of your business, and the way you treat your employees from day one.

You need to give people a vision for what they can become, from the first interview. David Keebler returns to the podcast to talk to Tim and Steve about his ladder of opportunity, a step-by-step systematic approach to training and keeping good people.

David is the Production Manager for Harth Builders in Spring House, PA, and a Roundtables member since 2014. He oversees three Project Managers and six Lead Carpenters who are on target to produce $7 million this year.

The ladder is a roadmap for for potential growth for workers in the field. It quantifies what it takes to move up the ladder. In this competitive labor market, a ladder of opportunity can be the difference between a worker taking a job with your company.

David recommends giving yourself a deadline to create this ladder — gather input and commit to a deadline. Get buy-in and information from your Project Managers and Lead Carpenters. Set up a document that shows what is needed to advance, along with a realistic timeline. You’ll learn the benefits of implementing this system, including how it can:

  • Reduce bickering and complaining
  • Set clear expectations for pay rates
  • Identify where your workers want to go
  • Create a clear system for reviews
  • Boost in motivation at all levels
  • Accelerate training and scheduling
  • Become a marketing tool
  • Plus much more…

You’ll also learn how to train your employees to teach their field teams. Tapping into the knowledge of your team and setting clear goals will empower your production and hiring processes.

Ep.27: Building Great Trade Partnerships with Cory Fields

The term “trade partners” is beginning to replace subcontractor, and it’s a growing concept in the remodeling industry. It redefines the relationship, too, putting it on an even playing field.

But it’s more than just a term, and Cory Fields says they’re separate roles. A trade partnership is like a marriage, based on trust and mutual interest, and you work with them from project to project. You’re just dating your subcontractor, though, working on building a relationship that might not work out anyway.

In this episode, Cory explains more about the trade partner relationship to Tim and Steve, and why it can help your company get through the challenges of finding in-house employees in a labor shortage.

Cory is the Production Manager at Schroeder Design/Build in Fairfax, VA. He’s been there for a little more than four years, starting with four carpenters and three or four trusted trade partners, and growing his team to 14 carpenters and 10-15 trade partners.

Finding a trusted trade partner is a process, one built on clear communication and mutual respect. When you find the right ones, they can help you manage a job better than you could on your own. Cory talks about his interview process, and how he works with trade partners, including:

  • The importance of fair pricing
  • Working with you vs. working for you
  • How to move forward after conflict
  • Why you should never hold money back from a trade partner, even if it’s their mistake
  • Wanting the best for them and you
  • And more…

Building relationships isn’t easy, but finding and developing the right trade partners can make you more competitive and profitable.

Ep.26: Managing Your Clients Through Weekly Meetings with Pete Carey

One of the biggest factors in creating success as a remodeling company is keeping clients happy, and a big part of that is how you manage your jobs. Keeping a pulse on the emotional well-being of your clients with weekly meetings keeps the client on your team, while you manage the job.

Pete Carey drops by to talk to Tim and Steve about how to schedule and run weekly meetings, and why it works.

Pete started working as a carpenter for Riverside Construction in West Lafayette, IN, in the fall of 2001, thinking he’d be there for six months. Instead, he’s been with the company ever since. In April of 2018, he moved into the position of Production Manager, and is enjoying the new challenges that come with the role.

You’ve all worked on jobs that were successful in terms of budget, schedule, and finished product, but the clients were still grumpy at the end. Weekly meetings can help avoid that — but you have to make them productive. It’s not just another meeting for the sake of having one, you’ve got to make sure it’s a vehicle for the larger goal of caring for your clients’ emotional well-being. Pete guides you through the process that works, including:

  • How to set expectations with the clients
  • The two statements and one question that lead to productive meetings
  • How to train Project Managers to run them successfully
  • The key to letting clients know you care
  • Accentuating the positive
  • When to bring in help
  • And much, much more…

Empowering and trusting your Project Managers to set and run weekly meetings is a huge step in creating raving fans and boosting referrals.

Ep.25: How to Fire a Client with Jackie Stezik

If you’ve been in remodeling for any length of time, you’ve probably wished you could fire a nightmare client on a bad job. But you don’t, because you’ll lose money, risk your good reputation, and you’ve got a contract.

Jackie Stezik has done it four times — always for the good of her employees.

In this episode, Jackie talks to Tim and Steve about how she does it, what’s in her contracts, and the tipping points that lead to the decision.

Jackie has a master’s in administration and policy, and is the Project Manager at Multi-Trade Building Services in Oshawa, Ontario. Her education, coupled with 15 years in the remodeling business — “renovating” in Canada — has shown her that it’s necessary to recognize when it’s time to fire a client.

Jackie says they never take the step lightly. In all four cases, it was in reaction to emotionally or physically abusive clients who repeatedly made work miserable or dangerous. This episode tells you how Multi-Trade protects their team through:

  • The cancellation clause in their contracts
  • Knowing when to pull that trigger
  • The red flags to look for early
  • Why it’s their fault, but that’s OK
  • The importance of having a lawyer’s advice
  • Why you should have another job to go to
  • Keeping thorough documentation
  • And more…

A disclaimer: You should get your own legal advice regarding laws in your area affecting having a similar cancellation clause in your contract. But if you’ve ever dreamed of firing a problem client, this is the episode for you.

Ep.23: Controlling Scope Creep With Sales Change Orders with Will Giesey

There’s a traditional divide between Sales and Production. It’s always a challenge — they have different goals, processes, and personalities. Typically, Production is left out of the conversation when it comes to scope creep, leading to delays and change orders during construction — and disgruntled clients.

Will Giesey and his team are changing that situation through careful communication, new processes, and using change orders negotiated by Sales during the design process to set client expectations and streamline the Production process.

In this episode, Will brings along his Production Manager Ryan Stiffney to explain the process to Tim and Steve.

Will founded Bellweather Construction in 2002 in Philadelphia, PA. He earned his MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and studied fine art at Lawrence College, including concentrations in design and architecture. He holds multiple certifications with the National Association for the Remodeling Industry and other related credentials.

Ryan worked in the trades through high school and college. Ryan became Bellweather’s production manager in 2017 and handles internal sales-to-production project hand-offs, client communication, and trade partner relationships.

By introducing the idea of a core scope of work, with change orders occurring during the design process, Bellweather has been able to cushion the blow of escalating prices on their clients while maintaining margins. Get the details on how they make it work, including:

  • The importance of communication
  • Who should sign off on the contracts and why
  • How to explain it to clients
  • Why it works to vet good clients
  • The three phases of change orders
  • Why talk isn’t cheap — or free
  • And so much more…

For Bellweather, more time in the design process leads to a better Production process — and satisfied clients. For more on Bellweather, check out the website.

 

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Ep. 22: Creating Bonus & Incentive Programs with Robert Criner

It’s a constant conundrum — how to motivate your people. Bonuses and incentives can work, but you have to structure them in a way that speaks to something more meaningful than just extra cash in pocket. Many business owners have tried, many have failed, and some have just given up.

If you fall into the camp of not knowing exactly how (or why) to create a bonus and incentive program, Robert Criner has answers for you.

In this episode, Robert, Tim, and Steve talk about finding the deeper motivation for offering bonuses and incentives. It all revolves around building a team you want to keep around.

Robert is the president of Criner Remodeling in Newport News, VA. Robert founded the company in 1977, and has led it to success and profitability. Robert began working for a remodeling contractor in the summer of 1972, when he started his own one-man operation, and today has a team of 15 professionals. He is deeply involved in the remodeling industry, his community, and takes the time to give back locally and nationally.

The root of a successful program is getting your team excited and involved. Tying rewards to job budgets encourages Production leads to pay attention to what’s being spent on a job, and how it all adds up. Robert tells you how to put a goal-oriented program in place, and the benefits he’s seen, with details such as:

  • How to change behaviors on the job
  • Why dumping a big pile of money on a table makes an impression
  • Structuring your company for employee growth
  • Bonuses vs. incentives and how they motivate differently
  • Including the office staff along with Production in rewards
  • Inspiring envy in your competitors’ employees
  • And so much more…

Above all, keep it simple. Setting clear goals is the first step. And there’s also a definite bonus in it for remodeling business owners — you’ll attract and retain great employees, while making work fun and profitable for everyone.

 

Who Should Attend the PURPLE Production Conference?

This action packed conference is designed to meet the needs of all management level production staff including:

  • Remodeling Business Owners Focused on Production
  • Production Managers
  • Project Managers
  • Lead Carpenters