Management

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.

Ep.84: Residential vs. Commercial Construction with Steve Tankersley

There can be a bit of a disconnect between folks working in residential and those in commercial construction, and a way of thinking that they’re just completely different. But there are ideas and methods of production that can be used successfully in both.

Steve Tankersley is a third-generation builder whose earliest memories are of being on a jobsite with his father. He earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management from Sacramento State University while working as a carpenter for one of Sacramento’s largest residential remodeling companies. After graduating, Steve was an estimator and project manager overseeing multi-million dollar projects ranging from churches, schools, and hospitals to power plants, train stations, and apartment complexes. 

That’s when Steve first envisioned applying large-scale commercial project management philosophies to small- and mid-sized properties, commercial and residential. 

In this episode, Steve talks about what each side of the industry can learn from the other with Tim and Steve.

Steve and his wife, Heather, founded Tankersley Construction in Rancho Cordova, CA, when he realized that to truly be part of a company he loved, he needed to create it himself. It has quickly grown into one of the Sacramento region’s largest remodeling companies. Tankersley Construction has won multiple NARI awards for their projects, recognizing excellence in design, management, scheduling, and safety. 

About half of Steve’s work is in residential and half in commercial. There are separate management models for each, with different layers of management. He talks about what is the same, what is different, and how to get the best of both worlds, including:

  • Superintendents vs. project managers
  • Who works where — and when
  • Project management and client management
  • Critical-path scheduling
  • Using LEAN in construction
  • Starting at the end, and scheduling backwards
  • Taking the safety culture of commercial into residential
  • Getting selections done
  • And more …

Including how Steve applied what he learned in multi-phase commercial projects that help keep remodeling clients on their own schedules.

Ep.83: Secrets of the Final Completion List with Ed Hoksbergen

If you’re getting to your final walk-through and finding work that’s not done, or not done right, your schedule gets fouled up and your budget is busted. To tie up all the loose ends before they can cost you more time and money, you’ve got to be a step or two ahead of the problems.

A final completion list can help. Ed Hoksbergen uses a 100-point system to ensure a project is complete and up to his company’s standards, and to turn over a job with a zero punch list.

In the episode, Ed discusses using a final completion list with Tim and Steve, including how to set one up and what it can do for your jobs and warranties.

Ed has been the production manager at Encore Homes in Middleton, WI, since 2012. He joined the team as an assistant superintendent in March of 2002 in the multi-family division, and was promoted to I superintend in 2004 in single-family division. Since incorporating this quality assurance form and checklist, Encore has seen their 30-day and one-year punch lists greatly reduced and — in some cases — found nothing on the punch list at the one-year walk-through.

The QA score sheet used to grade a project manager on the completed job. Ed says the form is set up to be done six days prior to closing a project. It’s used to ensure all work is up to Encore standards and to turn over a completed job with a zero punch list. A project manager scoring 96 percent or better is awarded a bonus at the end of the job. Ed talks about how to set up your own completion list, including:

  • Assessing the quality of the work
  • Looking at the details
  • How to close out the job
  • Educating the client
  • How to sell it to your team
  • Determining what’s in or out of a PM’s control
  • And more …

A completion list can help you boost the quality of your work while helping you deliver jobs on time.

If you would like to follow Tim’s adventures on the road….

Every month TIm Faller shares his “From the Field” Newsletter with additional tips, thoughts and tales of his travels across North America, working shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best production teams in the business. If you would like to subscribe to Tim’s Newsletter, CLICK HERE!

Ep.82: Key Performance Indicators for Carpenters & Project Managers with Rick Swanquist

Many problems plaguing production departments end up costing time and money. While it’s clear that there are issues, many remodeling companies can’t pinpoint the causes. 

One way to find out what’s really going on is to establish Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. KPIs allow you to measure how well your production process works. But what should you measure, and how can you do it?

In this episode, Rick Swanquist answers those questions as he joins Tim and Steve to discuss how he uses KPIs to really know what’s going on in his production department, and what it means to his company.

A veteran of the construction industry, with nearly 15 years of project management experience, Rick has been with Main Street Design Build in Birmingham, MI, since 2015. Rick was hired to be a project developer at Main Street, quickly working his way up to project manager, and spent the first two years of his tenure managing projects. He has been a production manager for two years at Main Street. Rick’s passion is scheduling and managing subcontractors and in-house carpenters to see a project through to its completion.

When beginning to institute KPIs in your company, you need to figure out what they’ll be. Rick defines a KPI as a goal that is practicable and repeatable through objectives defined by metrics, that have timelines and targets with methods for predicting and measuring them. The data is collected throughout each project and evaluated at the end. Rick talks about what he looks at, how to set goals, and keeping his team accountable through KPIs, including:

  • What can be measured
  • How to evaluate KPIs
  • The 13 KPIs he uses for carpenters
  • The KPIs for project managers
  • Using the project autopsy to measure performance
  • How long-term measurement ensures accurate assessments
  • How the estimate works in the mix
  • Keeping the process open and transparent
  • Establishing a baseline for expectations
  • How KPIs can boost morale and healthy competition
  • The client satisfaction score
  • And more …

All the KPIs, taken together, allow Rick to see how his team is performing and to identify and solve problems in production quickly. 

Ep.80: Evaluating Trade Partners with Joe Divel

We talk about working with trade partners and subcontractors a lot around here. It can be a complicated and challenging relationship — too often it’s like you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.

Part of any relationship is change, and adjusting to those changes to keep it fresh and healthy. To keep track of those fluctuations, you need to evaluate how you’re working together.

In this episode, Joe Divel talks about trade partner evaluations with Tim and Steve, how they can keep work relationships solid for all parties, and head off problems before they start.

Joe has been with Case Design Remodeling Inc. in the Washington, DC, metro area for 21 years, wearing many hats during that time, mostly in the production area. Currently, as the senior director of recruitment, alliances, and logistics, he helps production by managing the company’s alliances, tracking job completion, and managing field support and safety.

At Case, they refer to how they work with trade partners or subcontractors as an alliance — Joe says that word choice reflects the respect they have for the firms they work with. He talks about how to start and maintain your own evaluation tools and what it can do for your company, no matter what you may call your subcontractors, including:

  • On-boarding new partners
  • What should be evaluated
  • Who you should survey
  • How often to assess the partnership
  • The red flags to look for
  • Sharing the results with partners
  • How to address problems
  • Learning how you can help them
  • And more …

Including why the company checks on proof of insurance from partners, and how much coverage your own firm should carry.

Keeping up with Tim Faller…

Every month, Tim shares personal and professional tips and advice, and some great stories of his adventures out on the Road. “From the Field” is Tim’s monthly Newsletter and is publishing this Thursday… if you aren’t already subscribed, Click here to Jump on Board.  

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