Operations

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!

Ep.42: Becoming a Production Manager Without a Construction Background with Brad Yetman

With growth comes a need to hire a Production Manager — someone responsible for the entire department. It can be a difficult transition to move a Production Manager or Lead Carpenter up into that role. It’s about managing a department and the people, and it’s much more complex than running a job. Your company may benefit by looking outside the industry for your Production Manager. 

In this episode, Brad Yetman talks to Tim and Steve about his experience coming into a Production Manager role from outside the remodeling and residential construction industries.

Brad is the vice president of construction, as well as part owner of Anthony Wilder Design/Build in Cabin John, MD. Brad is responsible for overseeing the production department, which produced about $14,000,000 last year. Brad has developed a financially focused approach to production management with an emphasis on “knowing the numbers,” both in the field and in the office, an approach which fits well with the company’s open book policy. But it wasn’t always a smooth transition.

Before joining Anthony Wilder, Brad had a limited background in carpentry and construction. He had worked in in commercial development and real estate. When he took the Production Manager job, he was overwhelmed for the first six months. In his second six months, he began to figure out it was about managing a department and people — and keeping a keen eye on profits. He tells business owners why and how to look outside the industry, as well as what to do when your hire someone, including:

  • Hiring for cultural fit
  • Setting Gross Profit and Net Profit goals at the outset
  • Bypassing hostility from within the department
  • Translating the numbers for those in the field
  • Networking to find an outside candidate
  • The importance of staying open to learning
  • And much more…

Including why having dogs in your office is a cool idea. But the most important thing, says Brad, is hiring a good manager — because the industry specifics can be learned.

What’s the Big Idea?

Do you have a great idea for a future topic or guests? Shoot Tim and email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

 

Project Manager Training with the Experts at Remodelers Advantage

Remodelers Advantage presents a Masterclass course designed specifically for Project Management personnel in the remodeling and custom-building industries.

This program, led by Tim Faller, Victoria Downing and Doug Howard, consists of two days of intensive training and instruction focused on two of the most important aspects of managing a project; (1) hitting the agreed-upon budget and (2) working with and managing the team effectively. Click here for more information.

 
 

Ep.40: Seeing Your Jobs from the Trade’s Point of View with Jason Wright

As the old saying goes, to truly understand someone else’s situation, you have to walk a mile in their shoes. In our case, it’s more like work all day in their OSHA-approved work boots, but the intention is the same.

There’s always at least two points of view in any interaction. Running a small business with multiple jobs going at once is challenging. Sure, many remodeling owners started out that way, but things have changed a lot in only the past few years. Many of your Trade Partners also have a service division, which can affect how they schedule their work with remodelers.

In this episode, electrical contractor Jason Wright talks to Tim and Steve about what his business challenges are, and what he looks for in a Trade Partner for his company. Building relationships with effective communication is vitally important.

For the past 24 years, Jason has built an electrical contracting company from the ground up based on hard work, excellence in service, and high standards in character and generosity, Jason Wright Electric is now one of the premiere electrical contractors in Kansas City, MO, sought out by designers and contractors. His commitment to personalized service sets the company apart from its competitors. He describes his view of personalized service like the marriage of a concierge and an electrician.

As successful as Jason and his company is, he highly values faith and family. His employees are more like a family than a company. A veteran himself, he employs veterans and persons of character. Jason is active in his church and is always looking for ways to bless others, knowing that his business will always be taken care of in the end.

Jason describes what an effective partnership looks like from his viewpoint. It relies on his company’s commitment to an effective scheduling system to keep in contact with the general contractors or remodelers. He also talks about what his company does to boost communications and relationships with his core group of contractors, including:

  • Understanding everyone’s challenges
  • How he “trains” his remodeling and contracting partners
  • Why every day can’t be an emergency
  • How he vets new partners
  • Building a platform for trust
  • Addressing the good as well as the bad
  • Avoiding personal attacks
  • Setting expectations and priorities
  • And more…

It’s a fascinating look at what jobs look like from the other side of the Remodeler/Trade Partner relationship.

Have an Idea for an Upcoming Show?

If you’ve got an idea for a subject or guest for an upcoming episode of The Tim Faller Show, send an email to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com, or drop a suggestion in the comments below!

Ep.39: Hitting Production Schedules with Keith Blose

Meeting client expectations and getting jobs done profitably greatly depends on hitting your schedule. Cloud-based software makes it simpler to set up a schedule, but you still have to get your staff, Trade Partners and other Subs to understand and follow through on those plans.

In this episode, Keith Blose talks scheduling with Tim and Steve. He shares how important it is to his projects to have what he calls an aggressive schedule, and how to get everyone involved and on board.

Keith is a top Project Manager with Amiano & Son Construction in Tabernacle, NJ. He has been with the company for three years but had deep experience before joining the team. One of his accomplishments was becoming a senior project manager through his constant growth and dedication to his clients and their projects.

Keith’s success with scheduling relies on creating great communication between all the parties involved — Sales, Production, Trade Partners, and especially the client. He talks about what he means by aggressive scheduling, and how that helps create communication. The key to making the schedule come true is fully understanding the job. Keith talks about all that includes:

  • Understanding individual clients’ needs
  • Knowing your Trade Partners and their work
  • Front-loading schedules
  • Working damaged goods into the schedule
  • Using IOU forms for the client
  • Working with Sales throughout the construction process
  • Being realistic about your schedule
  • Allowing for bad weather
  • And more…

Setting expectations early with a clear and realistic schedule will help you move jobs through the Production pipeline quickly, on time, and boost your profits.

Ep.38: Working with Trades On-Site with John Vendafreddo

When you’re managing a project, you need your Trade Partners and Subcontractors to work with you, not against you. That means you need to build strong relationships and make them feel like they’re all part of the same team.

The three main things to help that along, says John Vendafreddo, is to do your research to ensure you’re hiring right, pay Subs as quickly as you can after they’re done, and make sure the job site is 100% ready for them on the day they’re scheduled to start.

In this episode, John talks to Tim and Steve about what how to create and maintain great relationships with Trade Partners and Subs.

After realizing the carpenters union was not for him, John called his cousin Brian Hogan to ask if he was hiring, and if he offered health insurance. John started with Hogan Design & Construction in Geneva, IL, in 2005 as a laborer. He quickly learned the skills in the field and was promoted to Lead Carpenter in 2007. From there, he built relationships with subcontractors and homeowners and took an interest management. In 2012, he was promoted to Project Manager. John just completed HDC’s first new-construction home, and is currently managing four other new developments.

Communication is the key to building relationships, and John walks you through the process of how he interacts with his Subs. That starts early, with a verbal heads-up on another job, followed by a formal welcome letter. He talks about the importance of having everything ready on site and — in HDC’s case — on BuilderTrend, giving Subs access to the plans, selections and schedule information. He also talks about how to:

  • Keep Subs loyal longer
  • Control Sub’s prices from jumping up
  • Learn from previous inspections
  • Manage change orders and maintaining proper channels
  • Put two Subs on-site at the same time
  • Figure out which Subs can overlap
  • Manage them once they’re there
  • And more…

If you want to learn how to manage your Subs better, streamline your production schedule, and get more jobs done on time and on budget, there’s a whole lot to consider in this episode.

 

Ep.37: How to Prevent Employee Poaching with Erika Taylor

Although wages and benefits are rising faster in the remodeling industry than in others, the labor shortage remains an ongoing problem. Good talent is hard to find. Many companies are poaching production staff from other firms to solve their problems.

In this episode, Erika Taylor talks to Tim and Steve about the issue, why it happens, and how to structure your company to keep your workers from being lured away. It goes well beyond wages — and Erika also discusses the results of a national survey of pay and benefits from Professional Remodeler.

Erika Taylor is director of content for Professional Remodeler. She’s also served as an editorial director with Hanley Wood and as a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Her work has been published in Los Angeles magazine and the LA Weekly. A native of New York and California, she currently lives in Dallas.

You have to fully engage your employees in your company to reduce the risk that someone else can woo them away. According to the survey, remodelers say they plan wage increases across the board and remodelers are more likely to offer benefits than other small-business employers. So throwing more money at the problem isn’t going to make it go away, because more money is out there anyway. Erika tells you how to proactively structure your company so employees want to stay with you, including:

  • What goes into a great culture, and why you need to have one
  • The importance of training to beat the labor shortage
  • Taking a hard look at what it’s like to work for your company
  • How to hire for culture
  • Identifying and living your company values
  • Why you should have quarterly check-ins with your employees
  • Identifying areas of growth for your people
  • The importance of trust and transparency across the board
  • And much more…

To learn more about developing your company culture, Tim highly recommends reading First Break All the Rules, from Gallup — it’s a great companion to this episode.

Ep.36: Creating Comfortable Buildings Through Energy Efficiency with John Viner

Remodeling solutions that make people more comfortable in their homes, while saving energy, are becoming more important to remodelers and homeowners. Researchers and specialists are diving into this, and manufacturers are creating new products that will achieve those goals.

But it’s still not simple. You have to look at the building itself — not just the addition you’re building or the rooms you’re remodeling — as its own unique system, says John Viner.

In this week’s episode, John talks with Tim and Steve about working toward zero-energy buildings, and what that takes.

John’s a Senior Project Manager at Seventhwave in Madison, WI, a non-profit dedicated to solving technical problems when transitioning to clean energy, and working with state, government and local utilities to save energy. He develops and manages education programs for residential, commercial, and industrial building professionals. His specialty is working with energy-efficiency programs, working with customers and trade partners to identify knowledge gaps, and creating content that empowers utilities, builders, and consumers to change their energy use. As a technical expert, John keeps his skills sharp with in-the-field projects as part of Seventhwave’s research and program evaluation program.

Also, much like Consumer Reports, Seventhwave test products to make sure manufacturer’s claims about energy-efficiency actually work in the real world.

So many factors combine to make a building energy-efficient, comfortable, structurally sound, and healthy. Making buildings tight has consequences if it’s not done right — affecting indoor air quality especially. The right solution for one house may not be same for the next one you work on. John talks about how to find what works for you, including:

  • Refining rules of thumb
  • Vetting new products
  • Why newer homes are more complicated
  • Tailoring the system for your climate region
  • How remodelers can stay in the know about best practices for energy efficiency
  • Why local codes aren’t always the last word on efficiency
  • Gauging you team’s capabilities and learning curve
  • Perfecting your system
  • And more…

John recommends two easy-to-understand websites for remodelers to check out to learn more about energy efficient building systems, Buildingscience.com and GreenBuildingAdvisor.

Seventhwave is holding the Better Buildings Better Business Conference devoted to helping builders and remodelers build-in energy efficiencies specifically in cold climates  — and Tim will be speaking — Feb. 13-15, 2019, in the Wisconsin Dells. Tim also reports the hosting resort has an awesome indoor water park. Just FYI.

 

From Production to Sales to Finance… Improve Your Business in 2019

Don’t miss Tim and 8 other industry experts, speaking at the Extreme Business Makeover Event. If you are looking to make significant changes and see spectacular results, this is the event you need to start your year off right!

Click here for more information and for registration >>

Ep.35: Find Great Employees with Effective Marketing with Jack Jostes

As the labor shortage drags on, and may even be getting tighter, getting the word out about open positions in your remodeling company is more important than ever. Your recruiting effort is really a marketing function.

In this episode, Jack Jostes drops by to talk with Tim and Steve about going beyond the help-wanted ad to effectively use digital marketing tactics to fill your open positions.

Jack is the author of Get Found Online: the Local Business Owner’s Guide to Digital Marketing, and CEO at Ramblin Jackson, a digital marketing agency in Boulder, CO, that helps remodeling companies and contractors get found online.

In marketing, the key is make your message about what the customer wants, needs, and dreams of. Show them how you’ll solve their problem, identify their pain points and offer them solutions. It’s the same when recruiting. People want to make good money, enjoy their work, and be part of a team. They want job security. Remember that hiring isn’t just about that one person — it’s about their spouse or partner and family.

Knowing that can also help get the word out. If you’re trying to recruit, and a spouse sees it on Facebook or Instagram, they may bring it to the right person’s attention — “here honey, this sounds just like you.” It’s also imperative to make everything easy to find on mobile devices like smartphones. He tells you how to do that, as well as:

  • The importance of having a career page on your website
  • Using video and YouTube to your advantage
  • How to involve your team to get the word out
  • Controlling the message
  • Positioning your company as a winner online
  • And more…

Think of yourself as a storyteller, says Jack, and he how to craft stories that will bring more applications to your inbox.

Ep.34: Job Planning for Success with Dave Wittig

You need to take time at the start of a job to plan so you can keep to a job’s schedule and the budget. But the Production department almost always feels like they’re under the gun at the start and just want to get to work. Even with a schedule, something unexpected almost always happens and throws the whole thing off.

It’s frustrating, and it’s easy to throw up your hands and give up on planning — it takes up too much time at the beginning of the job and it seems like it never works. That’s why you need to plan for the unexpected at the beginning, says Dave Wittig.

In this episode, Dave talks to Tim and Steve about spotting potential problems and building in contingencies in your job planning and scheduling.

Dave is a Project Manager with Adams & Beasley Associates in Carlisle, MA. He’s been with the company for almost two years, working on high-end residential remodels mostly within Boston. One of his projects recently won a Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston Prism Gold Award.

Because most of his projects take place in the downtown core of a major city, logistics, deliveries, and parking add to his planning and scheduling headaches. But learning to spot the red flags and make allowances in his schedule for them helps. “When I hear an ‘if,’ I know there’s going to be a problem,” he says. He tells you how to stay flexible within the structure of a schedule, by building in contingencies, as well as:

  • The value of working backwards to fill in gaps
  • Working with your team to nail the details
  • Getting buy-in
  • Tapping others’ knowledge and experience to forecast problems
  • Not painting the rosy picture
  • Why you need a whiteboard on-site
  • And much more…

It’s not the hiccups in the job that get things off track, says Dave. It’s how you react to them that will make or break the schedule.

Have a Production Superstar?

If one or more of your Production pros has a skillset, system, or solution that should be highlighted on the podcast, drop us a line at tim@remodelersadvantage.com or steve@remodelersadvantage.com. We’d love to have them on the show.

Did You Know There are Roundtables For Production Managers?

Developed by show host, Tim Faller, this special Roundtables™ Group Program for Production Managers focuses on all aspects of production management including: People Management, Training, Technology and Customer Service. For more information, click here or contact Tim directly.
 

Ep.33: The Reboot Week with Dave Domenichini

A full week where no production, no work on projects at all, might seem like any remodeling company’s nightmare — the kind that wakes you in the middle of the night. For one company, though, it’s a reality that’s worked like a dream.

In this episode, Dave Domenichini explains the hows, whys, and benefits of building in a Reboot Week to Tim and Steve. All production for that week stops — not even subs are working — as he gathers his management team for meetings to go over what works, what can be improved, and to concentrate on new ideas.

Dave started D.R. Domenichini Construction in 2004 with one employee in Morgan Hill, CA. He slowly built the company to its current size of 12 employees — seven in the field and five salaried managers. In the beginning, he wore many hats and had many job titles. As the company grew, he was able to hire people to fill those roles so that he could focus on business development.

Reboot Week gives Dave and his management team time to work on the business, not in the business, and review and plan to implement new systems and training. “It’s like when you’re spinning your wheels in a car,” he says. “You’ve got to let off the throttle to get traction.” Dave explains why it works, the problems it’s solved, and how to sell it to the hourly staff that won’t get paid for that week, as well as:

  • Gathering actionable information
  • How to prepare your clients
  • Searching for the “Golden Nugget”
  • Building in fun
  • Creating the agenda
  • And much more…

If you’re thinking about how much it costs to take a week off of active work on jobs, Dave says don’t — he thinks about how much it would cost him not to do it.