Operations

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.60: The Sales to Production Handoff with Mike Livingston

The handoff, turnover, passing the baton — or whatever you call it in your company — is a critical step in production. Having a well-planned, tight, organized system in place is key to a smooth-running project that ends with a happy client and healthy bottom line. As you grow, it becomes even more important — and more complicated.

So much information is gathered, discussed, sifted through, and torn apart as Sales and Design meet with the client. There are so many meetings, phone calls, emails, and discussions that it’s hard to keep straight. After the contract is signed, Sales and Design are supposed to relay all of the relevant information to production. But you need a system to make sure it happens.

In this episode, Mike Livingston talks to Tim and Steve about his company’s process, having good communication, and holding effective meetings at the handoff point.

Mike is the Production Manager with Blackdog Builders in Salem and Amherst, NH. He’s been with the company for 23 years, project managing additions, kitchens and baths. As the company has grown, he has filled the seat of Production Manager. In 2018, Mike was honored as Advisor of the Year at Shawsheen Vo-Tech where he serves on the carpentry advisory board.

Mike talks about the importance of bringing the Project Manager and Lead Carpenter into the process early. This allows them to get acquainted and comfortable with the upcoming project through a detailed binder that’s been checked for completeness. Then there are two meetings before the project kicks off. Mike talks about how they got to their current system, including:

  • What a successful handoff really looks like
  • Why the handoff looks different for every company
  • The importance of communicating the client’s needs 
  • Noting existing conditions and details
  • Identifying problem areas
  • Tracking the cost savings
  • Creating mutually beneficial systems for Sales, Design and Production
  • Why questions in handoff meetings are a good thing
  • How planning time saves Production time
  • Creating a system that can evolve
  • Using the binder system as a recruiting tool
  • And more … 

Having all the details straight and documented helps the handoff run smoothly, and sets the stage for running a trouble-free and efficient job.

Ep.59: New Energy Opportunities with Jacob Corvidae

“Going green” has been a part of the remodeling and building industries for a while. But much of the eco-conscious activity has been reactive. There’s real movement now to be proactive, and that’s especially true in the energy industry. It’s undergoing a massive disruption — and that has big implications for remodelers and builders.

In this episode, Jacob Corvidae talks about what’s coming in the energy industry, and what it will mean for your business, with Tim and Steve.

Jacob is a principal in the Buildings Program at Rocky Mountain Institute, where he leads the Residential Energy+ initiative. After nearly two decades of work in sustainable community development in Michigan, he now works from RMI’s Boulder, CO, office. He’s also a co-author of The Carbon-Free City Handbook, and The Carbon-Free Regions Handbook, two guides to help local governments around the world take action faster, and reports to support contractors and builders.

Jacob’s focus is on practical methods to get to a cleaner, more prosperous energy future. The discussion ranges from macro to micro topics — from the global impacts to why residential gas stoves can cause asthma attacks. Find out what changes in energy production and infrastructure will mean to the building and remodeling industries, including:

  • What the dropping price of solar may mean for you
  • Changes in utility rates
  • How energy-efficient building will save, and possibly, earn money
  • Solar on homes as part of a community “farm”
  • The economics of clean energy
  • Infrastructure challenges and solutions
  • The rise of the all-electric house
  • Enforcement of energy-efficiency through local standards and codes
  • Staying ahead of the curve to become a local market leader
  • Educating your customers
  • The sales opportunities for you
  • Getting a strategy together
  • Reaching out to manufacturers
  • And more …

Including where to go for more information and education. To start, Jacob recommends his own organization and additional resources:

Ep.58: The Inspector’s View with Aaron Wingert

Building codes and inspection systems can vary greatly from one place to another, but every remodeler has some experience with inspections — good or bad.

In this episode, we get the other side of the story, from a former inspector. Aaron Wingert joins Tim and Steve to talk about how important it is to establish trust with your local inspectors and embrace the whole process.

Aaron has been a market development manager for Louisiana Pacific for two and a half years, and lives in the Kansas City area. Prior to working for LP, he spent nearly 16 years as a building codes inspector, chief inspector, and plans examiner in two jurisdictions in the Kansas City area. In that time, he did inspections of all phases of work, by all trades, in remodels, new construction, residential, multi-family, and commercial construction.

Aaron talks about being hired as an inspector out of the construction industry, and what kind of training inspectors may — or may not — get. When they’re on a job site, there’s a lot of pressure on them too. To work well together, he says, you have to own the work you do, and it’s critical to be at your inspections. Aaron talks about how to develop a good working relationship with local building departments, including:

  • Working with a new inspector
  • Staying on top of code changes
  • When to call the supervisor
  • Developing the ability to eat crow
  • Why playing games with your inspector is a bad idea
  • Being open to conversations and differences in interpretations
  • Why the burden of proof is on you
  • Getting scheduling straight
  • Participating in code review sessions
  • Knowing how your inspectors work
  • What worries keep inspectors up at night
  • Who’s to blame when something goes horribly wrong
  • And more …

Overall, just be human, approachable, and friendly — inspectors do want to help you, Aaron says. Get to know each other, try not to be combative, and everything will run more smoothly.

Ep.57: Checklist Implementation with Wesley Yoder

Problems in Production can be hard to fix — even identifying chronic mistakes and hurdles takes time. Too often, remodelers stop there, shrug, and say, “it is what it is.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Checklists are a great tool to use in the next step, when you solve the problems and prevent them from happening again and again.

In this episode, Wesley Yoder talks to Tim and Steve about how he took control of the Production process after reading The Checklist Manifesto, and how you can, too.

Wesley has been the Production Manager at West Chester Design Build in West Chester, PA, since January 2018. He joined WCDB nine years ago as a Lead Carpenter. After three years, he moved into the Project Manager role.

When Wesley read the book, he was surprised at how useful it is for remodeling processes. It covers the use of checklists in diverse industries, describing how they can significantly reduce errors, save money, and prevent accidents. In Production, checklists can also reduce slippage and keep the job running smoothly. As your processes and jobs become more complex and involve more people on site, checklists can help you run your jobs more efficiently. Wesley talks about how to create and use your checklists to be effective, including:

  • Getting feedback and buy in
  • Why checklists are always evolving
  • Keeping it simple
  • Building on past experience
  • Boulder-drop moments
  • Using them as training tools
  • Discussing the checklists with clients
  • Where to keep them so they’re used
  • How to know what to add
  • The power of paper
  • And more …

Wesley also uses personal checklists for his own job functions, and says it’s a great way to get started with using them on a larger scale with the rest of your team.

What Do You Want to Hear About?

We’ve gotten some fantastic suggestions for topics and guests, so keep them coming! Send your ideas for topics or guests to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com. Thanks!

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.53: Make Your Project Manager a Marketing Machine with Doug Panozzo

Of all the things you have in your marketing toolbox — your website, email and direct mail, or social media — there’s one you may have overlooked.

Positioning your Production team to be aware of sales and marketing can be an overlooked marketing strategy, and also help align the office and field teams.

In this episode, Tim and Steve talk to Doug Panozzo, who is a human marketing machine. We discuss how to make that switch in mindset for your Production team, and how it can boost your sales and profits.

Doug Panozzo is a Project Manager for Hogan Design & Construction in Geneva, IL. He’s been with Hogan since October 2017. He came from outside of the industry, from a tech company, and moved into a Project Manager role with Hogan almost a year and a half ago. Since then, he has grown familiar with the industry, became efficient with Hogan’s systems, hasn’t gone over budget on a single one of his projects, and has brought in over $100,000 in sales in the last year.

Sharing the big picture with your team is the start. Doug says working on marketing or sales is job security for him — the more work he can help bring in, the longer he has a job. He talks about how he does it, and how you can get your team involved, including:

  • Selling the company throughout the project
  • Sparking new leads
  • Following up with customers to touch base
  • Finding the incentive — referrals and bonuses
  • Asking for social media posts with tags and reviews
  • Wearing and being the brand everywhere
  • How to start those conversations
  • Picking the right customers to keep in touch with
  • Making the questions subtle and helpful
  • Keeping good notes and setting reminders
  • Building relationships and working the neighborhood
  • Finding the way for different personalities to market and sell
  • How to set the expectations in hiring
  • Giving Production the tools, training, and materials to do it
  • Getting the timing right
  • And much more …

 

Including why your Project Manager or Lead Carpenter should talk to the neighbors’ cleaning people, and how many leads can come from it.

Let’s Keep It Up

This episode was another spurred by a suggestion from our listeners. If you’ve got an idea for a guest or topic, send Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

 

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