Operations

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.

 

Ep.52: Growing Through Team Engagement with Michael Sauri

We’ve talked about getting your Production team engaged in refining your systems and processes by encouraging them to make decisions and look for problems.

But have you considered involving Production in the Design process?   

In this episode, Michael Sauri talks about how and why he did just that with Tim and Steve. Through this change, Michael sped the growth of his company.

Michael and his wife Deborah started TriVistaUSA in 2005 and the company’s grown to four times the size in as many years — with decreased overhead and increased take-home for their family and employees. Michael received the 2018 Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year.

Engaging Production in Design started with Michael working with an architect on a project, and being frustrated — he wanted to offer more options for his client. Michael asked his Production Manager to offer his ideas. Now, everyone involved in a job is involved in the Design process. He tells you how you can do it, and why:

  • What a charette is
  • Employing a charette concept in other areas
  • Work with your team’s strengths
  • Looking back to other projects for inspiration
  • Using creativity in problem-solving
  • Why input spurs engagement
  • Reducing on-site problems before they can start
  • Changing processes as you grow
  • Why it saves time overall
  • Who to involve and when
  • How to get started
  • And more …

Tapping into your team’s experiences and insights is the first step to getting to the best outcomes and solutions. It’s a continuous process, but can pay dividends in your bottom line, and in employee loyalty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep It Up!

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

Ep.50: Choosing Estimating Software with Jef Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell Us More!

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

Ep.49: The Numbers that Matter Most with Judith Miller

For many people, the actual building of the project is what Production is all about. Looking at the bigger picture, Production has a great deal of responsibility to keep profit up. Production is a huge contributor to the financial health of the company.

It’s about the numbers — but what numbers are critical for the Production team to know and track?

In this episode, Judith Miller talks about the critical numbers for Production with Tim and Steve.

Judith is the resident financial expert at Remodelers Advantage, and says the numbers tell the story of your company. In college she studied architecture — but failed physics — and switched majors, graduating with a degree in economics. She has combined her love of architecture and building with economics to become a high-level strategist in the remodeling industry. Judith has been a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage Roundtables for more than 15 years, is a featured speaker at industry events, and frequently published in Remodeling Magazine.

If you can lay out a roof, which can be complicated, you can understand the numbers if you put your mind to it, she says. Looking at what numbers are trending, Judith says she’s seeing over-billing numbers decreasing, indicating a drop in sales from last year to this year. The economy may be slowing, Judith says, which makes understanding the numbers from the production side even more important. She talks about:

  • How field labor efficiency affects the bottom line
  • Indirect costs
  • Controlling slippage to protect from slowing sales
  • Job costs to look at in Production
  • Acceptable gross margin levels
  • Profit, loss, and overhead
  • Why the little stuff matters in job costing
  • The 80/20 rule
  • Why to estimate hours over dollars for labor
  • The most important things to hit in your budgets
  • Solving problems together

The most important factor in your bottom line isn’t a number, Judith says, customer satisfaction is. And that’s driven by employee satisfaction. So as you dive into the numbers together, avoid finger-pointing, and work as a team to figure out how to make your company more profitable.

Here are the links to Judith’s webinar about the Labor Burden Calculator:

 

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Ep.47: An Introduction to LEAN with Doug Howard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Want to Get LEAN? Online LEAN Course Enrolling Now

Improve Your Profits & Grow Your Business by Mastering Continuous Improvement Through LEAN – This class is designed for you to get the knowledge, tools, hands-on experience and planning processes to leave ready to begin a LEAN effort at your company and the support to get rolling in the first 90 days.
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What’s on Your Mind?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Talking To Us

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

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