Operations

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.

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.

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