Production

Ep.46: Working with Architects with Jason Stearns

There are many different ways to work with architects in the remodeling industry, whether you’re working in the design/build model or as a builder using plans developed outside your company. Regardless of the work model, most remodelers agree the architectural plans they get at the beginning of the production process are only half done. So communication is paramount during the build phase.

In this episode, Jason Stearns discusses the ins and outs of working with different architectural firms from the Production standpoint with Tim and Steve.

Jason has been working in high-end residential market in San Francisco for almost 30 years. He joined Jeff King & Co. as Director of Production in 2017. Since then, he’s helped implement the use of Procore for their production teams, standardized the project scheduling formats, and started a weighted numeric skills assessment system for the evaluating the carpentry and labor staff to identify needed training for advancement.

In each of their projects, there are two clients — the homeowner and the architect, Jason says. He and his team want to deliver the project that realizes the original vision for both parties. To make everyone happy takes clear communication and rigorous documentation of every email, phone call, and design change. Jason tells you how to make that happen, including:

  • Getting information when you need it
  • Establishing good working relationships
  • Creating schedules that work off the budget
  • Looking at the schedule as a living document
  • Identifying milestones for the architect
  • Making objective arguments
  • Staying ahead on change orders
  • And more …

Keeping track of all communications is a major challenge, but it’s the best way to ensure that the completed project is a success for all parties.

Keep the Suggestions Coming!

This topic was suggested by one of our listeners. If you have an idea for a subject or guest, send it to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

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Ep.44: Special Guest Kevin O’Connor of “This Old House”

Television is full of construction and remodeling shows, but we all know many of them leave false impressions of how fast and easy the process can be. But the pioneering program This Old House still shows viewers how complicated it can be.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the program, and they’re tackling a net-zero retrofit, a mid-century modern remodel, and spearheading outreach programs to get more workers into the trades.

In this episode, Kevin O’Connor, host of the Emmy Award-winning This Old House and Ask This Old House, talks with Tim and Steve about what you see on TV, and how it helps the construction industry as a whole.

Kevin has appeared on the two shows since 2003, and serves on the editorial board of This Old House magazine. He also hosts This New House airing on the DIY Network and Hidden History in Your House airing on the History Channel’s H2 network. Along with his four brothers and two sisters, Kevin grew up on various job sites led by his father, a civil engineer. When Kevin and his wife, Kathleen, were renovating their 1892 Queen Anne Victorian they sent an e-mail seeking advice from the Ask This Old House experts. The house call served as Kevin’s first screen test to serve as the new host (the third host in the history of the home-improvement series).

Kevin talks about the evolution of the show and about the Generation NEXT campaign, cosponsored by the mikeroweWORKS Foundation. It’s a high-profile effort to close the skills gap in the trades, encouraging young people to master those skills and look at construction careers. He also talks about the challenges of working on a job site that’s also a TV shoot, including:

  • Scheduling
  • Scrambling and adapting
  • More about the show’s two projects this season
  • How the show’s contractors juggle TV and their businesses
  • Using their big megaphone
  • And more…

Tim also talks a bit about how business owners can look at Generation NEXT and adapt it in their own communities to help bring more young people into construction and remodeling.

Tell Us About It

Do you have a topic you’d love to see covered or a guest you think we should interview? Drop Tim a line at tim@remodelersadvantage.com and let us know!

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.41: Remodel My Business with Shawn McCadden

We hear it all the time — you can’t find good help anywhere. But finding new employees is necessary for growth. You have to add staff, and keep them — not just in your company, but in the industry. We have to step up in a big way when it comes to offering employees reasons to stay.

The first thing you have to do is define what you mean by good help. “What are we talking about,” asks Shawn McCadden. “Is it good carpentry work? Running a job? Or just a good person in general?”

In this episode, Shawn hashes it all out with Tim and Steve. They talk about finding, and keeping, good employees and creating a path for them to become great.

Shawn’s the president of Remodel My Business in Brookline, NH, and is a prominent figure in the remodeling industry. He obtained his builder’s license by age 18; founded, operated, and sold a successful employee-managed design/build firm. Shawn co-founded the Residential Design/Build Institute, and then become director of education for a major national bath and kitchen remodeling franchise company.

Today, Shawn is a frequent industry conference and trade event speaker. As an award-winning columnist he contributes to many industry publications, blogs, and writes a monthly column for Qualified Remodeler magazine.

The future of the industry lies with Millennials. Shawn discusses how to stop disparaging them, and start figuring out what motivates them. Turns out, much of what Millennials are looking for will also help you attract and retain employees of every generation. He advocates instituting a profit-sharing plan and creating an actionable progress plan for carpenters to move up, including:

  • Avoiding fake job titles
  • Why you have to train Lead Carpenters, not clone them
  • Creating confidence in the team
  • Using thermometers to measure GP and volume
  • How to graph a workers career path
  • Building penalties into a bonus for leaving the company
  • The importance of sharing estimates with your Lead Carpenters
  • Why job responsibility is crucial to job performance
  • And more…

You have to make something happen, says Shawn. Stop making excuses and learn what motivates your workers, and create a plan that will help them achieve.

Give Us a Shout!

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

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.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!

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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.
 

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