labor shortage

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.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.

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.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.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.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.28: Building the Ladder of Opportunity with David Keebler

Hiring and retention are big issues everywhere. As much as we talk about salary and bonuses, the way to get workers to stick around isn’t always about money. It’s more about the culture of your business, and the way you treat your employees from day one.

You need to give people a vision for what they can become, from the first interview. David Keebler returns to the podcast to talk to Tim and Steve about his ladder of opportunity, a step-by-step systematic approach to training and keeping good people.

David is the Production Manager for Harth Builders in Spring House, PA, and a Roundtables member since 2014. He oversees three Project Managers and six Lead Carpenters who are on target to produce $7 million this year.

The ladder is a roadmap for for potential growth for workers in the field. It quantifies what it takes to move up the ladder. In this competitive labor market, a ladder of opportunity can be the difference between a worker taking a job with your company.

David recommends giving yourself a deadline to create this ladder — gather input and commit to a deadline. Get buy-in and information from your Project Managers and Lead Carpenters. Set up a document that shows what is needed to advance, along with a realistic timeline. You’ll learn the benefits of implementing this system, including how it can:

  • Reduce bickering and complaining
  • Set clear expectations for pay rates
  • Identify where your workers want to go
  • Create a clear system for reviews
  • Boost in motivation at all levels
  • Accelerate training and scheduling
  • Become a marketing tool
  • Plus much more…

You’ll also learn how to train your employees to teach their field teams. Tapping into the knowledge of your team and setting clear goals will empower your production and hiring processes.

Ep. 14: Women in Production with Kendal Lenton-Cooney

It’s been a man’s world for a long time in Production — and home remodeling and construction in general. Change is coming, though. Hiring women for construction and Production jobs makes good business sense, especially with the labor shortage affecting our industry.

In this episode, Tim and Steve talk to Kendal Lenton-Cooney about how to attract and keep women in the remodeling business, and why it makes good business sense to proactively open up the industry to 50 percent of the population.

Kendal Lenton-Cooney is the production manager for Lenton Company in Palmdale, CA, and is a Production Manager Roundtables member. She prides herself on her attention to detail.

“I like making sure all the parts and pieces fall into place so that the job runs smoothly,” she says. Kendal began working with Lenton Company doing occasional office tasks while in high school; her father, Robert, is the company president. But working for the family business was not part of her life plan. After two years in college, Kendal worked in the information technology department at Southern Oregon University and was a receptionist at an insurance company.

When she returned home in 2010 she realized it was the “perfect job she never thought she wanted,” she says. Kendal’s the third generation to work for the company.

Kendal, Tim and Steve talk about what needs to be done to encourage more women to take jobs in Production, remodeling and construction, and how that benefits men, as well, and the business as a whole. They discuss important topics that will help, including:

  • Identifying and attracting good candidates
  • The need for support and training
  • The power of asking questions
  • Great-paying jobs available to women
  • Confronting stereotypes
  • Organizations and training resources
  • And more…

See more about the Lenton Company by visiting the website: LentonCompany.com.

 

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