labor shortage

Ep.78: The Four-Day Work Week with Tim Welsh

To make the remodeling business work, there are a few musts — you have to be efficient, you have to have a competitive edge, and a good work-life balance.

Tim Welsh’s company does it in four days a week — at least in the field.

In this episode, Tim discusses the four-day work week with Tim and Steve, including how he came to it, what benefits there are, and how you can do it too.

Tim is the president of Welsh Construction in Lexington, VA. Though he started out wanting to enter the custom furniture business, Tim began his career as a laborer and worked his way up to foreman. He opened his own business 26 years ago, doing everything himself, until his wife joined him. Tim and Janeen have grown the company, added staff, and are in the process of transferring ownership as part of an eight-year transition plan.

The four-day work week started for Tim early on in — though at that time it meant four long days in the field for him, with the fifth day spent in the office or on sales calls. The carpenters working for him got used to being on the job for 10 hours, four days a week. When Tim transitioned out of the field, he kept the four-day schedule for his field staff. “It was in their DNA by that time,” he says. Tim tells you why it works for his company, including:

  • Who works four days, who works all five
  • How it makes start-up and breakdown more efficient
  • What you save from only having four lunch breaks
  • Explaining the schedule to your clients
  • Working with your subcontractors     
  • Getting used to 10-hour days
  • Working in winter darkness
  • How to work Monday holidays into the mix
  • The financial aspect
  • How it helps in hiring and keeping field staff
  • And more …

Tim says this schedule can help smaller contractors to concentrate their efforts in the field, while leaving time for other tasks on the fifth day. For larger firms, with lead carpenters and project managers, he advises rolling it out and trying it. It may work for you.

Ep.77: Building a Trade School From Scratch with Richard Laughlin

The skills gap is real, but when we all talk about it, it often takes a negative turn. It seems like it’s always a complaint, with nobody taking any real action to solve it.

Richard Laughlin is the exception, and is taking a grass-roots approach in his small town in Texas that’s already growing in other parts of the state.

In this episode, Richard talks about re-starting a local trades program with Tim and Steve, and what it does for the students and employers.

Richard Laughlin is the owner of Laughlin Homes & Restoration in Fredericksburg, TX., and is the 2019 recipient of The Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He grew up in large-scale commercial construction with his dad and grandfather, who were general contractors. He attended Fredericksburg Trades school from 1975-78, and won statewide awards in carpentry skills as a sophomore in 1976 and cabinetry in 1977 with a custom built-pool table. He started his own design build custom home business in 1984. LHR has been recognized with dozens of state and national Awards. Richard filmed several episodes of Junk Gypsy on HGTV and was on Extreme Makeover

While Richard has great memories of his own trade education, the program was later downgraded in favor of a more college prep-focused curriculum. Kids were no longer getting the kind of time and attention necessary to get construction skills. About four years ago, Richard stepped into the breach, and he appealed to his state representative to get legislation passed that would create an opportunity for skills-based education again. Richard and other builders in his area pulled together to create a trade program that gives students hands-on experience building a custom home over the school year. He talks about how the program got off the ground, and how you can do something similar, including:

  • Showing the school systems the benefits
  • Raising money for a trades program to beat the budget argument
  • Putting together a strategy
  • Getting your subcontractors on board
  • Soliciting tool and materials donation
  • Working for sponsorships
  • Being persistent
  • How it fills jobs later
  • Structuring a non-profit
  • Creating a curriculum
  • Making the time to do it
  • And more …

Restarting the trades program has been very rewarding, he says, and spreading it nationwide is the goal. Read more about it on Richard’s website, or on the Casa Uber Alles Facebook page.

And Have You Heard About Tim’s New Book?

We are excited to announce that Tim’s newest book, Dear Remodeler, Lessons on Life, Leadership and Production is now available in the Remodelers Advantage Bookstore! Just in time for Holiday shopping!

Ep.75: Promoting the Young Guy with Ryan Murphy

Finding good employees and managers can be difficult — there just aren’t that many qualified workers out there. Hiring somebody young without much training is an investment, but it can pay off in the long run. If you find the right person.

Ryan Murphy is one of those people. He didn’t know anything about construction until he started working in the field when he was 19. Six years later, he’s a project manager.

In this episode, Ryan talks to Tim and Steve about his experience and growth, and how your company can find great workers and train them to move up within your organization.

Ryan is a project manager at Elite Construction Services Inc. in Santa Cruz, CA. He joined Elite three years ago as a carpenter after gaining two years of experience elsewhere. He worked his way from apprentice to journeyman after his first year. Six months later, Ryan began training to become a project manager, while still doing some carpentry as needed. 

You have to have a constant and consistent conversation with everyone you meet to find the right people, he says. Talk to family, friends, and clients even before you have an opening. Ryan talks about his experiences in getting hired, his training on the job, and how you can promote people from within, including:

  • What to look for
  • Using a visual workbook
  • When to let workers go on their own
  • How to train for growth
  • Providing a safety net
  • How to teach the office tasks
  • Teaching people to answer their own questions
  • Using technology to run jobs better
  • And more …

The biggest key to finding and keeping young workers is making them feel like they have a real future in the industry, and especially within your company, Ryan says.

Ep.73: Getting Young People into the Trades with a High School Summer Work Program with Stuart Feldt

We’re big advocates of getting young people into the building trades. Getting kids and their parents to understand that working in remodeling and construction can provide a great career is the first step. 

Stuart Feldt has an internship program for high school students at his company, giving them hands-on experience during their summer vacations.

In this episode, Stuart discusses the program with Tim and Steve, where he finds the kids, and how you can start a similar initiative.

Stuart founded his company, W.S. Feldt, in 1993 as a sole proprietor in Mountlake Terrace, WA. The company specializes in remodels of all types, with an occasional custom home build. This is the company’s second year of employing high school students.

Working with high school students means taking some extra time while teaching them the proper skills, and how to do them safely. But it’s an important step to ensure there will be a steady stream of skilled tradespeople coming into the industry. Stuart talks about how he started the program, and what you can do to run your own initiative, including:

  • The legal issues
  • The skills to teach, and how
  • Finding the right work for them to do
  • Being flexible
  • Accepting there will be some extra costs and inefficiencies
  • How to handle the job costs
  • The benefits of turning your team into teachers
  • The possibility of turning it into a non-profit
  • Reaching out to educators for help
  • Giving an overview of the business
  • And more …

A high-school outreach and internship program is one way to beat the labor shortage by providing a pipeline for your company.

Ep.72: The Labor Shortage from a Small-Town Perspective with Wally Staples

While driving through Maine earlier this year, Tim started wondering how a client of his there deals with the labor shortage in his small town. So he called and asked, and found out that while there are different challenges, what he does to attract and retain his people can be done in any size labor market.

In this episode, Wally J. Staples talks to Tim and Steve about how his company combats the labor crisis outside of the major metropolitan areas, where there just aren’t as many people to choose from.

Wally is the owner and president of Wally J Staples Builders Inc., of Brunswick, ME, founded the company in 1993 when he was in his early 20s. A carpenter by trade, Wally worked in the field building new homes and completing renovations until 2001, when he hired his first lead carpenter, who’s still with WJSB today. This allowed Wally to work on growing the company, and now they have five full-time, in-house carpentry crews, and have completed more than 3,500 projects. 

Brunswick has a population of about 20,000, and is somewhat of a retirement community. It’s located between two major employers —  L.L. Bean and s big shipbuilder. There’s also a strong sense of independence — many carpenters and tradespeople would rather work for themselves. Wally talks about the things you need to do to attract and keep good people in a smaller market, including:

  • How to help people adjust to new roles
  • The benefit of offering benefits — especially paid time off
  • Providing a profit-sharing program for retirement plans, and keeping it in focus
  • Talking about the importance of your safety record regarding profits
  • What not to care about in hiring, like tattoos or age
  • Getting the word out about job openings
  • Appealing to the self-employed 
  • The power of branding in recruiting
  • Why training helps keep employees
  • The zero-question job binder
  • Developing good job descriptions and processes
  • And more …

Including the company party featuring a contortionist. Wally’s tips and tactics aren’t limited to succeeding in a small market — his insights can help any company, in any market.

Ep.66: Production in a Large Remodeling Firm with Bruce Case

Most remodeling companies are small businesses with simple structures, and team building can be difficult. Imagine the challenges of building a real team with more than 70 people in the field and an almost equal number working in the office. 

In this episode, Bruce Case talks to Tim and Steve about what it takes to keep a large remodeling company running smoothly — especially in the production department.

Bruce is the president and CEO of Case Design/Remodeling Inc., one of the largest full-service remodeling firms in the nation. Operations are focused in the Washington, DC, area and bring clients a unique mix of design/build and home improvement services through Fred The First Name in Home Improvement. Case has extended its reach across the U.S. through a network of licensees and franchisees. Since its founding in 1961, Case has won more than 100 national  remodeling, design, and business awards, and the Case network has completed more than 100,000 renovation projects for more than 60,000 clients. Binding these initiatives is a focus on inspiring team members and clients.

Bruce started working in the business when he was 12, but initially pursued a career in insurance. He came back to the family business and had to pay his dues, working in almost every department of the company in the 12 years before taking the reins. This gave Bruce an increased level of empathy and a greater perspective on the roles within the company. He discusses the importance of the culture at Case, and how to keep it together with the right mix of people — even if that means cutting a top performer loose — as well as how Case works in production, including:

  • How to develop structure and processes
  • What it takes to change processes
  • The timeline for change
  • Taking the time to develop your people 
  • Proactively growing and promoting from within
  • Case’s professional development program
  • Reimbursing for continuing education
  • How training helps you hire, keep, and inspire people
  • Why you should micromanage a new employee — and when to stop
  • Gatekeeping the project’s process
  • How to bring ideas forward and be positive
  • And more …

Keynote Speaker: Bruce Case

We’re excited to have Bruce delivering the keynote address at the 2019 Production Conference in Orlando, FL, on Sept. 26. This event will bring more than two hundred Production Managers, Project Managers, and Lead Carpenters together for a one-day journey through the inner workings of some of the industry’s most successful and efficient Production Departments.

We are filling seats fast so don’t miss this opportunity to learn, network and connect with other industry professionals just like you!
Register today!

2019 Production Conference

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.

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