labor shortage

Ep.97: Getting a Handle On Training with Chris Peterson

Training to help move team members up the ladder is important to any remodeling company and its ability to move fast and make money. 

Chris Peterson has seen the importance of training from his first days in the field as a carpenter through to his present leadership position. He says it’s a concrete way to coach and promote great people from the ground up. 

In this episode, Chris explains his company’s training methods to Tim and Steve, and shows you how to create your own education program.

Chris is a co-owner and vice-president of production at Schloegel Design Remodel in Kansas City, MO. Chris has been with the company for more than 23 years. He started in the field as a carpenter and progressed to lead carpenter, project manager, and production manager. In 2018, he purchased the business with his partner, Charlie Schloegel. He’s seen the need for better training from many angles. 

There’s a real connection between emphasizing training and successful financial growth, says Chris. His company has started Schloegel University, which is in its initial growth phase. Some of the training is after hours on a volunteer basis, and there are mandatory meetings. Chris explains why making it cross-functional with classes that include field and office staff is important, as well as:

  • Reactionary vs. proactive training
  • Explaining how quality ties into profitability
  • How much to spend on training
  • Structuring a training program
  • Understanding education is already happening
  • Setting standards so things are done the same way, every time
  • Putting the responsibility on the learner
  • Creating enthusiasm around the process
  • And more …

Dedicating the time to training, even if it’s informal, will help your people be successful, leading to better quality and more jobs for your company, says Chris.

Ep.95: Teaching People to See with Ian Schwandt

Today’s guest believes that training tradespeople is an overlooked part of solving the labor crisis the remodeling and construction industries continue to face. 

Ian Schwandt says that lead carpenters are in the best position to have a positive effect on the development of young tradespeople. As a lead carpenter, he practices what he preaches. 

In today’s episode, Ian talks to Tim and Steve about teaching young tradespeople to see, understand, and think about why they’re doing something, rather than only demonstrating the mechanics of the task.

Ian is a lead carpenter and estimator with Hudson Valley Preservation in Kent, CT. He started with the company in 2017 as lead carpenter after working with the owners as a carpentry sub. He took over estimating in 2019, and rebuilt the Excel-based estimating program. He wrote a four-part series about the idea of the Worker-Centered Crew in JLC. 

Taking on the estimating task gave him added insight into how crews are put together, how they’re trained, and what they’re capable of. Ian started as a laborer out of high school, but found he loved carpentry work. He got a four-year apprenticeship program when he joined the carpenters union in Milwaukee, WI. His training there put him on a life-long path of learning. He talks about his views on training, and others can approach it, including:

  • The Triangle of Obligations
  • The importance of being organized
  • Setting your field team up for success
  • Building teaching time into the labor burden
  • Teaching how to cheat
  • The difference between working from the neck up and neck down
  • Explaining the “why” of the whole project at the beginning
  • Using YouTube videos and magazine articles to prepare your field staff
  • Putting a package of PDFs together that can be accessed on site
  • Asking the right questions to make workers think and understand the work
  • Creating a working environment that will attract young workers
  • And more …

Ian also writes his own blog at The Pen & Hammer — A Lead Carpenter’s View Inside the Office.

We Want to Hear From You

If you have a suggestion for a topic or guest for the podcast, send an email to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.93: Women in Leadership on Site with Dejah Léger

We talk a great deal about ways to beat the labor shortage, including the importance of training and education in keeping good employees. We’ve also discussed how to promote the trades as an attractive career choice. 

There’s a third component — finding the right people. And that may mean changing your thinking about what, or who, you’re looking for.

Dejah Léger came into remodeling with no experience, but was “trained from scratch,” she says. Due to her motivation and ability to learn quickly, she was promoted to lead carpenter within a year.

In this episode, Dejah talks to Tim and Steve about her experiences changing careers to become a carpenter and project manager, the challenges, and why women are a big asset on the job site.

Dejah is a lead carpenter/project manager at Irons Brothers Construction in Shoreline, WA. The first project she led was a major kitchen remodel, and she has continued to lead multiple jobs since then. Her role as the only female lead carpenter in Shoreline is a huge advantage on many levels. It points to the many reasons women should be recruited to be bags-on, even if it means large initial investments in training. 

Dejah’s remodeling career started when one of the company’s owners recruited her at her daughter’s baseball game. Her coworkers trained her on-site, she studied everything she could at night, and Irons Brothers sends their team to training and trade shows. She talks about what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated industry, changing careers, and the advantages it gives her in the field, including:

  • Establishing authority and leading on site
  • Why the labor shortage leveled the playing field for her
  • Communicating with clients 
  • Creating relationships with subs and vendors
  • Finding safety equipment that fits
  • Training on her own
  • The physical aspects of the job
  • Using her graphic design background to understand plans
  • Why to recruit more women
  • And more …

Getting past preconceived notions of what a carpenter or project manager has always been is the first step toward recruiting and retaining good team members — and that includes women.

Ep.90: Moving Company Culture to the Job Site with Dennis Engelbrecht

Between 1950 and 2010, the use of the term “company culture” has doubled — Tim looked it up.  But for a lot of people, it’s still a bit of a mystery. You hear about having a good culture, but it can be hard to quantify.

Often, remodeling companies can have a great culture in the office, but it doesn’t always make it out to the field staff on the job site. Sometimes the office and the job site have two separate cultures, so the team as a whole doesn’t share a company culture. Complicating matters, as you grow, your culture will change too — in ways you may not expect.

In this episode, Dennis Engelbrecht, discusses company culture with Tim and Steve, especially how to create and maintain a positive culture in the field and get everyone on the same page.

Dennis is a consultant with the Family Business Institute, of Raleigh, NC. He’s devoted his life and career to creating, improving, building, and coaching entrepreneurs for greater business success. Dennis directs the CEO Roundtables Program for Contractors, which he founded to expand upon a group one of his early clients participated in.

Company culture is a collection of a set of beliefs and behaviors that affect the workplace, Dennis says. When trying to set up a good culture, it starts with the company’s leadership. It’s not a defined set of rules, but how everyone acts. The challenge is establishing and maintaining the culture you want, one that creates a workplace people want to be in. Dennis tells you how to create and direct a good company culture, on the job site and in the office, including:

  • Why the owner needs to visit job sites
  • The crucial role of your project manager or lead carpenter
  • How to involve your trade partners on the job site
  • Keeping egos in check
  • The power of a simple greeting
  • The first question to ask on the job site
  • Praising in public, criticizing in private
  • How to manage for success
  • Sharing information
  • Changing the culture — if you’re not the business owner
  • And more …

Your company’s culture on the job site and off can give you a competitive advantage in finding and keeping good team members — a key strategy in beating the labor shortage.

Ep.89: Profit-Sharing Strategies with Shawn McCadden

Money isn’t the only way to motivate your team, but profit sharing can boost morale, productivity, and help attract and keep good production employees.

Profit sharing can be engineered into the budget so there will be funds to distribute. As long as you hit the gross-profit margin, you can set up profit sharing, says Shawn McCadden. But you have to be careful and systematic in creating the system.

In this episode, Shawn discusses profit-sharing strategies with Tim and Steve, and how to create and maintain a profit-sharing program that will motivate your field team.

Shawn is president of Remodel My Business Inc. 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; co-founded the Residential Design/Build Institute; and went on to become director of education for a national bath and kitchen remodeling franchise company. Today he speaks frequently at industry conferences and trade events. As an award-winning columnist, he contributes to industry publications, blogs, and writes a monthly column for Qualified Remodeler magazine. You can learn more at www.shawnmccadden.com.

You must have a sensible financial system already in place to make profit sharing work, says Shawn. There’s no room for guesswork. You also need a way to measure what’s happening on a job in the same way it was estimated for apples-to-apples comparisons. He discusses how to implement a profit sharing plan and the benefits, including: 

  • Starting with best practices
  • The difference between profit sharing and bonuses
  • Considering profit sharing as an overhead expense
  • Training your staff to understand your budget
  • Testing it before you roll it out
  • Setting the goals
  • When — and how often — to distribute the money
  • Documenting your process 
  • Determining who gets how much
  • Being a competitive employer in your market
  • And more …

The labor shortage is only going to get worse, says Shawn, and a profit-sharing program — along with competitive pay, benefits, and time off — will help your company attract and keep the best employees.

You’ve Got Questions, We’ll Find Answers

This topic was suggested by one of our listeners who wanted to know how to begin a profit-sharing program. If you’ve got a question or idea for a topic or guest, send Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

New Dates for Extreme Business Makeover

Due to schedule conflicts we moved the Extreme Business Makeover to March 30 – 31, 2020. We’re still at the BWI Westin in Baltimore and we’ve added Bruce Case as a featured speaker… More content being added and we’ve got 4-5 great tools that you will be leaving with, so take a look at this event and we would love to see you there!
More information + Registration >>

Ep.85: [Back-Up] Building a Trade School From Scratch with Richard Laughlin

We’re looking back at some of our most powerful episodes as we end the year. This episode takes a positive and proactive look at solving the skills gap in the remodeling industry. 

Richard Laughlin is taking a grass-roots approach in his small Texas town, with a trade-school program that’s beginning to spread across the state. 

In this episode, Richard talks about re-starting that 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

Richard has great memories of his own trade education, but the program was later downgraded in favor of a more college-prep focus. 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.

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.

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