Lead Carpenter System

Production System Shifts with Tim Faller and Steve Wheeler- [Tim Faller Show] S4 E8

Today on the Tim Faller Show, Tim and Steve go solo to discuss production system shifts and the changing world of the lead carpenter and project manager. Tim talks about the most significant challenge facing the remodeling industry: increasing sales with the lack of skilled labor. The challenge comes from controlling growth with a limited number of people to handle that growth.  This is causing many companies to reevaluate their project management systems.

Tim and Steve talk more about:

  • Lead carpenter systems
  • Changes in the remodeling industry
  • Hybrid systems
  • And more…

Design and Production: Can we really get along? with Morgan Thomas and Candice Rania [Tim Faller Show] S4 E7

On this episode of The Tim Faller Show, Candice Rania and Morgan Thomas join the show to answer the question: Can design and production get along? While the production and design teams have the same overall goal of completing a project that will delight their clients, they do it differently. Morgan and Candice talk about their struggles with time constraints, delays, and change orders and how they developed new processes that involve team reviews with proposed estimates to ensure each department has the proper budgets and limit unexpected client costs.

Morgan Thomas started at Leff Design Build in Sonoma County, California 5 years ago as a project manager and was then promoted to her current role as the production department manager. She is excited and proud of her team’s input to the project’s budget, which she thinks has created an improved sense of ownership among her coworkers.  Candice Rania is the pre-production manager at Leff design-build and works closely with Morgan.  

Tim, Steve, Morgan, and Candice talk more about

  • Integrating production and design and how that creates a better customer experience
  • Evaluating current methods and creating new processes can lead to better businesses
  • And more…

The Tricks of a Lead Carpenter with Doug Horgan- Season 4 Episode 5

Tim and Steve welcome Doug Horgan to the show to discuss the role of a lead carpenter. Doug talks about his responsibilities, including research, being an internal “help desk,” managing people internally and externally.  He also manages scheduling and explains the meaning behind the saying “make ready planning” and why it’s essential for a lead carpenter.

Doug Horgan is Vice President–Best Practices at BOWA, the Washington DC area’s premier custom and remodeling builder. In this training, quality, and troubleshooting role, Doug’s goal is reducing construction defects through sharing knowledge. Doug’s thirty years of tools-on carpentry, warranty troubleshooting, and instruction experience, are the foundations for visually rich presentations on how to build properly and avoid construction problems.

Tim, Steve, and Doug talk more about

  • Having an organized job site
  • Client relations and communication
  • Advice for a lead carpenter
  • And more…

Ep.131: Shifting From Lead Carpenter to Project Manager with Rob Moss

In shifting and changing roles within an organization, there are many paths we could take to get to the destination we desire.

This is also true for implementing Project Management systems.

The 3 most commonly used these days are The Lead Carpenter system, the Project Manager system, and then a hybrid of these two.

What we find is that companies have trouble either shifting from one to the other or getting caught in one system when they should be moving to the other.

The transition from the Lead Carpenter system typically occurs when volume and job size demand a shift in personnel and oversight.

Our guest in this episode, Rob Moss, has made the transition from Lead Carpenter to Project Manager and shares his thoughts on the process.

Rob is the Director of Production for Sun Design Remodeling in Northern Virginia, and serving the Washington DC metropolitan area. He has been with Sun Design for 15 years, starting as a lead carpenter and transitioning into the Director of Production role 4 years ago.

Tim, Steve and Rob talk more about:

  • Background and description of Sun Design (volume, staff size,type of work, etc.).
  • How production was operating before the shift.
  • What the motivator was that prompted the change.
  • Process and timeline of shifting from one system to the other.
  • How focusing on customer service and satisfaction was maintained.
  • Things Rob would do differently if he were to go through the shift again.
  • And more…

Is Your Production Team Ready to Take on 2021 ?

Keep your production team sharp throughout the Winter and preparing for 2021 with weekly Production Team Training with Tim Faller. Whether they are in the office or in the field on a phone, tablet or laptop, now is the time to plan and prepare for the surge in business as we head into the new year.
[Click Here for More Information & Registration]

Ep.119: Moving from Carpenter to Owner with Brad Sawler

Today’s topic came from a subscriber who contacted Tim asking about making the transition from a single owner-operator to building a team and assuming the role of “Boss.”

Some remodelers just want to do the work themselves and stay small. They enjoy wearing all the “hats,” resigning themselves to the fact that they don’t have the energy or desire to take the next step.

This episode focuses on the transition and growth needed to take the next step. No better example than our guest, Brad Sawler, owner of Oxland Builders in Stratham, NH.

Brad Sawler, started Oxland Builders in 2003 with a partner intent on building high-end spec homes. As the company grew, Brad found himself being pulled away from the field more and more often. The time had come for him to take off his tool belt and focus on growing the business.

Since 2016, Brad has focused on sales, estimating and marketing. The company has grown to a field staff of 7 with plans to hire more personnel in 2021.

Tim, Steve and Brad cover:

  • The transition from working in the field and being hand-on to more of a supervisor role.
  • The determination that growth and hiring a staff was necessary.
  • What the hardest hurdles were and what the easiest tasks were to hand off.
  • Learning to trust others in the front office.
  • Changes in project process and documentation.
  • Changes in pricing, labor hours, etc.
  • Establishing a training system with the team.

This Episode Sponsored by: Builder Funnel​

We are excited to have Builder Funnel joining us as a featured sponsor for The Tim Faller Show. Spencer Powell and his team at Builder Funnel have been huge supporters of R/A and the remodeling community for years and it is great to have on board as a featured sponsor… Welcome, Builder Funnel!

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.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.71: Switching to the Lead Carpenter System with Steve Nash

When remodeling companies start up, typically the owner is working in the field, making sales, estimating, and doing almost everything else to run the business. There comes a tipping point as the company grows, and one person can’t do it all. That’s where the lead carpenter system comes in.

Transitioning to that system has its challenges. Steve Nash has used the lead carpenter system for 25 years, and understands its ins and outs — and how to move to it smoothly.

In this episode, Steve talks about making the switch with Tim and Steve, how it helps a growing company, and how to avoid the common pitfalls.

Steve began working as a carpenter for his father, from his childhood all through his teens. He founded Upscale Remodeling, in Freeville, NY, in 1991 shortly after college with a bucket of tools, a new truck, and a whole lot of ambition to build a great remodeling company. Today, Upscale Remodeling is a full-service design/build firm specializing in kitchen and bath remodeling, additions, basements, and window and door replacement. The company operates out of a 5,000-sq. ft. showroom, which helps with design and product selection as well as communication across all team members. Upscale Remodeling has been using some variation of the lead carpenter system since the beginning.

He recently teamed up with another remodeler to help a growing company in their Roundtables peer group make the switch to the lead carpenter system. He walks us through the process of transitioning your team, learning as much as you can beforehand, and how to make it work, including:

  • How it can help you cope with the labor shortage
  • Understanding your lead carpenter will be managing
  • Identifying the qualities that make a good lead carpenter
  • Why your best craftsman may not be the best manager
  • Empowering your lead to make decisions
  • Pushing your lead back to the paperwork
  • Being transparent with your lead carpenter
  • Why not to treat it as a promotion, just a different role
  • How to handle a different pay scales
  • The recruitment process and identifying candidates in-house
  • The importance of involving your lead in the sales process
  • Avoiding awkward moments in front of the client
  • Coaching your lead to stay within the scope
  • How to change your markup and job costing to safeguard profits
  • And more …

Keep Those Suggestions Coming…

This topic was another one suggested by a listener — and we hope you keep them coming! If you’ve got an idea for a topic or guest, drop Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.70: Mastering the Look Ahead, Part 2, with Ben Reynolds

When you work in a remote area, where your materials are shipped on barges to small islands, and a quick lumber yard run just isn’t possible, everything just takes longer. 

So having all the details planned ahead is crucial, says Ben Reynolds.

In this episode, Ben talks to Tim and Steve about the challenges of working in Ontario’s cottage country, and how accurate look aheads are a key component in getting jobs done on time.

Ben has been the production manager at Kawartha Lakes Construction, Lakefield, ONT, Canada, for five years. Prior to that, he was a project lead — the lead carpenter managing a job site. Before joining KLC, he ran his own small company which mainly focused on new post-and-beam construction. When he was wearing the tools, his projects always hit the pre-set milestones, and he had an extremely high success rate of delivering a project on time.

KLC has different challenges than many other design-build companies, especially logistically. They deal with limited parking, moving material on boats and barges, and remote job sites. So planning ahead is key. And part of planning is looking back, keeping an accurate history of what it takes to complete a project. KLC has detailed time sheets, and can refer to experiences in the past to get accurate ideas on what it truly takes to complete a project. Ben talks about what KLC’s production process looks like, and how they plan ahead, including:

  • The different people that need to be involved
  • The two-year look ahead
  • The five-day plan
  • How to use your historical data
  • Eating the elephant one bite at a time
  • The level of detail needed in the five-day plan
  • The master production brief
  • Achieving better time management
  • Getting buy-in on the plan
  • Solving conflicts in planning
  • How to run an efficient production meeting
  • And more …

If you missed our first episode dedicated to creating your own version of the look ahead, listen to Episode 64: Job Site Look Ahead with Tom Batman & Mike Topper, of Harth Builders in Spring House, PA. 

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.