Production

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.96: From The Experience of an Arbitrator with Dennis Dixon

If you’ve ever had to deal with legal action in your remodeling business, you know it can be a nightmare. The best thing you can do is to keep you and your projects out of the legal system.

Dennis Dixon has used his experience as an expert witness and investigator to help business owners understand the link between the legal system and the health of their business.

In this episode, Dennis talks to Tim and Steve about how to keep you and your projects out of the legal system through preventative measures, management, and oversight. 

Dennis is a 35-year veteran author, builder, and consultant, and is the president of Dixon Ventures in Flagstaff, AZ. His book, Finding Hidden Profits contains proven management, policy, and contract content solutions to keep any construction or design pro in the profit stream. 

His entry into the legal system began 25 years ago, when lawyers would ask him to investigate projects that were the subjects of lawsuits. Dennis says about 75 percent of these disputes arose from mishandled change orders, with the underlying causes of poor documentation and communication. He talks about how to help keep your company out of legal trouble, including:

  • Getting everything in writing 
  • The problem with allowances
  • Why you need good planning and specs
  • A-to-Z documentation
  • Asking how clients will use a space to get a deeper understanding
  • Resolving disputes before taking any legal steps
  • When to take the hit on a change order
  • The power of a real letter, not an email
  • Taking emotion out of the process
  • Addressing dispute resolution in your contracts
  • How to prepare for arbitration or a lawsuit
  • Why the party with the most paperwork wins
  • And more …

Maintaining good communication with clients will help head off disputes — and that includes the hiccups and problems too. Being transparent and documenting everything is the key to avoiding legal trouble.

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.94: Bringing Military Leadership to Construction with Cody Ross

One thing Tim hears frequently in his travels and consulting with remodelers is the desire for fewer layers of management, replaced by more leadership. 

One of the best places to learn and develop leadership skills is the U.S. Armed Forces.

Cody Ross served in the U.S. Marine Corps. from April 2005 – December 2014 as a combat engineer, doing everything from infantry to building bridges, and has found his experience translates well to remodeling and construction.

In this episode, Cody talks to Tim and Steve about using military leadership techniques and procedures to positively affect the construction process and to deliver a better client experience.

Cody is the project manager at Irons Brothers Construction Inc., in Shoreline, WA. He’s been with Irons Brothers for four years, and has successfully managed the company’s largest project to date in scope, size, and sale price. 

He’s identified five big leadership takeaways from his time in the military that apply to remodeling and construction — organization of the unit, commanders’ intent, small-unit leadership, planning backwards, and the end-of-week stand down. Cory breaks them down and explains how they translate to remodeling projects, including:

  • The importance of staying in your lane
  • Describing your ideal end state
  • Recognizing who’s best suited to make decisions
  • Time management techniques
  • Streamlining meetings for efficiency
  • The importance of contingency planning
  • How delegation of authority develops accountability and responsibility
  • Handling under-performing trade partners
  • Using BAMCIS* for further planning in remodeling
  • The five-paragraph order
  • And more …

*BAMCIS is a tool that stands for Begin the planning, Arrange for reconnaissance, Make reconnaissance, Complete the plan, Issue the order, and Supervise. 

Ep.92: Using RFIs Effectively with Jason Brookshire

We’ve discussed adapting commercial construction systems and applications for use in the residential world. Implementing them is often met with resistance — but there are definitely processes that work well and add value.

Requests for Information are standard in the commercial construction world, but aren’t widely used in residential remodeling.

In this episode, Jason Brookshire talks to Tim and Steve about why he finds RFIs to be important to his work in residential remodeling, and how to implement your own system.

Jason has been the production manager at McBride Remodeling in Petoskey, MI, for more than four years. He has more than 15 years of experience as a commercial development superintendent in markets around the country.

In his work in commercial construction, Jason used written RFIs when clarification was needed in the scope of work from architects, owners, or other parties. At McBride, RFIs are used by lead carpenters and those in the office, creating better information flow. It cuts down on phone calls and clarifies communication. RFIs go through their cloud-based project management system. Jason talks about the advantages of using RFIs, including:

  • Building in accountability
  • Getting the details you need — when you need them
  • The type of information typically clarified
  • Getting staff buy-in
  • The time it saves
  • Who gets involved
  • How to use them
  • Simplifying change orders
  • Training your trade partners
  • And more …

The accountability and speed built in to the process are vital to growing companies, to streamline jobs and protect profits. If you’ve got questions about implementing RFIs in your company, Jason says you can get in touch with him at Jason@mcbrideremodeling.com.

Ep.88: Women in Production Management with Heather Tankersley

The remodeling and construction industries are dominated by men. Even such necessary things as safety equipment are a bad fit for the few women who are working on the production side in residential remodeling or construction.

But things are slowly changing. More women are showing up on job sites, and working in production and operations management.

In this episode, Heather Tankersley talks about her experiences as an operations manager with Tim and Steve. She discusses what it’s like to be in a management role as a woman in construction and the differences between her experience in commercial and residential projects.

Heather is co-owner of Tankersley Construction in Rancho Cordova, CA, with her husband Steve (check out his episode). Founded three years ago, it’s quickly become one of California’s leaders in residential construction by taking commercial construction principles and applying them to small- and mid-sized homeowner projects. Before working at Tankersley Construction, Heather managed complex projects for some of the largest electrical contractors in the United States. Heather’s prior project experience includes new student housing at Sacramento State University, new classrooms for UC Hastings, medical facility expansion at Folsom State Prison, and multiple VA and healthcare projects throughout Northern California. 

While still working full-time in her previous job, Heather worked with Steve to develop the new company’s processes, and they found the need for an operations manager role. She filled in. Heather manages the pre-construction phase. When the job is handed off to the project managers, Heather oversees the schedules and the progress of each individual job. She talks about what she’s learned and what her prior project management experience has helped her company, including:

  • How she got into the industry
  • Being comfortable with asking the three “whys”
  • Developing organizational skills
  • The need for good people skills
  • Her protocols for keeping information up-to-date
  • The platforms and applications she uses
  • Dealing with gender biases
  • Organizations supporting women in construction
  • Finding mentors 
  • The advantages of being a woman in residential remodeling
  • And more …

Heather says remodelers should look to recruit commercial project managers — male or female — by using the appeal of the more personal, relationship-driven work of residential remodeling.

FREE Webinar coming up in February…

Change Orders: The Top Three $$$ Mistakes Corrected

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Ep.86: Hindsight is 2020

If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do differently when starting your remodeling business if you only knew then what you know now, you’re not alone. 

Tim and Steve do, too. 

In this episode, the guys talk about what they’ve learned in their time at Remodelers Advantage and from their podcast guests that they wish they knew when they were running their own businesses.

They each identified the five biggest takeaways that make remodeling businesses stronger, more profitable, and built for growth. Learn what they think is important and why, including:

  • The power of job descriptions
  • Being financially transparent
  • Protecting profit through data
  • Making business decisions based on numbers, not feelings
  • Learning to sell, not just take orders
  • Getting to a zero punch list
  • And more …

Including the five states Tim still has to visit, as well as sincere thanks from everyone at the show for giving us your time, ideas, and feedback. If you’ve got an idea for a topic or guest, drop Tim a line at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Early Bird Discount Available for The Extreme Business Makeover on January 28-29 in Baltimore – Save $200 by Registering Before January 22nd

Come learn from Tim Faller and some of the most experienced, well-respected speakers, presenters and panelists in the North American remodeling industry. 

The Extreme Business Makeover is two days of interactive, thought-provoking presentations, break-outs and panel discussions with some of the remodeling industry’s best and brightest. The perfect way to prepare your company for 2020 and beyond! Register Today!

Ep.84: Residential vs. Commercial Construction with Steve Tankersley

There can be a bit of a disconnect between folks working in residential and those in commercial construction, and a way of thinking that they’re just completely different. But there are ideas and methods of production that can be used successfully in both.

Steve Tankersley is a third-generation builder whose earliest memories are of being on a jobsite with his father. He earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management from Sacramento State University while working as a carpenter for one of Sacramento’s largest residential remodeling companies. After graduating, Steve was an estimator and project manager overseeing multi-million dollar projects ranging from churches, schools, and hospitals to power plants, train stations, and apartment complexes. 

That’s when Steve first envisioned applying large-scale commercial project management philosophies to small- and mid-sized properties, commercial and residential. 

In this episode, Steve talks about what each side of the industry can learn from the other with Tim and Steve.

Steve and his wife, Heather, founded Tankersley Construction in Rancho Cordova, CA, when he realized that to truly be part of a company he loved, he needed to create it himself. It has quickly grown into one of the Sacramento region’s largest remodeling companies. Tankersley Construction has won multiple NARI awards for their projects, recognizing excellence in design, management, scheduling, and safety. 

About half of Steve’s work is in residential and half in commercial. There are separate management models for each, with different layers of management. He talks about what is the same, what is different, and how to get the best of both worlds, including:

  • Superintendents vs. project managers
  • Who works where — and when
  • Project management and client management
  • Critical-path scheduling
  • Using LEAN in construction
  • Starting at the end, and scheduling backwards
  • Taking the safety culture of commercial into residential
  • Getting selections done
  • And more …

Including how Steve applied what he learned in multi-phase commercial projects that help keep remodeling clients on their own schedules.

Ep.83: Secrets of the Final Completion List with Ed Hoksbergen

If you’re getting to your final walk-through and finding work that’s not done, or not done right, your schedule gets fouled up and your budget is busted. To tie up all the loose ends before they can cost you more time and money, you’ve got to be a step or two ahead of the problems.

A final completion list can help. Ed Hoksbergen uses a 100-point system to ensure a project is complete and up to his company’s standards, and to turn over a job with a zero punch list.

In the episode, Ed discusses using a final completion list with Tim and Steve, including how to set one up and what it can do for your jobs and warranties.

Ed has been the production manager at Encore Homes in Middleton, WI, since 2012. He joined the team as an assistant superintendent in March of 2002 in the multi-family division, and was promoted to I superintend in 2004 in single-family division. Since incorporating this quality assurance form and checklist, Encore has seen their 30-day and one-year punch lists greatly reduced and — in some cases — found nothing on the punch list at the one-year walk-through.

The QA score sheet used to grade a project manager on the completed job. Ed says the form is set up to be done six days prior to closing a project. It’s used to ensure all work is up to Encore standards and to turn over a completed job with a zero punch list. A project manager scoring 96 percent or better is awarded a bonus at the end of the job. Ed talks about how to set up your own completion list, including:

  • Assessing the quality of the work
  • Looking at the details
  • How to close out the job
  • Educating the client
  • How to sell it to your team
  • Determining what’s in or out of a PM’s control
  • And more …

A completion list can help you boost the quality of your work while helping you deliver jobs on time.

If you would like to follow Tim’s adventures on the road….

Every month TIm Faller shares his “From the Field” Newsletter with additional tips, thoughts and tales of his travels across North America, working shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best production teams in the business. If you would like to subscribe to Tim’s Newsletter, CLICK HERE!

Ep.82: Key Performance Indicators for Carpenters & Project Managers with Rick Swanquist

Many problems plaguing production departments end up costing time and money. While it’s clear that there are issues, many remodeling companies can’t pinpoint the causes. 

One way to find out what’s really going on is to establish Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. KPIs allow you to measure how well your production process works. But what should you measure, and how can you do it?

In this episode, Rick Swanquist answers those questions as he joins Tim and Steve to discuss how he uses KPIs to really know what’s going on in his production department, and what it means to his company.

A veteran of the construction industry, with nearly 15 years of project management experience, Rick has been with Main Street Design Build in Birmingham, MI, since 2015. Rick was hired to be a project developer at Main Street, quickly working his way up to project manager, and spent the first two years of his tenure managing projects. He has been a production manager for two years at Main Street. Rick’s passion is scheduling and managing subcontractors and in-house carpenters to see a project through to its completion.

When beginning to institute KPIs in your company, you need to figure out what they’ll be. Rick defines a KPI as a goal that is practicable and repeatable through objectives defined by metrics, that have timelines and targets with methods for predicting and measuring them. The data is collected throughout each project and evaluated at the end. Rick talks about what he looks at, how to set goals, and keeping his team accountable through KPIs, including:

  • What can be measured
  • How to evaluate KPIs
  • The 13 KPIs he uses for carpenters
  • The KPIs for project managers
  • Using the project autopsy to measure performance
  • How long-term measurement ensures accurate assessments
  • How the estimate works in the mix
  • Keeping the process open and transparent
  • Establishing a baseline for expectations
  • How KPIs can boost morale and healthy competition
  • The client satisfaction score
  • And more …

All the KPIs, taken together, allow Rick to see how his team is performing and to identify and solve problems in production quickly. 

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