Production

Ep.65: A History of Production Success with Paul Winans

Experience is one of the best teachers — and today’s guest has the kind of experience that will make your production processes work better in every way. His success in the remodeling industry didn’t come easily, he adapted and changed how he and his company worked to make it happen.

In this episode, Paul Winans, CR, talks to Tim and Steve about his years in the remodeling business, what he’s learned, and how to look at production as a company-focused activity.

Paul runs Winans Consulting, in Ashland, OR. He ran a highly successful remodeling business with his wife, Nina, for 29 years before they sold it in 2007. Their systems-oriented approach, with manuals for every position which were used as part of a continuous training program, contributed greatly to the company’s success and their ability to be away from the day-to-day running of the business for cumulatively up to four months each year! Paul was a Roundtables member, is a facilitator, a consultant, and contributor to Remodeling.hw.net.

The production department is what allows your company to shine, says Paul. The biggest thing Paul did in his company was getting real about estimating for his employees’ capabilities in the real world — and respecting that. He also realized the production department was only as good as the package they were given at the handoff. He talks about how to get that process in place, and other ways to improve your business and yourself, including:

  • Understanding that all the money is made before a project starts
  • Why upfront work allows production to produce
  • Getting real with proposals
  • Relating to your competition
  • Running an effective and fun trade breakfast
  • Setting expectations
  • Making promises and keeping them
  • How to bring your mission statement and core values to life
  • Running your team meetings by not running them
  • Soliciting suggestions from your team
  • Creating bonds between departments
  • What employee longevity can tell you about your company
  • And more …

Including why not the owner of the company should only visit a job site with a production manager — and why.

Paul’s book, The Remodeling LIfe: From Laggard to Leader, is coming soon on Amazon, and is filled with stories about how business should work for you, not you working for the business.

Ep.62: Hitting a Schedule Every Time with April Bettinger

Hitting a schedule every time in construction is possible if you pay proper attention to planning and have a purposeful attitude.

In this episode, April Bettinger joins Tim and Steve to talk about the best practices and the common pitfalls to avoid when creating and managing an on-time project that ends with delighted clients.

April is the founder and owner of Nip Tuck Remodeling in Snohomish, WA. For more than 30 years, she’s carved out a respected niche in the construction industry. Her father was a custom homebuilder, so April grew up watching and learning about excellent customer service, and what it takes to build a high-quality project. April has held key roles in finance, budgeting, customer service, team building, and sales management — preparing her to own and operate her own company. Nip Tuck Remodeling was founded in 2010, with a vision and determination to create a construction company with extraordinary craftsmanship and a focus on professionalism. Nip Tuck was named a Big50 remodeler in 2018, and ranked the No. 50 Fastest Growing Private Company in 2018 by the Puget Sound Business Journal

April and her estimator create the master schedule, then it’s turned over to the production manager, who is responsible for creating and  managing the job schedules on BuilderTrend. One huge factor in staying on track once you’re in production is getting the schedules done and materials ordered a month before the project starts. She talks about why that works, and other aspects of keeping your jobs on schedule, including:

  • Why the project manager has to create and own the schedule
  • How to break the details down and work with them
  • Setting pivotal goals for each week in the schedule
  • Using goals for client satisfaction
  • Helping everyone buy in to the system
  • How much time it takes to pre-plan
  • Why you should make the time investment
  • How sales and design affect the schedule
  • Handling change orders in the schedule
  • Getting clients to think ahead during selections
  • Building in reasonable wiggle room
  • Leaving nothing TBD
  • Handling design changes and heading them off
  • Beating weather challenges in the schedule
  • How to deal with damaged materials
  • And more …

If you believe you can hit project schedules, you can. If you think it will never happen, it won’t. It’s all about the attitude.

See April Speak at the Annual Remodeler’s Summit

We’re thrilled that April Bettinger will be speaking at the 2019 Remodeler’s Summit, on September 24-25, in Orlando:

To learn more the Summit event and our line-up of other great speakers, go to Remodelerssummit.com!

Ep.61: A Half Century in Construction with David Gerstel

There have been a lot of changes in the remodeling industry — technological advances, new products and materials, building requirements, the labor shortage. But some things remain the same — you’re still pouring foundations, shingling roofs, driving nails, and working with clients.

In this episode, David Gerstel talks about the changes he’s seen over the last 50 years in construction and remodeling with Tim and Steve. He talks about what he’s learned and how to prepare for the future.

David Gerstel of Kensington, CA, has been a builder for more than 40 years, and is the author of several respected books on construction company management, including the recently published Nail Your Numbers: A Path to Skilled Construction Estimating and Bidding. His construction operation emphasizes respect for, and profit sharing with, employees, bullet-proof construction,  efficiency in the field and the office, and rigorous control of overhead. David moved beyond bidding for free a few years after becoming a general contractor, and initiated a nationwide movement away from competitive bidding and toward working in collaboration with clients and designers through the use of what is variously known as cost-planning services, pre-construction consulting,  and other terms. David continues to build and write for the sheer joy and satisfaction of it. 

After leaving college, David wanted to work with his hands. He pursued carpentry, and loved working for himself. He has pioneered many of the business practices that have become standard in the industry. He talks about the changes he’s seen, and what has remained the same, including:

  • Building a company that can handle a downturn
  • Keeping overhead low and where to invest profits
  • How he got away from free estimates
  • The organic evolution of business and businesses
  • The developer model vs. the traditional model
  • The joyful way to build
  • The best changes he’s seen
  • Why the cost-planning model encourages collaboration
  • How construction is a predictable, beautiful story that unfolds
  • And more …

Including why he loves and hates nail guns, what tasks you should use them for, and why.

Ep.60: The Sales to Production Handoff with Mike Livingston

The handoff, turnover, passing the baton — or whatever you call it in your company — is a critical step in production. Having a well-planned, tight, organized system in place is key to a smooth-running project that ends with a happy client and healthy bottom line. As you grow, it becomes even more important — and more complicated.

So much information is gathered, discussed, sifted through, and torn apart as Sales and Design meet with the client. There are so many meetings, phone calls, emails, and discussions that it’s hard to keep straight. After the contract is signed, Sales and Design are supposed to relay all of the relevant information to production. But you need a system to make sure it happens.

In this episode, Mike Livingston talks to Tim and Steve about his company’s process, having good communication, and holding effective meetings at the handoff point.

Mike is the Production Manager with Blackdog Builders in Salem and Amherst, NH. He’s been with the company for 23 years, project managing additions, kitchens and baths. As the company has grown, he has filled the seat of Production Manager. In 2018, Mike was honored as Advisor of the Year at Shawsheen Vo-Tech where he serves on the carpentry advisory board.

Mike talks about the importance of bringing the Project Manager and Lead Carpenter into the process early. This allows them to get acquainted and comfortable with the upcoming project through a detailed binder that’s been checked for completeness. Then there are two meetings before the project kicks off. Mike talks about how they got to their current system, including:

  • What a successful handoff really looks like
  • Why the handoff looks different for every company
  • The importance of communicating the client’s needs 
  • Noting existing conditions and details
  • Identifying problem areas
  • Tracking the cost savings
  • Creating mutually beneficial systems for Sales, Design and Production
  • Why questions in handoff meetings are a good thing
  • How planning time saves Production time
  • Creating a system that can evolve
  • Using the binder system as a recruiting tool
  • And more … 

Having all the details straight and documented helps the handoff run smoothly, and sets the stage for running a trouble-free and efficient job.

Ep.58: The Inspector’s View with Aaron Wingert

Building codes and inspection systems can vary greatly from one place to another, but every remodeler has some experience with inspections — good or bad.

In this episode, we get the other side of the story, from a former inspector. Aaron Wingert joins Tim and Steve to talk about how important it is to establish trust with your local inspectors and embrace the whole process.

Aaron has been a market development manager for Louisiana Pacific for two and a half years, and lives in the Kansas City area. Prior to working for LP, he spent nearly 16 years as a building codes inspector, chief inspector, and plans examiner in two jurisdictions in the Kansas City area. In that time, he did inspections of all phases of work, by all trades, in remodels, new construction, residential, multi-family, and commercial construction.

Aaron talks about being hired as an inspector out of the construction industry, and what kind of training inspectors may — or may not — get. When they’re on a job site, there’s a lot of pressure on them too. To work well together, he says, you have to own the work you do, and it’s critical to be at your inspections. Aaron talks about how to develop a good working relationship with local building departments, including:

  • Working with a new inspector
  • Staying on top of code changes
  • When to call the supervisor
  • Developing the ability to eat crow
  • Why playing games with your inspector is a bad idea
  • Being open to conversations and differences in interpretations
  • Why the burden of proof is on you
  • Getting scheduling straight
  • Participating in code review sessions
  • Knowing how your inspectors work
  • What worries keep inspectors up at night
  • Who’s to blame when something goes horribly wrong
  • And more …

Overall, just be human, approachable, and friendly — inspectors do want to help you, Aaron says. Get to know each other, try not to be combative, and everything will run more smoothly.

Ep.57: Checklist Implementation with Wesley Yoder

Problems in Production can be hard to fix — even identifying chronic mistakes and hurdles takes time. Too often, remodelers stop there, shrug, and say, “it is what it is.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Checklists are a great tool to use in the next step, when you solve the problems and prevent them from happening again and again.

In this episode, Wesley Yoder talks to Tim and Steve about how he took control of the Production process after reading The Checklist Manifesto, and how you can, too.

Wesley has been the Production Manager at West Chester Design Build in West Chester, PA, since January 2018. He joined WCDB nine years ago as a Lead Carpenter. After three years, he moved into the Project Manager role.

When Wesley read the book, he was surprised at how useful it is for remodeling processes. It covers the use of checklists in diverse industries, describing how they can significantly reduce errors, save money, and prevent accidents. In Production, checklists can also reduce slippage and keep the job running smoothly. As your processes and jobs become more complex and involve more people on site, checklists can help you run your jobs more efficiently. Wesley talks about how to create and use your checklists to be effective, including:

  • Getting feedback and buy in
  • Why checklists are always evolving
  • Keeping it simple
  • Building on past experience
  • Boulder-drop moments
  • Using them as training tools
  • Discussing the checklists with clients
  • Where to keep them so they’re used
  • How to know what to add
  • The power of paper
  • And more …

Wesley also uses personal checklists for his own job functions, and says it’s a great way to get started with using them on a larger scale with the rest of your team.

What Do You Want to Hear About?

We’ve gotten some fantastic suggestions for topics and guests, so keep them coming! Send your ideas for topics or guests to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com. Thanks!

Ep.56: The Ins and Outs of Off-Site Construction with David Cooper

Remodelers and custom-home builders are used to being on a job site, building from the outside in, whatever the weather. Modular or prefab homes are built in a controlled factory environment, from the inside out, and have made strides in quality, architectural complexity, and production processes.

In this episode, David Cooper talks to Tim and Steve about modular homes, their history, what the future holds, and some of the misconceptions about prefab homes.

David is the managing director of Connecticut Valley Homes of East Lyme, CT, with design studios in Fairfield and Westerly, CT. David is an award-winning modular home expert. CVH has been in business for 40 years, building more than 1,600 custom homes, and specializes in teardowns, rebuilds, and coastal construction.

Modular home building is a growing industry, spurred by technology — especially AutoCAD — which allows modular builders to create custom homes. Modular builders can construct essentially the same homes as on-site and stick-built homes. They build to the same codes using the same materials, but the process is different. David says his company can have a homeowner move in 120 days (or less) from the time they put the house on the foundation, and he talks about other facets of off-site construction, including:

  • How they compete on quality
  • The five types of modular homes
  • Building in a controlled environment
  • Energy benefits of modular construction
  • Sustainable building processes
  • Having lower liability on site
  • What the building process looks like
  • Using robots to frame walls
  • Getting all the clients’ decisions up front
  • The differences in inspections
  • The ballet of coordination in the factory and on site
  • How the money works out
  • The beauty of no change orders
  • And more …

It’s an insightful look at another part of the home building business and the different production processes they use.
 

Super Early Bird Discount for The 2019 Production Conference Ends Friday, June 7th

PRODUCTION CONFERENCE ’19: BIGGER & BETTER!
After two outstanding years, we are excited to host the 3rd Annual Production Conference, held alongside the 2019 Remodelers Summit at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida. In addition to hosting the event in the same hotel as the Summit, we’ve made even easier to register for BOTH events at the same time!

 
 

Ep.52: Growing Through Team Engagement with Michael Sauri

We’ve talked about getting your Production team engaged in refining your systems and processes by encouraging them to make decisions and look for problems.

But have you considered involving Production in the Design process?   

In this episode, Michael Sauri talks about how and why he did just that with Tim and Steve. Through this change, Michael sped the growth of his company.

Michael and his wife Deborah started TriVistaUSA in 2005 and the company’s grown to four times the size in as many years — with decreased overhead and increased take-home for their family and employees. Michael received the 2018 Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year.

Engaging Production in Design started with Michael working with an architect on a project, and being frustrated — he wanted to offer more options for his client. Michael asked his Production Manager to offer his ideas. Now, everyone involved in a job is involved in the Design process. He tells you how you can do it, and why:

  • What a charette is
  • Employing a charette concept in other areas
  • Work with your team’s strengths
  • Looking back to other projects for inspiration
  • Using creativity in problem-solving
  • Why input spurs engagement
  • Reducing on-site problems before they can start
  • Changing processes as you grow
  • Why it saves time overall
  • Who to involve and when
  • How to get started
  • And more …

Tapping into your team’s experiences and insights is the first step to getting to the best outcomes and solutions. It’s a continuous process, but can pay dividends in your bottom line, and in employee loyalty.

Ep.51: Getting a Trade Show Education with Lauren Moore

We’ve talked about trade schools and skills training, but today we focus on what you can learn at trade events. Attending and sending your team can broaden everyone’s skill sets and knowledge bases.

In this episode, Lauren Moore discusses what goes on behind the scenes at shows and events with Tim and Steve, why you should consider attending, and why sending your team is great idea.

Lauren has been in the conference planning and continuing education industry for almost 10 years. She started out working within medical education and is now concentrating on construction professionals. Lauren’s goal is to curate the best, most timely, and well-rounded education programs possible for her attendees. Working with industry professionals, she organizes and manage over 150 sessions and 75 speakers annually at the JLC Live events as well as the Remodeling Show co-located with Deck Expo. Each education program takes up to 10 months to plan and produce, forcing her to become a master in organization.

If you’ve never been to a trade show or conference, Lauren says you should just start on the show floor, and maybe one session in the conference program. Then look at it from your team’s perspective — what do they need to know? She stresses the importance of:

  • Live demonstrations for technical education
  • What you can learn from distributors
  • Why networking is a huge education component
  • Why the admission and other fees can turn into savings on the job
  • Getting continuing education credits
  • How to set it up for your team
  • And more …

Including where to find the free beer. Every little bit of knowledge gained can save time and money on the job site, paying dividends on your investment.

Keep It Up!

We’ve gotten some great suggestions so far for topics and guests — share your ideas with Tim: tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.50: Choosing Estimating Software with Jef Forward

Estimating accurately is critical to the success of any remodeling business. As you grow your business or hand off estimating to an employee, having the right system in place is paramount. It can feel like an overwhelming decision — there’s so much software available. The wrong decision will cost you lost revenue, but even worse — lost time.

Fortunately, there’s a simple strategy to help you navigate this very important decision.

In this episode, Jef Forward talks about estimating software with Tim and Steve. He’s worked with several estimating software packages and systems over the years, and shares what he’s learned.

Jef Forward is the founder — and co-owner with his wife Monica — of Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor, MI. For more than 20 years, Jef has performed every role within the company, including designer, laborer, carpenter, bookkeeper and estimator — you name it, he’s done it. Now with 24 employees, Jef has two full-time estimators.

Start your decision-making by looking at two factors — getting the estimate itself right and how the program’s output will be presented to someone other than the estimator — especially your clients. The first step is to not look at any software, Jef says. You can get distracted by all the bells and whistles of new programs and miss whether it will really work for you. He talks about the vetting process, what it can do for your estimating, and some of his favorite software choices, including:

  • How to create a Process & Needs document
  • Integrations with other programs
  • Deciding on must-haves and nice-to-haves
  • Mixing and matching vs. all-inclusive systems
  • Not looking for quick fixes
  • Evaluating and testing
  • Who to involve in making choices
  • The fine art of guessing
  • What to do by hand vs. what’s automatic
  • Slicing and dicing information
  • Client presentations and reports
  • And more …

Choosing the right estimating software for your company depends on many factors, but the work done up front will ensure you’re not saddled with a system that doesn’t fit. Taking the time and involving the team will help you make the right pick.

Tell Us More!

Do you have a suggestion for a topic or guest for an upcoming episode? Send Tim an email: tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

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