Production

Ep.74: Remodeling in Historic Restoration with Walter Beebe-Center

Any remodeling involving a historic building is complicated. You never know exactly what you’ll find hidden and what will have to be replaced. Period details have to be replicated, material that would be tossed out in a standard remodel must be saved, and old-world techniques like window glazing must be done. If the local historical commission gets involved, it can add another level of difficulty.

Remodeling historic structures isn’t for everyone, but Walter Beebe-Center and his company tackle these projects regularly. He says the company’s been lucky to work on houses that were occupied by people like Abigail Adams, John Greenleaf Whittier, Paul Revere, Josiah Quincy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alexander Hamilton. 

In this episode, Walter talks to Tim and Steve about remodeling historic homes, fixing previous work, and bringing older homes up to modern standards — with new plumbing, electrical work, and more energy efficiency.

Walter is the owner of Essex Restoration in Wilmington, MA. Upon graduating from Columbia College with a B.A. in economics, Walter gained hands-on carpentry experience by working on various building and remodeling projects in eastern Massachusetts. After five years working in the field, he (like many of his employees) attended North Bennett Street School’s two-year, full-time Preservation Carpentry program. In 1994, Walter founded Essex Restoration and began operating as a three-man company. Since then, Essex Restoration has grown to 17 employees and has served hundreds of clients. 

Walter explains the differences in working in preservation, replication, and renovation. Working with homeowners in historic homes requires compromises, in budget and function. He talks about the particular challenges and rewards of working in historic buildings, and how to preserve the charm of the old while building in modern conveniences and energy efficiency, including:

  • Figuring out how and where to add electricity and plumbing
  • Why drafts kept old houses healthy
  • How remodeling differs from “re-muddling”
  • Welding window glass
  • Working with the historical commission
  • Tunneling under an old foundation to pour new footings
  • Repairing a leaking roof without removing interior plaster
  • What a drift pin is, and how to use it
  • How to structure contracts
  • Keeping control of the budget
  • Setting a fixed markup percentage
  • Emptying a full dumpster to find an antique detail
  • The stories old buildings tell
  • And more …

If you’re interested in gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to work on historic homes, Walter advises to pair formal training with on-the-job experience.

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.69: Hitting Monthly Goals with Aaron Enfinger

Making sure you can hit your monthly revenue goals is key to a healthy bottom line. First, there has to be a plan and intention to hit those marks.

In this episode, Aaron Enfinger tells Tim and Steve about setting revenue and production goals, how to hit them, and why it helps prevent cash-flow problems.

Aaron is the general manager at The Cleary Company in Columbus, OH. In early 2017, he assumed the role of General Manager to address managerial needs The Cleary Company was experiencing, due to their pace of growth. 

He starts his goal-setting process with a spreadsheet, and drills down from the yearly goal to the weekly numbers the company needs to produce to hit its revenue numbers. Then he works with his production manager and office manager to carry the plan through. Aaron gives you great ideas about how you can do this in your own company, including:

  • Designing your production department to handle your goals
  • Why weekly number will fluctuate
  • What sets off alarm bells in the pipeline
  • Scheduling to smooth out seasonal differences
  • How job schedules relate to the master schedule
  • Setting up incremental milestone draws in a job
  • How often to evaluate your financials
  • Setting expectations with clients at the beginning of the project
  • Focusing your production team on their goals
  • Why a cloud-based project management system saves time in invoicing
  • And more …

Aaron also talks about how he found and used a powerful tool on LinkedIn to identify and recruit the company’s new production manager — from The Bahamas.

Click the link for the downloadable copy of Aaron’s Excel file.

Ep.68: Teaming Up with Manufacturers with Aaron Wingert

While you’re trying to please your clients, hit your schedules and margins, and juggle everything else, you can use all the help you can get. One way to bring in some assistance is by reaching out to your product manufacturers.

In this episode, Aaron Wingert discusses the benefits of having a relationship with your manufacturers with Tim and Steve. He gives us a view from the manufacturer’s perspective and insight into how a manufacturer’s representative can improve a remodeler’s business.

Aaron has been a market development manager for Louisiana Pacific for two and a half years, and his territory includes parts of Kansas and Missouri. LP is the largest engineered wood building products manufacturer in the world. Prior to working for LP, he spent nearly 16 years as a building codes inspector in the Kansas City area. 

Builders and remodelers are his main responsibility, and Aaron finds himself on job sites almost every day. Some of his visits are more like sales calls, but often it’s to troubleshoot an installation or answer a question about the materials. The biggest benefit to a remodeler to establishing a relationship with a manufacturer is understanding the products you’re selling as part of the entire project, as well as:

  • The questions to ask your reps
  • How plant visits can help your company’s sales
  • Taking advantage of rebate programs
  • Getting leads from your manufacturing partners
  • Training and education opportunities  for your team
  • Cutting down on errors in building
  • Using co-op dollars in your marketing
  • Getting SEO and social media help
  • Tapping into a manufacturer’s data
  • Best practices in handling product issues
  • And more …

Set yourself up for success by creating relationships with your manufacturer’s reps, take advantage of what they offer, and put yourself ahead of your competition.

Meet These Manufacturers at The Annual Remodelers Summit

Speaking of Manufacturers… Come meet these amazing companies at the Remodelers Summit in Orlando, FL on September 24-25!

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!

MASTER NAVIGATION
MASTER NAVIGATION