Production

Ep.34: Job Planning for Success with Dave Wittig

You need to take time at the start of a job to plan so you can keep to a job’s schedule and the budget. But the Production department almost always feels like they’re under the gun at the start and just want to get to work. Even with a schedule, something unexpected almost always happens and throws the whole thing off.

It’s frustrating, and it’s easy to throw up your hands and give up on planning — it takes up too much time at the beginning of the job and it seems like it never works. That’s why you need to plan for the unexpected at the beginning, says Dave Wittig.

In this episode, Dave talks to Tim and Steve about spotting potential problems and building in contingencies in your job planning and scheduling.

Dave is a Project Manager with Adams & Beasley Associates in Carlisle, MA. He’s been with the company for almost two years, working on high-end residential remodels mostly within Boston. One of his projects recently won a Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston Prism Gold Award.

Because most of his projects take place in the downtown core of a major city, logistics, deliveries, and parking add to his planning and scheduling headaches. But learning to spot the red flags and make allowances in his schedule for them helps. “When I hear an ‘if,’ I know there’s going to be a problem,” he says. He tells you how to stay flexible within the structure of a schedule, by building in contingencies, as well as:

  • The value of working backwards to fill in gaps
  • Working with your team to nail the details
  • Getting buy-in
  • Tapping others’ knowledge and experience to forecast problems
  • Not painting the rosy picture
  • Why you need a whiteboard on-site
  • And much more…

It’s not the hiccups in the job that get things off track, says Dave. It’s how you react to them that will make or break the schedule.

Have a Production Superstar?

If one or more of your Production pros has a skillset, system, or solution that should be highlighted on the podcast, drop us a line at tim@remodelersadvantage.com or steve@remodelersadvantage.com. We’d love to have them on the show.

Did You Know There are Roundtables For Production Managers?

Developed by show host, Tim Faller, this special Roundtables™ Group Program for Production Managers focuses on all aspects of production management including: People Management, Training, Technology and Customer Service. For more information, click here or contact Tim directly.
 

Ep.33: The Reboot Week with Dave Domenichini

A full week where no production, no work on projects at all, might seem like any remodeling company’s nightmare — the kind that wakes you in the middle of the night. For one company, though, it’s a reality that’s worked like a dream.

In this episode, Dave Domenichini explains the hows, whys, and benefits of building in a Reboot Week to Tim and Steve. All production for that week stops — not even subs are working — as he gathers his management team for meetings to go over what works, what can be improved, and to concentrate on new ideas.

Dave started D.R. Domenichini Construction in 2004 with one employee in Morgan Hill, CA. He slowly built the company to its current size of 12 employees — seven in the field and five salaried managers. In the beginning, he wore many hats and had many job titles. As the company grew, he was able to hire people to fill those roles so that he could focus on business development.

Reboot Week gives Dave and his management team time to work on the business, not in the business, and review and plan to implement new systems and training. “It’s like when you’re spinning your wheels in a car,” he says. “You’ve got to let off the throttle to get traction.” Dave explains why it works, the problems it’s solved, and how to sell it to the hourly staff that won’t get paid for that week, as well as:

  • Gathering actionable information
  • How to prepare your clients
  • Searching for the “Golden Nugget”
  • Building in fun
  • Creating the agenda
  • And much more…

If you’re thinking about how much it costs to take a week off of active work on jobs, Dave says don’t — he thinks about how much it would cost him not to do it.

Ep.32: The Importance of Hands-On Tool Training with Gary Katz

Skills training is a hot topic, but too few companies are doing anything more than discussing it. The industry can no longer count on anyone else to do the basic training for trade skills, those in the remodeling business need to do it to help solve our labor shortage.

There’s also a fear of training employees, just to see them leave with their new skills to work for someone else. But training your employees will help the industry as a whole, and that means taking responsibility and doing something about it, says Gary Katz.

In this episode Gary tells Tim and Steve about why — and how — companies can commit to training their people to keep up with new technologies and products, and build your business.

Gary is the publisher of THISisCarpentry.com, an online magazine devoted to craftsmen and craftsmanship. For two decades he has been a frequent contributor to Fine Homebuilding, Journal of Light Construction, Fine Woodworking, and other leading trade magazines. Gary’s books include The Doorhanger’s Handbook, Finish Carpentry: Efficient Techniques for Custom Interiors, and Trim Made Simple. His DVD series, Mastering Finish Carpentry, sets the standard for professional video instruction in the construction trades. The Katz Roadshow provides hands-on training at lumber yards and other locations to share techniques and best practices with industry professionals.

To ramp up your in-house training, you have to create a systems-based approach to everything your people do. Everyone has to do everything the same way, and having a dedicated training facility is ideal — but you can train your team without it. Start by reading your trade magazines, go to demonstrations at trade shows, and create a library of DVDs. Gary shares his insights on training, including:

  • Why everything moves — and how understanding that changes the way you build
  • Why training will actually help you keep the employees you want
  • How to ultimately pass the cost on to your clients
  • The steps to getting into a training mindset
  • Making it fun 
  • Unleashing the power of true craftsmanship
  • Tips on vetting new products
  • And more…

The underlying importance in training is teaching your people how to think, to figure out how to to adapt techniques to new materials, products, and tools. To find out more about training your team, and where to find the resources to do it, email Gary at gary@garymkatz.com.

Ep.31: Tim and Steve’s Top 10 Episodes (So Far)

We’re taking a stroll down memory lane, to pick our Top 10 moments from our first 30 episodes. These episodes discuss the big ideas that can really change your company and how you do business. Every time we talk to a guest, we come away with something new. Although we look at Production, our biggest takeaways are how important it is to involve your whole team, from Sales to Design to Production, and to make work more meaningful and fun.

If you’re new to the podcast, or may have missed a couple episodes, here’s a handy list of links to the 10 episodes Tim and Steve consider their best so far, and why. The subjects and guests cover a lot of ground, so take a look and then give them a listen!

No. 5

Steve’s Pick

Ep.04: Running Effective Production Meetings with Teri McDermott. Teri came back from our Production Conference in 2017 and completely blew up her company’s process. She realized they were doing what they’ve always done, and it was going nowhere. She got her team involved, getting feedback to make their meetings more meaningful. She paired Design and Production people to talk about the problems, how to solve them, and changed the entire dynamic of how her team worked together.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.23: Controlling Scope Creep With Sales Change Orders with Will Giesey

Will talked about something that could change the industry across the board. By introducing the idea of a core scope of work, with change orders occurring during the design process, you can cushion the blow of escalating prices on clients while maintaining margins. Will’s Production Manager Ryan Stiffney joined us, and talked about how important it is that their clients are already used to change orders and how it reduces stress for everyone.

No. 4

Steve’s Pick

Ep.12: Making the Transition from Home Building to Remodeling with Kevin Gregory

Kevin talks of his experiences and the differences in speed and quality between large-production new-home building and remodeling, and why things are the way they are. Learn about how you can successfully make the change to remodeling — where turnaround time is longer, quality has to be better, and you interact much more with clients — and how to lead workers through it.

Tim’s Pick:

Ep.01: Hiring Out of Trade Schools with David Keebler

Tim expresses some disappointed in our industry not getting new people into our business and not taking responsibility for making it happen. In this, our first episode, David talks about his company’s active involvement in their local trade school — and talks to one of its graduates, Al Chieffo, a carpenter who was hired right out of school.

No. 3

Steve’s Pick

Ep.10: Customer Satisfaction; Communication & Setting Expectations with Sal Alfano

Sal just showers you with wisdom, Steve says, and he draws on deep and wide experience in the industry. He talks about craftsmanship, communication, and running efficient projects. You can hear Sal discuss the importance of transparency in the industry, and how to protect your body when doing physical work.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.30: Building Systems in Production with Brad Hogan

If you can create only one system, it’s the process map — figuring out what happens in the entire process from the first client call to closing up the job. Once you’ve got that in place, you can go back to create systems for each step and department.

No. 2

Steve’s Pick

Ep.09: Keeping Craft Alive & Closing the Skills Gap with Rob Yagid

Rob took it upon himself to change something in the industry by leading the movement to celebrate the trades as a real career path by founding the Keep Craft Alive initiative. Created to help close the skills gap and encourage training and education, the campaign funds scholarships and publicizes the campaign in media outlets, and has popularized the hashtag #KeepCraftAlive.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.25: How to Fire a Client with Jackie Stezik

Every contractor has thought about it, and wanted to do it, but Jackie has fired clients — four times, in fact, and always for the good of her team. The first step is getting your contract language in line, and creating a process that allows you to get out of an abusive or dangerous situation.

No. 1

Steve’s Pick

Ep.03: Zero Punch List Production with Michael Barkhouse

Michael focused on solving the fatal flaw in a project — how to leave no error or step behind. He explains how to set your standards and expectations, and how to make that happen in real life. Getting to zero starts with sales, and continues through the process. If everyone expects it, the team’s behavior changes.

Tim’s Pick

Ep.05: Creative Ways to Motivate Your Production Team with Brad Yetman

For Tim, it’s not so much about the games, but about creatively motivating your people and making it fun. Using contests and games motivates people and makes work more enjoyable. You have to identify the problem you want to solve, figure out how to keep score, and let the team figure out what the reward should be.

We’d love to hear from you!

If you’ve got an idea for a topic, or have solved a nagging Production problem, let us know. Shoot Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com. And if you’re enjoying The Tim Faller Show and learning while you do it, please spread the word and leave us a review on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

Ep.30: Building Systems in Production with Brad Hogan

Systems aren’t just for manufacturing or assembling a fast-food burger. There are tasks remodeling companies do every day, week, and month on every job. As your company grows, building systems into your business and production processes to standardize this work is a necessary step to avoid total chaos and wasted time.

In this episode, Brad Hogan drops by to talk systems with Tim and Steve, and how they’ve made a huge difference in how his company works.

Brad’s the Production Manager for Hogan Design & Construction, a full-service  design/build firm  in Geneva, IL, 45 miles west of Chicago. Hogan Design & Construction  works on commercial and residential remodels. Brad started with the company  in 2002 as a laborer. He worked his way up the ranks, becoming Production Manager in 2011, and began developing, changing and implementing the systems that make Hogan Design & Construction the premier choice for remodeling in the western suburbs of Chicago.

The tipping point comes when you have more than one person handling everything, says Brad. Then you have to pin things down. To start, put together an outline of the project, from first contact with the client to the end of the job. Figure out how to repeat successes and avoid the mistakes you’ve had on previous jobs. A good set of systems allows you to track it all to see what works and what doesn’t. Listen as Brad explains how to get started building your own systems:

  • The Top 3 systems you need to implement
  • Being open to changing the processes
  • Talking with your team
  • Getting people to buy in
  • When to allow some flexibility
  • Creating stop-gaps outside the systems
  • Legal issues that may come up
  • Setting expectations for trade partners
  • And more…

It’s all about getting things done, creating structure, and making sensible, repeatable processes. Brad also gives Roundtables a shout-out for making him able to get all these systems tightened up and in place.

 

Ep.29: Talking Job-Site Safety with Dale Nikula

Accidents happen on the job,  and luckily most are relatively minor — cuts, bruises, maybe stitches — but they can be more serious. Then everyone tightens up and pays attention, but that attention tends to fade. Getting jobs done once again becomes the focus, with maybe a few thoughts toward what could have happened. But a major accident could put your company out of business.

Dale Nikula and his company faced the worst that could happen. In 2003, one of his project managers died of head trauma after a fall.

In this episode, Dale talks to Tim and Steve about leading his company through that loss, and getting through the regulatory investigations. He had to take a hard look at how to keep his company thinking about safety — all the time.

Dale is the president of Encore Construction in Dennisport, MA. After working for his father for many years, he founded his own company in 1995 as Dale R. Nikula Co. Inc. Dale had established a reputation as an outstanding carpenter, but clients quickly discovered that he was equally talented at leading people and projects. The company grew steadily as word spread about Dale’s high standards and commitment to his clients. In 2003, Dale renamed his company Encore Construction to reflect the team of carefully selected project managers, designers, and craftspeople that joined him to serve customers.

After the fatal accident, Dale took important steps to keep his company together and get through the investigations. But he went a step farther, concentrating on how to keep his job sites safer, including hiring a retired OSHA official to consult and help create a formal safety program. It has to become a part of your production program, Dale says, and go beyond merely meeting requirements. He shows you how to create safer work sites, including:

  • Managing safety on a day-to-day basis
  • The critical nature of a job-site presence
  • Why OSHA never considers anything an accident
  • Naming a safety officer who’s in the field
  • Making the safety officer accountable
  • The two-strike rule
  • Covering safety in your budgets
  • The quality of safety equipment
  • Getting sub-contractors to buy in
  • And more…

Safety has to be top-of-mind, not an afterthought. One accident can put you out of business overnight. It’s a heavy topic, but one you should face head-on.

Ep.27: Building Great Trade Partnerships with Cory Fields

The term “trade partners” is beginning to replace subcontractor, and it’s a growing concept in the remodeling industry. It redefines the relationship, too, putting it on an even playing field.

But it’s more than just a term, and Cory Fields says they’re separate roles. A trade partnership is like a marriage, based on trust and mutual interest, and you work with them from project to project. You’re just dating your subcontractor, though, working on building a relationship that might not work out anyway.

In this episode, Cory explains more about the trade partner relationship to Tim and Steve, and why it can help your company get through the challenges of finding in-house employees in a labor shortage.

Cory is the Production Manager at Schroeder Design/Build in Fairfax, VA. He’s been there for a little more than four years, starting with four carpenters and three or four trusted trade partners, and growing his team to 14 carpenters and 10-15 trade partners.

Finding a trusted trade partner is a process, one built on clear communication and mutual respect. When you find the right ones, they can help you manage a job better than you could on your own. Cory talks about his interview process, and how he works with trade partners, including:

  • The importance of fair pricing
  • Working with you vs. working for you
  • How to move forward after conflict
  • Why you should never hold money back from a trade partner, even if it’s their mistake
  • Wanting the best for them and you
  • And more…

Building relationships isn’t easy, but finding and developing the right trade partners can make you more competitive and profitable.

Ep.26: Managing Your Clients Through Weekly Meetings with Pete Carey

One of the biggest factors in creating success as a remodeling company is keeping clients happy, and a big part of that is how you manage your jobs. Keeping a pulse on the emotional well-being of your clients with weekly meetings keeps the client on your team, while you manage the job.

Pete Carey drops by to talk to Tim and Steve about how to schedule and run weekly meetings, and why it works.

Pete started working as a carpenter for Riverside Construction in West Lafayette, IN, in the fall of 2001, thinking he’d be there for six months. Instead, he’s been with the company ever since. In April of 2018, he moved into the position of Production Manager, and is enjoying the new challenges that come with the role.

You’ve all worked on jobs that were successful in terms of budget, schedule, and finished product, but the clients were still grumpy at the end. Weekly meetings can help avoid that — but you have to make them productive. It’s not just another meeting for the sake of having one, you’ve got to make sure it’s a vehicle for the larger goal of caring for your clients’ emotional well-being. Pete guides you through the process that works, including:

  • How to set expectations with the clients
  • The two statements and one question that lead to productive meetings
  • How to train Project Managers to run them successfully
  • The key to letting clients know you care
  • Accentuating the positive
  • When to bring in help
  • And much, much more…

Empowering and trusting your Project Managers to set and run weekly meetings is a huge step in creating raving fans and boosting referrals.

Ep.24: The Relationship Between Design & Construction with Anitra Mecadon

There are so many people involved in remodeling projects, with different skillsets and specialities and personalities. On the construction team, there’s often misunderstanding or frustration with designers and architects. Great designers have innate talents and abilities, great craftsman do too. Everyone brings a significant piece to a successful project.

The key, as it is so often, is in communicating to build relationships.

In this episode, Anitra Mecadon brings her perspective as an interior designer, and talks to Tim and Steve about breaking down the barriers between all parties involved in remodeling projects.

In addition to being an interior designer, Anitra is also a television host and spokesperson for National Gypsum. She hosted five seasons of “MegaDens” on the DIY network and has appeared on other shows on DIY, as well as HGTV.

When a designer brings you a complicated plan, appreciate that while sometimes it’s not easier to execute, the final result will almost always be better. By talking —and more importantly — really listening to each other, designers and contractors can form a united team to get the best results for your clients. Anitra gives you tips and methods to get there, including:

  • What can get lost in translation between all the parties
  • Making clients feel confident in the finish selections
  • How to work with new products — even if they’re just new to you
  • Remaining flexible
  • How to talk through disagreements
  • And much more…

Anitra also gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what really happens on those home-improvement TV productions. We’re thrilled that Anitra will be with us at the Purple Production Conference in New Orleans, Sept. 27.


  

Ep.23: Controlling Scope Creep With Sales Change Orders with Will Giesey

There’s a traditional divide between Sales and Production. It’s always a challenge — they have different goals, processes, and personalities. Typically, Production is left out of the conversation when it comes to scope creep, leading to delays and change orders during construction — and disgruntled clients.

Will Giesey and his team are changing that situation through careful communication, new processes, and using change orders negotiated by Sales during the design process to set client expectations and streamline the Production process.

In this episode, Will brings along his Production Manager Ryan Stiffney to explain the process to Tim and Steve.

Will founded Bellweather Construction in 2002 in Philadelphia, PA. He earned his MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and studied fine art at Lawrence College, including concentrations in design and architecture. He holds multiple certifications with the National Association for the Remodeling Industry and other related credentials.

Ryan worked in the trades through high school and college. Ryan became Bellweather’s production manager in 2017 and handles internal sales-to-production project hand-offs, client communication, and trade partner relationships.

By introducing the idea of a core scope of work, with change orders occurring during the design process, Bellweather has been able to cushion the blow of escalating prices on their clients while maintaining margins. Get the details on how they make it work, including:

  • The importance of communication
  • Who should sign off on the contracts and why
  • How to explain it to clients
  • Why it works to vet good clients
  • The three phases of change orders
  • Why talk isn’t cheap — or free
  • And so much more…

For Bellweather, more time in the design process leads to a better Production process — and satisfied clients. For more on Bellweather, check out the website.

 

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