Project Management

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.

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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.

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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. 

Ep.81: Success with Daily Logs with Jason Stearns

Today we’re tackling what can be a simple topic, but some remodeling companies are still struggling with daily job logs. Technology has made this task so much easier to accomplish and to store.

In this episode, Jason Stearns talks with Tim and Steve about what to capture in a daily log, how to get your project managers to do it effectively, and why it’s a legal necessity. 

Jason has been in high-end residential market in San Francisco for almost 30 years, including projects working with many prestigious architecture firms. He joined Jeff King & Co. as director of production in 2017. Since then, he’s helped implement the use of Procore for their production teams, standardized the project scheduling formats, and started a weighted numeric skills assessment system for evaluating the carpentry and labor staff to identify needed training for advancement.

The daily log is a working tool that helps you track your scheduling commitments from subcontractors, keep records to protect you and your company during disputes, and other information. Jason talks about how his company uses daily logs, and the benefits, including:

  • Using templates for the log
  • What information to record
  • Tracking inspections
  • Using it as a legal document in lawsuits
  • How to get your team’s buy-in
  • Making everyone accountable
  • Using the logs in a project review
  • Why to keep them private
  • And more …

If you’re still on the fence and not regularly keeping daily logs, Jason says keeping one for every job, every day, is the best insurance you can have against your company getting hurt in a legal dispute.

Tell Us More …

We’ve gotten fantastic ideas from our listeners for topics and guests. If you’ve got a suggestion for Tim, drop him a line at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.80: Evaluating Trade Partners with Joe Divel

We talk about working with trade partners and subcontractors a lot around here. It can be a complicated and challenging relationship — too often it’s like you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.

Part of any relationship is change, and adjusting to those changes to keep it fresh and healthy. To keep track of those fluctuations, you need to evaluate how you’re working together.

In this episode, Joe Divel talks about trade partner evaluations with Tim and Steve, how they can keep work relationships solid for all parties, and head off problems before they start.

Joe has been with Case Design Remodeling Inc. in the Washington, DC, metro area for 21 years, wearing many hats during that time, mostly in the production area. Currently, as the senior director of recruitment, alliances, and logistics, he helps production by managing the company’s alliances, tracking job completion, and managing field support and safety.

At Case, they refer to how they work with trade partners or subcontractors as an alliance — Joe says that word choice reflects the respect they have for the firms they work with. He talks about how to start and maintain your own evaluation tools and what it can do for your company, no matter what you may call your subcontractors, including:

  • On-boarding new partners
  • What should be evaluated
  • Who you should survey
  • How often to assess the partnership
  • The red flags to look for
  • Sharing the results with partners
  • How to address problems
  • Learning how you can help them
  • And more …

Including why the company checks on proof of insurance from partners, and how much coverage your own firm should carry.

Keeping up with Tim Faller…

Every month, Tim shares personal and professional tips and advice, and some great stories of his adventures out on the Road. “From the Field” is Tim’s monthly Newsletter and is publishing this Thursday… if you aren’t already subscribed, Click here to Jump on Board.  

Ep.78: The Four-Day Work Week with Tim Welsh

To make the remodeling business work, there are a few musts — you have to be efficient, you have to have a competitive edge, and a good work-life balance.

Tim Welsh’s company does it in four days a week — at least in the field.

In this episode, Tim discusses the four-day work week with Tim and Steve, including how he came to it, what benefits there are, and how you can do it too.

Tim is the president of Welsh Construction in Lexington, VA. Though he started out wanting to enter the custom furniture business, Tim began his career as a laborer and worked his way up to foreman. He opened his own business 26 years ago, doing everything himself, until his wife joined him. Tim and Janeen have grown the company, added staff, and are in the process of transferring ownership as part of an eight-year transition plan.

The four-day work week started for Tim early on in — though at that time it meant four long days in the field for him, with the fifth day spent in the office or on sales calls. The carpenters working for him got used to being on the job for 10 hours, four days a week. When Tim transitioned out of the field, he kept the four-day schedule for his field staff. “It was in their DNA by that time,” he says. Tim tells you why it works for his company, including:

  • Who works four days, who works all five
  • How it makes start-up and breakdown more efficient
  • What you save from only having four lunch breaks
  • Explaining the schedule to your clients
  • Working with your subcontractors     
  • Getting used to 10-hour days
  • Working in winter darkness
  • How to work Monday holidays into the mix
  • The financial aspect
  • How it helps in hiring and keeping field staff
  • And more …

Tim says this schedule can help smaller contractors to concentrate their efforts in the field, while leaving time for other tasks on the fifth day. For larger firms, with lead carpenters and project managers, he advises rolling it out and trying it. It may work for you.

Ep.75: Promoting the Young Guy with Ryan Murphy

Finding good employees and managers can be difficult — there just aren’t that many qualified workers out there. Hiring somebody young without much training is an investment, but it can pay off in the long run. If you find the right person.

Ryan Murphy is one of those people. He didn’t know anything about construction until he started working in the field when he was 19. Six years later, he’s a project manager.

In this episode, Ryan talks to Tim and Steve about his experience and growth, and how your company can find great workers and train them to move up within your organization.

Ryan is a project manager at Elite Construction Services Inc. in Santa Cruz, CA. He joined Elite three years ago as a carpenter after gaining two years of experience elsewhere. He worked his way from apprentice to journeyman after his first year. Six months later, Ryan began training to become a project manager, while still doing some carpentry as needed. 

You have to have a constant and consistent conversation with everyone you meet to find the right people, he says. Talk to family, friends, and clients even before you have an opening. Ryan talks about his experiences in getting hired, his training on the job, and how you can promote people from within, including:

  • What to look for
  • Using a visual workbook
  • When to let workers go on their own
  • How to train for growth
  • Providing a safety net
  • How to teach the office tasks
  • Teaching people to answer their own questions
  • Using technology to run jobs better
  • And more …

The biggest key to finding and keeping young workers is making them feel like they have a real future in the industry, and especially within your company, Ryan says.

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.

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