Project Management

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.64: Job Site Look Ahead with Tom Batman & Mike Topper

The things on a job site that cost extra time and money could be cut down, if not eliminated, through careful, detailed planning. That’s where the job site look ahead makes a huge difference.

Lumber yard runs, selections that haven’t been made, and just about anything else that comes up can be identified if you’re planning ahead.

In this episode, Tim and Steve talk to Tom Batman and Mike Topper about how their company moved to a systemized planning process.

Tom has been with Harth Builders of Spring House, PA,  for more than 15 years. He tarted as a subcontractor, and eventually was hired as a full-time employee. He worked his way up from a carpenter to Lead Carpenter to Project Manager, and is NARI-certified as a Lead Carpenter and Project Manager.

Mike Is a NARI-certified Lead Carpenter who joined Harth after relocating from Portland, OR, in 2015.

Harth turned what Tom calls a “corporate corner” and began making systems and lists to get everyone on the same page. Project Managers get involved at the front end of a project — it gives production a greater say in how the logistics must work in the real world. Lead Carpenters get involved at the handoff, when the PM and the LC put together a full schedule, and stay three weeks ahead throughout the project. It takes tracking it every day, and Tom and Mike tell you about how to incorporate the look ahead, including:

  • Making the time every day
  • The different roles the PM and LC take
  • Workin on clear communication
  • The on-site job board
  • The kind of information to emphasize
  • Labeling each day for in-house and trade work
  • The detail you need and what just causes extra paperwork
  • How to work it with your cloud-based schedule on a project management system
  • Scheduling deliveries
  • What selections can hang out for a little while
  • The 3-2-1-1 system
  • The Accountability Checklist
  • And more …

Including how to start your own Look Ahead system by getting it all in writing and spending the time upfront in the sales phase.

These Are the Types of Topics…

Imagine a room full of Remodeling Production Professionals… People just like you, trying to improve the way your company operates and delivers impeccable work at a high profit… The Topic of today’s podcast is a perfect example of the types of things we will cover at the 2019 Production Conference in Orlando in September.

This annual event will bring more than two hundred Production Managers, Project Managers, and Lead Carpenters together for a one-day journey through the inner workings of some of the industry’s most successful and efficient Production Departments. Click Here for More Information & to Register Today!

Ep.63: Getting Selections Done Before the Job Starts with Tanya Donahue

Developing a system that makes your kitchen and bath jobs more profitable has to include getting those all-important selections done early in the process — before the job even starts.

Tim does a session on this, and it’s based on what he learned from Rhode Island Kitchen & Bath, in Warwick, RI. 

In this episode, Tanya Donahue discusses that process with Tim and Steve, and why it results in exceptional client experiences, and make everyone in the company happy and more productive.

Tanya is the president of Rhode Island Kitchen and Bath, and provides her team and her clients with proven strategic capabilities, backed by her strong record of success. She’s spent more than 25 years in the home building and remodeling industry, and her main focus is to create, communicate, and implement the organization’s vision, mission, and overall direction. Tanya is a member of the Rhode Island Builders Association, served as co-chair of the Remodeler’s Committee and is a former member of the board of directors. She was selected as a 2017 Industry panelist for Harvard University’s Joint Center on Housing Studies, and was a judge of the 2018 National Qualified Remodeler Design Awards. She was also the recipient of the 2017 ProRemodeler Extreme Sales Award.

At the company, when a job packet goes to production from sales, it has every selection made, right down to the color and manufacturer of the caulk to be used. So much money is lost when something is missing on the job. If your company isn’t doing it this way, Tanya says, it may seem overwhelming, but she tells you how to get your organization on board with making selections before the job starts, including:

  • Making the client the boss, sort of
  • Getting buy-in from sales and design 
  • How it increases productivity in design and sales
  • Including photos in the job packet for easy identification on site
  • Starting with the must-haves
  • Controlling the client through education in the process
  • Figuring out how clients make decisions
  • Why cabinets can drive their start date
  • Starting with a reservation form, and using it as a reality check on the schedule
  • The power of the visual production board
  • How to do it without a showroom
  • And more …

Integrating sales and production in a continuous communication loop from start to finish is key to the whole process.

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.54: Keeping Long-Term Employees with John Sylvestre

We’re once again talking about the labor crisis in the remodeling industry, but from a different angle. Developing an environment that will keep the employees you have, and help them grow in their roles, will help your company prosper.

In this episode, John Sylvestre talks to Tim and Steve about how he’s created a company that keeps employees — and keeps them happy.

John is the owner of Sylvestre Remodeling and Design in Minneapolis. He paid his way through school by remodeling and building homes and graduated with two degrees in architecture. He’s chaired the NARI education committee and the certification committee and also developed and implemented the Certified Lead Carpenter program. He has won numerous awards for his work in education including the Harold Hammerman Award from NARI. He says he has the best job in the world, drinking coffee and talking with people about changing their homes.

John’s team is filled with long-term employees — his Field Supervisor has been with him for 37 years, and was his first hire, his Production Manager for 26 years, and his Lead Carpenter for 27 years. He talks about how he finds and hires great people, and how he keeps them, including:

  • Letting people go in a direction they choose
  • Hiring well-rounded people
  • Understanding limits
  • Hiring for culture fit
  • Empowering your employees to make decision
  • Asking the right questions to spur hiring and development
  • How to train in your organization
  • Why his company’s like a hockey team
  • Mystery bus trips
  • Keeping your great people during downturns
  • Staying flexible
  • And more …

Including why having fun is so important in keeping the team members you want to remain with you.

We Love Your Ideas

Keep them coming! Send your suggestions for a topic or guest to Tim at tim@remdoldersadvantage.com.

Ep.53: Make Your Project Manager a Marketing Machine with Doug Panozzo

Of all the things you have in your marketing toolbox — your website, email and direct mail, or social media — there’s one you may have overlooked.

Positioning your Production team to be aware of sales and marketing can be an overlooked marketing strategy, and also help align the office and field teams.

In this episode, Tim and Steve talk to Doug Panozzo, who is a human marketing machine. We discuss how to make that switch in mindset for your Production team, and how it can boost your sales and profits.

Doug Panozzo is a Project Manager for Hogan Design & Construction in Geneva, IL. He’s been with Hogan since October 2017. He came from outside of the industry, from a tech company, and moved into a Project Manager role with Hogan almost a year and a half ago. Since then, he has grown familiar with the industry, became efficient with Hogan’s systems, hasn’t gone over budget on a single one of his projects, and has brought in over $100,000 in sales in the last year.

Sharing the big picture with your team is the start. Doug says working on marketing or sales is job security for him — the more work he can help bring in, the longer he has a job. He talks about how he does it, and how you can get your team involved, including:

  • Selling the company throughout the project
  • Sparking new leads
  • Following up with customers to touch base
  • Finding the incentive — referrals and bonuses
  • Asking for social media posts with tags and reviews
  • Wearing and being the brand everywhere
  • How to start those conversations
  • Picking the right customers to keep in touch with
  • Making the questions subtle and helpful
  • Keeping good notes and setting reminders
  • Building relationships and working the neighborhood
  • Finding the way for different personalities to market and sell
  • How to set the expectations in hiring
  • Giving Production the tools, training, and materials to do it
  • Getting the timing right
  • And much more …

 

Including why your Project Manager or Lead Carpenter should talk to the neighbors’ cleaning people, and how many leads can come from it.

Let’s Keep It Up

This episode was another spurred by a suggestion from our listeners. If you’ve got an idea for a guest or topic, send Tim an email at 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.

Ep.49: The Numbers that Matter Most with Judith Miller

For many people, the actual building of the project is what Production is all about. Looking at the bigger picture, Production has a great deal of responsibility to keep profit up. Production is a huge contributor to the financial health of the company.

It’s about the numbers — but what numbers are critical for the Production team to know and track?

In this episode, Judith Miller talks about the critical numbers for Production with Tim and Steve.

Judith is the resident financial expert at Remodelers Advantage, and says the numbers tell the story of your company. In college she studied architecture — but failed physics — and switched majors, graduating with a degree in economics. She has combined her love of architecture and building with economics to become a high-level strategist in the remodeling industry. Judith has been a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage Roundtables for more than 15 years, is a featured speaker at industry events, and frequently published in Remodeling Magazine.

If you can lay out a roof, which can be complicated, you can understand the numbers if you put your mind to it, she says. Looking at what numbers are trending, Judith says she’s seeing over-billing numbers decreasing, indicating a drop in sales from last year to this year. The economy may be slowing, Judith says, which makes understanding the numbers from the production side even more important. She talks about:

  • How field labor efficiency affects the bottom line
  • Indirect costs
  • Controlling slippage to protect from slowing sales
  • Job costs to look at in Production
  • Acceptable gross margin levels
  • Profit, loss, and overhead
  • Why the little stuff matters in job costing
  • The 80/20 rule
  • Why to estimate hours over dollars for labor
  • The most important things to hit in your budgets
  • Solving problems together

The most important factor in your bottom line isn’t a number, Judith says, customer satisfaction is. And that’s driven by employee satisfaction. So as you dive into the numbers together, avoid finger-pointing, and work as a team to figure out how to make your company more profitable.

Here are the links to Judith’s webinar about the Labor Burden Calculator:

 

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