Project Management

Ep.43: The Importance of Job Autopsies with Chris Beck

A good job autopsy can lay the foundation for better processes and more profits for your company. But you have to do it right. Some companies use them like a club, which leads to finger-pointing and the blame game. Some owners just brood over the numbers and do nothing. But the numbers tell the story, and doing the forensics can tell you how to improve.

In this episode, Tim and Steve talk to Chris Beck of Normandy Remodeling in Hinsdale, IL. Normandy Remodeling has just started involving Production in the job autopsy process at the close of a project.

Chris has been with Normandy for 11 years. He started as Superintendent, and was promoted to Production Manager in April 2015, then Director of Production in January 2018. In 2018, it marked the fourth year in a row of record produced volume. Last year, they completed 220 jobs.

Chris began involving Production in Normandy’s job autopsies last year. Previously, the autopsy had been more focused on sales and design. He saw slippage increasing, and needed to figure out why that was happening. He discusses how what data to look at, and how having Production in a job review can make significant changes for the better, including:

  • How to make changes so you’re not repeating mistakes
  • Getting involved in the financials
  • Changing processes
  • Why it can help you refine your cost book for the higher-end projects
  • Avoiding finger-pointing and blame
  • Why an interactive culture makes it all easier
  • What to document and why
  • Bringing it all together
  • Handling issues before the job ends — or even starts
  • How much time it takes
  • And much more…

Including how to pitch it to your owner if your company isn’t doing a post-mortem. Taking the steps toward doing a complete job autopsy can take you from good to great, and find extra profits for you company.

It’s Your Turn

We’re getting great suggestions for topics and guests — what do you want to hear us talk about? Shoot Tim and email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com with your ideas about subjects to cover and guests to talk to!

Ep.42: Becoming a Production Manager Without a Construction Background with Brad Yetman

With growth comes a need to hire a Production Manager — someone responsible for the entire department. It can be a difficult transition to move a Production Manager or Lead Carpenter up into that role. It’s about managing a department and the people, and it’s much more complex than running a job. Your company may benefit by looking outside the industry for your Production Manager. 

In this episode, Brad Yetman talks to Tim and Steve about his experience coming into a Production Manager role from outside the remodeling and residential construction industries.

Brad is the vice president of construction, as well as part owner of Anthony Wilder Design/Build in Cabin John, MD. Brad is responsible for overseeing the production department, which produced about $14,000,000 last year. Brad has developed a financially focused approach to production management with an emphasis on “knowing the numbers,” both in the field and in the office, an approach which fits well with the company’s open book policy. But it wasn’t always a smooth transition.

Before joining Anthony Wilder, Brad had a limited background in carpentry and construction. He had worked in in commercial development and real estate. When he took the Production Manager job, he was overwhelmed for the first six months. In his second six months, he began to figure out it was about managing a department and people — and keeping a keen eye on profits. He tells business owners why and how to look outside the industry, as well as what to do when your hire someone, including:

  • Hiring for cultural fit
  • Setting Gross Profit and Net Profit goals at the outset
  • Bypassing hostility from within the department
  • Translating the numbers for those in the field
  • Networking to find an outside candidate
  • The importance of staying open to learning
  • And much more…

Including why having dogs in your office is a cool idea. But the most important thing, says Brad, is hiring a good manager — because the industry specifics can be learned.

What’s the Big Idea?

Do you have a great idea for a future topic or guests? Shoot Tim and email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

 

Project Manager Training with the Experts at Remodelers Advantage

Remodelers Advantage presents a Masterclass course designed specifically for Project Management personnel in the remodeling and custom-building industries.

This program, led by Tim Faller, Victoria Downing and Doug Howard, consists of two days of intensive training and instruction focused on two of the most important aspects of managing a project; (1) hitting the agreed-upon budget and (2) working with and managing the team effectively. Click here for more information.

 
 

Ep.40: Seeing Your Jobs from the Trade’s Point of View with Jason Wright

As the old saying goes, to truly understand someone else’s situation, you have to walk a mile in their shoes. In our case, it’s more like work all day in their OSHA-approved work boots, but the intention is the same.

There’s always at least two points of view in any interaction. Running a small business with multiple jobs going at once is challenging. Sure, many remodeling owners started out that way, but things have changed a lot in only the past few years. Many of your Trade Partners also have a service division, which can affect how they schedule their work with remodelers.

In this episode, electrical contractor Jason Wright talks to Tim and Steve about what his business challenges are, and what he looks for in a Trade Partner for his company. Building relationships with effective communication is vitally important.

For the past 24 years, Jason has built an electrical contracting company from the ground up based on hard work, excellence in service, and high standards in character and generosity, Jason Wright Electric is now one of the premiere electrical contractors in Kansas City, MO, sought out by designers and contractors. His commitment to personalized service sets the company apart from its competitors. He describes his view of personalized service like the marriage of a concierge and an electrician.

As successful as Jason and his company is, he highly values faith and family. His employees are more like a family than a company. A veteran himself, he employs veterans and persons of character. Jason is active in his church and is always looking for ways to bless others, knowing that his business will always be taken care of in the end.

Jason describes what an effective partnership looks like from his viewpoint. It relies on his company’s commitment to an effective scheduling system to keep in contact with the general contractors or remodelers. He also talks about what his company does to boost communications and relationships with his core group of contractors, including:

  • Understanding everyone’s challenges
  • How he “trains” his remodeling and contracting partners
  • Why every day can’t be an emergency
  • How he vets new partners
  • Building a platform for trust
  • Addressing the good as well as the bad
  • Avoiding personal attacks
  • Setting expectations and priorities
  • And more…

It’s a fascinating look at what jobs look like from the other side of the Remodeler/Trade Partner relationship.

Have an Idea for an Upcoming Show?

If you’ve got an idea for a subject or guest for an upcoming episode of The Tim Faller Show, send an email to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com, or drop a suggestion in the comments below!

Ep.39: Hitting Production Schedules with Keith Blose

Meeting client expectations and getting jobs done profitably greatly depends on hitting your schedule. Cloud-based software makes it simpler to set up a schedule, but you still have to get your staff, Trade Partners and other Subs to understand and follow through on those plans.

In this episode, Keith Blose talks scheduling with Tim and Steve. He shares how important it is to his projects to have what he calls an aggressive schedule, and how to get everyone involved and on board.

Keith is a top Project Manager with Amiano & Son Construction in Tabernacle, NJ. He has been with the company for three years but had deep experience before joining the team. One of his accomplishments was becoming a senior project manager through his constant growth and dedication to his clients and their projects.

Keith’s success with scheduling relies on creating great communication between all the parties involved — Sales, Production, Trade Partners, and especially the client. He talks about what he means by aggressive scheduling, and how that helps create communication. The key to making the schedule come true is fully understanding the job. Keith talks about all that includes:

  • Understanding individual clients’ needs
  • Knowing your Trade Partners and their work
  • Front-loading schedules
  • Working damaged goods into the schedule
  • Using IOU forms for the client
  • Working with Sales throughout the construction process
  • Being realistic about your schedule
  • Allowing for bad weather
  • And more…

Setting expectations early with a clear and realistic schedule will help you move jobs through the Production pipeline quickly, on time, and boost your profits.

Ep.38: Working with Trades On-Site with John Vendafreddo

When you’re managing a project, you need your Trade Partners and Subcontractors to work with you, not against you. That means you need to build strong relationships and make them feel like they’re all part of the same team.

The three main things to help that along, says John Vendafreddo, is to do your research to ensure you’re hiring right, pay Subs as quickly as you can after they’re done, and make sure the job site is 100% ready for them on the day they’re scheduled to start.

In this episode, John talks to Tim and Steve about what how to create and maintain great relationships with Trade Partners and Subs.

After realizing the carpenters union was not for him, John called his cousin Brian Hogan to ask if he was hiring, and if he offered health insurance. John started with Hogan Design & Construction in Geneva, IL, in 2005 as a laborer. He quickly learned the skills in the field and was promoted to Lead Carpenter in 2007. From there, he built relationships with subcontractors and homeowners and took an interest management. In 2012, he was promoted to Project Manager. John just completed HDC’s first new-construction home, and is currently managing four other new developments.

Communication is the key to building relationships, and John walks you through the process of how he interacts with his Subs. That starts early, with a verbal heads-up on another job, followed by a formal welcome letter. He talks about the importance of having everything ready on site and — in HDC’s case — on BuilderTrend, giving Subs access to the plans, selections and schedule information. He also talks about how to:

  • Keep Subs loyal longer
  • Control Sub’s prices from jumping up
  • Learn from previous inspections
  • Manage change orders and maintaining proper channels
  • Put two Subs on-site at the same time
  • Figure out which Subs can overlap
  • Manage them once they’re there
  • And more…

If you want to learn how to manage your Subs better, streamline your production schedule, and get more jobs done on time and on budget, there’s a whole lot to consider in this episode.

 

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.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.