Project Management

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.

Ep.70: Mastering the Look Ahead, Part 2, with Ben Reynolds

When you work in a remote area, where your materials are shipped on barges to small islands, and a quick lumber yard run just isn’t possible, everything just takes longer. 

So having all the details planned ahead is crucial, says Ben Reynolds.

In this episode, Ben talks to Tim and Steve about the challenges of working in Ontario’s cottage country, and how accurate look aheads are a key component in getting jobs done on time.

Ben has been the production manager at Kawartha Lakes Construction, Lakefield, ONT, Canada, for five years. Prior to that, he was a project lead — the lead carpenter managing a job site. Before joining KLC, he ran his own small company which mainly focused on new post-and-beam construction. When he was wearing the tools, his projects always hit the pre-set milestones, and he had an extremely high success rate of delivering a project on time.

KLC has different challenges than many other design-build companies, especially logistically. They deal with limited parking, moving material on boats and barges, and remote job sites. So planning ahead is key. And part of planning is looking back, keeping an accurate history of what it takes to complete a project. KLC has detailed time sheets, and can refer to experiences in the past to get accurate ideas on what it truly takes to complete a project. Ben talks about what KLC’s production process looks like, and how they plan ahead, including:

  • The different people that need to be involved
  • The two-year look ahead
  • The five-day plan
  • How to use your historical data
  • Eating the elephant one bite at a time
  • The level of detail needed in the five-day plan
  • The master production brief
  • Achieving better time management
  • Getting buy-in on the plan
  • Solving conflicts in planning
  • How to run an efficient production meeting
  • And more …

If you missed our first episode dedicated to creating your own version of the look ahead, listen to Episode 64: Job Site Look Ahead with Tom Batman & Mike Topper, of Harth Builders in Spring House, PA. 

Ep.69: Hitting Monthly Goals with Aaron Enfinger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ep.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!

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