Project Management

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.

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!

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