Restorer’s Perspective: Software Is A Tool

restoration management software, restoration managementIn the early 2000s, when I was just beginning my career as a restorer, I recall the buzz about the “cloud”. I am by no stretch a “computer geek” but it sounded like something exciting. Wanting to constantly employ the latest technology in all aspects of the business, I ran around the office declaring that we needed a cloud (totally clueless of what that meant). I came in one morning to a picture of a cloud on my door labeled, “Lisa’s Cloud”. Fast forward to 2018, I became co-owner and VP of Operations Design of iRestore, a cloud-based restoration management software company. It began when I was searching for the right cloud-based system for my company. I found iRestore and began working with Ryan Smith, who literally grew up in the industry and is a former owner/operator of a restoration company himself. From there, we began working closely on developing iRestore for my restoration company. We shared instant synergy as we worked together and quickly realized we made a perfect team. To my husband and business partner, Ted, I continually and enthusiastically chattered about the developments and ideas we had. One day, Ted simply stated, “Ask him if he wants to become partners.” The rest is history. Ryan and I officially joined forces in January 2018.

Joining the iRestore team is a true extension of the passion found in serving other restorers through our training center, the Restoration Technical Institute. We find joy in sharing missteps, successes, and anything else that could help an industry colleague succeed. I enjoy developing and improving systems and workflows and talking to other restorers about their operations. The software industry is where I can put my operations background, observations, and understanding of the intuition of restorers into the design of our software system. My objective is to contribute to the marriage of efficient systems that support the flow of restoration operations and the organization.

Software is a tool. It’s a tool not unlike many of the tools we use every day. It’s designed to be a part of your organization and help you serve others. There are many choices and they are not necessarily one size fits all. Each company must consider the features, price, and what is best for their organization. When acquiring any new tool or technology, consider the following short list:

  1. Cost vs. Benefits
    1. Benefits internally: Efficiency, information flows, improved outcomes, etc.
    2. Benefits to those we serve: Reports, information, communications, etc.
  2. Training and Implementation

Since becoming a part of the software industry, I have developed some thoughts and opinions about software’s place in operations. This may serve to help you choose, implement, and consider its place in your organization.

1.  It’s not a silver bullet. I am the first to tell fellow restorers, “software is not a silver bullet.” A basic customer service principle that I hold dear is to proactively manage expectations. I believe that within companies, the standards and best practices can remain a constant while the “how” may evolve with technology. The company’s operations and the team’s adherence to them is not dependent on software. Software is a tool that can help performance and help leadership manage the operation and team.

A prime example is documentation. Most restoration organizations understand the importance of job documentation and likely have clear requirements. The expectations may be in the forms of SOPs, best practices, or other company standards. In 2000, our company used mini-tape recorders and a person to transcribe the recordings into job records which included all relevant and meaningful job-related updates and communications. The standard remains the same; the means (using software and voice to text) is different. Team members who adhere to  will continue to do so with software. Those who do not follow guidelines will continue to not follow the guidelines with software. When I refer to the “silver bullet”, software does not make people document the job file. Software can make it more efficient and create benefits within the organization like real-time accessibility of information, but it does not make someone document. If the team is not engaged and held accountable to the standards set forth by the company, software will not change this.

2. Infrastructure Only. Software can provide a structure, order, and consistency. It can create efficiencies and offer a variety of features that helps the team and benefits customers. Our tag line is, “Powering your Vision, Values, and Leadership” and this speaks to the point that every company is special in its own way and is driven by something bigger, greater, and more powerful than software.

3. Too Much of a Good Thing.

  1. Software can create accessibility to a wide variety of metrics and reports that serve the operation well in many ways. Much of this can be generated through the natural movements within the organization using software. There is a balance to be met as too much data collection (at a cost) and reporting can be distractive and counter-productive.
  2. Reminders, flags, and other features that help the team move according to specified protocols and best practices is important but must be balanced using good judgement. The team needs to be engaged in doing their jobs and accountable to their organization. Over-reminding can have the opposite affect where the team can begin to ignore everything.

4. Flexibility in the system. I learned a lot about this from my partner and our software users. It is good for a system to have the proper balance of structure and flexibility to accommodate the unique needs of each company, accommodate growth, and potentially support related lines of business.

5. Think Upside Down. This was almost our tag line because it is of the utmost importance to consider the role and/or the positions of the users in the organization. Whether you are the owner/operator who at any times wears many hats: technician, accounting, HR, marketing, etc. or you’re the Operations Manager of a large firm, the software will not serve the CEO well if it does not serve those in all positions well.

As being part of the software industry, I often joke that my goal in life is that no restorer anywhere will ever need a spreadsheet again. I have also learned that contributing to the development of software has been very rewarding for me and a job that will never end as you are never done developing.

#MOGA: Make On-Call Great Again

water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, disaster restorationIn the restoration industry, being on-call in some capacity is part of the job. In recent years, many seem to view the commitment to being on-call as a drawback rather than part of responsibility and reward that a career in restoration offers.

A positive outlook is where it all begins. The following perspectives, from experienced restorers who serve in an on-call leadership capacity, are valuable. The perspective of the on-call leadership not only allows us to focus on the positive but also influences the rest of the on-call team, company, culture, and the industry at large. Attitudes are contagious; passing along good on-call leadership vibes and positive on-call attitudes will help Make On-Call Great Again.

Pete has been in the industry for over 11 years and he recalls his interview at J.C. Restoration over 10 years ago:

When I interviewed at JC Restoration over 10 years ago, I sat with the Owner and President Warner Cruz. I remember him asking me specifically what I enjoyed most about the restoration industry. The answer I gave him still holds true to this day – emergency responding – the opportunity to gear up, rally the troops, and lead the charge in helping families and/or businesses in their time of need. I knew that we would be one of the first teams out to assist when others needed us the most. We were the first step; we were the knights in shining armor – it’s that exciting opportunity that fuels my passion to help others in the restoration industry daily. I truly believe that the initial emergency response team plays a big part in the end result – how we make our customers feel from the onset will positively set the tone for the duration of any given project.

Jon, an on-call leader for more than 10 years, points out:

I enjoy being able to do what I love as a restorer, without some of the regular pressures and distractions that the normal business day entails.  I have complete focus on the customer and the team, and enjoy mobilizing into action to help others in a time of need. 

Barry, with nearly 15 years in the industry, reflects on a very specific type of after-hour call:

I feel greatly rewarded when I respond to a biohazard/trauma scene. My compassion and empathy are heightened and I am filled with a deep sense of purpose in serving those who have called upon me during what may be one of the most difficult times of their lives. When the remediation is complete, there is deep appreciation from those being served; it is particularly fulfilling and rewarding for me.

A career in restoration demands a commitment to the customers call in need of action, 24/7. Let’s make it great again and keep it great:

  1. On-Call Leadership: The leadership sets the tone and influences how others perceive and view on-call.
    1. The call:  When calling the team in for after-hours duty, it should be done so in a positive and constructive manner. Imagine the impact of calling a team member at 1:00 a.m.: “Hi Joe – You need to get up! It stinks! We just got a big sewer backup an hour away.” Find a better, more positive way to call.
    2. Set a good example: Stay positive and engage the team accordingly.
    3. Teamwork: The thrill of teamwork can be at its peak after-hours. When possible, work along-side the team. Foster the comradery and bonding that can be enjoyed by tackling after hours calls through the challenges and the successes.
    4. Care: Take care of the team and keep them motivated. Food, drinks, and gestures of gratitude and appreciation can go a long way.
  2. Companies: At the company level, we can build a foundation that involves the on-call commitment that will help Make On-Call Great Again:
    1. Interview and On-boarding: In addition to thoroughly explaining the on-call commitment and expectations of a career in restoration, we also want to fully engage and give understanding, Why do we offer fast, 24/7 service?
      1. We do this to “reduce further damage” or mitigate damage. This is true of nearly all the services offered from water to fire.
      2. It is the ultimate show of empathy and support to those we serve. The assurance of trained and caring restoration professionals on site at the time of loss gives people the peace of mind and support they need after they have experienced damage to their property.
    2. On-Call System/Expectations: It is important that the expectations are clear and communicated. The following article includes some useful tips for developing a system: Developing an On-Call System. Included in the system should be a substitution or back up process.
  3. Individuals: While staying focused on the benefits and rewards of a career in restoration, there is personal responsibility to maintain positive balance.
  • Utilize a calendar system to manage your time
  • Plan personal time off in advance
  • Develop or utilize systems for back up coverage (and be sure to reciprocate to your co-workers)
  • Have a positive mental attitude
  • Prioritize time with family/friends
  • Travel,
  • Rest/Sleep
  • Unplug: Hobbies, exercise, sports, music and entertainment

Enjoy the reward of serving as a restorer, 24/7. Share the pride and joy of your work #MOGA.