The Resilience of Restorers

restoration business development
January 7, 2021
Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” African Proverb

If you are reading this, it is likely that you overcame challenges, learned new things, pivoted, showed resilience, supported others, and more, after navigating 2020.

Although challenges and change are inevitable as we journey on into 2021, we should move forward with a new sense of confidence and accomplishment. After all, you did it! You, your team, and your company did it! You navigated a year full of endless challenges and should celebrate the achievement.

There are possibly endless lessons and reflections that we can learn from and share as an industry. I look forward to serving on the R&R Panel, Lesson’s from Covid-19, presented by The Experience University, February 10, 2021, learning the lessons of others, sharing my own, and building a solid future together as an industry.

As individuals, companies, and as an industry, there were many journeys, challenges, lessons, and reflections of the year, 2020. As we move forward and start our new year energized, focused on goals, and ready to take on the challenges and changes ahead, I share a couple of thoughts to keep the momentum going strong:

  • Celebrate Our Purpose: Although there may be a wide variety of ways we communicate and lead each other as purpose-driven organizations, it is easy to lose sight of our true purpose in the day today. I quote a long-time industry friend and instructor, Ron Valega, who reminds classes, “We are not just sucking poop! We are giving people clean and safe environments.” Unite as a team and celebrate the new year and future with a deeper appreciation than ever before of the great works of the cleaning, restoration, and remediation industries. After 2020, we know now more than ever that providing clean and safe environments for people to do their work and live their lives is a noble, rewarding profession to be proud of.
  • Post-2020 Huddle: In What the CAT Just Happened, it is encouraged to post-CAT huddle with the team and evaluates what went well and what could be done better next time. Take this opportunity to gather input from every member of the organization to give ideas and input on preparedness and the identification of opportunities.
  • Opportunities: Take this opportunity to think big and seek opportunities. Ajay Pangarkar, CTDP, FCPA, FCMA’s article, 3 Habits to Innovate During a Pandemic gives a great deal of inspiration and three keys to seizing the opportunity. “While tragic, this pandemic is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do things differently; to think differently. Prior to the pandemic, you know “normal times,” you could have far-fetched innovations, but if they were too extreme, no one would give you the time of day. But guess what? We can now not only dream of far-fetched ideas but are actually encouraged to do so. You now have implicit permission to try anything even marginally viable and no one will hold it against you for trying to make it a reality.” says Pangarkar.
  • Perspective: It is an excellent time to calibrate a very important meter, your Perspective Meter. Calibrating the perspective meter allows us to focus on what is important, see opportunities, and appreciate all the good by which we are surrounded.

My own 2020 experience was filled with successes and mistakes. There were a few times I had a moment and said, “I don’t know! This is my first Global Pandemic!” I would quickly gather myself and journey on, surrounded by an amazing team, supporters, and friends.

As for the lessons, like many of us, I learned quite a few and look forward to sharing them. I do know one thing for certain, although I always feel a sense of gratitude towards my co-workers and colleagues, it is this year more than ever; that this gratitude almost overwhelms me as I know that I would not be prepared and energized as I am now for 2021.

As we reflect on 2020, we must remember there was no “playbook”. Be proud, you did it!

Originally published in R&R Magazine

What’s Sets This Restoration Management Software Apart?

restoration management software, restoration management tools, restoration leadershipAs a restoration company owner, you don’t need to add another piece of equipment or tool to your belt unless it is going to keep you from having to do MORE work. When business owners learn of yet another piece of technology or software that is supposed to help their company grow and be more productive, it isn’t shocking when they are reluctant or hesitant to try it. While there are many types of software and apps and programs that really don’t provide enough for business owners to benefit from using them, iRestore’s restoration management software is not one of them.

What Makes iRestore’s Restoration Management Software Different?

But what sets our restoration management software apart from other software programs that claim to help restoration business owners work better, faster….smarter?

  1. For one, it was designed specifically for the restoration business. We had no need to include information that is unnecessary because everything is designed to cater to the needs of the restoration company and the information that business owners need to gather from their employees, customers, insurance agents, and so on.
  2. Our objective was to support the flow of restoration operations and the organization. This software isn’t just another tool. It is THE tool that restoration business owners can rely on to mesh within the organization and help you serve everyone better.
  3. It isn’t just for HR. It isn’t just for equipment maintenance. It isn’t just a tool to organize jobs. It is a tool to help with each aspect of your business. You need to keep track of employee training, certifications, and basic information. You need to track where equipment is, what jobs equipment pieces are assigned to, and when they will be available again. You need to store job-specific documents and information, including the contact information of anyone else that is involved in the restoration process. You have needs that are specific to the industry – and iRestore’s restoration management software is designed to meet those needs.
  4. What you really don’t need is another app or software that isn’t compatible with certain types of phones or computers. You don’t need another tool that will work at the office but not out on the field. You don’t need another place to store information that your techs don’t have the time to manage. Conveniently, this restoration management software is an easy, flexible, accessible software that can work on any device. You can update it in the office or out on the field. You are not limited. If you need specific information, you can get it at any time. It’s fast and easy to use.

It’s not just about what sets iRestore’s restoration management software apart from other types of software – because it just is different than other types of software. What it’s really about is the compatibility it has to work with restoration companies to enhance production, minimize mistakes, find information quickly, rely on data, and respond to your insurance agents, adjustor, and clients accurately and build your reputation as an organized and efficient company that is prepared and gets the job done!

 

 

Use Your Words

restoration business management, restoration business development, restoration business leadershipAs children are learning to speak and communicate, we often say, “use your words.” An important soft skill that, as adults and restoration professionals, we should never stop developing in ourselves and others. The following excerpt is a brief description from childcare.net as to the importance of developing this skill:

Use Your Words

Teaching young children to “use their words” is a well-known educational tool aimed at increasing kids’ communication skills and teaching kids how express their feelings rather than resort to physical means (i.e., hitting, biting, scratching, etc.) to resolve conflicts. All daycare staff should be trained in how and when to encourage children to use their words, and at which ages children need help in finding the right words to express their feelings. Teaching kids to use their words is also a developmental strategy in the realm of “emotional intelligence,” or “emotional coaching,” wherein parents and caregivers teach kids how to name their emotions and learn to deal with setbacks and change. Read the Entire Article Here

The ability to clearly articulate and use the right words is important in our service to others, individual success, and organizational goals. The words we choose and the ability to not just communicate but to communicate effectively in an emotionally intelligent manner helps us succeed in our day to day. In restoration, we are often faced with difficult situations and conversations, being equipped to use the “right” words can ultimately impact the outcome. We can teach, coach, learn and constantly improve much like many other skills.

This important skill helps us in our entire life, and these are a few areas to consider in our restoration companies:

  1. Customer Communications
  2. Management and Leadership
  3. General Internal Communications

Scenarios

Scenario 1

A customer wants the equipment pulled early and does not seem to care about the implications.

Response 1: Fine, but you know you will probably get mold!

Response 2: I will respect your wishes; however, I need to advise you that our company cannot deem the materials dry and I will need you to sign a waiver that you understand that there may be secondary damage up to and including microbial growth. 

Objective: A response that is respectful to a property owner’s wishes while protecting the company’s potential liability.

Scenario 2

On the first day of meeting a new customer, customer states that Joe in the office said all the work can be done by Friday. Caught off guard, it is not possible that the job is done Friday.

Response 1: Joe is totally disorganized and has no idea when the job can be done! Joe should not have told you that.

Response 2: Let us review the job together. I will touch base with Joe and follow up with you on the schedule.

Objective: Clarify the possible miscommunication and take control of the situation by managing the expectations of the customer so that there is the opportunity to complete their job to their satisfaction. Never should we disparage a coworker or the company. Frustrations with a coworker or supervisor should never be presented with a customer.

Scenario 3

A manager is told they must complete their weekly report. It is the second session addressing the lack of adherence to this company guideline.

Response 1: I give up! I am sick of telling you to do your report.

Response 2: You are either unable or unwilling to do your report. Let us discuss…

Objective: Start a productive conversation that can identify the root cause of the problem and potential solutions. While being firm and clear that the guideline must be adhered to, the opportunity to offer help to the manager may present itself. On the other hand, if the person is simply unwilling to do something that is very important to the organization’s process, the conversation may go in a different direction.

Scenario 4

A customer or business partner makes remarks or outward expressions of prejudice towards members of the team.

Response 1: Huh! Well….Ummm…

Response 2: Our team is a diverse team of restoration professionals and if that is of concern for you, it may be best to work with another company on your project.

Objective: Deliver a clear and professional response that is reflective of your company’s values. Core values are those that are not compromised.

These scenarios are just a few of the many difficult situations and conversations that we can find ourselves in on any given day. Our abilities to handle them by using the “right” words can determine the outcome.

The following are a few tips to consider in developing this skill:

Self-Awareness: Have you ever reflected on a situation or conversation and thought, “I should have said…?” Do not dismiss this thought. See it through and play out the words that may have led you to a better outcome. Next time, in a similar situation, you may have just the right words ready to confidently articulate.

Coaching: In the scenario, where the team member called a co-worker, “totally disorganized” to the customer, the job ended with a bad customer review stating specifically that the company is “disorganized”. You investigate the matter. You learn of the scheduling and communication conversation. This is a great opportunity to talk it through and coach the individual to handle the frustration and conversation differently next time.

Practice and Script: Go through scripts and practice with the team. Utilize the most frequent scenarios like the customer who wants their equipment pulled early to engage the team and equip with the communication tools to succeed. Not only will this help everyone best prepare for the situation that they will likely encounter; it will also help develop their skill in general. It is much easier to think through a situation and find the right words when you do not have the pressure of the moment.

Learn from others: Be observant and constantly learn. You are constantly surrounded by people who at any given point articulate something extremely well. I often make note of others use of words and think, “Wow, that was well said!” One of my favorite’s that I have passed on to others came from my dad, “You are either unable or unwilling to…” referred to above in scenario 3.

Our word choices and ability to articulate them are a valuable skill, something we should constantly develop, and can ultimately determine or influence outcomes. As a side note, our culture and values set the tone. Even if it is a script or words that were practiced, they are always best delivered when they are true, sincere, and from our hearts. The reality is that “using our words” is not always easy as it may sound. Never stop learning how to “use your words.” Best wishes for much Restoring Success.

Originally published in R&R Magazine

November 5, 2020
Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

Restoring Success Meets The Intentional Restorer: Nothing is Scarier than Scope Creep

I have three simple golden rules with a fourth to beware of that apply to the profitable execution of a scope of work.

  1. Get paid for what you do
  2. Do not pay more than you get paid
    1. Subcontractors
    2. Materials
  3. Manage your in-house manhours
  4. Mistakes happen and cost money; they must be managed to keep to a minimum.  Learn from mistakes and have a spirit of continuous improvement.

If we start with the premise of a job with a thorough and accurate scope of work, we now must execute it to company standards and objectives that may include quality, service, and profitability. The golden rules seem simple and like common sense; however, in my experience, it is the breaking of these rules that often result in missing the mark on profitability objectives.

Scope creep occurs in many facets and a variety of circumstances in our companies. In simple terms, it is when we deviate from the scope of work and fail to account for it in the revenues. It breaks the golden rules #1 and #2. The scope is typically the basis for a bill or estimate that represents the company’s revenues.  When we go outside the bounds of the scope without accounting for it, the operating results on the bottom line, can be quite frightening.

Scenarios

(Technician Level) Last Day of Water Mitigation: A technician is sent to pull the equipment, clean the living room carpet, and get a COS (Certificate of Satisfaction) signed.  

Homeowner: “While you are here, can you go ahead and clean the dining room carpet?”

Technician wants to please the very nice homeowner: “Sure, it would be my pleasure.” And so our well-intentioned technician cleans the carpet in the extra room, notices a red stain, goes to the truck for the spotting kit, proceeds to work on the stain and….

SCOPE CREEP is discovered when the job is two hours over in labor hours and the project misses the profitability target, or worse, that free service morphs into a nightmare.

(Estimator Level) Remove and Reset a Bathroom Vanity:  Homeowner decides they want a new vanity. The estimator/project manager is amicable as it does not seem that it will be any trouble to install the 36-inch-wide vanity that the homeowner will supply.  

Last day of job: Upon unwrapping the vanity, there is damage found to the cabinet. The homeowner asks the carpenter to just go get a new one in stock at the ABC Store. The carpenter goes and they are out of stock; the carpenter now must now schedule another day for pick up and to complete the tasks. This project is now all tricks and no treats and it gets worse when we discover the new cabinet is two inches taller than the old cabinet. Now, the mirror needs to be raised, the plumbing needs to be adjusted and…

SCOPE CREEP is discovered when this relatively small job is 10 labor hours over and has missed the profitability mark in addition to the customer experience turning into a horror saga.

(Executive Level) A Favor for A Friend: The owner or general manager calls all the staff to the conference room to make a special announcement, a good friend of theirs needs something done ASAP. 

When an owner, or a member of the people in a position of leadership team, brings in a project that is personal to them and wants the assignment bumped to the top of the list (regardless of what is going on) as a favor to a friend to make themselves look good, this sends a mixed message to the team. If you spend any amount of time trying to build a culture and a process that optimizes your ability to do things the right way, efficiently and with a touch of excellence, these “favors” demonstrate that there are exceptions to your values.

This favor for a friend is light on details and heavily loaded with unclear expectations. Because the normal processes have been overridden, the project is doomed to result in frustration for all parties involved.

SCOPE CREEP is discovered usually at the end of the project when the customer is unhappy, the production team is frustrated, and the owner is ready to howl at the moon. We can’t even talk about profit as there is none; this is a toxic dump of wasted energies. These projects are doomed from the beginning when they are set up as:

  • Scope = “Get it done.”
  • Budget/Price = “They’re good for it.”
  • Timeline = “Yesterday.”

The lack of an accurate and thorough scope of work and no expectations communicated to the team and customer has set the execution of the job to have the creepiest of outcomes.

Reasons Why this Happens

Emotional Discounting:  A friend of mine recently exposed me to this term and concept and I thought, YES! We do this often from doing little extra things without charging to rendering services free of charge. This article, How to Stop Offering ‘Emotional’ Discounts, explains it well and offers some tips on how to stop or control the phenomenon.

Not understanding the scope:  If those who are charged with executing the scope are not trained to understand it, scope creep is inevitable. Within most of the estimating systems used in our industry, a line item includes a very specific amount or type of activity, labor, and materials. If those executing the scope do not understand it, it will be challenging or impossible to manage it to budget and/or know when to communicate/address deviations in the scope through your company process (i.e. supplements and/or change orders).

How do we train and empower our team to prevent scope creep?

In the carpet cleaning scenario above, it’s important to understand the motivation. The technician wants to do a good job, they want to please the customer, and they should be empowered to find ways to make this happen. I try to train our teams with the mindset of:

  • Do It Right
  • Do It Efficiently
  • Do It Excellently

While well-intentioned, what are a few of the things that could make this carpet cleaning and red stain removal scenario into a Nightmare on Elm Street? Have you heard the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished?” Whether we are doing scope work, change orders, or complimentary add on, we need to document our scope, clarify the expectations, and track the cost (even if it is a no charge). Within the organization, clear protocols on any deviations of scope and/or supplements need to exist and be clearly communicated to team members.

Small favors like carpet cleaning could lead to our team owning a carpet that we cleaned as a gesture of good faith. That tiny red stain could become the Creature from the Loom Lagoon, leading to a spread of toxic ooze. Additionally, those two unaccounted for hours could set the technician back from their next project and the accumulation of upset customers grows into a horde of Zombies who want to eat our flesh.

One suggestion would be to bake in the carpet cleaning after a mitigation or repair project as a satisfaction add. The book Be Intentional: Estimating outlines the importance of developing a consistent estimating process to produce better insurance claims outcomes. Empower technicians to understand:

  1. The law of unintended consequences, not making them cynics but considering the big picture.
  2. Understanding that even if we do something for “free” we need to document, get authorization of the agreed scope/outcome.
  3. Communicate with the whole team so the impact to the schedule can be accounted for.

How to Minimize SCOPE CREEP

Training and education will help minimize scope creep. From understanding scopes to company-specific processes, training should be position-appropriate and timely to the individual’s ability to contribute to the successful execution of scopes. Some team members may be responsible to execute a work order or specific instructions and not necessarily follow a complex scope, following instructions is a skill that should be deliberately developed in team members and will help control scope creep that occurs when instructions are disregarded or not followed. Scary things happen when, People Don’t follow Instructions.

Metrics and Review Systems are important to be able to proactively manage scope creep and develop the team’s abilities. Red Flags can help you identify a job that may be going in the wrong direction, identify team members that may need training, and/or identify weaknesses in company systems.

Empowerment and trust in the team will help engage them in keeping scope creep under control. Empowerment includes giving appropriate authority to execute or manage deviations from scope. For example, different positions may have different levels of authority to fully execute a change order. Give the appropriate tools and resources and the ability to use discretion and exercise good judgment when appropriate.

Don’t be scared of scope creep; manage it proactively as a team. Although it is in our nature as restorers to go above and beyond to help those we serve through a difficult time, margins are thin and overhead continues to grow. We cannot afford excessive scope creep even when it is well=intentioned.

Thank you to Jon Isaacson, The DYOJO Podcast for collaborating on this edition. Some bonus thoughts and tips from Jon to help us enjoy Restoring Success…

Those in a position of leadership must lead by example or there is no standard.

In the scenarios involving estimators and owners above, the issue is with lack of clarity on the scope, expectations, cost, and duration of the project. While emergency response is inherent to our work, chaos should not be accepted and The DYOJO shares ways in which an organization can reduce dysfunction in their video on this topic.

When a client makes a “small request” for an alteration to their project, they often honestly have no frame of reference for how this new scope affects the existing production plan. Unfortunately, many estimators and managers don’t understand these impacts either.

In his book, Joy, Inc., Richard Sheridan shares a simple process that his software design team uses for project management. I was surprised in reading the book how many parallels there were between scope creep in these two disparate industries. To ensure that clients, team members, and the organization are on the same page, the aspects of the work are assembled on index cards. An index card associates scope with time budgeted to complete the task.

The design team regularly meets with the client. In these meetings, if a client wants to make a change without affecting the duration or cost, they must pull index cards from the project board. There has to be an equal reduction of scope/cost/duration to account for new items. This is a simplified account of the process but there is nothing better than making it visible and helping all parties to see the impacts of “just a little change.”

  • Doing it right as a company includes ensuring the client, carrier and your production team are clear on what the scope of work is as well as what it isn’t.
  • Doing it efficiently as an organization means that all parties in the process are engaged in being able to read the scope, execute the scope and communicate when there are legitimate deviations.
  • Doing it excellently as a team requires everyone to be trained to read a scope clearly, communicate consistently and hold each other accountable to doing the right thing the right way.

The New Age of Restoration Training

One of the greatest challenges in our industry has been finding “good” people. Once you do find a good one, they still likely need training and on-boarding, the next challenge. The year 2020 will go down in history as the year of challenges and it is in the spirit of overcoming these obstacles that rapid developments and opportunities present themselves. Training, employee development, and on-boarding solutions that are now at the forefront of our industry and may be the keys to overcoming many of our age-old challenges including but not limited to:

  • Technical Training
  • Soft Skills, Operations, Management Training
  • Employee Engagement and Development
  • On-boarding
  • Accessibility of Training
  • Time/Resources/Money
  • And more

The Journey of the Restoration Technical Institute

As I reflect on the last six months and how it has impacted training for the Restoration Technical Institute, the individuals, and the companies in our industry, I cannot help but to think of one of my favorite stories about a farmer, “Good Luck, Bad Luck, Who Knows?”. As events unfold, we do not know what is next, we do not know the end of the story; it’s not a single event that will define an outcome, but rather a series of events.

2018: We began “dabbling” in the world of on-line training. We had long-term goals and visions. However, for the next two years, our focus and development were on our in-person programs and hands-on approaches to training.

February 2020: Our training center was full of cheer as we held packed classes of IICRC WRT (Water Restoration Technician) and IICRC ASD (Applied Structural Drying).

March 2020: We had to cancel five months of classes that were planned more than a year ago. Thankfully, earlier in the year, RTI teamed up with ISSA to provide training and education for the cleaning and restoration industries.

April 2020: RTI recognized that ISSA offers a very robust Online Learning Institute, which is stockpiled with courses and content that is needed by everyone in cleaning and restoration. Although we have been working informally with ISSA for several years, the time came to go to another level. We are now a training partner with ISSA.

ISSA has a history of developing content and certification, with self-paced online learning. CMI, a division of ISSA, offers a high-quality learning management system (LMS) that is full of content and tools to engage subscribers and manage the learning process. Cleaning, disinfection, sales, management, and safety are just a few of the related subject matters that ISSA and their divisions offer. It is with great excitement that we have been given the opportunity to collaborate with and add to the vast amount of resources and expertise available through ISSA and its divisions.

May 2020: As the IICRC adapted, many of our courses became approved for online live stream. We hosted our first online, live-stream water class.

June – September 2020: The last several months have been an amazing whirlwind with the objective of offering accessible and affordable training and resources globally. The highlight reel of the last couple of months includes but is not limited to, what I describe as our continuous learning, adapting, and pivoting to the world, opportunities, and most importantly to the demand and expectations of those we serve:

  • LMS Subscription: Working diligently on content and curriculum to serve our industries.
  • Instructional Design: Learning about the technology, approaches, and the discipline of instructional design. Collaborating with instructional designers to develop courses and content that are effective for today’s learners.
  • Continuously evolving our live offerings both on-line and in person.
  • Self-Paced Course Development: Creating content, videos, and courses to present.

Learning Management Systems & Self-Paced Learning

In a Fresh Look at Online Training, you will gain some insight to the general training landscape, the benefits and some tips to utilize the new opportunities available to you and your teams. Although e-learning is not new (in 1924 the first “automatic teacher” was presented), if you have some reservations about the effectiveness of self-paced learning and learning management systems, I defer to many other industries in a variety of disciplines who have successfully utilized this approach and have enjoyed positive outcomes and some statistics:

Events that initially seemed like bad luck for industry training have turned into really, good luck. Learning management systems and self-paced learning are two viable solutions to some of our industry’s greatest hurdles. If you have not experienced these types of training approaches, it is not what one may imagine when you think of a recorded type course or training. It is not just a recorded voice and power point slides. Some of the elements you may see within this realm include but are not limited to:

  • Gamification: Content may be presented in interactive ways that help teach and engage the learner.
  • Knowledge Checks: Interactive and well-timed knowledge checks are used to engage the learner, give confidence in the understanding of the materials, and reinforce important learning objectives.
  • Video Demonstrations: Videos help to mix the media and can be used to communicate and tie together a variety of topics. Video demonstrations are particularly helpful to present practical applications and demonstrate tactile skills.
  • Micro-learning: As an approach, you may find content divided into small sections of approximately 10 minutes or less. This approach is getting a great deal of attention based on a variety of results and feedback from learners.
  • Experienced instructors guiding learners through curriculum and demonstrations.
  • Soon, expect to hear more about virtual and augmented reality as the technology and its availability is rapidly evolving.

The training world is evolving rapidly and could help us all achieve more, Restoring Success.

Originally Published: R&R Magazine Online