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

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

Transparency in Our Restoration Companies

restoring success, restoration management, restoration business management, restoration business leadershipChelsea Mihalko and Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

 

Last month’s Restoring Success, Morale and Engagement Built on a Foundation of Trust, we explored the importance of trust and the leadership role in fostering a culture of positive morale and engagement. Stephen Covey’s Speed of Trust presents 13 key behaviors that are instrumental to us as individuals and leaders in building and fostering trust. One of these behaviors is to create transparency:

Behavior #3: Create Transparency

Be real and genuine and tell the truth in a way that people can verify. The opposite is to obscure, and the counterfeit is an illusion of pretending things are different than they are. You can establish trust quickly by being open and authentic, erring on the side of disclosure and not having hidden agendas.”

Transparency is a broad concept and behavior in which some may struggle on finding the right and appropriate level of in their organization. As a side note, I firmly believe that this behavior and competency is most important in positively leading the team through 2020, the pandemic, and the continuous challenges. Metrics seem to be a common area where the best-intentioned of leaders have concerns. It is important to consider that not demonstrating the appropriate level of transparency, even with numbers, can have a detrimental unintended consequence.

A few considerations:

  • Trust: If we agree with Covey, that transparency is a key behavior of trust and that it is the leader’s job to extend trust first; we are behaving contrary to building the foundation of trust when we are not transparent.
  • Accountability: It is difficult to hold others accountable without giving them access to the appropriate information.
  • Open and Constructive Feedback: Transparency is a key behavior to have a culture that embraces open and constructive feedback on job and company performance in the spirit of continuous improvement.

After a great conversation about trust and transparency with a restoration company leader and friend, I asked her to share her thoughts and perspective.

Chelsea Mihalko Trimbath presents the following on trust in our restoration companies and being transparent with numbers:

What do most relationships thrive on? What drives loyalty? What is stability built on? The answer is TRUST. Stability, honesty, loyalty, drive and motivation are all qualities managers wish to see in their employees. These qualities do not necessarily exist or at their peak on the first day with a company. If we are lucky, after years of service, these qualities develop, and the relationship built on trust grows.

Our goal as leaders should be to build trust with our employees, to show that not only do we trust them and that they can trust us, but also, that we are dedicated to seeing them excel in every aspect of their life. One way to accomplish this type of relationship building is through transparency. Now wait, before you roll your eyes, let’s dig deeper.

Transparency comes in all different forms at all different levels. We cannot expect some of the people in our organizations to understand what overhead consists of just as we cannot expect some people to understand how to perfectly install a wood floor. Members of the team contribute to the organization in a variety of unique ways but leading someone blindly is a path to failure. Failure not only showing in your bottom line, but also, failing the individuals by not motivating or giving clear objectives. Transparency can be instrumental in engaging and holding the team accountable.

As a leader of an organization, it’s our job to know the direction of the company and have clear goals along the way. Members of the team should have clarity of objectives and transparency in information necessary to reach and manage their individuals and company goals.

Many goals, quotas or milestones are measured in numbers in our business.

  1. Labor Hours: Increase productivity through responsibility by being transparent.

Labor hour goals are simple numerical goals that can be conveyed throughout the organization. If a certain task should take 5 hours to complete to hit average profit goals, we can set the expectation as 5 hours. A motivated and skilled employee that can finish the job in 3 hours can still be motivated by the 5-hour max and enjoy the satisfaction of beating the goal and potentially increasing his value to the organization. Being transparent with the allowed maximum hours gives individuals the opportunity to apply themselves and work towards the goal and potentially create drive and innovation to complete the work in the most efficient and effective way possible. Providing employees with the opportunity and information to make decisions that impact themselves and the company cultivates trust.

  1. Employee Cost – Build relationships through genuine understanding

Have you ever had someone come and ask for a raise that was just given an extra week of vacation and the latest new model iPhone? Does that person truly know what they cost the company? Do you really know what that person values as an employee? Another opportunity for transparency! An employee should know and understand the value of what they are being paid including their wage, benefits and perks, including but not limited to: vacation, health insurance, retirement, life insurance, phone, vehicle (including gas allowances and insurance), computer, etc. Educating the team and being transparent regarding the costs of things can create a better platform for open discussions. For example, during a performance review, there may be an opportunity to learn that someone highly values their family time and prefers additional vacation days rather than a monetary raise. These meaningful conversations will help build a culture of trust and a depth of care from management.

  1. Overall Profits – Increase innovation and motivation

This one is scary for a lot of business owners. They want to keep their numbers under tight wraps and closed away for only their eyes. But going back to the above point, how can we expect our managers to hit company goals without giving them all the information to get there? Direct project managers will be better able to control their jobs if they have access to job profitability numbers, budgets and goals. They will be more equipped to negotiate material pricing, providing budget selections and understanding labor hours to meet profitability goals. Transparency on labor hours inflated costs (per hour cost per employee + benefits) so they are better able to choose who will do the best trade on each job. Transparency to our estimators and project managers about the cost per lead (marketing), any software or management fees per job (overhead). If owners plan to place high standards on their managers, the managers will perform better with a general understanding of business operations and costs. And while owners may choose to keep certain numbers under wraps, profits, expenses and overhead per job should be direct and easily accessible so managers can be checking in constantly. Providing this open communication will foster innovation and allow for more creative flows to happen. Mangers will feel empowered knowing they have the authority to make decisions that directly affect them and the company, their confidence and motivation will grow along with the numbers.

Regardless of your position about transparency, it is an important behavior to reflect upon and consider. For many reasons, it may be one of the most difficult behaviors as a leader and one that causes concern or fear. If you have a sense that being more transparent can help foster trust and a positive culture, take one small step at a time.

https://www.randrmagonline.com/articles/89054-transparency-in-our-restoration-companies

Morale and Engagement: Built on a Foundation of Trust

July 2, 2020

It is difficult to challenge the notion that good employee morale and strong engagement is important in our industry. In fact, being “happy” may be critical to our customer service. We spend much of our time at work, have 24/7 on-call rotations, and serve people who have experienced disaster, so why not do it with joy? In Is Your Organization Happy?, you will find some considerations and tips about creating a “happy” environment.

Morale and engagement are complex and have many contributing factors. Procedures, best practices, training, etc. will have limited value to your company if the individuals and team lack positive morale and are not engaged. Although there is much we can do in our day to day for Employee Morale Year Round, consider the notion that morale and engagement are built on a foundation of trust.

Trust is a big word that has many elements, synonyms, and influences in a variety of aspects of our organizations and lives. At times, there may be relationships within the organization that have voids of trust. If trust issues become widespread and unresolved or there becomes a feeling of distrust towards the organization itself, it will be challenging to successfully employ any morale-building and engagement initiatives.

Imagine for a moment…

  1. You are with a group of people you trust and are working together, collaborating, getting things done; you probably feel good and happy. If one of these people gives you a cookie and a note thanking you for a great job, it would make you feel good, happy, and encourage you to continue to contribute to objectives or the purpose.
  2. You are with a group of people you do not trust. The mistrust could stem from a variety of reasons, behaviors, and experiences with the people in the group and/or you may not even be clear on what is causing the mistrust; it is possibly just a feeling. If one of these people give you a cookie and note thanking you for a great job, may feel like there is an alternative motive, suspicious, and may not even want to eat the cookie!

Same gesture, same note, but different impact based on trust.

A culture filled with fear and mistrust will be a culture with a disengaged and unhappy team. Feelings of fear and mistrust could be a great motivator when perhaps running from an angry bear but imagine going to work every day feeling this way.

Start with reading “Speed of Trust” by Stephen MR Covey. If you are pressed for time and want to fast track your organization and team, watch the video: The Speed of Trust – Stephen M.R Covey @LEAD Presented by HR.com. You will gain the ability to understand, articulate, evaluate, and build trust within your organization. He presents what he refers to as three big ideas:

Trust is an Economic Driver

Trust is the #1 Competency of Leadership

Trust is a Learnable Competency

Where does it all begin? According to Covey, it starts with leadership.

#1 Job of Leaders

Inspire Trust

Give Trust

In building morale and engagement in your company, start with the foundation, trust. A person who is expected to engage in the mission, values, and goals of an organization needs to trust the organization and the leadership. As Covey breaks down the elements of trust, he lists the following “behaviors”:

1. Talk Straight
2. Demonstrate Respect
3. Create Transparency
4. Right Wrongs
5. Show Loyalty
6. Deliver Results
7. Get Better
8. Confront Reality
9. Clarify Expectation
10. Practice Accountability
11. Listen First
12. Keep Commitments
13. Extend Trust

These behaviors are a great place to start if evaluating or building your foundation of a happy, healthy, and productive work environment. The men and women in our restoration companies are the most valuable and important assets. They deserve to feel good and happy at work.

Share topics and ideas that you would like to read in future Restoring Success editions.

Happy Restoring Success.

Restoring Success: Red Flags

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “RED FLAG”?

restoring success red flags
June 5, 2020

You may be thinking of something bad or good. Maybe you are thinking about a situation that you saw “Red Flags” and the result was something bad? A red flag is, “a warning signal or sign; something that indicates or draws attention to a potential problem, danger, or irregularity” Is it good or bad?

Red flags built into your systems and embraced by the team can be a very good thing. The restoration world is complex and fast moving. It is very easy for even the best of the best to make a mistake or miss something. When we embrace and pay the appropriate attention to red flags, it gives us the ability to proactively manage things to have a positive outcome. Let us remember that a red flag is only a signal; if we react to a signal of a coming problem or irregularity, we can get things back on track.

True story about the purchase of RED FLAGs

We may think of reports, software, and alerts that present data in the form of flags, but it is equally important that team members understand that they can and should throw up flags. Team members should not lose sight of the fact that everyone in the organization is on the same team and should all be working towards the same positive results. There is no room for defensiveness or a “cover yourself” mentality in an organization that fully embraces red flags into their culture.

A particularly vociferous and enthusiastic supervisor charged with the reconstruction of a home based on a specific scope of work, came running into the building, “Red Flag! Red Flag! I am red flagging this job!”, he screamed.

He approached me and exclaimed, “I am red flagging this job!”

I replied, “Why?”

He said, “There are many things that were missed from the scope.”

I said, “Good job! Now, go speak to the estimator, get it corrected and execute.”

Nobody was offended. The supervisor did his job and reviewed the scope before executing, he threw up the flag, the estimator was open and thankful, they collaborated, got it done and successfully completed the job both from a service and profitability standpoint.

And so, we bought actual red flags for the team to throw up in the shop with pride.

Perhaps, the person answering the phone notices frequent phone calls from one customer with lots of questions; a flag to the manager that the customer may need a complete review of the process may be in order. A possible communication issue headed off at the pass?

During high volumes, the team is working around the clock, mistakes can happen in the field; put the flags on high alert. Explain to the team that when dealing with high volumes and long hours, it is easier to miss something or make a mistake, everyone is on the same team, keep an eye out and communicate or fix things that someone else may have missed.

The following are a few considerations in using Red Flags to proactively manage positive outcomes:

  • Culture: Our culture is an important ingredient as there most be unity amongst the team.
    • Objectives should be clear so that everyone can rally common goals.
    • Safe: Our environment should feel safe. If an occasional problem or mistake occurs, an individual should be able to see it as an opportunity to improve, learn and grow with the support of colleagues and leadership. We should be able to celebrate the success that the red flag helped the team achieve.
  • Systems/Data/Reports/Software: The following is just a short list to get the wheels turning; the are many complex considerations to using the flags that lie within this area:
    • Less is More: Be cautious of looking at too much information at once and losing site of the “flags”.
    • Proactive and Timely: Workflows, information, and operations should be designed that flags can be used proactively. As an example, looking at job profitability after the job is complete has limited or no use as a “flag” or signal and gives no opportunity to change the outcome.
    • Accessibility and Communication: The flags must be accessible or communicated to the right people within the organization so that they can use them to positively impact the outcomes.
    • Training and Understanding: We must understand and be trained on the information that we are looking at to use it properly. There are infinite ways to present information and flags; the key is understanding it. Simple example:

6/1/2020: In Progress – Water Loss – Start Date: 5/22/2020

At a quick glance, by the dates, something is going on with the loss. At 10 days, if the file is reviewed there should be clear documentation that tells the story explaining 10 days of drying. The dates are a flag indicating irregularity. (And someone should be accountable and compelled to look at the job file)

  • People: As with most things in the operation, our people can be the most important. With the right tools, training/education, and culture, the team can be the best flagging system out there.
    • Consistency in using flags: Flags should create action consistently when they present themselves.
    • Praise and encourage flagging with constructive communications and the collaboration of solutions.

Next time something goes off track, consider the systems and culture. Flags help us better proactively manage desired results.

Happy Restoring Success.

https://www.randrmagonline.com