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Large Loss in the Restoration and Remediation Industry… Are You Ready?

Lavender M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.Thomas McGuire

June 7, 2023

As a restorer, once you catch the bug, the thrill of being called to action to respond, restore, and leave an impact, it is not uncommon to want to go to the next level; the Large Loss. We could consider this the Olympics of Restoration where all your technical, soft skills, and project management abilities are challenged. For those of us who are a bit of adrenaline junkies, it is a rush.

When speaking to CAT Volumes, large loss, or commercial restoration opportunities think about the Seneca quote, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunities.” In other words, as Director of Education, Chuck Boutall, would say, “You have to be ready before you can do it!”

As restorers, we often get caught up in the urgencies of the day. If we seek the opportunity to successfully respond to a large loss, we must get ready. Tom McGuire who developed and delivers his Large Loss Mastery course all over the world was inspired to get restorers ready before the call with the big one. “Learning on the job of a Large Loss will lead to disappointment and heartache. Why would you do that to yourself when you have decades of experience with some of the largest projects ever done at your fingertips?” McGuire states. His approach based on years of large loss experience is to prepare restorers to do the job right, on time and make a profit.

As we begin to consider what we need to do, consider doing a needs analysis. Evaluate your general operations, administration, in-house skills, and resources. The following is a brief list of considerations that we compiled to help you start evaluating your needs and determine if you are ready:

  • Knowledge and Skills: Do we know what we are doing?
    • Soft Skills
      • Confidence
      • Communication
      • Resourcefulness
      • Drive for Results
      • Other
    • Technical & Management Skills
      • Consider the types of losses, industries, buildings, stakeholders, and the related complexities. Evaluate yourself and your team’s proficiency and seek to learn where you find gaps. Being resourceful when you have a technical expertise gap will also serve you well.
      • Excellent Project Management skills are an absolute. Scheduling, planning, coordination, and documentation will need to go to a new level.
      • Management and Administrative:  From estimating to invoicing, managing resources, budgeting, and job costing, the team and systems must be ready to manage and support the complexities related to a large loss.
    • Resources:  
      • Equipment, Supplies, and Materials
      • Alliances, Partners, Subcontractors, Consultants
      • Finances:  You are not a bank, and it is important to have the financial resources available to fund a large-scale project.

Once you have evaluated the needs and capabilities of your organization, you can focus on next steps to get the team ready. The following is a list of considerations and tips:

  • Self-Assess:  Engage the team in a self-assessment to drill down on development and training needs. It is critical that the team has confidence in the skills and abilities necessary to effectively manage a large loss.
  • Training and Courses:  Based on the identification of skill gaps and training needs, enroll in courses. Training and courses will give you access to experienced experts, knowledge, and certificates that validate your expertise. Large Loss Mastery has developed a series that helps fill the gaps for the key roles needed to execute.
  • Practice: How do you practice when you do not have the opportunity?
    • Start a “What would you do if”? This is best done as a group exercise.
      • What would you do if your local Museum had a fire?
      • What would you do if the Court House had a major water loss?
      • What would you do if the Hospital had a fire in one wing?
    • When you have a loss, that may be only one or two units in a Condominium or one store in a mall; play out the scenario of it being eighty units or the entire mall.
    • Look around any facility you step into and ask yourself what would you do to help the client recover from a catastrophic event? Fires, Floods, Mold, and Natural disasters happen all the time.
  • Resources: The skill of being resourceful and having the right resources when the opportunity to respond presents itself is imperative.
    • Internal Resources:  Evaluate and train.
    • External Resources:
      • Existing – What do you have? Take an inventory and identify gaps.
      • New Resources – What other resources, relationships, and subcontractors are needed?  Build and prepare your relationships and resource lists. It is good to have multiple resources per category.
  • Operations and Systems: Once you identified areas that need to be developed, make it happen. If you need to strengthen systems, administration, and documentation, doing so at the time of a large loss is not the time to address it. There are many details and the following article will give you some helpful tips: 8 Tips to Manage the Thousands of Details. 
  • Finances: The billing and collections processes must be sound. Always know where the money is and who is paying, Receiving your Receivables. It is also best to evaluate your banking relationships and your cash flow needs for a large loss.
  • Confidence: Find confidence in your existing experiences, get training, and find experienced mentors.

When you are prepared for the moment, even if the job looks like luck to everyone else, you will know better, it was because of your dedication to having all “your ducks in a row” and being prepared for WHAT IF? HOW MUCH? AND HOW LONG? When you ask if you and your company are ready for large loss, say, “YES!”  Preparation is an investment!  Habit #3 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephan CoveyPut First Things First. “Prioritize and achieve your most important goals instead of constantly reacting to urgencies.”  Put that big rock in the bowl: https://youtu.be/zV3gMTOEWt8.

May getting ready for Large Loss bring you much Restoring Success.

#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.