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

Top Tips For A Restoration Startup


restoration business development, startup restoration business development, startup restoration business growth
It has been more than 20 years since my husband and I started our full-service restoration company. Today, I have the privilege to meet and share tips with others who are starting up. The most common request? Lists for things such as contracts, equipment, procedures, any list to give a roadmap to success.

My husband and business partner dug out our original start-up to-do list from his files as we celebrated our 20-year company anniversary and it is now framed in the hallway. As we reviewed the list, we laughed at the simplicity of the handwritten document that included polo shirts, which is obviously of the utmost importance (ha-ha). Is it that simple?

Our company colors, green and gold, were less strategic and more out of a desire to reflect what is now known as Shared Value #10: We pride ourselves on our presentation and professionalism as a company. We had no money but wanted branded vehicles, but guess what? We already had a gold pickup truck and a green minivan! Voila – our company colors were born! No need to spend money on painting vehicles.

Armed with a vision, yellow legal pads filled with notes and ideas, a toddler, a baby on the way, and no income stream, we borrowed money, cashed in an $8,000 retirement account, and got started.

Today, the fleet of over 70 vehicles is gold with green lettering. We love our careers; the opportunities we have had to grow personally and professionally, the gratification of having served thousands, and the people we have the opportunity to work alongside of in our award-winning full-service restoration company.

My husband will reflect on the momentum of our company’s launch and sum it up very simply, “Failure was not an option.”

Twenty years later, here are our tips for starting up…

The Short List

There are many pathways that will lead your startup to Restoring Success. Your startup’s success is how you define it and there is not a right or a wrong. Embrace your vision and get moving. Here are some things to consider as you begin:

  • Why and Drive: Every business has a profit motive and building a financially strong company is a priority; however, restoration is about something bigger and it is important that there is a purpose, vision, and motivation that goes beyond profit. It is like many other businesses where you can easily lose money and will face all types of challenges. Many view restoration as a “recession-proof” industry without vulnerabilities. It is not.
    • Stay in touch with “why” you want to start a restoration company.
    • Drive for your success. An unwavering focus and drive to your goals will be an important fuel to power your launch.
    • Pros-Cons-Challenges: Our youngest son, who wants to be a restorer when he grows up, summed it up and explains his motivation. You can also pick up some tips on the moisture meters you will need for your start-up: A Restorer, Hero in our Community
  • Leverage your Assets: Assets may include but are not limited to: soft skills, technical skills, facilities, equipment, and relationships. In general, utilize your strengths and develop your weaknesses and/or surround yourself with individuals that complement your skills and soft spots.
    • Experience and Expertise: You may have experiences and knowledge from other jobs, businesses, education, and childhood you will be able to bring to your company. Form a foundation and make your company special and unique. I was an accountant who grew up with a father who was an insurance underwriter. My husband was a claims adjuster who grew up strapped to a roof by the age of 10 and helping his dad build cars. Regardless of your background before entering the industry, embrace your talents and know-how in your new company. Do not dismiss anything as irrelevant. One of my many favorite things about restoration is that it is somewhat of a melting pot of diverse individuals with unique backgrounds that bring expertise and apply it to their restoration career. The individuals and companies are special and can find foundations of success in their uniqueness.
    • Relationships: Leveraging your existing relationships will help you start your company. A marketing strategy is sound and important, but do not discount existing relationships. It may be customers of an existing business or friends and family. Consider your existing contacts and leverage them when building your business based on trust and long-term relationships.
  • Guidance and Information: Today, there are many options and resources that can help you get a solid start in your new company. Evaluate your needs and seek out the best fits for you to help you get started. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and draw on others who can add value. Remember, there is no right vs. wrong. There are many paths to success and different approaches to the business. Find what feels right and make it your own. Keep an open mind and learn different perspectives and approaches. When you can learn from the mistakes and successes of others, take it.
    • Franchise
    • Consultants
    • Training and resources
    • Software systems
    • Mentors and industry friends
  • Be Resourceful and Have Resources: You will not have everything and everyone you need out of the gate. Actually, that may never happen in restoration. Be prepared to think out of the box and prepare resources. Today, we have a beautiful textile restoration department with commercial and specialty equipment. When we started 20 years ago, my husband went to the laundromat and worked through the night.
    • Examples include but are not limited to: subcontractors, suppliers, rental companies, banks
    • Be prepared to solve problems along the way. Ask for help and use your drive to make things happen. In the early days, your ability to respond and deliver quality results will help propel your new company. I vaguely remember our first commercial loss in the early days. I do not remember the logistics; somehow, we assembled a large team, worked through the weekend, and had them open by Monday. I do remember feverishly scrubbing a special chair and thinking, “I want them to say, WOW when they walk in on Monday.”
  • Reinvest: When planning, and upon starting your new business, plan to continually reinvest. If your vision includes growing beyond your initial startup, you will need to invest in people, facilities, equipment, and systems.

Enjoy the journey and excitement. May starting a restoration company bring you much Restoring Success.

 

https://www.randrmagonline.com/articles/89197-tips-for-restoration-startups

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.

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.

A Fresh Look at Online Training

restoration business development, restoration business management, continuing educationOnline training, e-learning, virtual classrooms, and other terms are becoming a new norm. In the landscape of education, there are limitless resources that are accessible to us and applicable to a variety of disciplines from technical to soft skills. Although there is a new light, none of this is new. As we operate and adjust to a world stricken by the challenges and changes brought on by the pandemic, in last month’s restoring success, A Cultural Shift, we considered some adjustments and speculate on what a new post pandemic world may look like. As an industry, we can embrace, adjust, and utilize training opportunities in new ways.

Children, college students, and adult learners have been nimble; educators have rose to the challenge to help others learn in new and innovative ways. For the first time, the IICRC has approved certain courses and certifications to be offered online via live streaming. The transfer of knowledge and experience to those that serve our industry’s training needs must rise and challenge the status quo in delivering education. Companies and the individuals can benefit from the value that training and education can bring to careers and company results. As with most things, there is not a crystal ball about the training landscape that may exist at any point in the future. However, we can easily speculate by understanding of ripple effect of the pandemic both culturally and economically. We can also look at trends, other industries, the rapidly evolving learning technology and the understanding of distance learning. As individuals and organizations, we can anticipate, seek opportunities, and shift so that we may best embrace the potential benefits of expanded online and virtual training opportunities.

All good and valuable things require effort and nurturing. Training is a tool and an investment that can be utilized to grow, develop and create opportunity. It does not necessarily define success but can help lead us to it. It has been a long-time hurdle to on-board those new to our industry and organizations in a way that is engaging, efficient and productive. Benefiting from on-line training opportunities starts with choosing engaging and valuable courses that meet your learning and possibly credentialing objectives. As well, our organizations’ cultures and individual’s desires for growth and self-development must be fostered to support training initiatives.

The following is a list of a few considerations in embracing on-line training for your Restoring Success:

  • Online training benefits: The are many benefits that when deliberately embraced can be fully enjoyed.
    • Accessibility: We can access subject matter, skill training and development, educators and expertise, anywhere in the world at any time.
    • Flexibility: In the 24/7 world of organized chaos, programs that offer flexibility can be very helpful. In addition, self-paced learning allows individuals to move through curriculum at a comfortable pace on an individual basis.
    • Cost Savings: Some programs may present the opportunity to save.
  • Choosing Training Programs: Use the proper due diligence and thoughtfulness in selecting courses and programs. Consider specifically what you are looking for from your educational choices:
    • Gain insight and understanding to a discipline
    • Gain or develop a certain skill or competency (technical, soft, other)
    • Consider the level: Fundamental, Intermediate, Advanced, etc.
    • Practical Application
    • Certification/Credential/Documentation of Competency
  • Company Tips: As an organization, training and career development can be proactively managed, celebrated and be a part of the culture.
    • Be Deliberate: In the New Tech Under Your Wing, there are a variety of tips to help incorporate training and learning in your day to day operations. One of the most important that applies to in-person or on-line is to encourage field training and mentoring when applicable.
    • Engage: Reward and celebrate learning and growth.
    • Invest: Time, resources, and attention to the utilization of on-line training as a tool.
  • Individual Tips: There are a variety of resources available on-line to help individuals with being on-line and/or adult learners.
    • Be an active and engaged learner
    • Limit distractions
    • Scheduled your courses and be as committed to your commitment as you would be with a live, in-person course.

The time is now to develop your company and individual training and education programs while enjoying all the benefits in the worldwide land of learning opportunities.

Best wishes for happy, safe, restoring success.