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8 Tips to Manage the Thousands of Details of a Restoration Business

restoration business development
Urilux /E+ via Getty Images

Originally Published at R&R Magazine August 4, 2022

Lisa Lavender M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

You’ve heard and can relate to the saying from Gustave Flaubert, “The devil is in the detail.” It refers to the notion that even the simplest of details can be complicated and may cause problems.

As I enjoy continually developing, defining, and refining processes, and talking to other restorers about operations, I found as you adopt a continuous improvement approach to process and clearly defining expectations that it is quite easy to become frustrated by the thousands of details that can easily trip up the most well-developed systems.

Did you ever just wonder or exclaim to yourself, “What in the world! That was a smooth process that has been in place and working for X years!” I am not necessarily referring to a weakness in your operations, a person, or a department although that could be a root cause. I am talking about what could equate to thousands of details daily that are happening in your operation that could be missed even with the best people, processes, and technology in place.

The details may be symptoms of a deeper problem, however. In the context of strong foundations and people, it may simply be a mistake or missed detail. As an example, someone forgot to lock a vehicle or missed the “referred by” in setting up a new job which could result in lost equipment or in the case of the referred by a failure to properly thank the source and comprised reporting. Managing the details is about maintaining your operation and helping talented team members stay great and/or continue to get better.

My unscientific estimate of thousands can be visualized by considering all the details that are happening in each key functional area. For example: administration, sales, production, project management, accounting, and human resources. I did not do a formal count as I lost track somewhere in the hundreds and decided to go with thousands. The following is a rambling list of detailed related activities and/or information. The reality is that the exact number is irrelevant, managing them all proactively versus reactively is what is important.

  • Job-related information and data, file updates, pictures, contracts, videos
  • Estimates, change orders, invoices, collections
  • Ongoing communications, how to communicate, when to communicate, and how to document communication
  • Training, development, human resources
  • Safety, PPE, compliance
  • Inventories of supplies, PPE, equipment, batteries, uniforms, etc.
  • Vehicles and equipment, cleanliness, repairs, maintenance
  • Accounting, bills, receipts, job costing, payroll
  • Sales and marketing
  • Warehouse and facilities, organized, clean, efficient design
  • We did not even get to field execution and production: floor protection, quality, schedule, subcontractors, contents processing, lots of details.

Being paralyzed or frustrated by the details that could be compromised or allowing them to spiral into complete breakdowns of your well-established systems, processes, etc., is not an option. The following is a brief list of tips to manage the details so you can focus efforts on the development and implementation of progress, growth, and other high-impact initiatives. The following is based on starting with a solid foundation that includes a healthy culture, engaged team, relationships built on trust, and good team morale complete with positive recognition and reinforcement. A team with leaders that buy into the concept of constructive feedback for continuous improvement will be impacted in a positive way by the following tips:

  1. Tacit Approval: Avoid ignoring the problem of the missed detail. This could spiral quickly into a bigger process breakdown. You can learn more about tacit approval in the following Restoring Success. The management theory of “things that get noticed get done” applies to this tactic.
  2. Software Systems and Reporting: Utilizing software to monitor, manage, and report some of the details will help efficiently identify a variety of blips. Once you are using technology to do this, reviewing the information, and addressing any of the details that are out of compliance must be a clearly defined responsibility in your organization and must be consistently done on a schedule or in a timely manner.
  3. Inspecting: In addition to using digital tools/software, developed visual inspections, checklists/forms, and a schedule can help keep the details in check. This approach is effective in evaluating fieldwork, job site safety, warehouse, and vehicles. Inspecting our own work and as part of our SOPs also helps to proactively manage the details and minimizing misses.
  4. Systems by DesignDeveloped systems that support detail success and support inspections will serve the team well. A few examples to illustrate the concept:
    1. The company process may be that the vacuums are put into their designated location at the end of every day. They should be clean and field ready. If there is a designated location and it is labeled, a quick walk-through of the warehouse at end of day (or beginning of next day) will allow for a quick visual inspection as a missing vacuum will be evident.
    2. In a vehicle a shelf is labeled five extension cord reals, it is extremely easy upon inspecting and evaluating if there are in fact five, an important detail.
  5. Responsibility: Clearly defined roles of who is responsible for the outcomes, oversight and, addressing details is integral part of keeping the details in check.
  6. Speed: Addressing details cannot wait 6 months or when we get to it. When addressed quickly, we better prevent the compromised detail from recurring. The timeliness of addressing the detail is the right thing to do for the team member’s individual success. Imagine waiting for an annual review or waiting till the detail has escalated and sitting down with someone saying, “We have a severe problem. You have not been locking your vehicle for 6 months.” And the response is, “I am sorry. Why didn’t someone tell me?” (A dramatization for illustration purposes)
  7. Retraining: Retraining helps solidify details and keep them top of mind. Some of the courses that we have developed I believe are important in the retraining category to help proactively manage details and include but are not limited to: Job Site Behaviors and PPE with a review of proper donning and doffing. You can gain free access HERE.

  8. Tools: As a team, brainstorm, and develop tools and approaches to managing the details proactively and constructively. The following is an example of a tool for leadership to address details quickly and positively, Inspiration Notes:

Click Here for a Download

Do not let blips in the potentially thousands of details that make your company great get you frustrated, or fester. Each detail typically has a chain reaction impacting other areas, details, customers, and people in the company. Make open and constructive feedback part of your healthy culture, keep the details in check and spend your energy on positive high-impact initiatives by having a proactive approach to managing all the details that matter.

Happy Restoring Success and Managing Details.

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.