Managing a restoration company comes with a lot of different tasks and responsibilities. Think about the last time your company was – excuse the pun – flooded with water damage losses because of a heavy storm. How did you manage the workload? How did you keep track of where equipment was and how long it was going to be unavailable for the next job? Did work trucks break down in the middle of a busy day? How did your technicians avoid confusion about work assignments and make sure they were at the right job at the right time?
You can take proactive measures with restoration management software by keeping track of your employees certifications and training. Don’t worry about sending the wrong tech on a job because you forgot which one was fully certified and which one was still training – or carrying expired certifications.
Keep your trucks and equipment maintained and track recurring inspections to optimize your efficiency. Nothing is worse than losing a truck or equipment when you are busy and in need of every resource you have.
Keep track of every client’s specific information including insurance information, contacts, documentation of damage and losses, and more in one easy, digital component where all of your employees can access it when they need it. You and your clients aren’t going to mix up jobs and information when talking to your clients, build your reputation by communicating clearly and precisely with each individual you need to.
Manage your contacts including customers, insurance agents, adjustors, landlords, contractors, home and business owners, and anyone else that you need to be involved in the cleanup, restoration, and insurance claim process.
Restoration management software can help you keep track of jobs after the job has been finished. When you need to access billing information, insurance claim information or follow up with a customer to make sure that further complications have not arrived, you can rely on your restoration management software to guide you to all of the appropriate information so that you can provide the best aftercare support to your customers, insurance agents, and adjusters.
For every step of the disaster restoration process, iRestore’s restoration management software is designed to support and help you so that you can maintain the professionalism and efficiency that you want your company to be remembered for. Take hold of your companies future and build the internal procedures in a way that will help you and your employees provide the best possible help for those in need. Contact iRestore to learn more about how our restoration management software can help you and guide you through owning and managing your professional restoration company.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A quick internet search yielded millions of results on: Proper Handshake. Years of practicing and talking about how to give a proper handshake down the drain? I recall giggling with others when someone is a bad hand shaker…too limp…squeezed to hard…well for now, it’s one less thing for everyone to worry about.
The history of the handshake is very interesting. Many of us have likely been doing this for years when meeting new associates, customers, networking, and more. History tells us the handshake has represented a gesture of peace, a sign of good faith, a commitment to a promise, and even has represented an eternal bond. Now what?
We don’t know if the worldwide pandemic will permanently change our behaviors and culture, but we do know that it is changing it now. A few short months ago, in many circumstances, it was considered a social faux pas to not greet someone in what has become our cultural norm. Today, it is socially unacceptable to shake a hand.
How do we adjust our culture, our ways of expressing ourselves, our ways of bonding, and our ways of building and developing relationships? This is a challenge for many businesses and for restorers who take pride in delivering empathetic and compassionate services. To those who have experienced damage to their homes, belongings, and businesses, this is an important element in our service to them.
Individual Self Awareness: As individuals, we need to have extreme self-awareness and be open to working as a team to adjust. We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves and connecting to others and as we shift, we can help each other. We have huggers, we have close talkers, and more. Be open and positive in helping each other make the shift. I have a coworker, a hugger, who has extreme empathy for customers and creates bonds in her approach. We have open discussions about figuring out ways for her to express herself and establish bonds. “We can make her signs to hold up?” I myself can be a close talker (not too close…LOL). It is a way for me to express my focus and attention to a person, subject, or conversation. I am extremely self-aware, am now extra cautious to keep my distance, and open myself to others helping me; I will adjust.
Documents/Plans/Procedures: As many of us must develop our systems, processes, and procedures to accommodate the presence of COVID-19 in our day to day, consider the process of integrating these new initiatives into our culture. In Restoring Success It’s All a Matter of Culture, we discuss how to integrate these types of developments into our actual culture. The following are a couple of concepts to serve as a backbone to the cultural shift.
Precautionary Measures: Have a documented and thorough precautionary measure program that can be integrated into your day to day and make them part of the new culture.
Technology and Digital: It is likely that you have all experienced virtual meetings and maybe even a happy hour or two. We have an abundance of technology to enjoy that helps and supports our cultural shift. In this context, challenge yourself and the team to stay up on all the latest; not just in tools but in the use of these tools. We must look beyond the technology and challenge ourselves to consider the importance of engagement, collaboration, and bonding which may or may not be fully replaced with technology. As an industry, we are tactile. If we employ technology without the appropriate attention to this, our relationships, our training programs, and more could suffer.
Training: We should consider training for ourselves and team to help us best adjust.
Soft Skills: I have a few co-workers who are amazing at expressing their care to a customer on the phone. This is just one example of a very important skill at this time. We must be on the top of our game at listening and all means of communicating. Our voice and writing are going to be front and center.
(I mean no offense as some of my favorite people use these terms, but I will use this opportunity and platform to share two words that are my pet peeves, 1) “Hey” – I don’t think it is a good greeting in writing…”hay is for horses” 2) “Yup or Yep” – it could seem flip and insincere in a response to something very important. No “hey or yup” …LOL!)
Other: From technology to body language, keep it top of mind that as we adjust, there could be needs for training to do it best. As an example, at Restoration Technical Institute, we have begun the process of training and developing ourselves to learn how to best engage and train in an online environment. It is more complicated than just buying a webinar platform and we want to be excellent and so we must learn and train.
Be Creative: There is a great opportunity to engage the team to be creative and at the same time keep the need to shift our culture to top of mind. Get the team started and let the ideas flow. Some examples may be:
Pictures: We can do quite a bit with a picture of a smiling face. We can text them to customers, put on social media, and they can even wear them. Not only are we socially distanced, but some of us may look a bit intimidating with a face mask or full PPE.
Proactive Communications: There are all kinds of proactive communications that will let people know how you feel and what to expect. Let people know the masked team they must stay far away from still cares. One idea: send a thank you text with a picture after an emergency.
Company General Environment: There are many general things that could be considered in your organization that could help the shift.
Huddle (far apart or from a distance): Talk about it frequently. Keep the lines of communications open. Keep it all top of mind in a positive environment and it will serve you well.
Openness: Transparency and collaboration are key. There is no place for defensive attitudes and an unwillingness to change or adapt.
Lead by Example: This universal truth is more important than ever. Leadership must exemplify what is expected and necessary during this challenging time.
Eating: Some may call foul on this item being on the list! I am half Italian and breaking bread, eating together, feeding others; food is a big part of my world. I am stumped.
I often recommend taking candidates to lunch because people let their guard down and are more relaxed when eating. It’s a great way to get to know each other.
In our training center, we have food rules! No pizza and sandwiches and we have an ice cream machine because ice cream makes people happy. Now what!?!
On someone’s first day, it is a rule to take them to lunch.
We celebrate, bond, reward with food. I love feeding people. I love eating with others.
I want your advice! The eating situation has me thrown for a loop. A GoToMeeting does not replace this for me. I would love to hear your tips for this big change.
This is a short list of things to consider in the wake of the necessity for a major cultural shift in our world. Although we can only speculate on the long-term impact on our behaviors, we can proactively and positively begin to adjust.
In the early 2000s, when I was just beginning my career as a restorer, I recall the buzz about the “cloud”. I am by no stretch a “computer geek” but it sounded like something exciting. Wanting to constantly employ the latest technology in all aspects of the business, I ran around the office declaring that we needed a cloud (totally clueless of what that meant). I came in one morning to a picture of a cloud on my door labeled, “Lisa’s Cloud”. Fast forward to 2018, I became co-owner and VP of Operations Design of iRestore, a cloud-based restoration management software company. It began when I was searching for the right cloud-based system for my company. I found iRestore and began working with Ryan Smith, who literally grew up in the industry and is a former owner/operator of a restoration company himself. From there, we began working closely on developing iRestore for my restoration company. We shared instant synergy as we worked together and quickly realized we made a perfect team. To my husband and business partner, Ted, I continually and enthusiastically chattered about the developments and ideas we had. One day, Ted simply stated, “Ask him if he wants to become partners.” The rest is history. Ryan and I officially joined forces in January 2018.
Joining the iRestore team is a true extension of the passion found in serving other restorers through our training center, the Restoration Technical Institute. We find joy in sharing missteps, successes, and anything else that could help an industry colleague succeed. I enjoy developing and improving systems and workflows and talking to other restorers about their operations. The software industry is where I can put my operations background, observations, and understanding of the intuition of restorers into the design of our software system. My objective is to contribute to the marriage of efficient systems that support the flow of restoration operations and the organization.
Software is a tool. It’s a tool not unlike many of the tools we use every day. It’s designed to be a part of your organization and help you serve others. There are many choices and they are not necessarily one size fits all. Each company must consider the features, price, and what is best for their organization. When acquiring any new tool or technology, consider the following short list:
Cost vs. Benefits
Benefits internally: Efficiency, information flows, improved outcomes, etc.
Benefits to those we serve: Reports, information, communications, etc.
Training and Implementation
Since becoming a part of the software industry, I have developed some thoughts and opinions about software’s place in operations. This may serve to help you choose, implement, and consider its place in your organization.
1. It’s not a silver bullet. I am the first to tell fellow restorers, “software is not a silver bullet.” A basic customer service principle that I hold dear is to proactively manage expectations. I believe that within companies, the standards and best practices can remain a constant while the “how” may evolve with technology. The company’s operations and the team’s adherence to them is not dependent on software. Software is a tool that can help performance and help leadership manage the operation and team.
A prime example is documentation. Most restoration organizations understand the importance of job documentation and likely have clear requirements. The expectations may be in the forms of SOPs, best practices, or other company standards. In 2000, our company used mini-tape recorders and a person to transcribe the recordings into job records which included all relevant and meaningful job-related updates and communications. The standard remains the same; the means (using software and voice to text) is different. Team members who adhere to will continue to do so with software. Those who do not follow guidelines will continue to not follow the guidelines with software. When I refer to the “silver bullet”, software does not make people document the job file. Software can make it more efficient and create benefits within the organization like real-time accessibility of information, but it does not make someone document. If the team is not engaged and held accountable to the standards set forth by the company, software will not change this.
2. Infrastructure Only. Software can provide a structure, order, and consistency. It can create efficiencies and offer a variety of features that helps the team and benefits customers. Our tag line is, “Powering your Vision, Values, and Leadership” and this speaks to the point that every company is special in its own way and is driven by something bigger, greater, and more powerful than software.
3. Too Much of a Good Thing.
Software can create accessibility to a wide variety of metrics and reports that serve the operation well in many ways. Much of this can be generated through the natural movements within the organization using software. There is a balance to be met as too much data collection (at a cost) and reporting can be distractive and counter-productive.
Reminders, flags, and other features that help the team move according to specified protocols and best practices is important but must be balanced using good judgement. The team needs to be engaged in doing their jobs and accountable to their organization. Over-reminding can have the opposite affect where the team can begin to ignore everything.
4. Flexibility in the system. I learned a lot about this from my partner and our software users. It is good for a system to have the proper balance of structure and flexibility to accommodate the unique needs of each company, accommodate growth, and potentially support related lines of business.
5. Think Upside Down. This was almost our tag line because it is of the utmost importance to consider the role and/or the positions of the users in the organization. Whether you are the owner/operator who at any times wears many hats: technician, accounting, HR, marketing, etc. or you’re the Operations Manager of a large firm, the software will not serve the CEO well if it does not serve those in all positions well.
As being part of the software industry, I often joke that my goal in life is that no restorer anywhere will ever need a spreadsheet again. I have also learned that contributing to the development of software has been very rewarding for me and a job that will never end as you are never done developing.
Why does Santa check his list twice? If we consider the practice of checking the list twice, we could speculate that there is a drive towards excellence and a desire to deliver legendary service. The list needs to be accurate and thorough; the list allows him to honor his commitments efficiently, and list is what is used to make sure that nobody is disappointed; so, he checks it twice.
Mistakes happen! Sometimes things go wrong and it’s not even human error, it just happens. When something goes wrong and we apply root cause problem solving which unveils that if we had checked our work, we could have avoided the issue, perhaps, there is a simple solution. Can problems be reduced with a little checking? Yes!
As a casual observation, when work habits include self-checking and processes that account for double checking things, the result is fewer errors, mistakes, and problems. As an ability, we may call it conscientiousness. Considering that errors, mistakes, and problems can have a ripple of disastrous consequences in our restoration organizations; it is deserving of some attention.
Have you ever wondered how someone gave you a message with the wrong phone number? It is likely because the number was not read back to the person who gave it to them. This is an example of a very basic self-check that everyone should be trained to do in the organization. When someone gives an email and/or phone number, you always read it back to them to make sure you recorded the very important contact information perfectly. Being just one number off can make the difference between your ability to respond to a loss and/or honor the commitment to call a person back or not. It’s a big deal and can be proactively managed by the work habit to double check.
As I walked into work one morning, I complimented a coworker on the speed and quality he executed in the reconstruction of a bathroom that experienced a water loss. He thanked me and qualified his response by explaining that he needed to go back that morning. He explained that the tank of the toilet leaked, and it needed a few parts. He had removed and reset the toilet. Since I had been pondering about an individual’s work habits and the ability to self-check work, as well as the supporting processes in the organization, I began to question him.
“How did you know the toilet was not working properly?”
“I flushed it to make sure it was working after I re-installed it.”, he responded.
“Why did you do that?”
As he looked at me with some dismay at my line of questioning, I answered for him, “Because you always check your work!?”
As I pondered, in over five years, I could not recall a defect or workmanship issue regarding the work of this individual.
I don’t know if he was specifically taught these work practices, if it is innate to him, or if he learned from mistakes; but I do know that I thought, what if everyone did that?
Equipment: Equipment would never be left behind. Even with the application of the software that tells you a piece of equipment is left on-site, if the person who installed it failed to scan it to the site, it can be left behind. A quick walk-through in the spirit of double-checking that all equipment is pulled can eliminate the call, “You left an air mover here.”
Repairs: Some trades lend themselves to easy checks. Install a faucet? Check that it works properly and is not leaking by turning it on. Some trades require the detailed eye of a craftsman: is the drywall paint ready?
The examples of problems that can be reduced by checking are endless as are the potential solutions. It applies to everything from field execution to office, administration, marketing, accounting, etc. Here is a brief list to get started on helping our organizations and teams to improve with a little checking:
Organizational processes can support and contribute to checking in the spirit of reducing errors. A simple example is a co-worker double checking, inspecting (and signing off as “inspected”) contents before they get packaged for storage and/or returned to the customer.
Reconciliation is a concept that is often associated with accounting functions. A bank reconciliation is a check and balance that everything that is recorded in the accounting system is in perfect alignment with the bank system. Any discrepancy is identified and corrected. Reconciliation as a process can be applied to many areas within your company. As a simple example:
10 water losses to be monitored 10 monitorings are scheduled 10 readings/maps get submitted at day end 0 Steps were missed
Culture and Training always have a global impact in our operations and outcomes. We can incorporate checks (self-regulation) into the training of skills and tasks within the organization. Culturally, we should celebrate and hold people accountable to their level of conscientiousness in the performance of their work and be prepared to coach and develop them on improvements.
A little time in double-checking can have exponential value in time wasted and service-related issues.