Remodelers Advantage

Ep.65: How to Turn Your Travel into an Epic Marketing Opportunity

There’s an overlooked opportunity for you to shine in your marketing. For some of you, this opportunity only comes once a year. For others (like many of our Roundtables members) it comes nine or 10 times a year. Regardless of how often the opportunity presents itself, odds are you’re squandering it.

It’s your “out of office” email message.

In this episode, Mark’s flying solo. Victoria’s taking a well-earned vacation and it prompted him to think about this often under-used touchpoint with clients, trade partners, and prospects.

Take some time to make your message memorable in your rush to get out the door. Be human. Be creative. Be thorough so that if it’s a time-critical email, the person who contacted you has a means of getting through to someone else. Think of all the boring and canned out-of-office messages you accumulate in your in-box — and don’t do that. Mark’s tips for an awesome outgoing message include:

  • How to write a great subject line
  • Why you should pad your return date
  • Setting up a custom email for urgent matters
  • Giving a gift in the reply
  • And more …

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make a connection — a human one — while you’re kicking back and out of the daily grind.

Ep.64: What Healthcare Can Teach Remodeling about LEAN with Liz Moisan

Toyota pioneered the LEAN manufacturing system, and we know — houses aren’t cars. But neither are people, and the LEAN concept of continuous improvement is used by hospitals too. 

So even if remodeling isn’t brain surgery, we can learn a lot from how LEAN has been applied in healthcare. You can get some of the best help with your business by looking at how other industries use continuous improvement.

In this episode, Liz Moisan talks to Victoria and Mark about using LEAN principles in healthcare and how it can be applied to remodeling. She says Kaizen or LEAN principles give you a common language for things we already know, creating a foundation to move forward.

Liz is a product innovation specialist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, and has been a practitioner of the Virginia Mason Production System since 2008. She teaches, facilitates, and works to continually evolve how Kaizen is applied in a health-care setting. She’s married to R/A Roundtables member Matt Moisan.

The hospital employs daily Kaizen, so even the smallest roadblock can be eliminated, as well as  higher-level applications. She shares some real-world examples, including cutting down on waiting times for patients (yay!), working with vendors to get what the hospital needs when it needs it, The Five Ss, and how to look at a particular process to improve it, including:

  • Where to start
  • Staying true to the tools
  • Identifying and eliminating waste in processes
  • The evolution of continuous improvement
  • Breaking the status quo and getting buy-in
  • Understanding supply and demand for materials
  • Onboarding new employees in LEAN principles
  • Training at the management level
  • Finding the “rock in your shoe”
  • When and why to get help
  • And more …

Here are those two books Liz recommends for getting started understanding the Kaizen principles:

  1. The Toyota Way
  2. Transforming Healthcare: Virginia Mason Medical Center’s Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience

If You Would Like to Learn More About LEAN For Remodeling…

Consider attending our online course, “LEAN For Remodelers” where our “LEAN Guru” Doug Howard helps you improve your profits & grow your business by mastering continuous improvement through LEAN. This 6-session class, meets weekly & is a combination of online instruction and hands-on exercises, in a virtual classroom setting. Classes start on July 10th, so click here for more information & registration.

 
 

Ep.63: How To Fire Up Your Referral Engine with Tanya Bamford

Research proves referred clients cost less to acquire, are easier to close, and are more valuable to your business over time.

So why don’t more companies ask for them?

In this episode, Tanya Bamford joins Victoria and Mark to share ways to help you fire up your referral engine, and get more business without spinning your wheels. And it’s backed by hard, verifiable research.

Tanya Bamford is the managing director of R/A Marketing, a sister company to Remodelers Advantage. Prior to joining R/A Marketing, Tanya owned an award-winning marketing firm serving small and mid-size businesses. A sought-after speaker, Tanya has presented more than 20 seminars on marketing-related topics ranging from strategic planning to social-media marketing.

You can’t take referrals for granted — you have to maintain regular communication with your past clients. You can take charge of it by nurturing your relationship with your clients over time. Tanya says you have to remind them, and give them the tools to spur those referrals, including:

  • The power of endorsements from clients on others
  • Starting with delivering a great customer experience
  • Identifying who your promoters are
  • Tracking you promotor segment
  • How and where to ask for referrals
  • Plotting out your communications strategy
  • Why direct mail lives
  • The channels that work
  • Why awards should be announced
  • Enabling your team to help you get those referrals
  • Why referral rewards programs may not really work for remodelers
  • And so much more …

To take a deeper dive into referral marketing, here are two resources Tanya referenced:

Ep.62: [Unscripted Back-Up] Employment Law: The Good, Bad and Downright Scary, with Jen Cornell

We’re introducing a new feature — the Unscripted Back-Up. It’s a chance to revisit some of our best and most informative episodes. They’re jam-packed with information you can use — so if you missed it the first time around, here’s your chance to catch up.


In this episode, we revisit the good, bad, and downright scary elements hidden in employment law. If you’re like most business owners, you don’t think about employment law until you’re faced with a complaint or potential lawsuit from a current or former employee. It’s inevitable …  as you add employees and grow your company, the likelihood of facing a legal employment issue will increase as well.

When it comes to hiring, terminating, and disciplining members of your team, there’ s so much to know and keep track of. You not only have state or territory regulations, but federal as well.

Our guest this week will tell you that any time you run into a legal situation regarding an employee, the best course of action is to consult an expert — and that’s just what we did for Episode 11.

Guest Jen Cornell is an attorney who represents companies in litigation involving employees, including lawsuits, charges brought to government agencies, and investigations from government auditors.

Jen also specializes in preventive workplace audits and policy implementation, such as preparing employee handbooks, wage and hour audits, and immigration compliance.

Victoria, Mark and Jen uncovered so many different aspects of employment law in this episode, including:

  • Protecting your company from hourly disputes, lawsuits
  • Timeframes to consider (2-3 years of records), and penalties applied
  • Dealing with independent contractors transitioning to employees
  • How laws apply to locations (job-site, company location, and residency)
  • Payment of employees, pay periods, minimum wages
  • How to handle discrimination complaints from current or ex-employees
  • Responding to charges from government agencies and document storage
  • Handling terminations and disciplinary issues the proper way
  • Importance of Employee handbooks and policies in place

Don’t wait until you get that notice in the mail — listen to this episode and get familiar with some of the issues that may arise and derail the success you worked so hard for.

Ep.61: How I Revamped My Design Process with Chris Fox

Systems and processes rarely scale when your business grows. So you have to go back and create new ones that will — at least for now. Your design process is no different.

When hiring a new or additional designer, it may be time to revamp your process in preparation for that new team member.

In this episode, Chris Fox talks to Victoria and Mark about what he found when he dove deep into his company’s design process. He learned so much from his examination that he created a new self-guided training plan for designers that doesn’t require constant oversight and management by supervisors.

Chris is the founder of Fox Home Innovations in Manhattan, KS. Chris started this company during his junior year of college and ran multiple projects and crews while completing his degree in entrepreneurship from Kansas State University. In school, he met Matt Carlson, who later bought into the company. Today, they both run the organization with Chris focusing on sales and design, while Matt is the general manager.

The old design process was often on the fly and not totally repeatable at all times. They had nothing to train to or repeat when it came time to hire another designer. There was no time to train, either, because everyone was so busy. Chris details what they did and how they did it, including:

  • Evaluating the process you’ve got
  • Creating a trainable, repeatable process
  • Building in the details
  • How to create a training document
  • The time it takes, and why to take the time
  • Involving your whole team
  • The significant changes it made
  • What the onboarding and training looks like
  • Creating teachable moments
  • How to boost competence and confidence
  • And more …

The process is working well, so Chris plans to use it as a model for onboarding and training new hires for other roles throughout the organization as it grows.

Ep.60: How to Manage Your Online Reputation Using Google Reviews with Russell Fuller

Your reputation is your most valuable business asset — but don’t think for a minute that doing high-quality work and providing top-notch service is enough to make and keep it spotless. The Internet has made it all too easy for people to publicly tarnish your good name — quickly.

Take the initiative, and manage your reputation proactively. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it.

In this episode, Victoria and Mark talk online reviews with Russell Fuller. Russell concentrates on the power of Google reviews, discusses how to get great ones, and what it all means to his business.

Russell owns Fuller Living Construction in Seattle, WA. He’s passionate about small business and marketing. Fuller Living Construction is Google’s highest-rated construction company in Seattle.

Russell starts laying the foundation for reviews during the Sales process, sends a mid-project survey to head off problems that may have cropped up, and systematically follows up after the job is finished to get consistent five-star Google reviews. He explains how he settled on Google, what it means to his business, and how he does it, including:

  • Getting your message out
  • How Yelp chooses to show reviews
  • Strategies to make it automatic and easy for clients to leave reviews
  • How to handle bad reviews online
  • The ripple effect of good and bad reviews
  • The power of a good lawyer
  • Speaking honestly with clients — and listening
  • Following up with past clients
  • Being specific in your review requests
  • The “review insurance account”
  • Soliciting reviews from Trade Partners and team members
  • Where reviews are going next
  • And more …

Building and managing your online reputation is more important than ever. Planting the seeds early for great reviews and making the most of them will lay the foundation for a successful business for years to come.

Ep.59: Empower Your Team to Help You Build a Great Business with Jason Blenker

If you’re going to build something — a building, a company, a team — you owe it to the world to build something great. Identify what makes you exceptional and empower your team to help you build a great business.

In this episode, Jason Blenker tells Victoria and Mark about how and why he put his organization on the path to greatness, how he defines the term, and inspiring your team to carry out that mission.

Jason is the president of Blenker Companies Inc., a Midwest provider of housing solutions designed to make the building process easier, faster, and better with one mission — to Build Something Great® — great buildings, great communities, great companies, great leaders, and great team members.

About five years ago, he set out to grow his business and build a leadership team around him to make it happen. Jason looked at what world-class companies do, reached out to mentors and coaches, and got to work. A great organization is one that people want to work with and for, and is active in the communities it serves, he says. Getting everyone on the same page is the first step, and he talks about how he did that, including:

  • Creating your roadmap
  • Planning for success
  • Communicating to get employee buy-in
  • Breaking down what it means to individuals
  • Evaluating who does what best and letting them
  • Overcoming the fear of change
  • The changes coming to the industry
  • Why profit isn’t the only driver for success
  • The time you need to take to work on the organization
  • How to let go and  trust others to make great decisions
  • Getting past analysis paralysis
  • And more …

Taking the time to invest in yourself may mean taking time away from working in your business, Jason says, but it’s the only way to propel your organization forward.

 

We are now on Spotify!

As you can see by the logo on the right, PowerTips Unscripted is now available on Spotify for those of you who might be using that app on your mobile device. Enjoy!
 
 

Ep.58: How LEAN Principles Have Improved My Business with Paul Kowalski

We’ve talked about LEAN before on the show with our own experts, but you may wonder what it looks like in the real world. Today we’ll hear about using LEAN in the remodeling business from an award-winning design-build company that focuses on residential remodeling.

In this episode, Paul Kowalski shares his experiences in applying LEAN in his business with Victoria and Mark. His company recently implemented the process, and he says the results have already been eye-opening.

Paul Kowalski is the owner of PK Builders in Charlotte, NC, and a member of our Remodelers Advantage Roundtables group. PK Builders has a team of eight, including Paul, with four Project Managers, an Estimator, and a Draftsman.

PK Builders was experiencing growing pains in 2018 — bottlenecks in the design-build process, some cash-flow issues, higher overhead, so they called in Doug Howard for help. Paul says it was intimidating at first, but soon becomes second nature to look for ways to speed up processes. It started with 16 feet of paper festooned with sticky notes detailing steps in the design process. They began by diving into the design process, and he discusses how they did it, including:

  • Explaining it to your staff
  • Sharing in chunks
  • Finding the hiccups
  • Why the people closest to the work have the best feedback
  • Getting over the intimidation factor
  • Timelines and swim lanes
  • Not including time for revisions
  • Building in collaboration up front
  • Unintended consequences
  • And more …

Paul and his team are deep in the LEAN process, and excited to see what their future brings, including how it affects their positive cash flow. They’ll be looking at the Production process as their experience with LEAN continues. We’ll check in with Paul on how it’s going in the future.

Here’s that 16-ft. piece of paper!

Getting LEAN

See the video Paul talks about outlining LEAN principles from the Food Bank For New York City on YouTube.

If you want to learn more about LEAN, and download the free process mapping tool, go to leanremodeling.com.

Ep.57: How to Capture Cost-Effective, Exclusive Leads by Blogging with Mike Foti

We’re big believers in the power of blogging to generate interest and business. Today we’re talking to someone in the trenches who’s also a believer, because it’s helped him in growing his business, gaining credibility, elevating customer loyalty, and  — most importantly — generating cost-effective, exclusive leads.

In this episode, Mike Foti discusses his business case for blogging with Victoria and Mark, and tells you how you can do the same.

Mike is president of Innovate Building Solutions of Cleveland, OH, a regional remodeling and nationwide wholesaler of grout-free shower and tub wall panels, wet room systems and glass floors, and also of Innovate Home Org, a designer and installer of custom home organization systems. In the eight years he’s been blogging on his News from the Block blog, it’s grown to 85,000 visitors per month and 19,000 email subscribers — and he has two other blogs. Mike is a self-described DMG (Digital Marketing Geek) and loves learning how to increase traffic and leads without forking over big bucks to “Mr. Google.” He’s also a crazy one-hour-a-day runner – even after suffering two heart attacks over the last two years. Finally, Mike is a reinvigorated Cleveland Browns fan and says (just like Baker Mayfield) he’s feeling a little dangerous today.

Mike started blogging after a digital marketing consultant told him how it would help his business, and he admits his first attempts weren’t so good. Mike shares his five reasons to blog, tips for finding the time to do it, and the benefits, including:

  • Avoiding pay-per-click costs
  • Why he doesn’t do Facebook ads
  • Becoming known as an expert and building a following
  • Why it works for project-based businesses
  • The importance of being consistent
  • Attracting tire-kickers and turning them into leads
  • The power of information, influence, and education
  • If you can’t write, finding someone who can
  • Giving yourself permission to not be very good at first
  • How to generate ideas — taking questions from your sales calls and answering them
  • Why the weirdest jobs make the best stories
  • Writing awesome headlines
  • Sharing who you are for a personal connection
  • How to entertain while educating
  • And more …

Including Mike and Mark talking the Odell Beckham trade, while Victoria stares at the ceiling. Also, for all those wondering, capers are flower buds that are pickled in brine. It’s a wide-ranging and high-energy conversation that will convince you to start blogging if you’re not doing it already — or make you better at it if you are.

Ep.56: The Secret to Successful Employee Reviews with Allison Iantosca

When it comes to performance reviews, the times, they are a-changin’. Though some managers and employees might still like a good old-fashioned numeric ranking, most prefer to take charge of their destinies — working with together to set goals and spur professional development.

Allison Iantosca talks to Victoria and Mark about why we all need performance reviews and using them to create an engaged and developmental relationship with your employees.

Allison is the second-generation owner of 40-year-old F.H. Perry Builder, a Boston-area custom remodeling firm focused on building homes and relationships of lasting value.

What happens on the inside of your organization reflects on what happens outside — with your clients and Trade Partners, says Alison. Taking care of your team’s experiences is a strategic step to making the client experience better. She leads you through the most important parts of a successful review process, including:

  • How often you should do reviews
  • Learning to love the process
  • Having the appreciation conversation first
  • Meeting people where they are
  • Making changes make sense to the employee
  • The power of open-ended questions on an evaluation form
  • Giving your team time to think about it all
  • Getting to the big picture
  • Handling the tough conversations
  • Tools that can help support your team’s growth
  • And so much more …

There can be so much anxiety and fear about performance reviews, but there doesn’t need to be. By presenting them as opportunities for growth and positive change, you can create a better culture and a stronger company.

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