Remodelers Advantage

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.

Ep.55: Why and How to Start Your Own Podcast

In an extremely meta podcast today, we talk about podcasting — and the top reasons you should start your own. We were prompted by an email from a Roundtables member asking why and how to do it.

Podcasting is growing by leaps and bounds — 51% of the population has listened to a podcast. Of those listening, 45% are likely to have an income of $250,000 or more — the kind of affluent demographic you want.

In this episode, Victoria and Mark kick around the reasons you should start your own podcast, with some tips on how to get started.

First thing, don’t get swayed by the idea that a podcast is too global to target your own local area. You don’t even have to cover remodeling in your podcast, as long as it’s sponsored by your company. Other things to consider include:

  • Making the time commitment
  • Being consistent
  • Deciding on a format
  • Writing a script
  • Equipment, set-up, and the costs
  • Content creation and what to cover
  • How to target the right market for you
  • The value of an internal podcast for your employees
  • The launch and initial push
  • How prepare your guests and make them comfortable
  • And much more …

Including Mark springing the lightning round on Victoria (completely ignoring what he just said about preparing guests, but whatever). If you start a podcast, or are already doing one, let us know in the comments below!

Ep.54: Solving the Labor Shortage with Paul Eldrenkamp

Regional remodeling companies are desperate for more good labor. Regional carpentry programs are constantly on the lookout for good jobs for their students. How do you bring these groups together effectively?

In this episode, Paul Eldrenkamp talks to Victoria and Mark about the program he and his local NARI chapter have developed to bring students and remodeling companies together,  and what you can do in your area.

Paul works for Byggmeister, a design-build remodeling firm based in Newton, MA. He’s working closely with his NARI chapter to build better connections to carpentry students and teachers at local high schools and vocational schools.

His first outreach experience stemmed from a talk he did at a Boston-area high school about green building practices. The school reached out for help in preparing their students who weren’t going to college to enter the workforce with those building skills.

It grew from there. At first, Paul tried building an outreach program through the company, but it was overwhelming their resources. Working through other NARI with other interested member companies, a workforce committee was born. He talks about how they did it, and the benefits, including:

  • How to find people in the school systems and state agencies to help
  • Creating internship programs
  • The big hurdles, and how to get over them
  • Coaching kids toward lifelong success
  • The benefits to your own team
  • Budgeting internship hours
  • Identifying good candidates
  • Increasing diversity
  • The responsibilities of the industry
  • And more…

The future for the Boston program is bright, filling open jobs with candidates who might not be seen otherwise. If you’d like to reach out to Paul about your initiative or for help starting a program near you, send him an email at paul@byggmeister.com.

Ep.53: Growing a Company from Stage 3 to Stage 4 with Jef Forward

There are five stages of company growth, according to Judith Miller, one of our consultants and facilitators. Transitioning from Stage 3 to Stage 4 is one of the more complex. It takes a substantial shift in the owner’s responsibilities and skill sets. It can result in a much higher job satisfaction level, financial return, and working much less.

In this episode, Jef Forward explains how he managed this tricky move to Victoria and Mark. It’s a process he planned and implemented over years, and it had challenges and surprises for everyone in the organization.

Jef is a co-owner with his wife, Monica, of Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor, MI. Jef has participated in Roundtables at Remodelers Advantage for many years, and is now a member of Mentor FOR. Over the last six years, they have had substantial growth in the business and increased customer satisfaction and net profits through a team approach.

Jef talks about how the process has worked for his company, and what it takes to get there. It demanded a great deal of self-reflection on his part, as he moved out of the role of doer to teacher and had to become a better leader. He talks about understanding your priorities and how they might shift, and getting buy-in from your team, including:

  • Your company culture
  • Working the plan
  • Getting accurate feedback
  • Letting people fail, and teaching from that
  • Becoming a proactive, not reactive company
  • Why it’s not all about you
  • And much more…

Regardless of the growth stage of your company, Jef’s got workable advice to make your business and life better and more rewarding.

Some Background Info

If you want to brush up on Judith Miller’s stages of growth as discussed in the episode, here’s the article.

For more explanation of the DISC profile and what it can do for your business, listen to Episode 45: Using Tools to Find the Best Talent with Rick Bowers.

Ep.52: Changing of the Guard: The Unfortunate Side Effect of Growth

Most entrepreneurs want to build a bigger company, but understand that many of their existing processes don’t scale. You go back to the drawing board and make some changes. But the sad truth is that it’s not just systems, but people, who fall behind, dragging the business with them.

In this episode, Mark’s flying solo, and tackling a subject too many business owners try to avoid. The sad side effect of growth is that some of your best, longest-lasting employees simply can’t keep up with the new demands of a larger business.

The first thing to do is recognize it. If they’re still doing a great job, but lack enough time, hire more help. But if the tasks and duties themselves are overwhelming, you need an action plan. Mark talks about what to look for and how to handle it, including:

  • The difference between generalists and specialists
  • Continuing education and coaching
  • How to present the problem
  • Finding a new role — or not
  • When to cut your losses
  • And more…

If you’ve run into this sticky situation, tell us about your experiences in the comments — what did you do?

Ep.51: Deploying the Elam Ending in Your Business

We’re getting esoteric today — applying a sports concept to business. Not too long ago, Mark read an article and shared it with Victoria about fixing something that’s broken in basketball — the intentional fouls at the end of the game to stop the clock.

Nick Elam is a Mensa member and basketball superfan, who was frustrated by the stop-and-start slog the end of close games as the team behind tried to get ahead by stopping the clock in the final minutes.

In his Elam Ending, the game clock is turned off at the first whistle with four minutes or fewer remaining. The teams then play to a target score equal to the leading team’s score plus seven points. The first team to meet or exceed the target score wins. It effectively stops the need to intentionally foul.

So what does all this have to do with the remodeling business? Fair question.

You may need to change your rules, you may need to change your strategy. When the rules that make your business work start hindering it, what do you do?

Look at the frustration points and think creatively to figure out whether your rules need to change. Maybe your change order process works perfectly until the final weeks of the job, and then it all goes sideways. Think about changing the rules of the game for those changing circumstances.

Let us know what rules or processes you’ve changed or amended through creative thinking. Let us know in the comments. No harm, no foul. See more about the Elam Ending in Sports Illustrated, and here’s a link to The Basketball Tournament’s wiki and how it has implemented it.

Will You Be at KBIS or NAHB’s International Building Show?

Victoria, Mark, and Steve Wheeler, RA sales director, are on the speaker’s panel at KBIS.

Victoria’s sessions:

The Most Important Numbers You Must Know!

  • Room N226
  • Session Number 2.2
  • Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019
  • 10:30 – 11:30 am

How Do You Compare? Performance Metrics of the High Performers

  • Room N226
  • Session Number 5.5
  • Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019
  • 9 – 10 pm

Steve Wheeler’s session:

Delegation — How to Get Your Employees to Think and Act Like an Owner!

  • Room N230
  • Session Number 8.7
  • Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019
  • 3 – 4 pm

Mark’s session:

Website Punchlist! Blue Tape Walkthroughs of Attendee Websites

  • Room: N227
  • Session Number 8.4
  • Wednesday, Feb.y 20, 2019
  • 3 – 4 pm

If you’re going to attend, and want Mark to dissect your site, just send him an email!

We’re also having an informal meet-up on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 5 pm. Meet us in the bar at the Hard Rock Hotel — we’d love to see you. Drop us a line about that or any other times you might like to chat: Victoria@RemodelersAdvantage.com or Mark@RemodelersAdvantage.com.

 

Ep.50: LIVE from the Extreme Business Makeover in Baltimore

For our 50th episode, we gathered a panel of industry experts and took questions from the audience at the Extreme Business Makeover in Baltimore at the the end of January 2019. It capped off an intense two days of learning, sharing, and networking among the remodelers attending and our Remodelers Advantage team.

In this episode, Victoria and Mark direct the lively discussions with our panel. We were joined by:

We talk profits and payroll, cash flow, the owner’s role in a growing business, margins, staying top-of-mind in your marketing, smart lead qualifying, planning and making decisions on your job sites, and the power of asking “why?”  

It’s an insightful and all-encompassing discussion of how to run your business to get bigger margins, more profits, and creating a real life/work balance. If you missed it, you need to listen to this episode.

 

Ep.49: How, Who, and Why to Build a Leadership Team with Steve Barkhouse

You’re not running a successful company unless you have a good work/life balance. But there’s only one way to sustainably grow your company without sacrificing your life, and that’s by having a strong leadership team.

Steve Barkhouse stops by to give Victoria and Mark a crash course in how and why you should have a leadership team — and who should be on it.

Steve is the president and co-owner of Amsted Design-Build in Ottawa, ON. Steve has a well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful, logical, and caring business owner. Steve founded the company in 1989, and it now produces  over $10 million annually. He’s a long-time member of our top-performing Roundtables group, and the recipient of the 2018 Remodelers Advantage Impact Award.

Steve and his co-owner decided to start a leadership team at their owners retreat about a year ago. They researched the different models, and picked the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Steve talks about why EOS was the right fit for Amsted, and also about the other systems they didn’t pick. He details their process, including:

  • The differences between a leadership team and a management team
  • The importance of having a facilitator
  • How they picked their leadership team and got lucky
  • The six benefits of a leadership team
  • How often they meet
  • Who runs the meetings
  • What the agenda is
  • And a whole lot more…

Forming the leadership team was the best decision he ever made. “Outside of joining Remodelers Advantage, of course,” he says.

Ep.48: How to Hit Healthy Net Profits in any Economic Climate with Mike Medford Sr.

One of our core principles is that remodeling companies should make a good net profit, after paying the owners an above-average salary. When the economy’s booming, you can get away with a lot and still hit those goals, sometimes by accident. But the goal is to get those healthy net profits consistently, year after year, even in a downturn.

In this episode, Mike Medford Sr. talks to Victoria and Mark about how to do just that. Before seeing the metrics of the Top Ten Roundtables members a few years ago, Mike says his financials were always in flux. But then he took those figures and made them hard targets.

Mike Medford Sr. has been a home remodeling contractor for over 40 years. In 2007, he partnered with his son, Mike Jr. to form what is now Medford Design Build, with offices in Colleyville and Arlington, TX. Mike Sr. is the president of Medford Design Build.

Mike challenged himself and his team to hit the new fixed targets. He refined their processes, and challenged his team to hit those targets. By the next quarterly meeting, the company’s profits were rising. He talks about how he and his team made it happen, including:

  • Creating a profit-centric culture
  • How net profits will help you beat the labor shortage
  • Focusing your staff on gross profit
  • The importance of open books to the process
  • Setting up a bonus structure
  • Building time in to plan
  • And more…

Mike also talks about getting back to the art of contracting and how important that is to your margins.

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