Financial Management

Ep.103: Positive Growth in Difficult Situations with Kathy O’Brien

We talk about the J Curve a lot around here — picture a lower-case J. When you apply change principles to your business — new people, systems, and processes — they can initially send your business on a downward trajectory before soaring with your success. If you want to grow your company, listen carefully!

Our guest today breaks this process down into four stages of development:

  • Forming: The getting to know you stage
  • Storming: When conflicts arise (the bottom of the J)
  • Norming: Common goals are defined, an agreement is reached
  • Performing: Working toward a common goal and looking forward

In this episode, Kathy O’Brien talks to Victoria and Mark about how to manage your growth strategies and the importance of being a strong leader in challenging times.

Kathy was the founding CEO of the St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association for over 25 years and then served as Senior Vice President of the National Office in Chicago. She received numerous awards and recognition for her work. Kathy now volunteers as a mentor/consultant to 5stone Construction in St. Louis, MO, helping with business growth strategies — she first got to know the company as a client. She was so impressed with the quality of the work and the people, she has worked with 5stone for the last several years, developing systems and processes, determining annual goals and individual employee performance indicators, hiring to get “the right people on the bus,” and managing fast growth over the last four years.

Kathy says those four stages of development apply to making positive growth in professional development, organizational development, and personal development. You go through the stages in every business relationship, personal relationship, and client relationship. She breaks down the stages, and how they present themselves in the remodeling business, including:

  • How it plays out with employees
  • Why it’s a continuous process
  • Getting through the storming stage successfully
  • How one person can cause a storm
  • Why leadership and core values are important through all the stages
  • Making it okay to disagree, and fostering honest dialog
  • What to do when you’re still sinking
  • And more …

If you’re finding yourself stuck in the storming stage, Kathy says there’s great value in having support with other leaders, by networking or in peer groups. She also recommends three books to read to boost your leadership skills: 

Ep.100: The Drivers that Make for a Successful Exit with John Warrillow

It’s our 100th episode, and to mark the occasion, we’re welcoming back our first guest ever to talk about how to leave your business behind happily.

On average, 75 percent of founders who exit their company have regrets within one year of leaving, and only five percent are actually happy with the net proceeds of their exit. 

In this episode, John Warrillow will discuss why this happens with Victoria and Mark, and how business owners can better prepare for an exit that will leave them with no regrets.

John is an entrepreneur and author with more than 20 years of research into the small- and medium-sized business market. He’s the founder of The Value Builder System, which aims to level the playing field for business owners as they approach their exits. 

When you sell your company, there are factors that will dictate how happy you are after it’s no longer yours, says John. The first is that the business is ready to sell. The second is a little less clear-cut — the seller has to have done the psychological work that sets them up for success. John talks about what that means, and how to get to the point where you can make a successful exit, including:

  • Why there can be regrets
  • Being clear on what’s next
  • The “push factors” vs. the “pull factors”
  • Selling and staying or going
  • Why it’s not about the money
  • The biggest fears that come with selling
  • Dealing with private equity groups
  • The pitfalls of financing your buyer
  • How to treat your employees during the transition
  • The top three things that determine if your business is ready to sell
  • And more …

If you’d like to hear more about the first part of successfully selling your company — getting it ready to sell — listen to Episode 1. And to learn even more, go to John’s website, builttosell.com

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Ep.99: Adapting and Leading Through a Health Crisis with Jef and Monica Forward

Being able to adapt and lead through a crisis — personal or business — is a critical skill for any business owner. 

After their best year ever in 2018, Jef and Monica Forward were gearing up for an even stronger 2019. Everything was on course until two key players were diagnosed with cancer. One of them was Monica, who was the company’s only estimator at the time. The other was their lead designer.

One year later, everyone is alive, and despite all the difficulties, they also hit all of their business goals.

In this episode, Jef and Monica talk about the challenges with Victoria and Mark, and share insights into how they kept it all going.

Jef and Monica are business partners at Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor MI. Jef has participated in every level at Remodelers Advantage Roundtables and is a member of our MentorFor group. Over the last four years, Jef has focused on improving his coaching and leadership skills, resulting in improved client satisfaction, planned healthy growth and a positive team culture. Jef was recently a semi-finalist for the Fred Case Entrepreneur Award, and for the Remodelers Advantage Impact Award. Jef credits all of this success to his collaboration with Monica, their team, and Roundtables.

The team culture at their company was a key component of the company coming together and adapting to the emotional and business changes, Monica and Jef say. When her diagnosis came, they were about to implement The Great Game of Business, which empowers every employee to act like an owner and share in the profits. But then everything changed. Jef and Monica talk about how they got through the year, including:

  • Being prepared for the unexpected
  • Developing a strategy to get through
  • How to deal with work absences
  • The importance of cross-training
  • Figuring out who takes over the extra work
  • Tapping into the strength of your team
  • Being open about your tough times
  • Leading through vulnerability
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Handling the emotional components
  • And more …

The company continues to perform at peak levels due to the strength of the company culture, and their proven processes and systems.

Cool Gear, Great Cause

If you’re looking for cool gear and apparel to show your Roundtables pride  that also supports a great cause, check out our Shop. All of the proceeds go to our partner, The American Cancer Society. It’s a win-win!

Ep.98: How to Structure and Run a Profitable Design Department with Chris Landis

Jobs are won or lost during the design process. With so much on the line, it’s clear that your design department should be running at peak performance. But there are so many ways the process can get derailed.

It all depends on how you structure your design department, and what metrics you use to hold them accountable.

In this episode, Chris Landis discusses about how to build and run an efficient design department with Victoria and Mark.

Chris is a partner (with his brother Ethan) in Landis Architects/Builders in Washington, DC, and is a longtime Roundtables member. He’s a registered architect in four states (MD, DC, VA, NY). Chris graduated from Vassar College, and earned his M.A. in architecture from Columbia Architecture School. Chris is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and has 28 years of experience in residential architecture. He is a current member of the DC Historic Preservation Review Board and past president of the DC Metro area chapter of NARI.

Chris has a design department of nine people after 30 years in the business. When the company got to the point of having three designers, Chris hired a manager for that department to ensure that the work was standardized and high quality. He talks about how to set up your own design department for success and create a quicker process, including:

  • The metrics to gauge success
  • The designer’s role in his company
  • Recruiting and hiring for the department
  • Working back from net profit
  • When to hire a design manager
  • His three-phase process
  • How he charges for them
  • Figuring out a healthy close ratio
  • Taking on a design-only project
  • Why to conduct a feasibility study — sometimes
  • Working with design sub-contractors
  • And more …

Design can be a profit center, not a loss-leader, and you have to know how much you should be charging for it — even if you don’t.

MasterClass: Design Process

You can learn how other successful companies manage their design business, and you’ll go home with new ideas to exceed your clients’ expectations and boosting profits on every job. We’ll be holding our next class here in Baltimore, May 18-19. You can find more details and register here: Building An Effective Design Process.

Ep.96: Tiered Growth: Understanding Metrics and Recognizing Signs to Set Profitable Sales Goals with Michael Hodgin

Most people would consider a company jumping from $1.5 million to $3 million in revenue a growing organization. However, when we look beyond gross sales, those numbers don’t necessarily mean it grew. It could even mean the company is less profitable — and ultimately less successful — than it was before. 

Michael Hodgin says planning for, and implementing, tiered advances are a better strategy for deliberate, healthy growth.

In this episode, Michael discusses his tiered increase growth strategy with Victoria and Mark. For healthy growth, he says you have to set and meet certain goals for sales, job costs, systems and performance before taking the next step.

Michael is a general contractor and business consultant living in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. He started his first construction company as a one-man-show in 2000, eventually growing Coleman Creek Construction to include a successful team of 15. Michael joined Remodeler’s Advantage in 2016 in an effort to deliver the greatest possible value to his clients. Investing in the development of efficient systems for his own business inspired the creation of his consulting agency, Maestro’s Toolbox

Micheal says that your company’s gross sales should bump up to the next milestone only once your teams have mastered sales, pre-construction, and production systems at their current revenue level. That puts a company in a stronger position to handle the inevitable increase in workload. He talks about how to accomplish healthy, tiered growth for you remodeling company, including:

  • The infrastructure milestones to hit
  • Taking deliberate steps
  • The importance of setting goals 
  • Focusing on hitting those goals
  • Proving your success 
  • Nailing down all your job costs
  • Managing slippage
  • Building the foundation for growth
  • The metrics that tell you that you’re ready for the next step
  • Stepping away and delegating
  • And more …

Planning your growth, setting targets, and understanding why and how you hit them will spur the right kind of growth for you and your company.

Ep.93: [Unscripted Back-Up] How LEAN Principles Have Improved My Business with Paul Kowalski

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re taking a look back at some of our more popular episodes, and this episode explains how LEAN principles really work in a remodeling company. Perfect for any company looking to improve their business in 2020.


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 owns PK Builders in Charlotte, NC, and is 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.

When PK Builders was experiencing growing pains in 2018 — bottlenecks in the design-build process, some cash-flow issues, higher overhead — Paul 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. Hear how they implemented LEAN, 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. See the video Paul talks about outlining LEAN principles from the Food Bank For New York City on YouTube.

And here’s that 16-ft. chart Paul talks about:


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EP.91: [Unscripted Back-up] Expert Panel at Extreme Business Makeover Shares Insight

As we wrap up 2019, we’re looking back at some of our more popular episodes and this one was a huge hit.

For our 50th episode in January, we gathered a panel of industry experts and took questions from the audience at the Extreme Business Makeover event. 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 directed the lively discussions with our panel. Panelists included:

  • Michael Sauri of TriVistaUSA Design + Build and the 2018 winner of the Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
  • Doug Howard, RA’s CFO and Director of Consulting Services, a.k.a. “The Fixer”
  • Judith Miller, Financial and QuickBooks “Guru”
  • Tim Faller, RA’s Senior Consultant and “Master of Production”

We covered 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 back in January, you need to listen to this episode.

And Don’t Miss THIS Year’s Extreme Business Makeover Event;
New Content, Fresh Ideas

On January 28-29, 2020 we will gather once again at the BWI Westin and present 2 days of interactive presentations, breakouts and expert panels (like the one featured in today’s podcast). We have Super Early Bird pricing in place until 12/15/19 so Click here for more information and Register Today!

Ep.90: Inside the Design-Build Movement with David Supple

You may have thought that the design-build business model is a recent phenomenon. But years ago, all builders practiced design-build, but something happened along the way to create separate industries.

In this episode, David Supple takes Victoria and Mark on a deep dive into the history of the design-build model, the truths about it, and why it’s been around as long as buildings have.

David is the founder and CEO of New England Design & Construction in Boston. He’s grown NEDC to be a leader in design-build excellence, winning more than 30 awards and being written about in more than 30 publications over the past 14 years. In addition to expanding the company, David has started the DesignBuild Movement, a forum with the purpose of educating the public on this topic with the end goal of creating better buildings. 

David has had a fascination with creating buildings since his art history teacher in high school showed the class slides of landmarks in Europe like Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel. He decided he wanted to build those types of spaces, and was steered into architecture. He graduated from college with an architecture degree, and started practicing. Then, he says, he realized he didn’t know what he was doing. So he went to work as a carpenter to get a foundation in actual building before he opened NEDC. David talks about the history of architects and builders, and how the industry got to where we are now, including:

  • What an architect used to be
  • The historical apprenticeship process
  • How the industry separated into architects and builders
  • What social status had to do with it
  • Why design-build almost went away
  • The efficiencies of design-build as a process
  • How to position design-build with consumers
  • Design-build vs. design-bid-build
  • And more …

It’s a fascinating look at the history of building, architecture, and remodeling, and will make you better prepared to discuss what design build really means. To learn more about the DesignBuild Movement, check out the pages on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


Ep.88: All Help Is the Same, Isn’t it? with Allison Iantosca

As a seasoned business professional, you’ve probably been on both sides of the equation when it comes to giving and getting help. Get advice, give consultation. Gain a mentor, bestow some wisdom. While in these essential moments, we want to help and be helped, that doesn’t always happen. 

It helps to know there are differences in the types of support we can give and get — and what they are. 

In this episode, Allison Iantosca will discuss those distinctions with Victoria and Mark, and how stopping and thinking about how you ask for or give help will make the results more useful and valuable.

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

Though there are nuanced distinctions, coaching, consulting, and mentoring are not the same thing, says Allison. Knowing the differences will make the help given or gotten more relevant and valuable. Figuring it out includes knowing what you want to offer or receive in that moment, including:

  • Who needs what, and when
  • Concentrating on process in coaching
  • Consulting and advising on outcomes
  • Using experience in mentoring for a shared outcome
  • Coaching your staff
  • How to know what help to ask for
  • The time periods needed for each
  • Asking the right questions to spur the right answers
  • And more …

One of the best ways to differentiate between the three main types of help you can give or get is to determine the goal, and what choices need to be made to get there.

And Speaking of Consulting & Coaching …

As we head into 2020, there is no better time than RIGHT NOW to be planning for how your company will hit the profit goals that you have committed to… What? You have no Goals? No Plan? Well, we will help you with that too!

Join us on Tuesday, November 19th as our CFO & Director of Consulting, Doug Howard, hosts a FREE Webinar and walks you through the key steps to Creating Your Wining Strategy for 2020.

Click Here for More Information and to grab your spot.

Ep.87: Partnership — Creating a Unified Vision for your Company’s Future with Matt Carlson

Having a business partner can be an enormous advantage if you approach it correctly. Most people underestimate the commitment and work that goes into a partnership. Ensuring that you’re on the same page and share the same vision goes far beyond having a plan on paper.

In this episode, Matt Carlson shares his story with Victoria and Mark, and what he’s learned as the minority partner in his business in making the relationship work.

Matt is the general manager and co-owner of Fox Home Innovations in Manhattan, KS. After 10 years in the business, and nine as an owner he has a unique perspective on the lessons he has learned from growing FHI alongside his business partner Chris Fox.

Matt and Chris met in college, and worked on several projects together there while both where studying entrepreneurship. Matt then joined Chris in his new remodeling company. He started out working in the field, and Chris proposed the partnership idea quickly. It started as a trial run for a year, while he was still considered an employee. They made it official after the trial period. Matt talks about what you need to do to create and maintain a successful partnership, including:

  • Making the commitment
  • Being open and honest
  • Putting egos aside
  • How to maintain an equal partnership regardless of ownership stake
  • The importance of having open books
  • Delegating duties and responsibilities
  • Keeping egos out of it
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Speaking with one voice
  • Taking a thoughtful approach to long-term company health
  • And more …

If you’re in a partnership, or are considering one, Matt says the biggest thing to remember is to put the business first — above any personal relationship you share.

Never Stop Learning…

In today’s episode, Mark mentions our Masterclass sessions that are now available. These two-day courses are intimate, interactive sessions with plenty of hands-on instruction. Small class sizes mean you have plenty of time to interact with your trainer and classmates. All of our instructors are industry experts and among the best in their fields of expertise. To see our slate of available courses, go to https://www.remodelersadvantage.com/events-training/masterclass

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