Leadership

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.102: Developing a Sustainable Niche to Support Your Passion with Wright Marshall

One of the strongest ways to differentiate your business in your market is to have a niche. 

Wright Marshall’s company, Revival Construction, has always focused on one highly specific niche and is constantly refining its team and systems to be the leader in that segment.

In this episode, Wright will share his approach with Victoria and Mark, and why following his passion for historic architecture helped him create a successful remodeling business.

In May 2000, Wright Marshall formed Revival Construction Inc. in Atlanta, GA, dedicated to renovating and restoring Atlanta’s older homes. The company focuses on classically designed whole-house renovations, and additions to houses built before WWII in the intown areas of Atlanta. Revival’s mission is to build beautiful homes and lasting relationships. Wright’s also a longtime Roundtables member.

Wright minored in architectural history in college, and planned to build for a while before going to architecture school. He didn’t go. Instead he concentrated on remodeling and building additions on older homes, allowing him to follow his passion for classical architecture and run a successful business. While there were other companies doing it in his market, they weren’t doing as well as he thought he could. Wright concentrated on providing a better customer experience in that niche, as well as: 

  • Determining if your passion can be a sustainable business
  • Working with architects
  • Why design-build doesn’t have to be in one company
  • Building your reputation in the niche
  • Defining success in hiring
  • Investing in estimating
  • The importance of discipline
  • Setting smaller, realistic goals
  • The advantages of finding your niche
  • And more …

You can also learn why Wright chose the name Revival for his company, and also get to hear a little bit of an Allman Bros. song. Also, give yourself a little time to look through Revival’s Project Portfolio — there are some beautiful examples of Wright’s work.

Become a Master

Our MasterClass courses are two-day sessions of rich, interactive information with plenty of hands-on instruction. We limit our classes to 12-18 people, giving you ample opportunity to work one-on-one with the instructors. All our instructors are well-known respected industry experts and some of the best in their fields of expertise. Learn more about our MasterClasses in marketing, the design process, bookkeeping, and project management.

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.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.89: Focusing on Clarity in Communication with Jeremy Steinruck

We’re under an almost-constant barrage of information from every angle. As leaders in our business, it’s imperative that our messages are clearly understood. But it’s equally important, if not more so, that we get messages clearly. 

Looking ahead to 2020, Jeremy Steinruck is focusing on clarity in communication and cutting through the white noise.  

In this episode, Jeremy discusses how to make your communication skills better with Victoria and Mark, what it will take, and how it will help your business and your life.

Jeremy is co-owner and vice president of Axis Construction in Wichita Falls, TX, a company he and partner Jeff Miller started 13 years ago. Jeremy holds a master’s degree in human resource management, but he is most thankful for the influence of incredible mentors and friends who have shared their wisdom freely. 

Learning to be a better communicator is possible, even if it’s not in your native skillset. Jeremy says the first part, for him, was getting rid of his “head trash.” He had to get rid of limiting beliefs, only hang on to ideas that could be proven true, eliminate his assumptions of what someone else believes, and not let any of those things influence his decisions. He talks about how to get past that, and boost your communication and listening skills, including:

  • The basic rules of engagement
  • Facing fears
  • Placing yourself in someone else’s comfort zone
  • How to plan your conversations
  • Understanding you can’t convince someone else
  • Asking questions to get to others’ needs
  • Setting goals at the beginning of the conversation
  • Communicating with intent
  • The four things to do before having a tough conversation
  • And more …

Two of the biggest barriers to effective communication are distraction and selfishness, and Jeremy says that recentering and concentrating on your core values will help you get over them.

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

Ep.82: What Can Be Learned from Success with Wayne Rivers

We’re just back from the 2019 Remodelers Excellence Week, Remodelers Summit, and Roundtables meetings, and our opening video was about thinking like a child, and allowing yourself to fail so that you can learn from what went wrong. It’s all a part of evolving as a business, as a person, and the art of growth.

Then we came across the latest video blog from our friend Wayne Rivers.

It dovetailed nicely with our main takeaways, while also turning the concept of learning from failure on its head. It’s devoted to learning from your successes, and then building on them.

So in this episode, we’re picking up the audio of his blog. If you’d like to watch the video, you can find it here.

Wayne is the co-founder and president of The Family Business Institute Inc. He has authored four books on the subject of family businesses, and is part of the peer group Victoria and Mark attend. Wayne has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, BusinessWeek: WEEKEND, and on the Retirement Living Network.

Wayne talks about how overlooked, yet powerful, success can be as a teaching tool. Instead of always concentrating on what didn’t go right, he tells you how to learn from the good, including:

  • What you can learn from the Blue Angels
  • Why to focus on the process more than the outcome
  • Conducting a post-mortem on every project, good and bad
  • Analyze for successes and failures
  • Realizing that success is almost always a team effort
  • Why to benchmark in every department and process
  • Getting an outside perspective and objective opinion
  • And more …

There are opportunities for learning and improving everywhere — you have to look for them and then build on them.

Click here to take a look at our Summit kick-off video.

Ep.80: Bridging the Skills Gap from an Economist’s Perspective with Mischa Fisher

An aging skilled workforce is retiring, and there’s a shortage of younger people taking their place. It’s a hot topic among remodeling companies, who are still searching for the right answers to solving their labor shortage.

In  this episode, Mischa Fisher, Victoria, and Mark discuss what you can do to bridge the skills gap, and how to change deep-seated perceptions around joining the home-services industry. 

Mischa Fisher is the chief economist at ANGI Homeservices, representing the HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List brands. Prior to this role, Mischa was chief economist for Illinois, where he served as the economic policy advisor to the governor; he is also a former legislative director for the United States Congress in Washington, DC, and is currently an instructor in applied quantitative analysis at Northwestern University. 

Mischa says the labor shortage starts with s a simple fact of demographics, where an aging workforce is getting ready to retire, and the Millennials and younger Generation Z aren’t in the pipeline to replace them. Compounding that, there’s already a shortage of skilled labor. An internal HomeAdvisor poll showed 65 percent of their members could not fill a position, says Mischa, and it’s getting worse. Mischa shares his insights into what’s causing the labor shortage, and how we can all go about fixing it, plus bonus advice from his dad, including:

  • Why talking about it is a great start
  • Raising awareness inside and outside the industry
  • Best practices to fill your open positions
  • How to appeal to Millennials and Gen Z with a rewarding workplace
  • The importance of building a real team
  • Recognizing generational differences and how to work with them
  • How to create a clear pathway to learning
  • Recruiting older, experienced people
  • Using the student loan crisis to your advantage in recruiting
  • Appealing to the entrepreneurial spirit
  • Working with industry, government, and educational leaders
  • Educating parents about the advantages of learning a skilled trade
  • And more …


Mischa says you can find more resources to help at the Home Advisor Pro Center. Keep an eye out for a new research portal that will be live in a couple of months at www.homeadvisor.research.

Ep.78: The Most Powerful Competitive Advantage with Steve Anderson

In a low-unemployment economy, recruiting and retaining the best talent is a continuous effort. You need a powerful competitive advantage — one that’s nearly impossible for anyone else to copy. 

It’s your company culture.

In this episode, Steve Anderson tells Victoria and Mark why that is, and how you can develop a successful culture — or turn around a faltering one. 

Steve’s an author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He’s worked with tens of thousands of professionals to grow and expand their businesses. Steve has spoken at our Remodeler’s Summit and worked with our Roundtables members in the past.

Your company culture is a combination of priorities and processes, and how your team acts on them, that results in how people feel about your company, inside and out. It can happen by default or by definition, but almost all successful cultures happen by design. He tells you how to look at your culture critically, and the steps to take to improve it, including:

  • Building on natural laws 
  • Defining your priorities
  • Designing your culture intentionally
  • The law of emotion
  • What the 10 Commandments can teach you about changing your culture
  • Defining your culture in a written document
  • Setting expectations
  • Reinforcing acceptable behavior
  • Why the customer shouldn’t come first
  • Using your culture in recruiting and hiring
  • The culture mistakes you may be making
  • And more …

There’s a copy of Steve’s first written culture guide in his book, The Culture of Success: 10 Natural Laws for Creating a Place Where Everyone Wants to Work. He invites everyone to use that culture guide to create your own — just click the link and make your purchase.

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