Process Improvement

Ep.77: Recession-Proofing Your Company with Dave Edwards

It’s easy to be successful in a great economy. You can get away with a lot of bad habits, lack of systems, and high overhead when jobs are large and margins high. But when the economy contracts, job sizes shrink, and margins erode, those bad habits can have a huge affect on the health of your company.

Focusing on the right things when times are good are key to recession-proofing your business.

In this episode, Dave Edwards talks to Victoria and Mark about the lessons he learned and the changes he made to create a healthy company following the last recession, and how that positions it to survive and even thrive in the next downturn.

Dave is the founder and president of Earth Bound Homes, a home-building and remodeling company in San Jose, CA. Before he joined Remodelers Advantage Roundtables in 2014, Dave spent 12 years learning all the different ways to not build and run a profitable construction company. 

His path to recession-proofing his company came after watching other remodelers and builders go out of business in the last recession. After his company almost went bankrupt in 2011, he joined Roundtables and also went to counseling. He talks about his path to success in business and in his personal life, and how he has built a company that can withstand an economic downturn, including:

  • Focusing on others’ happiness as the key to achievement
  • His metrics for success — it’s not all about money
  • Recognizing when someone else has better ideas, and running with them
  • The Stop/Start meeting to improve the company
  • How to bill like a lawyer
  • Making project management a source of income
  • Working with a tight subcontractor market who need extra management
  • Helping architects get their project packages together
  • Identifying bad habits and how to fix them
  • How unbilled labor can cut into your profits
  • Why he cut his field staff to boost his revenue
  • Getting the best people and keeping them happy
  • The power of diversity in company culture
  • And more …

Dave says the three big ways to ensuring your company’s survival are figuring out how to live on your salary as a business owner, banking your cash to be able to pay and retain your team during a downturn, and reducing your mark up to still be profitable.

Ep.76: [Unscripted Back-Up] Managing Your Customers with Chip Doyle

It’s time for another 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.

This is one of our most popular episodes, and digs in to a part of your remodeling business that few people really consider — managing your clients. 

If you — and especially your designers — aren’t managing those customers you’re wasting time and losing out on potential profits, says Chip Doyle.

In this episode, Victoria, Mark and Chip discuss how to speed up the hand off from design to production. Effectively managing client expectations, setting clear goals and deadlines, and guiding clients intentionally, gets you out of having projects park in design and selections. 

Chip has been in the sales industry for 29 years, and training with Sandler for nearly 17 years. He’s a sought-after speaker and co-authored Selling to Homeowners The Sandler Way. Chip has a licensed training center and trains companies of all sizes in Pleasant Hill, CA, helping them reach their full potential, exceed expectations and continue to grow.

Empowering designers to guide, and ultimately lead, clients through the design process can increase your profits by 25 percent. Some of the ways to get there include:

  • Cutting design time in half, without cutting corners
  • Giving designers the right role models
  • Managing “genius attacks”
  • Setting clear meeting goals and timely next steps
  • The importance of deadlines — for clients
  • Getting projects through that would otherwise stall
  • The traits to look for in a designer — toss the DISC assessment
  • And much more …

Need More Help?

If your designers, project managers, and other customer-facing team members need guidance on how to deliver excellent client services effectively, Chip is leading a course, Client Management Training for Designers & Architects, to address it all. It’s not a sales course, it’s specifically designed to give your team members the skills they need to get selections and designs past the bottleneck and into production, while creating and excellent customer experience.

Ep.69: How to Protect and Grow your Business with Performance Testing with Corbett Lunsford

Physics and chemistry affect the interior of every home, every day. Performance testing can enable remodelers to predict and prevent health, safety, and comfort issues, earn more for your work, and predict and prevent callbacks, claims, and lawsuits.

As a remodeler, you have two choices. You can test for and design performance controls into your projects to predict and prevent side effects. Or you make assumptions and hope for the best.

You might make problems worse, and take the heat for it. 

In this episode, Corbett Lunsford talks about home systems, performance, and testing with Victoria and Mark. Home performance is the invisible “stuff” that happens inside a home — how it feels, smells, and sounds. 

Corbett loves investigating invisible dynamics using high-tech techniques and tools. He’s the co-host of the PBS series Home Diagnosis, the Building Performance Podcast, and the author of Home Performance Diagnostics: the Guide to Advanced Testing.

Every remodeling project will affect how a home works — for better or worse. Building inspections are about the static state — what’s there all the time. Performance dynamics have to do with all the actions of the house while it’s working. You need testing to be able to predict that. Remodelers deal with and interfere with these dynamics as part of their work — there will be changes. Corbett says the first tests to do are a blower-door test, using infrared cameras to pinpoint roof leaks and moisture detection, and other reasons why home testing can improve your projects, business and client satisfaction, including:

  • Tuning a home like an instrument
  • Taking the guesswork out of the home performance
  • How pressure issues can cause mold and mildew
  • Why home interiors affect health
  • Atmospheric draft, water heaters, and range hoods
  • Charging more for optimizing home system performance
  • Testing for the invisible dynamics
  • Load calculations and energy models for HVAC choices
  • Why testing also makes homes more energy efficient
  • The marketing opportunities for you
  • The power of statistics
  • And more …

Corbett warns that your clients may know about the importance of performance testing because they’re watching home-improvement shows like his — and you have to stay ahead of what the general public knows or lose credibility. As a first step, you can download his ebook, Proof Is Possible: How to Keep an Eye on Your New Home Construction or Home Improvement

You can also see his tiny house and more on his YouTube channel: https://YouTube.com/c/HomePerformance.

Ep.67: Kicking Off Slippage Awareness Month with Tim Faller

Here at Remodelers Advantage we set aside the month of June to focus on an issue that plagues most service-based businesses, but can be a critical metric in looking at the success of a remodeling firm. This is our third annyal “Slippage Awareness Month” and this year you’ll see content submissions from our consulting, sales, and production experts here at R/A. Enjoy!

Every remodeling business owner wants to add more money to the bottom line. Reducing slippage is the lowest-hanging fruit to pick in your quest.

In this episode, Tim Faller talks to Victoria and Mark about reducing slippage in your remodeling company. Slippage occurs when your estimate is lower than the real costs of the job. Reducing it takes a change in mindset throughout the organization.

For 17 years, Tim has worked with hundreds of remodeling companies to improve profits by creating smooth, efficient production systems. As a Senior Consultant and Master of Production for Remodelers Advantage, Tim’s field and business ownership experience is vital to his additional role as facilitator for Owner and Production Manager Roundtables Groups. He’s also  a published author and popular industry speaker, Tim is co-host of The Tim Faller Show, a weekly podcast focused on “Improving The Bottom Line Through Production Training.”

The biggest challenge in reducing slippage is getting your whole team involved in the effort. Tim says slippage is too often brushed off with “It is what it is.”  That’s where the change in mindset comes in — the attitude should be “It is what we make it.” Slippage is controllable, but it takes a company-wide awareness and work to corral it through realistic and accurate estimating,  job scheduling, and building in time to de-bug a job before it starts. He talks about the ways to reduce slippage in your processes, including:

  • Finding the slippage
  • The perfect planning process
  • Building in time, and how much
  • Developing a critical eye, not a critical attitude
  • Why realistic estimating geared to your team is key
  • Why you need long-term, short-range, and daily planning
  • Killing schedule creep for better net profit
  • Building extra time into the schedule
  • Figuring out days-per-job overhead
  • Controlling the client
  • Doing change orders properly
  • And more …

Cutting slippage is possible — and will make a big difference in the health of your business.

 

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.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.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.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.42: How and When To Hire a General Manager with Aaron Enfinger

As companies experience growth, there are tipping points where changes need to be made. One of those points is when you realize you need additional management for the organization. Many remodelers are considering adding a General Manager, but are unsure how it will work in practice.

The Cleary Company of Columbus, OH, reached this tipping point in the Development Department in the Fall of 2016. The company was changing rapidly, adding staff, and stressing the existing systems in place. Things were getting bogged down. Owner George Cleary promoted Aaron Enfinger from Production Manager to GM to step in the gap. He’s currently wearing both hats while searching for his successor as PM.

In this episode, Aaron talks to Victoria and Mark about his experiences in taking over his new role and what it’s meant for the company. While Aaron oversees the operations, George has more time for business development and long-term planning.

The decision to add an overlay of management was caused by three factors, says Aaron. The staff was stressed by the workload, they were having trouble getting projects through the different phases of the job, and steps were being skipped in previously reliable systems because of the rush to get jobs to production. He talks about what his job entails, and some of the challenges, including:

  • Keeping the owner in the mix
  • How to not overload a GM
  • Managing people outside of your own job experience, like designers or marketers
  • Creating new positions to help streamline processes
  • Why to hire from within (if you can)
  • Working with the owner (or CEO)
  • The benefits of a walking meeting
  • Small picture vs. big picture thinking
  • And more…

As promised in the podcast, here’s the link to Aaron’s appearance on The Tim Faller Show, where he outlined his approach to creating a master schedule to control the flow of jobs through the pipeline.

Extreme Makeover: Business Edition

As Mark and Victoria mentioned in this episode, the Extreme Makeover: Business Edition, Jan. 29-30, 2019, is filling up fast — and Super Early Bird Pricing ends this Friday, November 30th.
Click Here for More Information & Registration 

 

Ep.41: Using Virtual Reality to Grow Sales and Profits with Chris Katkish

Virtual reality creates immersive environments in real time. For remodelers, that means your clients could preview and even “walk-through” their projects to see if they like what they’re seeing. 

Guest Chris Katkish says VR can help remodelers streamline their sales and design process, trim the length of the sales cycle, and boost production efficiency by reducing change orders. All of which leads to more sales and more profit.

In this episode, Chris talks to Victoria and Mark about using VR technology to help clients confidently make decisions more quickly in the sales and design process.

Chris is the general manager of InSite Builders and Remodeling in Bethesda, MD. The three owners of InSite have partnered in a company called Limitless Virtual Reality, which enables CAD designs to be viewed in VR.

InSite uses VR as a visualization tool to get concepts across to homeowners. Even if you’re using 3D modeling, they’re still viewed in 2D, and seeing it on screen isn’t the same. VR immersion allows clients to experience the space and see what they’re buying before its built. Chris talks about the ways remodelers can use VR in their businesses, including:

  • When to bring VR into the sales process
  • Building in the charge for the VR design
  • How your 3D model becomes a VR environment
  • The equipment you’d need — and how much it may cost
  • Real-world examples of how VR speeds up client decisions
  • How to use it with Project Managers and Trade Partners
  • And more…

Victoria and Mark also spitball ways to use VR in your marketing. The pace of technology is fast — and VR is the newest tool on the scene. If you’ve got ideas or opinions on how VR may affect the remodeling business or your business, let us know in the comments below.
 

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