What Keeps You Awake at Night?
July 22, 2010
I remember attending a new drying class in Tennessee, what must be more than 12 years ago now, where Chuck Dewald declared, “Boys, all we have to do is get this industry to the level of plumbers: adjusters never question them!”
Since then, we truly have evolved rapidly in both equipment and expertise, but have we achieved that level? Can we ever get to an unquestionable level? Or do adjusters question plumbers too, and we just think it’s only us? Whatever level we are at, the goal of any industry is to excel in its performance and to benefit the community it serves.
Several things kept me awake when I was performing restoration services full time as a contractor. Making sure employees were trained, that they actually used the training provided, concern over them possibly “burning out” and, of course, the competition from people who throw in a few dehus and fans and leave them in three or four days, testing only with a beep stick for final clearance. Ugh!
People actually ask you why you charge so much; I say tell them to come run a restoration company and see for themselves.
Lack of expertise was a huge concern because if a person makes an error on a project, bad results ranging from unnecessary loss of restorable materials and allergic reactions of the occupants to microbial growth causing health concerns as a well as a serious escalation in expense could and often would arise.
Adjusters are most concerned with having predictable, reliable, positive results. The following is the last thing insurance companies want: a claim is filed, and it would cost $10,000 to remove and replace. Believing they are going to save money, the company agrees to dry the building for $5,000. The building, however, was not thoroughly dried, and quickly becomes a $30,000 microbial loss. Now the insurance company has to pay out 30K instead of 10K to keep their customer happy.
This reflects on all of us. So get your crew to class, make them retake if they don’t pass and, of course, one still has to stay on their butt to keep them on their toes. Don’t forget yourself either; there is always more to learn. Explore the world of drying technology outside of restoration, take adjuster seminars to understand their concerns, or maybe even get an MBA.
You have to watch what everyone does, even when you trust that people will do what you want. People start to do things their way after a while, and their way may be better or worse. You either have to watch over the employees directly, or over a system that ensures quality control. It is always part of the manager or owner’s job to ensure tasks are performed to acceptable standards and documentation is properly completed to prove it.
Develop a quality control system by taking seminars and networking with other successful restorers. Developing the quality control system is a must, but then again, what quality are you controlling? How good are the forms your people are filling out and getting signed? What are the standards they are based on? Start with the IICRC S500 3rd Edition requirements, then get with the right attorney for reconstruction and/or abatement contactors who litigates, so they can add the “local legalese” to the forms.
Talk to your networking buddies on little tips such as “were the materials’ moisture content readings recorded on the REL (Relative Scale) or W.M.E. (Wood Moisture Equivalent Scale)?” Please no “FB” or “SB” as in Fast Beep or Slow Beep! You need to instruct your people how to fill out the forms, how to easily and fully explain the forms to the customer, and why it is important that the crew has to have this paperwork signed by the customer.
Now, after you educate the crew and train them on your specific paperwork and procedures, you want them to stick around. Most good employees leave either because of burnout or frustration. People need to be nurtured and challenged to grow. Besides the obvious compensation – good pay, time off, bonuses – start thinking before hiring time about the ideal candidate’s goals and your goals. Are they going to be the same? Before you interview, think how this new hire will fit in to your company’s 5-, 10-, 15-year plan.
Are you looking for office staff, a technician, a project manager or even an individual who may purchase the company from you when you want to retire in 7 years? They will all be different personalities. When hiring for the field, get someone who loves constant challenges so they are more likely to be content in an ever-changing all hours of the day and night job. Hire the detail-minded person for records management, accounting and quality control operations. As Steven Covey is so fond of saying, “Begin with the end in mind.”
I love competition, even the outfits that keep me up nights, because they challenge me. The best way to deal with the “cheap and quick” operators is to understand some people will choose them no matter what and that they will always be around. To control this market you need to find the caring owners, agents and adjusters, and educate them on why there are proper procedures (not just what the procedures are) and continue to develop and educate this group to forward our industry.
Remember two things: one, the “cheap and quick” companies are competing with you (you are better) and two, you can only truly compete with yourself. After all, you only have total control over yourself and, if you are like me, you don’t even always have that! Make sure you are a better restorer, owner, manager, and person today than you were yesterday. Enact a plan to be better next week, next year, next decade. Sooner or later those other outfits will all be chasing you.
Remember the Restorer’s Prayer: God grant me the fortitude to change what I can, the serenity to accept that I should not worry about what the Bozos are doing, and the wisdom to know that I cannot change them, I can only change myself!