My Five Sons: A Case Study in Family Business & Training
When I first heard about Baxter Construction in Yakima, Wash., I knew there had to be a story there to tell. The successful restoration company is run by Brice Baxter, but if his sons have anything to say about it, he’ll be passing on the reins sooner than later.
Over the summer, Baxter Construction celebrated its 20th anniversary. Brice started the company at 23 years old, and over the years he’s not only had his five sons on the payroll – his mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, wife and others have also come to work. Brice prides himself in running a debt-free business that employs between 50 and 55 people full time, and doesn’t have any part time or temporary workers. He specializes in insurance restoration jobs.
Want to “meet” the Baxter men?
They recently did a video interview with R&R about their roles with the family business, their hopes for the future, and biggest lessons from their dad. Watch the full interview on www.randrmagonline.com.
This is a family who believes not only in on-the-job training, but also in the importance of certifications. In fact, his oldest sons already have multiple certifications under their belts.
Meet the Next Generation of Baxters
Kaleb, 22: You’ll notice only four of Brice’s five sons are pictured in the next column. That’s because Kaleb is also a firefighter. At the time I first spoke with Brice, Kaleb was off fighting wildfires in Alaska.
Joshua, 20: Josh is a journeyman water tech, asbestos abatement supervisor, lead renovator, and cabinet builder. In September, he finished his last requirement to earn his Advanced Microbial Remediation Tech (AMRT) certification. He and Brice plan to take their final class toward their Master Water Restorer (MWR) certifications this winter. Josh is set to earn that certification in April of 2017, once he completes the on-the-job time requirements.
Tyler, 18: This recent high school graduate is giving Josh quite a run for his money when it comes to certifications and training. In fact, Tyler will likely be one of the youngest people to ever receive their MWR certification. He took the final course for that title in September, and became a full-fledged journeyman in October while finishing his final AMRT requirement. It’s anticipated, Tyler will be a fully certified MWR on Oct. 1, 2017. In the meantime, Tyler graduated from high school in the spring with honors – and had already earned his Associate of Arts (AA) in business entrepreneurship.
But Tyler has two younger brothers hot on his trail, wanting to earn some similar achievements in a short amount of time.
Seth, 16: Being 16 years old means Seth starts his IICRC training soon. Currently, Seth works in the cleaning and water departments, and is starting to expand his learning of the family business.
Zachary, 14: Despite being just 13, Zach has already expressed a desire to be with Baxter Construction long-term. During the summer, he works full time in the cabinet department. In the next few years, he will be old enough to go out on trucks and start learning water damage remediation.
Both Josh and Tyler run their own trucks, and have their own jobs as lead techs.
“I’ve been training them all in the facets of construction and making sure they get all their certifications. It’s not just head knowledge, it’s important for them to get practical application as well,” Brice said. “I started as a one-man shop, as a handyman. I had to struggle.”
Brice says training has come a long way, and it shows. Just because they’re close to earning MWR certs doesn’t mean they’re done. Now, they’ll start working toward other certifications – like Master Fire and Smoke Restorer.
“My boys at 17 and 20 had more training and certification than most guys my age in our industry have,” he explained. “It’s active knowledge, because they are immersed in the company full time.”
5 Boys, Plus Dad – How does that work?
“We have a great relationship. They see success, they see something to be proud of,” Brice said at the start of our conversation. But it’s not always that easy.
“[The brothers] can quarrel at times,” he explained. “I’ve found each brother wants to be the best. I have to reiterate they are lifelong partners, and the better off your partner is, the better off you are.”
To keep relationships evolving, and tensions low, Brice does team building exercises with his staff, including his sons. It’s a way for them to learn to build each other up, and not push others down to make themselves look better. Plus, they make sure to take breaks away from the business that consumes so much of their lives.
“If we’re on vacation, we don’t talk about work. But we do totally love talking about work at home because everyone is invested in it,” Brice said. “Sometimes, they’re more excited than me, because it’s the beginning of their career.”
The Importance of Training
The Baxter family has embraced the importance of both on-the-job, hands-on training as well as earning industry certifications. Few people understand the importance of the latter more than Fritz Thompson. Check out his resume!
- 30 certifications: 26 from IICRC, others from RIA (including Certified Restorer), IAQA, and Environmental Solutions Association
- Helped start seven different franchises, including involvement with Rug Doctor, Paul Davis, and Carpet One
- IICRC certified instructor
- IICRC marketing committee
“I’m very proud of my certifications. All together, I believe I’ve conservatively spent about $20,000 on training,” Thompson said. “Classes are really more than people even expect because they also get the lifetime experience of the instructor,”
According to Thompson, “to become a professional, you have to know the depthof what you’re doing, not just the top layer of technical knowledge.”
In essence, Thompson believes all restorers and remediators need to know why they do each process, what each chemical actually does, and how it works.
“You never hear a doctor speaking without using technical terms, but a good doctor will also take the time to explain what he means,” he said. “That distinguishes him as a professional in his field. It’s extremely important to get the in-depth, technical knowledge so you can speak and perform like a true professional. Once you acquire true professional expertise, it comes out in how you speak and act.”
Want to know more?
Training and certification courses are offered through certified instructors throughout the year, all over the U.S. Check out the training and education section on www.randrmagonline.com for more information and helpful links. Plus, don’t forget to watch the full video interview with Brice, Josh, Tyler, Seth, and Zach.