Succeeding at Contents Restoration
When done the right way, a contents line can be a major moneymaker for restoration companies. A healthy mix of good training, proper equipment, and marketing your services can help this segment of your company grow enormously and, in turn, allow you to better serve your customers in amazing ways every single day.
Two Paul Davis franchises have worked hard to build their contents divisions, and both boast divisions among the largest in the Paul Davis franchise network.
Jon Vogt, COO of Paul Davis Restoration of the Mid-Atlantic, said their franchise has been around since 2000, and experienced “explosive growth” over the years. With offices in Lancaster, Penn., Greater Philly, and Metro New Jersey, they are staying quite busy and continue growing and expanding into new territories. Like many restoration companies, they started with mainly construction and mitigation work, then realized there are a lot of items inside someone’s home that need a little TLC too after a loss.
“If you have a fire, what may look like nothing to you or I could mean a lot to the homeowner,” Vogt explained. “It was on that realization that we started developing the contents business, and now have a facility that’s roughly 50,000 square feet.”
Chad Holland, the Mitigation and Contents Sales Manager for Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of Southeast, Wisc., and Fox Valley, Wisc., shared a similar story. Around for about 26 years, this franchise covers about one third of the state of Wisconsin, and has more than 100 employees. Similar to Vogt’s story, they didn’t dive fully into contents until about a decade ago. Today, they have a roughly 40,000 square foot contents facility.
“Why would we want to rely on another company to help with contents when we could do it ourselves and keep control of timelines, deadlines, and budgets,” Holland said. “We can control who we hire and have a trustworthy source of labor and process versus calling anyone in.”
Holland’s company also travels around the country to handle large loss contents jobs. He attributes organization, a highly trained staff, and the right tools to their ability to handle jobs of all sizes, close to home and hundreds of miles away. This year, they’ve already been to 16 states. One especially notable job was a fire at one of the largest law firms in the country. They helped this company relocate from a 16-story building affected by the fire to a 12-story building in just two weeks. Holland said it was a billable loss of $1 million per day; they were called in by the insurance company to handle the job.
Both Holland and Vogt say having a really great inventory system is key to running an effective contents division. They both have various ultrasonic machines, washing machines, cleaning stations, ozone rooms, and secured vaults that you would find in a full contents line.
“We do things top notch,” Vogt said. “We weren’t just going to buy a washing machine; we did extensive research and looked at what we needed to do things correctly. Our cleaning lines have [ultrasonic] technology, large wash and prewash tanks, and we have the capability of doing electronics in-house like TVs, computers, microwaves, and so on.”
Similarly, Holland’s facility boasts a very popular contents restoration system and line of equipment, a popular washing machine, two large ozone rooms, secure storage, and more. To add to the customer service aspect, this company has a room where items can be hung up before heading to long-term storage, and they allow clients to essentially “shop” through their items before the items are repacked until they can all be returned to the customer’s home.
However, even having the very best contents cleaning equipment available won’t make a company successful. Both Holland and Vogt agree it’s the people who make it all happen.
“We have an outstanding manager who knows the industry,” Vogt said. “We have technicians who know the industry and are caring and contentious of the homeowners’ belongings. We take things that people think cannot be restored and get it done.
Holland echoed the exact same sentiment.
“We have a really good team,” he said. “We could buy as much fancy, cool stuff as we want, but if we didn’t have people who care running it, it would just be collecting dust. Our staff has definitely changed the way our contents department is run, and the way our customers feel when they experience a tragedy.
A Personal Touch
Bottom line: you cannot run a good contents line without being able to add personal touches. These are the moments you really connect with your customers and gain their trust, and have the chance to ease their stress, anxiety, and sadness even a little.
Vogt recalled several unique jobs. They’ve cleaned the largest Kodiak bear that’s ever been shot, a nearly 300-piece taxidermy collection, handled items from the Ming Dynasty, and the list goes on and on. But deeper than these jobs, Vogt recalled cleaning a toy for a client’s new puppy, and Holland recalled returning a little girl’s beloved stuffed animal shortly after a loss. When items like that come into the cleaning facility, they are rushed through the cleaning process to be returned to the customer as soon as possible. And let’s not forget the large job last year that involved a number of antiques and photos belonging to the client’s great-grandmother. It was another instance where the team was able to restore nearly all of it.
Holland’s team handled a high school fire several years ago. The school was the size of an entire city block, and the fire happened just three weeks before the new school year was supposed to start. Crews cleaned a number of items right on site, and worked quickly to get kids back in school on time. They were commended by both the school district and the state for their quick work and dedication to the community.
On another occasion, Holland’s team cleaned the football gear of the third largest high school in Wisconsin after a fire. They worked 24 hours shifts to get it all done in five days.
“It was a lot of gear,” Holland said with a laugh. “I had alarms set for times when one load would end, to get the drying process started, and keep the ball rolling.”
One other perk to offering contents restoration is the ability to bring in scheduled jobs. Both Vogt and Holland said their companies clean equipment for various local sports teams. Vogt’s crew also does a lot with the local fire department, helping keep their gear in tip-top shape. Taking on jobs like this means the contents division is always busy through scheduled work or emergency work, and always keeping customers happy.
“One point I really want to drive home is that if you don’t have a team that cares, and I mean really cares, about what they do every day, you don’t have the building blocks you need to do these cool things,” Holland said. “It’s really about the people.”