Editor’s Note:  

In 2021, Restoration Affiliates will celebrate its 10th anniversary. While you may have never heard of RA, they are truly an innovative organization worthy of notice. RA members across the country work together, much like a franchise system or large independent company with regional offices, to serve customers’ restoration needs. Members of this organization are highly-vetted, and even more highly committed to their clients and customers, and the clients and customers of their fellow members. In this R&R Q&A, current RA Board President Jim Kowalski, president of Kowalski Construction, shares more on what RA is all about, and the reason behind a recent large donation to a major industry association.

Nashville meeting of Restoration Affiliates

Tell us a bit of history of Restoration Affiliates.

Restoration Affiliates (RA) was founded on principals of the book, The Go-Giver. Based on the proverb, “Give and you shall receive,” authors Bob Burg and John David Mann espouse the power of giving without expecting anything in return.

RA was formed out of the recognition that we have strength in numbers. Therefore, the goal of RA is to provide services to our clients that might have projects in markets our own, independent company does not serve. This helps provide a viable alternative to franchise companies, larger regional companies, or a national company. Essentially, members of RA are able to offer services on the other side of the country for a client, through another member of RA. Our tagline sums it up: “National Coverage – Local Expertise”.

Our members have been referring work outside of their markets for years. Most of them belong to peer network groups whose members were in non-competing markets. These “best practice” organizations allowed them to learn from each other and through that discovery gave them the confidence to refer their own clients to other restoration contractors in their group who required services in those markets.

Coming together to form RA, we wanted to avoid some of the pitfalls we have seen previously. It remains critical to stringently vet each new company because we all own an equal partnership in the parent company, RA. In other words, a brand new company has the same voting power as our oldest members who joined in 2011.

tornado roof damage

What does RA membership look like today, and what is your yearly volume of work?

Last year, RA collectively completed 45,675 projects totaling $639 million in sales from our 93 locations.

While impressive, we acknowledge others are bigger and our goal is not to become the biggest. We strive to recruit the best operators, not just add dots on the map. Our focus is full-service disaster restoration. We focus on the commercial, hospitality, insurance, multi-family, and senior living verticals. As a result, we require a minimum annual revenue threshold of $5 million for our members, though most are considerably higher than that. This helps ensure our members are on a similar page, which greatly enhances collaboration.


As there is more consolidation within the industry, how can organizations like RA help restoration companies of all sizes grow and thrive?

Consolidation in our industry has been occurring at speeds unseen previously. Many of us grew up watching the fast food industry add location after location. The big box stores were also widening their footprints, displacing many of the mom and pop hardware stores along the way. However, many people only first recognized this trend due to the expansion of the department store giant, Walmart. When Walmart would open a store in a new market, many smaller businesses would find themselves unable to compete with the behemoth.

Many years ago, we lost a great working relationship with an insurance company because they signed a national agreement with a then, up-and-coming franchise organization. The claims office wasn’t happy with the arrangement, not only because they enjoyed working with our company, but also because the local franchise did not have a good reputation. They had even called upon us as experts against the franchise previously.

Joining something like RA gives local companies national reach.

flood damaged house

Why did RA choose to support the Restoration Industry Association’s Advocacy & Government Affairs initiative with a $25,000 donation?

RA has admired the work of the RIA and their efforts toward uniting the industry through sustainability, advocacy, growth, and engagement, with an overall goal to elevate the industry. We felt that a substantial contribution towards these goals would help acknowledge and endorse their purpose. In my opinion, no organization is doing more for the industry than the RIA and we are happy to be able to assist them in their progress.

flood damaged building

What makes RA so valuable for its member companies?

Leveraging our resources is at the heart of everything we do. We can co-op equipment purchases, obtain discounts and rebates, and share in expenses that will benefit us all.

A great example of this is our Ready Action Plan™, RAP™.

RA’s Ready Action Plan software is a powerful emergency preparedness and facility management tool that offers a simple solution for managing a safer, better-organized property. We pooled resources and collaborated to create a web-based system that allows you to store important property information in one secure location. Floor plans, internal and external contact lists, key documents, and any other critical property information can be accessed from any internet-connected device at any time.

We have several committees that capitalize on our individual members’ interests including operations, training, social media, procurement, RAP™, membership, and CAT work. All our members benefit from the talent, hard work, and knowledge from these committees.

Members frequently reach out to each other to obtain additional resources when theirs becomes overloaded. Equipment, vehicles, and labor are gladly offered up by those companies with capacity in order to be able to assist our partner company. This is just another example of members helping members. It is what we do, in so many different ways.

apartment building on fire

What do you foresee on the horizon for the restoration industry in 2021 and beyond?

Fortunately for us, our industry is a late bloomer. We are simply following in the footsteps of so many industries that have already traveled down this road (think fast food, department stores, hardware and auto body stores, and so on.) One doesn’t need a crystal ball in order to get a glimpse into the direction we are heading.

This historical perspective allows us to learn from those who have gone before us. Cooperation and collaboration will be needed in order to help our industry survive. Keeping our attention on becoming the best at what we are, true experts in our fields, will help guard against the proliferation of expansion for the sake of expansion.

For our members, the synergy of being involved in something bigger than the combination of all of us combined. The ability to work together for a greater good and to help ensure our industry is healthy and thriving are some of the reasons RA has been so successful and optimistic about the future of the restoration industry! 

burned out building

Purpose of Restoration Affiliates

  • To develop a strategic network for Affiliates to share resources, relationships and support in order to provide regional and national commercial accounts with expert service, response and value in the event of property damage loss.
  • To provide Affiliates with opportunities to refer projects, make introductions and co-market with each other to better serve regional and national commercial accounts that utilize property damage restoration services.
  • To foster learning, networking, support, and goodwill among independently owned property damage restoration service organizations.
  • To encourage Affiliates to develop the skills, capabilities, and proactive initiatives to effectively market to large regional and national commercial accounts.
  • To facilitate opportunities for Affiliates to collaborate to share knowledge, capabilities, and resources to respond to complex projects, large-scale losses and regional catastrophic events.
  • To advocate and assist Affiliates in the development of performance standards to deliver service excellence within the property damage restoration industry.
  • To provide Affiliates with opportunities for significant savings and benefits from cooperative group purchasing power of equipment, supplies and other resources.
  • To promote pride, participation, and leadership by companies in the property damage restoration industry in the United States.