Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve… you only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
Over the last six years, we have recognized six leading women for blazing trails and smashing glass ceilings in their businesses, in their communities, and in the industry as a whole. Each one has had a unique journey and shared impeccable wisdom on being a woman in a predominantly-male industry. With each passing year, more women and fresh faces appear among the nominees for this award, and the community of women in restoration continues to grow larger and stronger. While they each have their own unique story, one common thread runs between them all: the passion to serve others.
This year, R&R is proud to honor the sixth winner of the Women in Restoration Award, with the continued support and backing of the award sponsor, Violand Management Associates.
Women in Restoration
I recall the first day I met this year’s winner, and how I was excitedly pulled through a tradeshow floor by an industry peer who was insistent on introducing me to someone they guaranteed I would adore. That was early in 2016. Several months later, her community and company were slammed by Hurricane Matthew. It was then that I first witnessed her selflessness and unbelievable commitment to her team, community, and any others fortunate enough to find themselves in her circle.
It is my guess anyone who knows Katie Smith feels the exact same as me – fortunate to know her; better because they know her. Katie’s nomination for this award was accompanied by 22 letters of recommendation and nominations from some key leaders in the restoration industry, all of whom touted Katie’s professionalism, impeccable work ethic, unwavering commitment to quality, and dedication to serving others.
2021 Women in Restoration Award Winner: Katie Smith, Cr | Owner PHC Restoration
Katie Smith, CR
Current Industry Involvement + Recent Achievements
- President-Elect, Restoration Industry Association (2021)
- RIA Board of Directors (2015-Present)
- Chairwoman, RIA’s Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee
- President, Mid-South Professional Cleaners Association (2014-2019)
- MSPCA Bergson Award Winner
- Campbell University Alumni Association Board of Directors
- President, Lillington Area Chamber of Commerce (2014)
- Harnett Health Foundation Board of Directors
- RIA Certified Restorer
- Certified Woman-Owned Business
- Wife + Mom + Leader + Colleague + Friend
In the words of her husband, Josh, Katie was “born into the restoration industry.” PHC Restoration, based in Lillington, NC, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. As the second-generation owner, Katie completely rebranded PHC both in service offerings and image, while still preserving her father’s legacy. PHC has earned the position of being a highly-regarded company by employees, customers, community, and peers. As an independent contractor that is not on any programs, 60% of PHC’s work comes from word-of-mouth.
“Katie’s main motive is to give back to the restoration industry through service, not just take from it,” Josh explained.
Best of the Best
There is no doubt Katie’s love for God, her family, and friends carries into her work. She and Josh live by their mission: “We exist to make a positive impact on our teammates, our customers, and our community.”
With that mindset, Katie tackles both good and bad days with strength and a smile. As I sat down to write this article and was pouring over the nominations, I realized her story is best told by those who nominated her, many of whom frequently used words like selfless, humble, passionate, and leader to describe her.
Current RIA President Mark Springer, owner of Dayspring Restoration, wrote, “She will invest her time beyond what is expected. She will listen thoroughly and thoughtfully to the issues and weigh the various perspectives and implications to action carefully. She will calmly and deftly articulate her position in a manner that respects various interests. She will follow through on her commitments and promises. She will give away credit for any success.”
Numerous nominations backed up Mark’s statements. Phil Rosebrook Jr., of Business Mentors, wrote, “She is a leader that provides clear expectations for the leadership team in the organization and then offers direction and feedback as they are allowed to take ownership of their positions. She is aware of the operational activity but continues to focus on the big picture. They share financial information, company progress, and setbacks, as well as individual performance.”
He continued by emphasizing Katie is a humble leader but has confidence in her direction and the overall goals and vision of the organization.
Charles Cassani called Katie’s story one of “progressive excellence,” as evidenced by her involvement, achievements, and awards. He went on to say she “defines leadership with poise, strength, and compassion for others involved in the organizations she supports and manages,” and she does it all with the “ability to manage her work/home life balance.”
Chuck Violand, founder of Violand Management Associates, echoed similar sentiments about Katie’s progressive excellence.
“While I’ve never had the pleasure of working directly with Katie in her role at PHC Restoration, through Violand Management’s work with her and her company, I’ve had a front-row seat to witness the growth of this young leader and the impact she has had on her company, her community, and now an international association,” Chuck said.
Jeff Jones, director of sales and marketing at Violand, noted in his recommendation that Katie’s remarkable commitment to her team, family, company, and community are what set her apart from her competitors.
“She lives and breathes a recognizable compassion and a desire to help above and beyond what others consider acceptable. She inspires me,” Jeff said.
In a long and heartfelt recommendation by The Restoration Lawyer and RIA Restoration Advocate, Ed Cross, he called Katie candid, honest, and trustworthy.
“She brings order to chaos, always identifying priorities and avoiding unnecessary distractions,” Ed wrote. “During the thick and thin, I know I can always count on her to be the calm and decisive voice of reason among the cacophony.”
Under Katie’s leadership, RIA CEO Kristy Cohen said AGA has “made incredible strides to advocate for the best interests of restoration contractors nationwide and develop and implement strategies to help create and maintain equity between restorers, insurers, and their partners.”
BELFOR Regional Manager Dale Sailer had seven bullet points in his nomination, laying out Katie’s industry impact, including strong statements about her leadership style and ability.
“Her leadership style is not one of command-control, but rather collaborative coalition building,” Dale said. “Katie is driven and tenacious; when she sets a goal, she will move heaven and earth to achieve it.”
He continued, noting she represents the best in restoration, regardless of gender, and she never ceases to find joy in what she does, and she fills others with enthusiasm.
When they learned of her nomination for this award, the entire board of directors for the Mid-South Professional Cleaners Association also eagerly voiced their support.
“She not only cares about the industry, but she cares about the people,” said Karen Clendening, MSCPA executive director. “She is always willing to help another restorer – even a competitor. She is more than a colleague; she is a friend to so many.”
In fact, one of Katie’s competitors was among those who wrote a letter of recommendation on her behalf. Kevin Reinert, president of Professional Restoration Services, said Katie has helped him on several occasions, without hesitation. Kevin has also referred customers to her company when his company was unable to respond in a timely manner, because he trusts her.
“She has been helpful without the interest of personal gain, but for the greater good to make improvements and contributions to the restoration industry,” Kevin wrote.
Fellow MSPCA board member and Aramsco site manager, Ryan Scoggins, agreed, writing that “PHC is one of the most successful restoration companies in our area. Some people look at dollar signs as a sign of success in business. However, Katie, makes sure that her view of success starts with making others better off than when she had first contact with them.”
Right in line with comments in other letters of recommendation, Ryan said Katie “leads with strength, compassion, and class.”
Kelley Dolan, chief of staff at Maxons Restorations (now part of First OnSite), got more specific, talking specifically about Katie’s support for women in the industry.
“She won’t let you sink far, and she certainly won’t let a woman feel displaced by insensitive, outdated notions in our industry,” Kelley wrote. “She is someone who will fight for all measures of equality, will ask the right questions, and in the right way to see us all move forward together as an industry.”
As a fellow woman in restoration, I believe Kelley summed up well how we all feel when we first meet Katie: “I want to be like her when I grow up.”
First Runner Up
Chief of Staff, Maxons Restorations
This is the second time Kelley has earned a spot in the top three for the Women in Restoration Award, and with her resume and work ethic, it is not surprising. Kelley is known for her ability to get things done.
Kelley has been in the restoration industry since 2004, starting her career as a sales coordinator for Maxons Restorations in New York City. In 2006, she moved to project coordinator, and in 2008, got the opportunity to lead the company’s human resources and operations department.
Today, Kelley is the company’s chief of staff, with a focus on staff development, employee engagement, and enhancing the company’s fun and driven culture.
In her nomination, Maxons Marketing Coordinator Rachel Buchwalter wrote that Kelley “sees the future of her role being dedicated to having Maxons be a difference maker in our staff’s lives.”
With that in mind, in 2020, Kelley launched a Wish Wall and Dream Coaching Program. The first has led to a sky diving adventure with the team, and supported several employees in checking off items on their bucket list. The Dream Coaching program is an in-depth program with monthly coaching for staff, discussing goals and dreams for both inside and outside the company.
Beyond the Maxons walls, Kelley is heavily involved in the RIA, currently serving as chair of the Event Planning Committee. In addition, she spent several years as a member of the Business Networks industry performance and accountability group, and is very engaged with the Restoration Affiliates peer network.
“She holds herself to very high standards and has high expectations of what she can accomplish to be successful in her role,” Rachel said. “She has a clear vision of what success looks like, and maintains high standards for the company in a very practical, supportive, and collaborative manner.”
Second Runner Up
CEO, Ideal Restoration
“Be courageous; not common.”
“Kill them with competence.”
Those two short phrases above are the kind of truth bombs you will hear from Jaclyn Carpenter. As the CEO and second-generation owner of Ideal Restoration in San Francisco, Calif., Jaclyn embodies grit, strength, and innovation.
She was nominated by three of her employees, all of whom noted her leadership, drive, and knowledge of the technical aspects of the industry, holding multiple RIA and IICRC certifications and designations.
Ideal Restoration focuses solely on mitigation work, and at the start of the pandemic, Jaclyn developed “industry-leading capabilities for biohazard mitigation and disinfection and quickly pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide disinfecting services to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.”
Senior Manager of Client Solutions at Ideal, Dan Richards, said that pivot alone became more than 40% of the company’s revenue.
“With Jaclyn, there are no boundaries and the sky is the limit,” Dan wrote. “She has an eagle-like vision when preparing the company’s next move and leads with confidence towards that direction.”
He called her style energetic, and her tactics precise. At the same time, she is “gritty, humble, and hungry.”
Just like Katie and Kelley, Jaclyn has also served in various capacities with the RIA, including on the board of directors. She is also the president of Rebuilding Together, San Francisco, which is an organization that works to provide housing and remodeling help for those in need.”
Ideal’s Operations Manager Robert Meyers added that Jaclyn is “an innovator and an integrator; two traits you don’t usually see from one person. Someone who comes up with ideas and someone who makes those ideas come to life.”
Meet the Judges
Katie is a founding partner of Spot On Solutions, a digital marketing agency specializing in helping cleaning and restoration companies grow and profit online. She is also a partner at Get Found First, one of the top digital marketing agencies in North America. As a Google Premier Partner Managed Agency, Get Found First and Spot On Solutions manage ad spend for more than 400 companies. She manages more than 30 U.S.-based employees with headquarters in their hometown of Blackfoot, Idaho. This growth in employees led Katie to become a certified John Maxwell Leadership coach and trainer as well as a certified DISC personality consultant. Helping employees and clients understand their personalities and grow their leadership skills in an ever-increasing digital world has become one of her passions. She is a member of the Forbes Agency Council and contributor to Forbes magazine.
Shelli Bagwell, winner of the 2017 Women in Restoration Award, is a National Project Consultant for DKI Commercial Solutions. She has held several positions in the industry having worked in business development, as a project manager, and later a director of operations. Shelli was co-owner of a residential construction company and is currently a NASCLA certified General Contractor. Her professional passion is to strive for integrity in everything so as to continually bring honor and credibility to the industry as a whole. She is a proponent of education, training, and mentorship. Shelli lives in Upstate SC with her husband and four daughters.
With years of background in the flooring industry and involvement with large disaster restoration and carpet cleaning companies, Kristy understands the work that goes into finding and keeping top talent. A highly successful matchmaker in this industry, Kristy successfully placed more than 150 candidates in a one-year span while streamlining the recruiting process and ensuring the most effective ways to find and attract skillful employees for her restoration industry clients.
Thank you as well to our panel of judges, who you can read about in this article. They go through an intensive scoring system to grade and review each and every entry with care.
To the 30+ women who were nominated this year, congratulations and thank you for your service to your companies and customers.