I am writing this as I reflect on my time at the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) 2021 Convention and Expo. This event was packed with anticipation as it was one of the first in-person events since the shutdowns of 2020. It was also a celebration of the 75th anniversary of RIA’s rise to become, in the word’s of Ed Cross, “The oldest, largest, best-funded, and best-organized association representing the interests of restoration contractors in the US and around the world.”

Many titans of our industry returned to reconnect with their peers, with whom they have worked side-by-side to tackle the issues shared by restoration professionals over these past decades. Katie Smith so eloquently characterized this common plight as she received the 2021 Women in Restoration Award, “There are thousands of contractors, but we don’t have thousands of problems. We all have the same major headaches.”

In the midst of celebrating all of this amazing history and looking to build upon the advocacy momentum of recent years, one nugget that stuck out to me was the power of humility. 

The calm assurance of a humble achiever.

How many countless hours and resources, literally blood, sweat, and tears, have been invested in the formation of our industry? It is beyond quantification. When you dig into property restoration history, you uncover innovators like those that Pete Consigli, The Global Watchdog. He dubbed the phrase “The Founding Fathers of Restoration” in his penultimate article from March 2007 which coincided with the rebrand of ASCR to RIA.

Sadly, two of these pillars, Lloyd Weaver and Martin “Marty” L. King, are no longer with us. The other two faces on Mount Restoration, Cliff “The Z Man” Zlotnik and Claude Blackburn, along with many other incredible contributors, humbly walked the halls of this 2020 RIA event. They don’t introduce themselves as founders of marquee brands or creators of some of the most successful products and industry-leading processes. Their mark is embedded into the fabric of how dedicated restorers do business. Being around several of these persons of character reminded me that being humble does not mean thinking of yourself too lowly. Someone who thinks too highly of themselves caps their contributions with self-aggrandizement, and someone who thinks too lowly of themselves caps their contributions with self-elimination.

Claude and Cliff both spoke about seeing a need and having the willingness to attempt to help their fellow restorers find solutions to their problems; humble achievers.

Having the persistence to be helpful.

Some young restorers, like myself, have discovered that it isn’t easy to pierce the veil of what is perceived as the inner sanctum. I am still patiently knocking on doors that have only been cracking after many months of work behind the scenes to prove my intentions. I am thankful to call Pete, and several others, among my friends and growing acquaintances, but my progress hasn’t come easy. It may be missed that even though many of these giants are friends, or friendly, now, this current reality does not mean that they didn’t have their disagreements and interpersonal issues as they were each trying to do the right thing.

As the industry matured, so did the need for codifying how upstanding restorers should conduct themselves. Out of these initiatives arose principles such as the industry standards of care, training programs, designations, and the RIA Code of Ethics. Rusty Amarante shared sentiments from the stage, that were echoed by others, that before you brag about how much money you are making you should first be proud of your ethics and the manner in which your team members do business as doctors of disaster. 

Unity does not mean conformity.

The property restoration industry has had its issues with collaboration, from top to bottom and all levels in between, wherever ego arises it erodes progress.

Cliff Zlotnik shared something that was true back then and not surprisingly is still true of the modern era, “Change didn’t occur very easy.” He made this comment while talking about the development of the Water Loss Institute (WLI), at a time when water damage restoration was “the new kid in town.”

This is hard for modern restorers to believe as mitigation is one of the largest segments under the restoration umbrella of services in this era. The early water guys had to fight to elevate their representation and develop their educational opportunities. Many of them are humble warriors who have a calm assurance of what they were able to contribute and with whom they were able to find common ground in order to achieve their goals. Speaking of the value of RIA, Cliff noted, “The shortcut to growth is community.”

This aligns with our goal at The DYOJO Podcast to help restorers shorten their DANG learning curve. To the degree that our pioneering restoration alumnus operated in a manner consistent with ethical principles and sound business practices, they were able to achieve benchmarks such as consensus-based industry standards that have helped guide the development of our craft. This spirit of connecting over shared values and collaborating to conquer our obstacles is one that we must carry forward if our industry is going to continue to thrive and gain back some of the ground that has been lost. 

Knowing when to listen.

My favorite proverb goes, “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”

I have to constantly remind myself to shut up and listen, especially when I am sitting with people who have forgotten more restoration truths than I am likely to obtain. The internet has democratized information, in that there is no barrier to sharing your thoughts, but it has also created a lot of noise which can make it difficult to discern quality content.

I would encourage anyone reading to seek out excellence through arenas where you can break bread with those who have endured the problems that you are facing. Unity does not mean that we all fall in line, which some may perceive as the key to being in the ‘good ol’ boys’ club. I can guarantee you that restorers, even the old dogs, are not a monolith.

Unity means that we have face-to-face discussions, not just to air perceived grievances, but to find common ground to move the greater good forward. As Mark Springer, and many others expressed, it’s not about you; if it is, it will only go so far. Give everyone the opportunity to show you who they are, rather than be shaped by perceptions, and show people who you are by rolling up your sleeves before you open your mouth. 

RIA members adopt and abide by the following Code of Ethics:
Adopted June 20, 2006
RIA Board of Directors

As providers of property damage restoration, remediation and cleaning services to the public, we subscribe to the following principles in our relationships with customers, employees and business associates:

  • To treat our customers and their property with care and respect.
  • To provide professional service in accordance with high standards of practice that will, where possible, restore the customer's property to its pre-damaged or pre-soiled condition.
  • To operate in a manner consistent with ethical principles and sound business practice.
  • To be proficient in our work through ongoing participation in education and training.
  • To provide our customer with accurate information concerning the scope of work required and its costs, maintaining strict impartiality in our professional opinions.
  • To disclose to the customer any connection we may have to their insurer or any other interested third party.