Editor's Note: Ivan Turner is a restoration industry veteran who has worn many hats including owner, consultant, and trainer. This new series of articles offers glimpses at topics covered in his upcoming book, "Confessions of a Serial Restorer: I Danced with the Devil and Lived to Tell the Story."
“You are born to win, but in order to be the winner you were born to be, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and then and only then can you expect to win,” is based on the reality that you have to have a plan, and work the plan, in order to win.
– Zig Ziglar
I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many prodigious restoration owners in my career, and by and large they have all been successful at what they do. Some have been so über-successful that if you didn’t know better you would think they were rock stars with the homes they own, sports cars, motor coaches and even a handful with airplanes. It should be noted that the ones I’m talking about, that were enjoying the fine fruits of their labor with their cash cow machine, didn’t get there by accident. Their success was intentional and they always kept a diligent eye on new technologies, often from other industries that could be applied to their own business keeping them on the cutting edge and they always knew their competitors and were usually one or two steps ahead of them.
What happens when large and small corporations fall asleep at the wheel? There are many well talked about cases where a behemoth fell asleep on watch. What happened to Kmart? They just laid there flopping like a rotting carp in the sun. Meanwhile Sam Walton was circling his Walmart wagons around them literally chocking the life out of them, until they finally gasped their last breath of air.
In Purple Cow, Seth Godin shares the following nugget that is so valuable and applicable to every single disaster restoration owner that it ought to be imprinted in the mind, printed as warning placards and placed throughout the office, warehouse, automobiles and every owner and manager should have the following paragraph printed to carry on their person.
“Bootstrapping entrepreneurs often upend existing industries because the dominant players in an industry are the last places you’ll find empowered mavericks. The market-leading companies may owe their dominance on the Purple Cow they marketed years and years ago, but today, they’re all about compromising themselves to continued profitability. The seed of their destruction lies in the dependence on being in the middle.”
What happened to Blockbuster? We all remember that one. Netflix did a number on them faster than it took to rewind their outdated video rentals. In this instance, innovation was the clear and undisputed winner.
A couple of years ago at LaGuardia I needed a ride from the airport to an important meeting. I was getting ready to hail a cab when I remembered I had the Uber app. What a powerful story of an entire industry being flipped like a 79-cent pancake at a greasy Waffle House restaurant. The good old days of hopping into the back of a taxicab that reeked of cheap gin that the last passenger had upchucked, or having to lay my newspaper on the seat to absorb the sticky glob and leaving the window open so my clothes don’t smell like tobacco when I exit the cab for an important meeting. This upheaval of an entire industry may also be attributed to an application innovation, but the question remains: Are you stuck in the middle? Have you been keeping up with major restoration companies being acquired by capital groups? Have you not noticed that many very large, independent restoration groups are merging or acquiring other companies at an astonishing rate? Have you noticed that the “love-hate relationship chasm” between the insurance and restoration industries has widened? Why is this? Better yet, what can be done about it?
The last truly remarkable industry-changing innovation that I am aware of was the HydroX subsurface extractor invented by a true, in every sense of the meaning, industry Maverick, the late Kurt Bolden.
Sure, new-and-improved CRMs have been introduced, estimating platforms have improved, and yes, even video documentation with systems like Matterport have made the life of a professional restorer a little easier, but will these technologies propel you to the top, let alone keep you in the game?
I often observe, in many of the industry related forums, men and women quibbling over employee issues, insurance carriers and adjusters who are purportedly out to get every restoration owner they can through the implementation of price fixing, claim settlement stalling and interference. What I rarely see or hear are conversations and constructive dialogue about the state of the industry, why it is in the shape it is, and what can be done to fix it.
Have you ever wondered to yourself what would happen if one day, out of the blue, you heard about a brand spanking new restoration company that is so remarkable that people are going absolutely bonkers over the way they do business? They’re killing it! Innovative as Uber and all the while the local restoration owners sit idly by and wonder what the heck is going on, and wonder why has my phone stopped ringing, or the adjuster that you had a golf outing scheduled with for next week called to cancel, said he had plans to golf with the new, remarkable competitor. If you have never thought of some farfetched scenario like this ever happening, either you are living under a rock, or maybe it’s just the way my eccentric mind works. It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen – it’s a matter of when.
Don’t be a One-Trick Pony stuck in the middle of the ring.
“One-trick pony” is a term that can be interpreted a number of ways, depending on who is being asked to define it. For some, a one-trick pony may be a musician or band who once topped the billboard charts, but has since all but disappeared from the pop culture scene.
A prime example would be Right Said Fred, with his super one-hit wonder, “I’m Too Sexy.” Apparently, Fred was too sexy for another popular song.
Some reflect back to the age of youth when the traveling three-ring circus swept through town. The promoters and loathsome carnival barkers promised entertainment for all ages: the bearded woman for the curious, the two headed cow for the twisted, the dancing poodles for the aged, and the one-trick pony for the kids.
Whinnying ponies circled around a spotlighted ring with a smattering of applause from the crowd. After a few trips around the ring, the ringmaster would lead the pony to the bright center, and the enthralled children anxiously looked forward to what the pony would do next. At the ringmaster’s command, the neatly groomed pony, adorned with ribbons, would bend at the withers and offer a dramatic genuflection for the crowd. The crowd would hoot and cheer, and then the ringmaster would take a lap around the ring, bowing for crowd members on each side of the arena. The pony would patiently await a carrot or sugar cube, and then the ringmaster would load the pony up the ramp, onto the truck on to the next circus venue.
Similarly, many cleaning and restoration entrepreneurs promise services in many categories: water damage, carpet cleaning, duct cleaning, fire damage, etc. Regardless of how a person interprets the familiar term “one-trick pony,” it is not an impressive way to describe something. Too often, cleaning and restoration entrepreneurs wear the label of “one-trick pony” as they prance around the metaphorical “ring” with a poorly choreographed sales pitch, outdated equipment, a disgruntled workforce, simply in hopes of being seen and heard by prospective customers, insurance agents, adjusters, property managers and plumbers, while anxiously awaiting a referral reward. One-trick cleaning and restoration business owners are serious-minded entrepreneurs, but struggle after a defeat or two at trying to reach an objective, or struggle to continue the momentum after the success for their one and only triumphant feat has waned.
Unfortunately, ponies are for kids. When entering the high-stakes ring of disaster restoration, one must do so with the commanding presence of a majestic Lipizzaner stallion. Strength, courage, prominence and character will only be built by becoming a well-respected anchor in the community which the business serves and leader through and through that men and women respect and love.
Is Your Business Remarkable?
I know that in both of my restoration businesses, I did great work, played by all the rules, and, for the most part, treated my customers and employees with respect. I forged a lot of long-term relationships with men and women in the insurance industry and made a lot of money along the way – and lost some along the way. Our relationships were built on trust and good faith. But it’s sad to say that looking back through the lens of time, my companies were not remarkable – not even close!
Father, forgive me for I have sinned.
My Confession: For a brief period during my 30 years of owning Disaster Restoration businesses, I embraced emerging technologies like thermal imaging and covenant heat drying technologies among others, to position my business as one of remarkability in terms of embracing the latest technologies. I was in it to win it and treated prospects as a lover uses charm to win the favor of his suitor to its fullest, and it paid off.
I traveled the highways and byways of 14 mid-Missouri counties performing my dog-and-pony show for anyone and everyone who would listen to my C. Barnum Baily Circus-barker-style pitch as I hunted for more hidden opportunities. I was on fire! Then one day, for reasons still unknown to me, I danced with the Devil of complacency, packed up my three-ring circus, boarded the train and left town with a one-way ticket to complacency USA. There was no turning back!
Cheers,From the Siberian Hot Saki Club