Jim Kowalski is owner and vice president of Kowalski Construction Inc., a third-generation, family-owned and operated property restoration and repair company in Arizona that was founded in 1967. He is also president of the Restoration Affiliates board, founded in 2011. In this interview, Kowalski shares secrets to success and lessons learned in purposefully growing Kowalski Construction over the years. He also explains the role of Restoration Affiliates as a national network of 30 cleaning and restoration firms representing 88 locations and 14,000 zip codes.  

“I was born into the restoration industry,” Kowalski said. He started off working for his father, cleaning equipment with his brother at the end of the day.  

Today, Kowalski Construction operates as one company with multiple divisions including commercial restoration, commercial rehab and remodeling, commercial small loss, residential restoration, structure drying and mitigation, hazardous materials, contents, electrical services and installation, as well as a 1-800-BoardUp franchise.  

“We’re big believers in not putting all your eggs in one basket,” Kowalski said. “We’re always monitoring the amount of work we’re getting from one particular client [and division].” 

Over the years, Kowalski Construction has expanded and contracted to focus on the areas closest to its core. The family business has grown at points to include flooring, cabinetry and plumbing divisions, additional locations, as well as software development. Today, Kowalski focuses on purposeful growth for sustainability. 

In this episode, he reflects on the growth journey of Kowalski Construction, what has kept it family-owned in an industry experiencing considerable consolidation, how the business is thinking outside the box to address a talent shortage, and the role Restoration Affiliates plays in the property restoration industry. 

This episode covers:

  • The value of multiple service divisions 
  • Benefits of Restoration Affiliates membership and Kowalski’s role as president of the board
  • Kowalski’s journey to restoration and through it 
  • Why Kowalski Construction remains family-owned and run three generations later
  • His role as business visionary versus his partner and brother, Steven, as integrator
  • Keys to keeping a competitive edge as a family business in an ecosystem of franchises
  • Embracing different approaches to residential and commercial work
  • Kowalski’s most memorable property restoration projects – one working with a celebrity’s home, another handling a sewage loss at a hospital
  • Staffing as the company’s biggest challenge and how they are addressing it
  • Kowalski’s advice to others looking to launch their own property restoration business
  • The power of audio books and podcasts in fueling Kowalski’s learning and inspiration
  • What he has gained through involvement in industry peer networks
  • Creating relationships with vendors like Xactimate and Next Gear Solutions to help optimize product development and value
  • Helping employees find fulfillment by placing them in positions they are uniquely positioned to thrive in and find fulfillment in
  • Culture as key and engagement as a top tool 
  • Giving back through industry and community volunteering
  • Growing and advancing the leadership team at Kowalski Construction  

Check out this episode of Ask the Expert to learn more. You can watch the video here or listen to the audio version of our conversation here. You can also find our show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Just search for Restoration & Remediation Ask the Expert, then hit Follow

If you’d like to share your story on a future episode of Real Stories in Restoration, email kingv@bnpmedia.com