Eric Sprague and Larry Wilberton are the brilliant minds behind Blue Collar Consulting, Morning Tech Meeting and the Blue Collar Nation Podcast. And it all began with restoration. 

Eric started a home inspection business, Shamrock, in his garage in Utah back in 2006, which expanded to include air duct cleaning. He invited Larry, his college roommate, to join him on a job or two and they became business partners. They moved the business to California and weathered the Great Recession, moved into carpet cleaning, added on tile cleaning and upholstery cleaning, and then property restoration. The rest is history. 

Today, they dedicate themselves to helping other blue-collar owners, especially property restoration business leaders, not just survive but thrive. A key aspect of that, they learned from running their own restoration business, is thinking of and treating field technicians as assets. 

In this episode of Ask the Expert, Sprague explains what it means to invest in restoration technicians in ways that drive employee morale, employee retention, attraction and, ultimately, business growth. 

“So there’s a zillion schools in our world for getting technical training,” Sprague said. “But technicians, a lot of them are young. They don’t have a lot of life experience and they’re all of a sudden expected to go empathize with clients, maybe sell a loss, deal with adjusters that are going to show up on site, just deal with multimillion dollar homes often – especially in southern California where we were – and they’re not prepared for that. And we realized that because as we looked at our business, we were having to put out fires all the time, and most restoration contractors are. So I started analyzing, where are the fires coming from? What’s the problem here? And always inevitably it was a lack of life skills more than technical stuff.” 

Sprague continued, “We started to realize the silent killer of all these problems and it was hard because we had been spending a lot of time blaming the people that worked for us … when in reality we were doing a very poor job of managing and leading. So we had to eat some humble pie and fix it.” 

This episode covers:

  • Key employee-related challenges Sprague and Wilberton faced as they scaled their restoration business
  • Initially pointing the finger at technicians for shortcomings
  • The series of eye-opening experiences that altered Sprague and Wilberton’s view on ownership, leadership and workforce management
  • Going from blaming technicians to blaming themselves 
  • The two biggest threats to any service business and why, in Sprague’s opinion
  • Key steps taken to effectively train and engage restoration technicians and the results that follow
  • Morning tech meetings defined and the value Sprague and Wilberton found in them for their company
  • The importance of investing in a complete system of employee engagement and not just one or a few aspects
  • The value of business leaders constantly investing in themselves before they can help others thrive
  • Culture as a game of degree and not perfection
  • Sprague’s short list of favorite books and podcasts on leadership and business growth
  • The first step to reinvigorating any property restoration business by more meaningfully investing in field technicians  

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.