The year 2022 is now upon us and by now most people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions! We know it’s only January, but the authors of this piece (Dan O’Brien and Mark Neirynck) have over 100 years of first-hand experience transitioning to a new year (yes, we are both over the age of 50!) and we’ve rarely heard someone say in February, “I’m succeeding with my New Year’s resolution.” The data backs up what we know qualitatively: 68% of Americans report giving up on their resolutions in January, according to a 2020 survey conducted by OnePoll.

While we’ve had mixed success with our own personal resolutions, the resolution that is constant in our business every year is to always aim for exceptional growth. Below we’ve highlighted our views on the most important items for growth along with some tips/recommendations based on our 55 years of industry experience.

Importance of Talent and Culture on Growth

Highly successful restoration companies have great people and a great culture. Top talent in our industry isn’t satisfied with the status quo; they want to grow personally and professionally. As such, what we’ve witnessed time and time again is industry-leading personnel gravitate toward companies that are growing. Growth companies in our industry provide employees with opportunities to take on more responsibility, enhance their skill set and be a part of something “special.” There is another side to this coin: Personnel will leave your organization if there isn’t growth.

Great culture fosters an environment where great people want great results, which in turn leads to teamwork, innovation and partnership among all constituents. While some people inevitably say that culture is just a buzzword, the data is clear on the impact of culture. Organizations with a winning culture have a 72% higher engagement rating than organizations with weak cultures, according to research from Denison Consulting. Additionally, 76% of employees see the impact a company culture has on productivity and 74% of employees report a winning culture improves their ability to serve customers, according to findings from Eagle Hill Consulting.

We recently grew revenues at our Chicago office by 500%. Our great culture was the “magnet” that attracted an industry-leading executive to the office, which in turn created a “snowball” effect of more industry-leading talent coming to the organization. The result: The employee headcount at the office increased 140% from 2019 to 2021, which allowed us to execute on our strategic and operational initiatives.

Dan and Mark’s tip for 2022: A winning culture starts at the top and goes “downstream,” so culture has to be a key focus for any owner of a restoration company; otherwise, a restoration company will never have a winning culture. 

Greenfield New Locations

Opening new locations from scratch (“greenfields”) is a phenomenal way to grow a restoration business. Greenfields require less capital than acquisitions and the return on investment can be significant. Oftentimes, greenfields are attractive because existing customers promise to give you business in the new geography.

We are big fans of greenfields and have had a lot of success over the years utilizing the strategy. However, we’d like to point out greenfields are hard work and require (1) corporate infrastructure and (2) organizational depth.

A good corporate infrastructure will handle all of the basic functions at the new location so the focus can be on generating revenue. There are more demands on IT, HR, accounting and insurance with an additional location, and the greenfield won’t be a success if the key people needed to drive business are immersed in these functions. People easily forget all of the foundational aspects required to run a restoration business. In fact, the number-one reason we’ve seen owners of restoration companies not pursue a greenfield is they remember all of the foundational aspects required to run a location and don’t want to manage more of these functions.

Organizational depth is important because a restoration business with more than one location is a multi-location company. By definition, the owner of a multi-location company can’t be at every location at the same time. As such, the ability to delegate tasks and roles and responsibilities becomes more important because time and focus will now be spread across more offices. Our experience tells us owners know if a greenfield will succeed within the first two years and the results of the greenfield are the ultimate test to definitively know if you have organizational depth.

Our Milwaukee office was a greenfield in 2019 and is led by an industry veteran who has knowledge of the local market. We spent considerable time with the leadership team of this office in early 2021 and the results are amazing; the Milwaukee office exceeded its profit goal by over 100% in 2021. We couldn’t have focused so much on the Milwaukee office if our corporate team didn’t handle the basic “blocking and tackling” and we were the only “all-stars” on the team.

Dan and Mark’s tips for 2022: Invest (and over hire) in corporate infrastructure at least a year in advance. In addition, quarterly one-on-one operational reviews with key personnel are a great way to coach employees to become future leaders.

Renovation Service Line

The best marketing in the restoration industry is doing quality work and making life easier for our customers; those relationships are the mark of a successful restoration business. What if there was a way to provide those same customers with additional services that are complementary to the restoration work they rely on you for? Offering renovation services to your customers will generate additional revenue and further entrench you with those customers.

First, let’s define restoration and renovation work. Restoration work is the emergency mitigation and reconstruction of a property due to an unplanned event. Renovation work is planned asset preservation and maintenance of a property. In other words, core restoration work is done because of an event, while renovation work is done because the event happens over time.

For example, we recently had a fire job in Atlanta where we repaired the siding as part of our scope of work. Across town, we helped the client repair the siding on a multi-family property. The same customer and project manager were involved in both projects. The event that caused the restoration job was the fire. The event that caused the renovation job was time as siding deteriorates over a period of years. Understanding what causes the need for work helps underscore an important point: Renovation work has the same reoccurring business model traits as restoration work. Just like routine, everyday events cause the need for restoration work, time creates the need for renovation work.

With definitions out of the way, let’s discuss why renovation work is so important to customers.

Commercial customers know certain work must be done on their assets in order to preserve the asset. Typically, customers will plan the maintenance of their properties several years in advance during the annual budgeting process. Customers have high standards for their renovation partners because of the amount of capital invested in the property and the time and resources allocated to making sure the asset doesn’t decline in value. Just like when customers choose a restoration company, the four main factors customers use when selecting a renovation company are (1) ability to get work done on time, (2) expertise, (3) finished product quality, and (4) communication and transparency.

Offering both restoration and renovation lines of work can make your business a full-service, integrated provider of services that provides 360-degree coverage to all of a customer’s needs. Not only does this model create one point of contact for multiple property needs, but additional relationships with the customer are developed, thereby creating opportunities to do work at other locations where the client has properties. This dynamic happened at Bassett Creek Services’ Atlanta office. Renovation revenue is up 50% and restoration revenue is growing faster than anticipated (300% above budget) since both service lines were offered to customers.

Dan and Mark’s tips for 2022: Hire an experienced renovation expert to begin cross-selling your existing customers and to bring new relationships to your restoration division.