Joining a new industry is humbling. I became editor of R&R just over six months ago holding a résumé ripe with journalism, content management and B2B experience, but “restoration” was nowhere to be found.

Naturally, as I immerse myself, I take mental notes of overarching themes. Sometimes I’m drawing parallels with different industries; others, I’m spotting unique attributes. A few top-of-mind characteristics I noticed in the early weeks were the workforce challenges; the M&A activity; and the complex intersection of restorer, insured and insurer.

This brings me to a recent Ask the Expert recording with IICRC CEO Michael Dakduk, in which the “new kid on the block” topic came up. Dakduk joined the restoration industry two years ago – significantly further back than I did, but recently enough to be considered a relative “newbie,” we agreed. Mindful of our shared “recent outsider” status and great deal of responsibility to restorers, I took the opportunity to ask Dakduk, “Two years in, what’s your take on the restoration industry?”

I’d been thinking of engaging in the exercise of listing and sharing my “newcomer notables” for a while. And lucky for me, as Dakduk answered my question, he put those and more observations into words. So, six months into my time as R&R editor, and as we kick off a new year, here are some of the key themes Dakduk highlighted that I consider restoration industry first impressions of my own.

A Hidden Gem 

“The public at large really doesn’t know much about the restoration industry. It’s sort of an unknown,” Dakduk said.

Similarly, in R&R’s Restoration Industry SWOT Analysis published in December, Restoring Success columnist Lisa Lavender wrote, “Unless you are a second- or third-generation restorer, who grows up wanting to be a restorer? They don’t know it exists as a profession with opportunity and reward. It is not recognized as a career path. It is more something that people ‘fall into.’ The public does not know of the science, skills, credentialing, etc. of a restorer. The lack of understanding and recognition of those outside the industry will remain a threat if the lack of awareness exists.”

A Shortage of Stats 

“In everything I’ve researched on it, you can’t find breakouts of the restoration industry,” Dakduk said. “For example, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in the United States tracks projections for jobs. Well, there’s nothing on the restoration industry. There’s construction and then there’s a whole list of other occupations that are tracked, like 10-year projections. Are they going to grow? Is it going to shrink in the next 10 years? We don’t even know for our industry. So there are a lot of question marks, which means there are a lot of opportunities as well.”

A Moment for Molding 

“Even though it’s been around a while, it’s still very early on in the maturation process, I think,” Dakduk said. “I think that the fact that there are not very many regulations on it or laws associated with it – that tells me we’re still in the early stages, because the larger an industry becomes, it’s inevitable that there will be more focus on it. …So that means we’re kind of on the cusp of something, which is exciting, and we can shape it. …Because in many of the places I’ve worked before, in the lifecycle, you’re already in the phase where everything’s been developed so to speak, and you’re trying to make tweaks and influence changes on what’s already been created. So this is unique. It’s almost clean slate.”

An Abundance of Engagement

“Sometimes in nonprofits you have a challenge of volunteerism. We don’t’ have that problem,” Dakduk said. “We have so many subject matter experts and individuals that do want to get involved and give back.”

To add another layer to this editor’s note, an overarching theme of my interview with Dakduk, as you may have gleaned from the quotes above, was reframing challenges as opportunities. This brings me back to where I started: Joining a new industry is humbling. Being an outsider in an environment teeming with insiders who’ve been engrained for years and know it like the back of their hand is humbling.

But to pull from Dakduk again and flip challenge into opportunity, I believe that just as growing up in this industry or spending decades here brings irrefutable value, an outside-in lens does. I believe fresh perspective has the potential to breathe new life into established entities when harnessed properly – to fuel meaningful innovation.

In a 2021 Harvard Business Review article on how outsiders become game changers, Gino Cattani, professor of strategy and organization theory, and Simone Ferriani, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, write, “Being less tied to the norms and standards to which insiders conform, outsiders recognize solutions that escape incumbents’ attention. … Outsiders typically innovate by acting on insights and experiences that are new to the context they enter but familiar to the context they come from.”

I intend to use this research as inspiration and instruction in my role with R&R. I intend to embrace my lack of industry experience as an advantage – to question assumptions and to introduce fresh ideas and approaches. I also intend to bring in ideas and experts from other fields who are finding solutions to challenges this great industry hasn’t yet resolved.

Are you embracing an outside-in perspective, even if you are a seasoned industry veteran? Are you taking inspiration from the progress other industries are making and learning from their mistakes? Are you embracing outsiders in your recruiting endeavors? Are you welcoming outside-of-the-box ideas and approaches from employees of all backgrounds in your daily operations?

Have you found success embracing “the outside”? Do you have first impressions of the industry to share? Reach out to me at

That’s all for this time. Happy New Year!

Valerie King