The term “Founding Father” comes from the March 2007 cover of Cleaning & Restoration Magazine. Pete Consigli wrote an article titled The Four Faces on Mount Restoration wherein he said this about Claude’s entrance into the carpet cleaning profession,
“In the mid to late 1970s, Claude was a struggling young father and carpet cleaner with two little mouths to feed. With only $35 dollars in the bank, he moved his family to Skagit County, Wash., about 60 miles north of Seattle. After paying $27 (of the $35) for a partial rent payment on his apartment, he had $8 to fill the refrigerator. He had no choice but to get out and knock on some doors; he needed money and he got it by cleaning carpets.”
His story reinforces the truth that there are no substitutes for hard work in this industry which has been built up by people both willing to try something new and willing to share what they have learned by trial and error. Mr. Blackburn’s first invention, a high density foam block that he would mail to cleaners nationwide and thereby founding Dri Eaz from his basement. Out of fear of being copied by others he set out to create his first air mover.
Claude shares an interesting story about the device that would become the flagship of his company that would grow into the industry leader for water damage restoration equipment. The man credited with creating the first air mover, Lloyd Weaver, publicly challenged Mr. Blackburn which only deepened his commitment to making his then fledgling invention work.
Pete writes of Lloyd, the second face on Mount Restoration, “Lloyd introduced the first specialty designed Porta Dryer for on-location wet carpet drying. While that might not seem like much in today’s sophisticated world, 35 years ago Lloyd’s methodology challenged the rug cleaning establishment and its in-plant wet carpet service.” With the help of Harlan Wright their plastic mold prototype was developed in the early 80’s.
Claude noticed a negative trend with carpet cleaners, “Twenty percent of our industry is going out of business every year,” and wanted to find a way to keep entrepreneurs like himself working in the slow season. As he innovated products, he also developed methods for training contractors to utilize the tools in a manner that could be repeated. Consigli notes, “Claude was sometimes mocked for pricing his seminars under $100. But he knew exactly what he was doing; he consistently played to packed rooms, while the attendance of others’ seminars dropped off.” Claude wanted to help his fellow professionals to shorten their DANG learning curve.
In addition to providing greater details about his journey in water damage restoration, Claude shared some interesting principles that transformed his business while a guest on IAQ Radio (Episode 473). Mr. Blackburn and a third member of the Founding Fathers Quartet, Cliff “The Z Man” Zlotnik discuss the evolution of the industry. Claude discussed the benefits of profit sharing, “That decision made me the most money of anything I ever did. Most other business owners are afraid to share the financials, I made more money in the five years after implementation than in all the years before.”
When Claude sold Dri-Eaz in 2006 it had:
The opening segment of The DYOJO Podcast goes into some depth regarding Claude’s post retirement activities which include efforts to elevate pickleball to an Olympic sport. A local paper dubbed him The Pickleball Philanthropist.
The video below captures a brief discussion of the mindset and process that Kevin Hussey went through as he was deciding whether to join the DKI network. He shares some great insights for property restoration contractors considering partnering with a larger organization to help them grow their water and fire damage repair company.
In the introduction, I also briefly discuss industry innovator and DKI founder, Ed York. Anyone in the property restoration industry owes it to themselves to learn about this industry legend.
Writing for Cleanfax, John Downey shared some of the history of Ed York and the formation of DKI, "In 1975, he started a pilot program involving 10 firms that would later become Disaster Kleenup International (DKI). The goal was to build a national network of independent restorers that would benefit from shared resources and a common identity. Today, DKI is a successful national disaster restoration franchise company.
At the 1995 DKI annual meeting, Denny Jensen, owner of one of the 10 firms involved in the original pilot program, paid tribute to York: 'If it wasn’t for Ed’s visionary talent, none of us would be here today. He is truly a pioneer, a soothsayer of sorts, for our entire industry.'"
Dale Sailer, CEO of DKI from 2001-2012, was quoted in Canadian Underwriter on the importance of Ed York, “To say that without Ed there would be no DKI is too simplistic a statement. He was a mentor to so many contractors who for so many years struggled to become better businesspeople. The enthusiasm with which Ed tackled every challenge, turning each into a limitless opportunity, instilled the confidence necessary for his business disciples to grow and prosper. Indeed, Ed’s spirit infuses many of the things we at DKI still do today.”
Ed also formed the IICUC which was later rebranded as the IICRC. Another lasting contribution to the carpet cleaning and property restoration industry. Speaking to his broader impact, Lee Pemberton, one of the industry’s most respected trainers and distributors, commented, “The carpet cleaning product distribution industry started with Steam Services and Ed York. Before Ed, it just didn’t exist.”
This is a clip from The DYOJO Podcast Episode 44
Kevin Hussey has tried it all when it comes to working with plumbers to acquire more water damage mitigation work. He runs a successful property restoration company out of Baton Rouge, which is currently a part of the DKI Network. Mr. Hussey joined The DYOJO Podcast for a candid conversation regarding the ups and downs of his journey building an organization that provides restoration services for property insurance claims.
He was brought to the capital of Louisiana from the slopes of Colorado when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. In the aftermath of was, at that time, the costliest tropical cyclone on record, he was flooded (bad pun) with work but as things returned to “normal” he has since had to learn to build an independent thriving local business. By this we mean that his company has opted not to pursue or perform preferred vendor (aka program) work which is common within the industry.
Program work is a system where contractors sign up to be on various vendor lists with third party administrators (TPAs) who represent various insurance carriers. As we discuss in Be Intentional: Estimating, many contractors utilize program work as a means to acquire leads “through the system”; as opposed to being independent (of the system). “If your company does “program” work, this means that there will be additional layers of review that you will be subject to as an estimator. It also means that your organization has made certain concessions that you will not be able to battle against.” Preferred vendor work is typically higher quantity of projects, potentially leading to higher revenue volume, but may be more challenging to produce the profit margins that many seek.
One key to his current, and future, growth has been using trial and error to crack the code of working with local plumbers. Plumbers are on the front lines of responding to a variety of water based home and business damages and therefore can be a great source of leads for companies looking to provide services for extraction or structural drying. Kevin shares many of his lessons learned, some the hard way, of building relationships with local plumbing companies.
These lessons for developing relationships with plumber to increase water damage leads include:
Kevin started his own plumbing company, which seemed like a great idea at the time in the pursuit of generating their own leads. Executing this plan soon revealed many holes. Kevin found that running a plumbing company split his focus and his resources, leading to operating both revenue streams at less than optimum capacity. He also alienated many of the plumbers that he had worked so hard to build relationships with. After two years, they decided to sell off the plumbing effort and focus more effectively on their sweet spot in property restoration.
While they worked to rebuild trust and relationships, Kevin uncovered some great ideas for engagement with local plumbers. He has gone through the process of trying a bit of everything, hoping something would stick, to now being more targeted and throwing darts at their goals. Kevin warns against paying too much for leads, the cost has to make sense in the overall revenue and profitability of the work being generated. Business owners and managers need to work to identify your ideal partners, as Kevin says, "The ones only doing new construction likely aren't the best fit."
His team has identified plumber referrals as a key to doubling their revenue and so they are working to double their lead volume from last year. Adding value to your client is always a good source of enriching existing relationships, so Kevin's team is looking into being able to offer continuing education (CE) courses for plumbers through their existing water damage training facility. By using an existing resource and adapting it to align with their goals, they can optimize their efforts and target their expenditures.
The United Fire and Water team assembles baggies with inexpensive moisture meters, a drying log, and basic instructions, all branded with their company logo and information. By doing so, their plumbing partners have a better means of serving their client as well as an understanding of when to refer a project to their mitigation company for additional drying. Kevin's team hosts a weekly Free Lunch Friday, where they feed their partners and hand out lead fees. They are also doing quarterly drawings for big ticket items such as a four wheeler to encourage engagement.
Modern restorers have to be creative and always adapting to the market, especially if the majority of your work comes through independent sources. As Kevin says, "You're always paying for something," but like Mr. Hussey, you want to understand your numbers and spend your money where it counts. Intentional restoration professionals are always asking whether their efforts are producing the outcomes that they are seeking. Developing your name as an organization who partners with local professionals will pay long term dividends and help you distinguish yourself from others who may try to make a move and buy you out of your relationships.
Connecting with fellow restoration owners, managers, and professionals to learn from their mistakes will help you shorten your DANG learning curve. You can listen to the full conversation with Kevin Hussey, which includes a discussion about pairing an innovator with an integrator, via The DYOJO Podcast Episode 44.
Kevin Hussey, CEO & President of United Fire and Water Damage (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), joins The DYOJO Podcast to discuss his entrepreneurial journey. Kevin started his adventure in the skilled trades when he opened a carpet cleaning business in Colorado. Like many in the industry, that venture evolved into adding services for water damage mitigation and property restoration.
Many growth minded professionals think that there is money to be made in water and fire damage restoration. They are right, but there are also many tough lessons that must be learned if you are going to be successful in building a company that will be profitable and sustainable. Kevin moved his operation to Louisiana following opportunities that presented themselves in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
As Mr. Hussey made roots, he continued to evolve as a person in a position of leadership and recognized his need to add an integrator. In his book Traction, author Gino Wickman talks about the importance of pairing an innovator with an integrator, "The Visionary/Integrator relationship is a two-piece puzzle. Even the most inspiring Visionaries cannot do it all, and the ideal Integrator will fill the void, seal the gap, and complete the winning formula." Kevin shares many of his thoughts in this hiring process, joining a national network, as well as the local marketing efforts that have helped them remain independent from the preferred vendor programs common in insurance claims repairs.
Discussion Topics from TDP 44:
TDP 44 Breaks and Announcements:
In 2021 we will be focusing on a LIVE format and moving our release date to Thursdays at 9am PST. We look forward to our listeners being able to interact with the show more. Our first LIVE Pro vs Joe will be Saturday 1/16/11 at 8pm PST and our first LIVE The DYOJO Podcast will be Thursday 1/21/21 at 830am PST with Ken Larsen.
TDP 44 Guest:
Companies that invest in their employees (inputs) will find that they can increase their profits (outputs) by producing team members that are more engaged and less likely to leave (retention). The common adage goes something like this,
Manager 1 asks, “What happens if we invest in training and developing our employees and they leave?”
Manager 2 responds, “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”
Rather than look at the negative examples in your experiences as a person in a position of leadership, as those of your peers, focus on the success stories and build your vision around those common denominators. Alex Blagojevic joins The DYOJO Podcast (Episode 43) to share her perspectives as a young insurance professional on how she was inspired by the organizations that invested in her.
We also discuss the book Insuring Tommorrow: Engaging Millennials in the Insurance Industry by Tony Canas and Carly Burnham of the Insurance Nerds which was written to help organizations better understand the largest current and incoming generational workforce. If you refuse to learn to interact with millennials, you will soon find that your company has no future.
Alex also speaks to growth minded professionals about having a 5 year plan and sharing that with your manager so that everyone can be on the same page with regards to vision and goals. She shares how organizations that invest in soft skills training, such as customer service, empower their teams to take ownership for their personal growth as well as better contribute to the growth of the company. Watch the whole interview in The DYOJO YouTube page or listen via The DYOJO Podcast on Apple and Spotify.
The DYOJO Podcast, helping you shorten your DANG learning curve for professional development, releases every Monday at 6am PST, in 2021 we will be recording many of our episodes LIVE on Thursdays at 9am PST.
I originally reached out to Alex Blagojevic regarding a post from LinkedIn on the importance of technology in the property claims assessment process, "I’ll be on site conducting a 360 degree scan of a water damaged unit. With my site scope and virtual scan, a control estimate will be conducted by our Xactimate team within a matter of days. It’s truly incredible what our new technology can capture in one quick site visit." We were putting together a multi-member panel for a discussion about Docusketch which turned into Episode 40 of The DYOJO Podcast.
As an independent commercial claims adjuster she shared her experiences with technology and integration with tools such as Encircle for categorizing photos from a loss and Docusketch for 360 degree captures that can expediently be transformed into a layout sketch for Xactimate. For those who aren't familiar with the property claims process, thorough documentation is key to empowering all stakeholders to communicate clearly and restore the affected to pre-loss conditions. Alex has observed these tools quickly becoming the standard for insurance carriers and restoration contractors.
She shares how her journey into the insurance claims world started with a position as a project managers assistant at a local ServiceMaster, helping those managing claims to maintain their documentation streams. In her pursuit of more meaningful work, increasing responsibility, and upward mobility, she pursued the claims side as an entry level broker. It wasn't long before doors opened to allow her to explore more direct involvement with helping people with property damages as an adjuster.
There are many nuggets within this discussion, of which managers should take note, on how young people entering the workforce are looking for opportunities for professional growth. Those organizations and people in positions of leadership who can connect growth minded individuals with the opportunities within their companies will find that there is a deep well of strong candidates eager to make a difference. Alex understood the process of earning her way by learning from each role while keeping her eyes open for experiences that would further her career. Seeing the claims process from "both sides" has helped her to have a greater perspective for how to serve the client to create a positive customer experience. Some of the best training she received was while she was at an entry level position with a brokerage and yet it would appear that organization was unable to connect their training with opportunities that would keep a strong candidate such as Alex within the fold.
We had a similar conversation with Chris Stanley on Episode 38 of The DYOJO Podcast. Chris shared how important it is for companies to create a direct correlation to training and advancement which is why his organization IA Path has developed a process that empowers those seeking a career in adjusting to get to work within 90 days. Alex notes the value of initiatives such as The DYOJO Podcast which is, "A platform that encourages collaboration while opening up discussions that directly effect our day to day work across the claims industry."
Alex encourages adjusting professionals, who want to create a positive customer experience with their brand, to remember that the claims process:
The market is always evolving and people in a position of leadership who want to remain competitive need to invest in their own training for soft skills to optimize employee recruitment, hiring, and retention. We discussed another great resource for growth minded leaders who want to develop their abilities for working with the incoming workforce candidates, the book Insuring Tomorrow: Engaging Millennials in the Insurance Industry by Tony Canas and Carly Burnham of Insurance Nerds. Seeking out employee input, reading books on vital soft skills, and listening to programs such as The DYOJO Podcast can help managers to shorten their learning curve for leadership development and employee engagement.
Topics and Guests for The DYOJO Podcast Episode 43:
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is an 18 year veteran of the property restoration industry and a business coach through his organization The DYOJO.