Benchmarks of Growth - Part 2 of 6
The DYOJO Podcast, Episode 57
Guest: Gordy Powell, Georgia Clean (Atlanta, GA)
At the beginning of 2020 I set out to interview a broad swath of people in a position of leadership to compile their insights on various benchmarks of growth. Our motto for The DYOJO Podcast is, “Helping you shorten your DANG learning curve,” and the best way to achieve this is to learn from the trials and errors of your fellow entrepreneurs.
Gordy shared several gems for those in a position of leadership to take into account for the personal and professional development:
This is the second discussion in a six part series on the benchmarks of growth. We will be discussing this topic in upcoming episodes of The DYOJO Podcast with dynamic industry leaders Lisa Lavender, Tammy Birklid, Whitney Wiseman, O.P. Almarez, and Andrew Golkin.
If you would like to hear more of Gordy’s story and perspectives:
The DYOJO Podcast is sponsored by Enlightened Restoration Solutions (ERS). Ben Justesen and his team have put together a dynamic live class which reviews real world estimates and elevates your ability to master the methodology of Xactware. Including how to determine your own labor rates, create your own price list, and navigate pricing feedback. -
The DYOJO Podcast LIVE Episode 52 from Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 9am PST
The DYOJO Podcast is sponsored by iRestore Restoration Management Software - Powering Your Vision, Values, and Leadership. It's time to calm the chaos, get your team organized, and focus on your efforts for growing your business. iRestore offers all Job Management, Relationship Management (CRM), Equipment Management, Vehicle Management, Human Resources, and Scheduling all in one portal.
Joyce Gabriel, Senior Project Manager (Puyallup, WA)
Joyce discusses the two books from The DYOJO as well as some great perspective on learning how to interact with your co-workers to achieve shared objectives.
Mark Springer, CEO of Dayspring Restoration
President of Restoration Industry Association (RIA)
Property Restoration Trends: Mergers and Acquisitions
We broke for a note from our sponsor iRestore and a special treat from the marketing powerhouse duo of Born to Repair and GMS Distribution.
Mark Springer shared some valuable perspectives for the everyday restorer:
The DYOJO Podcast - the weekly podcast for Intentional Restorers. Every Thursday at 9am PST on YouTube, Apple, and Spotify. Sharing The DYOJO WAY to shorten your DANG learning curve for professional development. www.thedyojo.com/listen
John Doe has been working hard for “the man” for the last ten plus years and he realizes that he’s making a lot of money for someone but it sure isn’t him. Mr. Doe begins thinking about what it would look like if it was his name on his sweat soaked t-shirt. What if the customer were writing the checks to John Doe Construction? Even in a season of unrest, there are plenty of opportunities for growth minded professionals who are ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship. Reaching your dreams starts with developing the right mindset and habits to succeed.
The motivation to go out on your own as a contractor
How does the blue collar nursery rhyme go, “Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime, that’s why I poop on company time.” The difference between the dream of owning your own business and making it a reality is putting action behind your thoughts. Some people do this the smart way and start to build a side hustle until they feel they have something strong enough to sustain them going out on their own. Others jump into the deep end with no safety net. The problem many new entrepreneurs face is that they don’t know what they don’t know about the business side of things. When you’re on your own, you have to provide your own toilet and buy your own toilet paper.
Creating a business as a contractor, not just buying your job
At the startup stage, many contractors feel like “beggars can’t be choosers” and they take anything they can get even if they know the project is light on profitability. There is a process of moving from pennies to quarters as you scale up the quality of your clients. At the core of your business you must understand what Michael Gerber outlines in his popular book, The E-Myth, ““If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!” You need to decide whether you are going to be a sole proprietor and charge a premium for your high quality work so that you can build a future for yourself. Or, you need to operate like a business and charge enough to build a team.
Building a future for yourself and your business as a contractor
The skilled trades person who takes the gamble on themselves to start their own business often has to learn business by trial and error. Where many of these errors start in construction is not properly charging for your services. You have to learn how to price yourself right for your market, in relationship to your hard costs (overhead) and with your vision in view (profit) so that you can achieve your dream, not just own your nightmare. The right mindset and habits for estimating are critical to your success, which are topics that Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, takes head on in his latest book Be Intentional: Estimating.
Mastering the business and leadership tools that will enable you to thrive as a contractor
As you build your business, it is helpful to have standardized systems that help with checks and balances so that you are not just going with your gut on every decision. In construction the standard has been resources such as RS Means, which provides pricing guidelines for trades, services and regions. Another option, which is common in insurance claims, Xactimate provides tools for contractors to enable them to write consistent estimates while also producing production plans, budgets for materials as well as targets for labor and duration.
The value of mindset and habits as a contractor building a business
Whether you are a startup or have been operating for some time, if your business is struggling to be profitable, you may need to look no further than your estimates to start fixing your business problems. You may think this is an oversimplification but think about all the stress that a bad estimate places on your process, your production and your profits. A poorly written estimate leads to poorly structured production plans which leads to poor execution, unhappy customers, frustrated teams and sinking profits.
To quote from Be Intentional: Estimating, “Strong estimating mindset and habits will help you to provide resources to invest in your process so that you can identify issues, resolve them, repeat and build upon your success.” Clear communication via developing strong internal processes for core aspects of your business such as estimating, will help business owners to be more efficient, reduce scope creep and produce quality revenue.
Start your process with the right mindset and habits as they will be hard to change down the road. Set yourself up for success by successfully setting yourself up to succeed. If the end product is causing dysfunction, track your way back to the start of the project and fix your structure by starting with your estimating process.
Early Air Mover Wars - Claude Blackburn's Dri Eaz vs. Lloyd Weaver's Porta Dryer
As a carpet cleaner in the 1970’s, Claude Blackburn noticed a negative trend with his fellow professionals, “Twenty percent of our industry is going out of business every year.” He wanted to find a way to help entrepreneurs like himself to keep themselves working in the slow season. Claude’s first invention was the foam EZ Block which he mailed from his operations center (his garage) for $27 a sheet to cleaners replacing the wood blocks that were common in the industry.
Claude Blackburn attended a water damage seminar taught by the second face on “Mount Restoration”, Lloyd Weaver. The “Industry Watchdog” Pete Consigli writing for C&R Magazine in 2007 noted, “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.” Shortly afterwards Claude experimented with his own metal carpet dryer and eventually produced ten units, sent out 24,000 expensive mailers to advertise the product, and only sold four. He was contemplating abandoning the idea.
Claude shares an interesting story about the device that would become the flagship of his company and an interaction with Mr. Weaver. At an industry trade show in Vancouver, Washington, Lloyd didn’t take kindly to Claude’s creations and publicly challenged him. While he physically shook the meek mannered innovator from Mt. Vernon, he also rattled his entrepreneurial spirit and only deepened Claude’s commitment to making his then fledgling invention work. With the arrival of an unlikely partner, Harlan Wright, Mr. Blackburn developed the first fiberglass molded air mover for the carpet cleaning and water damage restoration industry in the early 1980’s.
As Claude innovated products, he also developed methods for training contractors to utilize these evolving water damage tools in a manner that could be repeated across the country. Consigli recounts, “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 and offered water damage training courses at pricing significantly lower than his competitors.
Mr. Blackburn also wrote the Carpet Cleaner’s Guide to Water Damage Restoration which he marketed via a dual sided mailer which promoted the popular EZ Blocks on the other side. Both sold really well, enabling Claude to further invest in innovation. Our industry is full of stories of trial and error and Claude was no stranger to this process. He shared on IAQ Radio Episode 473 that he ran his company by the 51% rule, “As long as I was right 51% of the time, we had a shot at staying in business.”
When Claude sold Dri-Eaz in 2006 it had:
Hear the rest of Claude Blackburn on The DYOJO Podcast Episode 47 “The Found of Dri Eaz Life Before, During, and After Property Restoration.”
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
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is an 18 year veteran of the property restoration industry and a business coach through his organization The DYOJO.