On a daily basis, intentional restorers are flooded (pun intended) with tidal waves of information. If a restoration contractor wants to learn and perform their duties in a manner that is instep with the best practices in their industry, they have to filter through a lot of misinformation (dare we say, BS). Founding Father, Cliff Zlotnik, shares his perspective on how modern restorers can get a clearer grasp on solid information so they can form and train stellar habits for serving their clients in need.
Mr. Zlotnik says, “In our industry, people look for the highest-tech solution rather than the lowest-tech solution. We should look for the lowest-tech solution that'll work first before we go to any higher-tech solution.”
Cliff Zlotnik, or the Z-Man as he is known by his peers and those who listen to his weekly IAQ Radio show, is one of four key people that industry historian Pete Consigli chisled into Mount Restoration with his March 2007 C&R Magazine article. Of his friend and fellow watchdog, Pete says, “Perhaps Cliff’s greatest lasting legacy is as the pioneer who introduced and popularized the concept of hands-on restoration training. In 1985, he converted a vacant church rectory into a hands-on training site for fire and water damage restoration, a place which became known as the Unhouse training facility.”
Restorers who enjoy history and want to develop their knowledge of the industry will be happy to see Cliff share training slides from his time at Unhouse in Episode 96 of The DYOJO Podcast. In the clip included with this article, host Jon Isaacson asks: “Say that the new guy coming in really wants to try to learn to do things the right way. Do you have anything that might help that person to decipher when they're being fed a line of bull?” In his storylike fashion, Cliff opens with, “I want to talk about two animals to answer your question.”
Albert Einstein's Business Advice
Mr. Zlotnik goes on to share:
If you take a baby elephant and you put a rope around his leg and you tie that rope to a tree. The elephant is going to learn to stay in a tight radius. You can actually remove the tree and still leave the rope on the elephant's leg and he will still stay there. He is kind of lost and helpless.
If you take a honeybee and you put it in a jar, the honeybee will fly around for a while. It will try to get out. When it realizes it can't get out, it's going to feel helpless and will not try to get out anymore.
In a video clip from The DYOJO Podcast, Cliff says, “I think a lot about complication. People can be made to feel helpless. I think that's what happens with a lot of these products. They give you this really sophisticated sales pitch. There are all kinds of numbers with equations and math, and none of us are good at math. People figure that they don't understand it. Therefore, the person who invented it is smarter than them. But it’s not necessarily true.”
Cliff, who has heard it all in his decades of working in this industry, says that filtering through industry information begins with a simple question. He says, “Ask them to explain to you simply. How does it work? Imagine that I'm a six-year-old and explain it to me.” Mr. Zlotnik says if this test was good enough for Albert Einstein it should be good enough for our industry. He continues, “If these people cannot explain it to a six-year-old, they don't understand it themselves.”
Simple Solutions Are Often The Best Ones
When it comes to sales pitches for new innovations, techniques, and strategies for success, Cliff remarks, “I think there's a tremendous amount of complicated solutions, and the simpler the better oftentimes. I think in our industry, people look for the highest-tech solution, rather than the lowest-tech solution. We should look for the lowest-tech solution first before we go to any higher tech solution.”
Whenever there is an opportunity to hear Cliff speak about the history of the industry in is interesting to hear how first, the issues of today are not that different from 30 years ago and, secondly that history has a way of repeating itself. For those who are interested in diving into the technical details of the property restoration industry from people who have “been there and done that,” Cliff co-hosts IAQ Radio every Friday with Joe Hughes. This is the cleaning and restoration industry’s longest running podcast. IAQ Radio was podcasting before that was even a term, using internet radio for their weekly broadcasts.
Opportunities to Meet with Cliff
In January 2023, Cliff will be with us for the Andrew Ask Building Science Symposium (Tuesday and Wednesday, January 24-25, 2023) and then for the one-day workshop, Lessons Learned from Storm Response and Hurricane Recovery (Thursday, January 26, 2023). The workshop is being produced by Pete Consigli and The DYOJO, it is available for in-person attendance as well as remote participation via Zoom.
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