Have You Ever Used Change Work Orders?

I am surprised at how many Disaster Restoration company’s never use Change Orders…..on larger residential jobs or commercial jobs.

Lets get a little background. Some upscale residential jobs and a lot of commercial construction contracts are based on drawings and specifications prepared by architects. Everyone needs to be aware that the need for changes during construction raises questions about the completeness, correctness, and coordination of the architect’s drawings and specifications – in short, questions about the architect’s accuracy of capturing what the property owner wanted.

Of course, change orders may also be precipitated by changes that are beyond the control of the architect, like changes in the owner’s criteria for the project, or some changes in codes and regulations, or other conditions that were not foreseen or perhaps could not have been foreseen by either the owner or the architect.

Regardless of the actual causes of change orders, disaster restoration contractors need to use Work Change Orders, especially on jobs where architects are involved.  I suggest you consider tracking the resulting cost of change orders as they are related to changes do to code upgrades, property owners wishes or errors, inconsistencies, and omissions in the drawings and specifications prepared by the architect.

Drawings and specifications may never be perfect, and some would say they never can be perfect. However, drawings and specifications that are complete, consistent, coordinated, and are clear and readable to the extent possible leave less to interpretation; so there is less need for determinations of reasonable inference. With this in mind, change orders related strictly to imperfections in drawings and specifications are usually minimized.

If it is necessary in the architect’s response to a contractor’s claim to explain numerous contradictions and take exceptions to numerous drawing and specification provisions in order to reach a conclusion that matches the designer’s intent, then the requirement is not reasonably inferable.

Change Orders, done properly, can save tons of time at the end of  job in getting the file closed. Also, for those that like positive cash flow….they can mean the difference of you getting paid for services rendered or having to write the amount off as another hard lesson learned.

Are You Throwing Away Money on Marketing?

Do you ever ask yourself questions like:

  • How effective is my marketing…….really?
  • How do I ‘Target’ my marketing to be the most effective?
  • Can I get more ‘bang for my buck’ for what I am spending?

Tough questions to answer in selling a future service like Disaster Restoration or Environmental Remediation services. Some potential customers may have a need but it could be weeks, or months or possibly even years away from happening. So what do we do?

First, lets look at two questions you should answer:

  1. What do people really want to buy from me?
  2. What related services are they already buying?

Once you figure this out you will know who is more likely to purchase your products/services. Then, consider finding other non-competing businesses with the same customer base who you can customer share with. Come up with an incentive and arrangement to cross-promote and encourage both of your customer bases to buy your services.

The basic concept is this:

You want to find existing businesses who have the customer profile that you are looking for to market your products/services to.

Then strike up a relationship with those business owners to work out an incentive for customers to purchase from both businesses.

As a result, you have an audience to market to and they generate an added value from their current base.

So, how do you figure this out? There is a exceptional formula from Jay Abraham you can follow with great success.

LV = (P x F) x N – MC

Here’s what it all means:

  • LV is the life time value of a customer
  • P is the average profit margin from each sale
  • F is the number of times a customer buys each year
  • N is the number of years customers stay with you
  • MC is the marketing cost per customer (total costs/number of customers)

Once you know how much you need to spend to attract a new customer, you will know how much of an incentive you can offer to a business to help attract new customers.

So, here’s your step-by-step process:

  1. Find companies who already have the customer base you are looking for.
  2. Negotiate an incentive for them to share that customer base with you.
  3. Focus your marketing resources to this group of predisposed customers.

If you need help working through this process, check out our FREE test drive for the most comprehensive system of marketing tools and resources available at our associated site:

Do You Know How To Stand Out in a Crowded MarketPlace?

This video shows how going beyond typical expectations can have its advantages and can take your business to a whole new level. Take a look. I trust it sparks some idea’s for you and your business!
Do you compete in a crowded marketplace? Do you compete with bigger Disaster Restoration companies who have more established brands? So how do you stand out? Take some inspiration from an unusual but very successful Doughnut shop.

This Doughnut Shop may seem extreme, but the strategy isn’t. Start by getting a clear idea of what the pattern in your industry is. Take the Disaster Restoration industry as an example. Where do you get claims? From an adjuster? From insurance agents? Direct from property owners? What kind of claims do you normally get (or want), i.e. residential or commercial or losses over or under $10,000? What kind of service’s do your main competitors offer? Are you and your competitors all saying the same thing to the same customer base? (think route marketing) Are you all going after exactly the same customer base?

If you’re in a crowded marketplace (and who isn’t), you aren’t going to get attention by doing something a little better than everyone else. They didn’t try to serve doughnuts that were 3% tastier and 2% cheaper than everyone else.

The way you get attention is by doing something nobody else is doing, or by doing one thing ferociously better than everything else. What are YOU doing to stand out from the crowd?

5 Tips To Keep the Romance Alive In YOUR Business!

 As entrepreneurs our business is a HUGE part of our lives. Most of us spend every waking hour thinking about how to grow our results and develop our people. Unfortunately we often invest more time nurturing our business than we do our intimate relationships.

Our business is an expression of who we are as a person. It provides the finances for our family. Often our thoughts are consumed by new ideas and possibilities throughout our day. Think about it: it’s like a love affair! And I’m sure that like me, some days you love your business, some days you are ready to divorce it.

Doubts about your success, feeling overwhelmed or just being plain exhausted by everything it takes to make money can deplete the romance and make you wish you had a job again.

The key to any successful relationship is managing the relationship of it so that we spend more time in love than out of love. How?  Here are five ways to help you keep the passion and energy to kick up your results a few notches this year and  to keep the “romance” alive in your work so you don’t lose that “lovin feeling.”

1. Court your passion
. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of managing a million activities so remember to cultivate the passion by spending time doing what you love the most. Try to spend at least 30% of your day doing positive things and you’ll be 10 times more excited to do the less enjoyable tasks. Delegate or time block activities that drain your energy after you do work you are passionate about so that you can keep a positive momentum in place.

2. Have alone time
. Taking a break from your business is like getting a B Vitamin shot in the arm. You’ll come back with a clear head and lots more stamina to move your big ideas forward. Daily mental breaks for lunch or a quick walk are invaluable but big breaks like entire weekends off and 10 day vacations can work wonders for your bottom line.

3. Schedule dates with family and friends
. There’s nothing like the joy and positive thinking that comes from hanging with like-minded friends. When you feel a bit low it’s time to book a lunch date, invest in a mastermind retreat or schedule time with your business coach or mentor. Changing up your environment to learn from others can bring new enthusiasm into your doldrums. Left alone we can fall prey to bad habits or isolated thinking that can stall our progress. Make it a regular habit to spice up your energy with great friends and colleagues.

4. Get help for troubled waters. 
There will be times when you will feel stuck or you can’t get past a situation. This is the time to quickly call in an expert to get you back on track. If you stay focused on your issues and challenges then it’s hard to see all the good things that you do love. Hiring a coach to help you clear out the challenges and get refocused on your exciting road map can rekindle the fire again.

5. Get passionate.
 No it’s not what you think…I mean challenge yourself to play a bigger game. For many of us that means we have to get a wee bit uncomfortable and plow through some limiting beliefs about who we are. Getting passionate will bring a burst of power into your game – and can results in achieving some of those stretch goals you keep talking about.

So what do you do to keep the passion alive?

Share your thoughts in the comment box below or by return email . You might also want to grab a free copy of 7 Ways To Improve YOUR Margins.

An Important Lesson About Leadership

Today’s article is about an excerpt from the great book Listen Up, Leader! by David Cottrell.

If you pay attention to this one key point it will help you improve your leadership with your team and guide you in taking your business to the next level.

One of the many nuggets of information that David Cottrell tells us in his bestseller “Listen Up, Leader!”, is that all leaders have to understand that some very important perspectives come from their direct reports. Here is one of those very important reminders:

There are a few rules of leadership that you need to know (he is talking from the employees perspective here):

“First, we are watching everything you do. 

Even when you think we’re not paying attention, we are. 

There is never a time when you are not leading. 

You may think that when you choose to ignore an issue, you are not leading. You’re wrong! If you show up late for meetings, you lead us to believe that our time isn’t valuable. 

If you lose your cool and over-react to small issues, we wonder how you will react when something big comes along. It’s a fact. You are always leading. You can never not lead!


David Cottrell is not only an extremely talented author of many superb books on leadership but is also a decent and caring man. I had the distinct opportunity to meet and chat with him a few months ago at a conference. I mentioned that a friend of mine going through cancer treatment could not be at this conference and asked if he would autograph a book for him. Not only did he include a nice short note along with his autograph, do you what  else he did? He personally followed up by sending me some personal information he had written via email for me to forward to my friend. (he did what he said he would, when he said he would) That in itself is a great example of walking the talk. But he even followed up with a second email to see how things were going and if there was anything else I wanted to help out my friend. Wow!

This, after less than a 5 minute meeting. What a gentleman and example of true leadership.

Why do we set employees up for failure?

“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves.” ~ J. Paul Getty

Did you ever consider that promoting a great employee could be one of your worst moves? Consider this, if the promotion requires skills the person can’t master and work that he or she doesn’t enjoy, you are setting up your great worker to fail. Because your Lead Restoration Tech may be the best one you have ever had does not mean they will become a great Operations Manager, Project Manager or Project Co-Ordinator.

Here is what I suggest you do. Match each of your employees’ talents and interests and your organization’s needs. Retain your best employees with these practices:

  • Understand their ambitions. Your top Water Tech may have no interest in being an Emergency Service Project Manager. That person may be content excelling at all the techniques and tips he has learned over the years and by attending all those IICRC courses you send him on. Unless you talk to them and get to know them they may crave a totally different type of challenge. Some workers are satisfied delivering their best work for eight hours a day and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Others are aiming for the highest slots on the organizational chart. You won’t know unless you ask.
  • Clarify the options. I believe that every time you have a need to fill a position in your company that you should post it so everyone either has the chance to apply or they may have a friend or acquantaince who would be perfect for the job. You should discuss options with employees and provide a realistic view of different jobs. Discuss the required skills and what a typical day on the job involves. If they qualify for a postion and are a serious candidate you will need to disclose pay and incentive plan options. I suggest you offfer opportunities such as job shadowing so that they can preview openings before they apply.
  • Be creative about compensation. Recognize that a bigger paycheck isn’t the most satisfying reward for every employee.If you can’t boost the salary of a top worker, perhaps you can pay a bonus or incentive for that person to train others. If your best customer service rep is applying for a different position solely because she wants to work different hours, find a way to make that happen in the current job.
  • Show the value of every team member. Talk regularly about the contributions that staff members in every position make to your organization’s success. Employees will see that they don’t need to hold a certain title to be an important member of the staff.


Allowing employees to use their best skills in jobs they enjoy improves productivity and reduces turnover. When you have a great worker, hold on without holding that person back. Always be talking about how each person in the company is critical to the success of both the company and delivering outstanding customer service.

“The five steps in teaching an employee new skills are preparation, explanation, showing, observations and supervision.” ~ Bruce Barton – author 1886-1967

Are You Prepared For a Hurricane in Your Business?

I am writing this a few days after Hurricane Irene disappeared into a “depression”. We experienced Irene as a Tropical Storm while staying on the water’s edge in beautiful Prince Edward Island.  You can only image how Anne of Green Gables would have written about the howling wind and driving rain that occurred on the island for a couple of days.

We were fortunate when it came to Irene. We knew the hurricane was coming and had time to plan and prepare. After going through Hurricane Juan a few years ago we don’t take these warnings lightly anymore.

Knowing there was a good possibility we would lose power and maybe even water we took preventive measures and charged our cell phones and laptops. We made sure we had flashlights and batteries and knew where they were. We filled bottles with water and put away anything outside that could possibly “take flight”.

The storm came and  thankfully did not do a lot of damage here in Nova Scotia or PEI. In the grand scheme of things, losing power is just an inconvenience especially if you are  prepared.

Fortunately hurricanes don’t happen very often (at least not in eastern Canada) and when they do we usually have plenty of warning. But in our businesses we’re not always that lucky. Emergencies tend to crop up all the time.

In our business emergencies usually are good news. It means work for us, our crews and sub-trades. Or it allows us to show off our service levels to a new insurance company who is sending us their first claim to “see how we do”.

Other times the emergency is bad news. You find yourself up against a deadline on a project you are working on, or you forgot to write a job on the “Job Board” that has to be done this morning and other Project Managers on your team have everyone booked solid for the whole day. Or you promised to get an Indoor Air quality test done today and you forgot to call your Industrial Hygenist. Or your newsletter is due out tomorrow and you still haven’t gotten the article written. You know the story, right?

Listen, running your business from emergency to emergency is exhausting, and it is not necessary. We, of all people, should have plans for dealing with the unexpected.

If these types of things are happening again and again are they really emergencies or are they “situations” that occur regularly. If so, you should have yourself prepared for these situations?

Here are three areas you should look at to help you prepare so that you and your business and life will run smoother and at the same time allow you to give better customer service to the ones who have true emergencies.

  • Think about your day-to-day schedule. What types of “emergencies” often strike? Sure the specific situation might be unexpected, but there are a lot of similarities between these events. Pay specific attention to when you find yourself saying “Oh NO! Why does this keep happening?” What can you do to prepare? What tools can you put at your disposal so that your business keeps going?
  • Look at the things you do often. What can you automate or create a system for so that these situations become barely a ripple. Create an “info package” for new loss clients. This will make sure they have the proper information about what is going to happen in this claims process and at the same time make it easy and consistent to deliver. Create a package of material on the various types of losses you do so that you can quickly give it to anyone who needs it.
  • What type of true emergency systems can you put in place? If you were called away from your business suddenly do you have a team that can cover for you? What parts of the claims process can you “automate”? Who can you delegate your files to? What if you lost power or your computer’s hard drive crashed or lost your cell phone?  (hey, if anyone should be prepared for this scenario it should be us!) Is your computer backed up and do you back it up regularly? Do you charge your phone regularly? Would you have your important phone numbers available?

Here is the bottom line. There will certainly be true emergencies that force you to stop everything and focus our attention elsewhere, and you’ll never be able to avoid them all. The key is to do as much as you can to minimize the interruption that they cause.

Would you do me and more importantly yourself a favor? Today, make a list of what you can do to minimize the impact of emergencies in your business?

It would be fantastic if you would share that list with me here on my blog.

Who Takes Initiative at Your Business?

Who Takes Initiative at Your Business to improve service, morale and improve efficiency: 

A word of caution: just because you own your business doesn’t mean you are the only one who can come up with good ideas and take the initiative to save money on how you are delivering service, or make a process more stream lined and efficient.

Some of the best ideas that were implemented in my business were ones that employees, managers or fellow restoration owners gave me the idea for.

More on this in a future blog. For now here are a few tips from 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work (by Bob Nelson) that you should find interesting and helpful:


  • Making a suggestion concerning the area where you work is a good idea. Why? Because it’s likely you know the area well, and therefore you’ll probably make a good decision. You’ll want to look for ways to save money, improve a service or streamline processes. Think about your ideas, and if possible, test them out.


  • If you’re going to make a suggestion, make sure you also have a way to implement it. Nelson says that you need to be careful that your suggestion doesn’t inadvertently come off sounding like a complaint. Think your plan through. Who would be involved? How much would it cost? What are the benefits? Then volunteer to work on bringing the idea to fruition.


  • Develop yourself as a “suggestor.” Think about the possibilities and try to come up with at least two suggestions per week—even if you end up not pitching them. Carry a pad and pencil with you so you can jot down your thoughts. You’d be surprised at the great ideas that people think of that are lost in the minutiae of the day because the person didn’t take the time to write them down.


  • Be supportive of others’ suggestions when you think they are good ideas. This will help you develop important alliances at work—and the goodwill of your co-workers when you launch your own suggestions.

And here are some great quotes that tie in to taking more initiative at work:


 We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.—Carlos Castaneda


I don’t like to do just the things I like to do. I like to do things that cause the company to succeed. I don’t spend a lot of time doing my favorite activities.—Michael Dell


Do not wait; the time will never be “just right.” Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.—Napoleon Hill


P.S.: This may be a great article to post on your bulletin board or read some excerpts from during your next staff meeting.

Laughter – The Best Medicine

Laughter – it’s natural, it’s free and it’s totally contagious.  It helps to bring people together, aids communication and reduces conflict. Did you know that a daily dose of laughter is good for your physical health too?

Art Linkletter was right! Laughter is good medicine for us.

When we laugh, our bodies release endorphins, commonly known as ‘feel good hormones’.  These chemicals not only promote an overall sense of well-being, but they can even help to provide temporary pain relief.  At the same time, levels of stress hormones are reduced and our muscles loosen up so that both mental and physical relaxation is achieved.  The production of immune cells and antibodies which are necessary to fight infection receive a boost, making our immune systems stronger.

As well as lifting our spirits and making our hearts feel lighter, laughter also increases the blood flow around the body, and researchers have found that it may even protect us from developing heart disease.  By causing the lining of the arteries to expand, a good chuckle effectively allows blood to circulate more quickly, keeping not only the heart but the rest of the body well supplied and reducing the potential for blockages to form.

Studies which have been carried out in the health care fields, in the workplace and in the classroom have all demonstrated the benefits of laughter, so what are you waiting for?  Go and dig out that favourite comedy film and laugh your way to better health!

While I am not a Doctor it is almost a given that your stress will go down and who knows, perhaps an answer to that nagging question or problem you have been trying to work up the nerve to face will come to you right after a good belly laugh.

Are Your Employees Asking Questions?

Employees need to know they can ask questions

Do your employees come to you for advice when they hit a roadblock at work? If so, be thankful. Yes, some of us are guilty of having too much of an open door policy. But the consequences of that are usually much better than the opposite.

According to a survey of British employees conducted by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the British Library, 85 percent of workers would go somewhere else—seemingly anywhere else—before asking their supervisors for help.

Stop and think about this for a minute. Where are YOUR employees getting their questions answered. From another employee who failed his last two IICRC courses? From texting a friend of his who is an experienced water tech … at a competitors shop? You get the message, right?

The good news (hey, there is always some … somewhere): Only 23 percent of employees surveyed said they turn elsewhere because they don’t trust their boss’s judgment or ability to help. Instead, 48 percent said they didn’t want to bother their managers, while 30 percent said they were afraid of looking incompetent and 20 percent worried about being negatively judged for not knowing what to do.

What this all boils down to is be encouraging and enthusiastic when an employee asks you a question. Don’t brush them off or make them feel stupid.

Remind employees that you’re there to assist them, and don’t punish them for asking reasonable questions. Your job is to enable them to do their jobs.