Keeping The Edge

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If quality and customer satisfaction are the pots of gold at the end of the remodeling rainbow, training is surely the path to getting to them.

June 01, 2002

 

Randy Ricciotti, Custom Design & Construction. Photo: Mark Robert Halper

If quality and customer satisfaction are the pots of gold at the end of the remodeling rainbow, training is surely the path to getting to them. It is hard to imagine how any company could keep its em-ployees motivated, interested and loyal without offering them plenty of opportunities to become more professional, efficient and adept at their jobs.

Many of the companies on the 101 list offer standard industry-related education to employees, paying for courses from the Remodelors Council and NARI, including programs such as Certified Graduate Remodeler, Certified Remodeler and Certified Lead Carpenter. They sometimes also pay employees for time spent in study groups working toward these educational goals.

Randy Ricciotti of Custom De-sign & Construction in Los Angeles says training helps employees keep up with industry trends and with each other. “We’re all on the same page,” he explains. “We all truly care about our clients and about Custom Design & Construction’s ability to give its clients a quality project.”

Part of keeping everyone on the same page is training the firm’s trade contractors in how they should treat clients and each other. The contractors must sign an agreement to abide by Custom’s standards if they want to do business with the company. “We’re all in this together,” Ricciotti points out.

At All American Window & Door Co. in Germantown, Wis., all employees are given an annual training budget of $300, which they must use. Each employee has to attend a seminar or workshop on customer service or communication; the re-maining money may be spent on whatever media and material the employee thinks will be most useful: books, tapes, CDs, videos or classes.

President Terri Lodwick also instituted a twice-yearly job swap. Every employee spends four hours with another em-ployee in a different department, observing and helping. This glimpse into other jobs provides informal but effective training on how each job within the company affects everyone else’s. It also builds mutual respect as, for example, a sales star discovers that the receptionist has responsibilities that make the salesperson cringe.

“At the end of the four hours, they are all saying, ‘OK, get me out of here!’” Lodwick says with a laugh.

At Mark IV Builders Inc. in Cabin John, Md., employees go through DISC testing to help them better understand their abilities and those of their co-workers. (See Remodelers’ Exchange on page 31 for a related story.) Then they re-ceive training on how to communicate with other personality types.

“[President] Mark Scott is a very strong D [dominant],” says Mark IV estimator Kirk Van Camp. “But I’m the exact opposite. That’s why I’m better at numbers.”

Cisney & O’Donnell Inc. (Huntingdon, Pa.) takes advantage of multimedia to bring training to the company. At this writing, two employees are taking a one-year, video-based management training course offered by Crestcom International Ltd. (www.crestcom.com). Once a month, they share what they’ve learned with the entire staff during a two-hour meeting.

“It’s helping even nonmanagers with goal setting and problem solving,” says Lois Bishop, marketing and public relations assistant for the company.

Cisney & O’Donnell also has monthly field safety meetings, bringing in experts such as a local firefighter to explain proper use of a fire extinguisher. The firm helps individuals with job-specific training, too. It has sent Bishop to out-of-town training for Market Sharp, its lead-tracking software, and to a direct-mail seminar presented by the U.S. Postal Service.

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