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Owners who gather into network groups benefit from the advice and counsel of their fellow remodelers as they visit each company's headquarters and dig into the way each member does business. Recently, Victoria Downing of Remodelers Advantage Inc. (www.remodelersadvantage.com) put together a series of roundtables for the production managers at the firms that belong to her organization.
The first one, held recently at Fairway Construction in Southfield, Mich., was a resounding success, according to Downing and the host production manager, Tom Inger.
"I was involved [when the owners came to] our office," Inger says. "I did one with [Fairway owner] Adam Helfman at someone else's office, too. This was focused for production only. I knew what to expect, and I got that plus more out of it." The strength of the program, Inger says, is that professionals from outside Fairway are looking at the production department.
This session ran over two days, plus dinner the night before. The purpose of the sessions is to analyze the production systems at the host company, Fairway in this case. Later, the production managers gathered to share their concerns and ask for input on solutions for their companies.
"They're so excited," Downing says. "They don't have the opportunity to meet with other production managers. A lot happens during the informal [networking] time."
The session began with a presentation from the host company's production manager outlining the company's goals and pointing out production areas that it wanted evaluated. "I let them know some of the areas that we're not strong enough in, for them to focus on," Inger says. "[But] they're not only looking at that little picture, for they might see something else."
Next, the group broke into task groups and interviewed production-oriented employees of the company. Each task force interviewed three people. Later that afternoon, the group gathered at the hotel for what Downing calls "a brain dump."
"We do a SWOT analysis, listing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats," she says. The host is not allowed to rebut or say anything during this time. "I listened," Inger says. "I knew about a lot of these things. They saw them, too."
On the second day, the group gathered around the extensive list created by the SWOT analysis to cull three or four critical areas in the production process and broke into the appropriate number of groups to tackle each area. Each group then put together an action plan for a critical issue. This wrapped up the company-analysis portion of the session.
After lunch, production managers brainstormed, asking for advice or talking about issues in their companies. "They ask very specific questions," Downing says. "'I need a change order that works; what responsibilities do your leads have; what's a good bonus program?'"
Inger says he's looking forward to the next session, where he'll be the visitor. "I will be able to pick up a lot when I go to the other sites," he says. "Everybody who came [here] was able to pick up something that they're able to take back to their company."
Rod Sutton is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Remodeler. Please e-mail him with any comments or questions regarding his column.