2020 Restoration Industry Leaders Review: Diversified Restoration Innovations
Like many in the restoration industry, May Miller came to it in a roundabout way. Before establishing Pittsburgh’s Diversified Restoration Innovations (DRI) in 2006, she had already had a long career in healthcare as a registered nurse. For more than 20 years, she dedicated herself to healing other’s bodies, only to transition into healing their lives after home tragedies.
A lucky discovery
May and her husband, Richard, began buying up rental property in the Pittsburgh area in the mid-1990s. They quickly discovered how expensive it was for the water damage, mold, asbestos, and other restoration-related services needed to maintain their properties, so they took classes, got certified, and began doing the work themselves. By the early 2000s, May realized what a lucrative business restoration could offer and created Diversified Restoration Innovations, first as a sole proprietorship and eventually as an s-corporation. In the 14 years, since its inception, the company has grown consistently and is currently on track for its first $1 million-plus year.
DRI started out performing mostly water and fire damage restoration and odor removal services, but now it is a full-service restoration company, performing environmental hazard cleanup, mold remediation, and remodeling and refinishing, serving all of southwest Pennsylvania as well as Ohio and West Virginia. With three trucks and 35 employees, including May and Richard, who serves as president, business is booming.
May says two things really stand out to her and have made her enjoy the restoration industry: the variety of situations and the interactions with customers. “Although they may seem the same to the untrained eye (A flood is a flood, right?), every scenario is unique and brings its own challenges,” May says. “I love solving these types of problems and the unpredictability of what each day might bring.”
She likes the variety in people she interacts with in the work, too. She recalls, “I specifically remember running into a customer at the bookstore months after completing their project and chatting about books, with only a brief talk about their project. Helping people through what is sometimes a stressful situation can be so rewarding, but genuinely connecting to them can be just as rewarding.”
This appreciation of interacting with people comes out in the special way DRI markets within the community as well. May’s favorite marketing method involves giving in-person presentations to various groups that might require the company’s services. DRI explains who they are and the types of services they offer before turning the presentation into a discussion.
“The benefits are twofold,” May explains. “We learn services that are in demand that we could focus on, and the attendees gain insight into their issues, and we educate them as well.”
The brainy bunch
Diversified Restoration Innovations prides itself on its highly educated staff—not just industry education, but higher education as well. In addition to May’s education as an RN, the rest of the leadership team bring specialized degrees, too.
Richard has a bachelor’s degree in ceramic science and engineering and master’s degrees in polymer science, materials engineering, and composite engineering. He spent 20 years developing armor systems for land vehicles and helicopters before getting involved in the restoration industry. May and Richard’s son, Vince, has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mathematics and spent several years in software development before joining the family business.
But it’s not just the leadership team at DRI with degrees. May says, “One of our biggest strengths is the number of college graduates we have on our team.” But with that comes issues in retaining staff. Over the last few years, DRI has lost a few project managers to other endeavors including two who went to law school.
“We have to continually work to both maintain and improve upon the systems we have in place to keep everything running smoothly,” May explains. “We make sure that all of our guys understand the systems and also work so that everyone develops a variety of skills, as well as critical thinking, for a variety of situations.
“A yearly training schedule/program for every employee has also been beneficial in helping to avoid challenges.”
The path ahead
Though restoration companies have been more unaffected than others during the COVID-19 pandemic, they aren’t completely immune to its effects on the economy. May says, business has slowed some during these trying times, but the company is still succeeding and set to have a record year thanks to emergency service needs that require quick attention.
The company has implemented programs to follow state and national guidelines. Along with social distancing and wearing gloves and masks, everyone takes a temperature reading before and after work. And DRI gives out hand sanitizer bottles with the company logo and contact information.
“Our goal is to go above and beyond to make sure that both our crew and our customers feel comfortable and are safe,” says May.
Despite the economic downturn, the company continues to grow, and May plans to capitalize on Diversified Restoration Innovations’ success, allowing the company to keep growing naturally in Pittsburgh while opening a new branch in Tampa, Fla.
May feels confident in the choices she has made for the business and is making for its future. “I don’t know if I would change anything,” she reveals. “Being one of the few women, and a minority, in the restoration field has been personally fulfilling. However, I do wish that I received a little more respect when I attend conferences or give presentations.”
For all those out there just learning to navigate the complex industry, May has wise words on how to keep balance within their companies:
“Make sure you implement systems, but also keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Keep a strong team around you that not only excels at the job they do, but also makes each day enjoyable.
“Although it can be physically demanding and mentally exhausting, don’t lose the joy in what you do.”
Our annual profiles of three successful restoration companies are in. Learn why they joined the industry, how things have changed over the years, and what advice they have for others in the industry. Check out the other companies featured in our 2020 Restoration Industry Leaders Review: