by Amanda Hosey
Think of Montana, and you likely imagine green plains, blue skies, and snowcapped peaks. All that is the backdrop to Bozeman, MT’s restoration mainstay, Buffalo Restoration. The company serves the greater Gallatin County area with 35 employees, providing a diverse array of services that the community might need: Fire and smoke restoration, water damage restoration, mold remediation, and reconstruction, as well as carpet and rug, duct, contents, and forensic cleaning services.
Owners Ben and Gail Yanker started the company 28 years ago with a goal of providing the best possible service.
“We exist to provide highly valued restoration services for our customers,” Ben Yanker says. “Our company is very family oriented and deeply involved with our community.”
That commitment to serving the client has kept the company growing and successful for almost three decades.
How they built a name
The Yankers found their way into restoration as many do—through another industry. After graduating from Montana State University with a degree in business, Ben and his wife Gail started Buffalo Painting, which offered residential and commercial painting services. Through his work, he saw the need for restoration services in the area, and ten years after founding their first company, the duo established Buffalo Restoration.
Ben says, “I saw an opportunity to provide our community with high-quality options for damage repair. The technical side was an exciting challenge—to learn a completely new industry.”
He focused on getting the training he needed, eventually becoming the very first Restoration Industry Association (RIA) Certified Restorer and Water Loss Specialist in Montana. He “became heavily involved with the RIA, which was then ASCR” and made connections through Business Networks.
Over the years, as much of the work in the industry moved to TPA work, Ben and Gail made a conscious decision to work hard to build their company without it. Program work makes up only about 2% of the company’s leads. Ben says, “We chose not to be beholden to TPA program work early on and instead put our money towards ad campaigns targeted to the end user and generated a fantastic customer base. Of course, quality work and trust go a long way as well.”
He adds, “Eventually we became the company of choice regardless of national contracts.”
According to Ben, the company has used a slow-but-steady approach to growth, though some years saw revenue growth in the double digits. The company’s monthly sales now exceed the annual sales of its first few years.
“Because we are in a small market, past client referrals and general, public, top-of-mind awareness wins the day for us,” Ben explains of the company’s growth. “We often say that if we haven’t worked for you, we have worked for someone you know.”
The company makes sure its well-known name in the area stays well known through careful brand placement including effective television and radio spots and a fleet of trucks distinctly wrapped so that Buffalo Restoration is the first name potential clients think of. But, Ben says, the company isn’t immune to the effects of economic recessions. Specifically, all reconstruction trades were once performed by the company itself, whereas subcontractors now are used for some aspects.
However, the Bozeman area is currently experiencing major population growth at around 10%, which has given Buffalo Restoration the chance to grow, too. In order to continue to drive the company forward, a strong leadership team, led by Ben and Gail’s son Christopher, who is the general manager, is in place.
The Yankers know to keep their growth in perspective, though.
“Despite our years of success, we know we are only as good as our last job,” Ben says. “We must focus on executing the fundamentals exceptionally well.”
Recommendations for the growing company
“Understanding and controlling the financial and marketing aspects of the business are critical,” according to Ben, as are developing relationships with other contractors in the industry through organizations like RIA. But he feels the most important thing for owners to improve is their management knowledge.
“If I could do things over again, I would have worked on developing my leadership skills and focused on developing my team members,” he says.
Ben recommends restoration company owners trying to grow or strengthen their businesses put in extra effort developing themselves as leaders of their people.
Buffalo Restoration prides itself on creating a culture that employees love, treating their people like family in both the big things and the small (like cooking them a homemade breakfast on their birthdays).
“You must be technically competent, of course,” Ben acknowledges, “but more importantly, you must work on yourself to become a better leader and develop a culture folks want to be part of.”
What does a successful restoration company look like? Where does one start, and what are its goals? What can we learn from someone else’s journey? This month, we’re bringing you the stories of three very different restoration companies, their highs and lows and how they found success. Check out the other companies featured in our 2019 Restoration Industry Leaders Review:
Amanda Hosey is the managing editor of Cleanfax. She has worked as an editor and writer for more than six years, including four years with Cleanfax. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.