It’s time to talk about business success… specifically, success for restoration contractor company.
That’s right. It’s that time of year when Cleanfax brings you its annual Restoration Industry Leaders Review, which shares how three restoration companies got started, used smart marketing and management, and continue to grow their successful businesses.
First, you will read about Menold Construction and Restoration in Illinois, which got its start in construction more than 40 years ago and, with the economic squeeze eventually hitting that industry, realized the heart and soul of the company had to involve the prefix “re”: repair, restore, remodel, renovate.
Then there is PuroClean Property Damage Experts in Tennessee, with a family who believes not only in running a business, but also in taking special care of those in need by providing a warm coat or blanket — even a hot meal.
Last in this year’s Restoration Industry Leaders Review lineup is TCM Restoration & Cleaning in Alaska, a family-operated company with more than two decades of experience behind them… who had a one-time travel charge of $11,000. Check it out.
Keep learning and keep growing your restoration company.
It just goes to show you: Take care of people, listen to them, solve their problems, and your business will thrive.
That’s how Menold Construction and Restoration got started… and has never looked back.
With three office locations in Morton, Normal, and Champaign, Illinois, the company is co-owned by Tom Menold, president; Steve Driscoll, VP of sales and marketing; and Shane Cunningham, CFO/VP of finance.
And now, after 40 years in business, Menold serves more than 20 counties in central Illinois, tapping the expertise of approximately 60 full-time employees. Looking at what they offer their clientele is almost like wading through a directory. The company specializes in residential and commercial structural damage restoration and repair work, along with fire, water, mold remediation, storm damage repair, biohazard/trauma cleaning, pathogen control, vandalism, renovation, and remodeling.
Tom grew up in the Peoria area as the oldest son in a family of nine children. Working alongside his father, who worked full time at Caterpillar but also ran an entire farm on the side, Tom learned the value of hard work, teamwork, and caring. He also was inspired by uncles who ran successful businesses, so even at a young age, his dream was to build his own business.
Of course, he had to pay his dues. When he graduated high school, Tom worked in construction as an apprentice bricklayer. Tom served two years in the Army during the Vietnam era. When he returned home, he completed his apprenticeship and then attended college. After graduating, he met his future wife, Sheryl, to whom he has been married for more than 40 years.
“A stint in solar heating was my next stop,” Tom said. “I found people were excited about the idea but not excited enough to purchase the units. Fortunately, at the same time, the residential market was booming, specifically masonry work.”
In 1980, interest rates rose about 18 percent, and new construction in the Peoria area came to a complete halt and, along with it, the source of almost all of Tom’s projects.
So Tom diversified. It became apparent over time that the heart and soul of the business had to do with any work with a “re” prefix: Repair, restore, remodel, renovate.
In 1992, along came Driscoll, who added to the “re” philosophy… specifically with experience in restoration. Shortly after, the company was awarded the contract for a large house fire restoration. After successful completion of the project, Menold jumped completely into the restoration game.
The next level
As the company grew, it became apparent to Tom and Steve that no business can thrive without a solid accounting and finance department. Then entered Cunningham, who joined the team as business manager in 2001, becoming a co-owner as well. “He built an excellent administration and technology department that supports all our activities,” Tom said.
In 2004, Tom, along with Steve, purchased and completely renovated the 32,000-square-foot Tazewell Publishing Building in Morton and consolidated all operations there. Then 2012 saw the official opening of the Bloomington-Normal office. The Champaign-Urbana branch was added in the spring of 2016.
What matters most
Throughout the years, Menold Construction and Restoration has taken advantage of radio, television, newspaper, and other print advertising including billboards. And while digital advertising has proven successful in recent years, “Our most effective marketing has always been through person-to-person business development, Tom said.
While the physical and technical aspect of the work is a priority, the most important to all the Menold staff are those they serve. “When our customers call us with a disaster, it’s often one of the worst days of their lives. We understand the stress they are under, and we do our best to solve the problem, quickly and reliably,” Tom said. “And when customers call us to help them plan a project, their trust that we will put their interests first gives them a great deal of peace of mind. We’ve been doing this for 40 years and earned our expertise and reputation by always trying to place the customer first.”
And that works. After more than 40 years in business, it’s apparent that putting the customer first has been integral to their success.
But that’s not the end of the story. Tom knows that no team can be successful without trust.
“Many people start businesses to be their own boss, but as one matures as a business owner, you come to realize that you really aren’t your own boss. You work for your employees,” he stated. In return, the company works hard to follow Tom’s lead in caring for customers as people, rather than as a job. It’s the secret of the company’s success.
At the same time, Tom is realistic. He says, “The paths that all businesses travel are fraught with risks.” With this in mind, he likes to refer to the saying by Will Rogers: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
That means the company will always work on continuous improvement and growth in all facets of the business, reducing risks and helping enhance future performance.
Charles Atkins is the CEO and franchise owner of the PuroClean Property Damage Experts company in Cleveland, TN. The company is a family business. Charles’ son, Harrison, is the field operations manager, and his wife, Sharon, is the business operations manager.
This PuroClean firm offers fire, water, mold, biohazard, and crawl space encapsulation services in southeast Tennessee, western North Carolina, and north Georgia.
Pathway to success
Charles got his start in the industry in Florida in 2006, when he discovered the need for mold remediation certification. After moving from Florida to Tennessee, he continued his training in all aspects of restoration, as did Harrison. Both are IICRC certified in a variety of designations, and both are HAZMAT certified as well. It was after the move to Tennessee that he purchased the PuroClean franchise. That was in 2014. “To be successful, you need to get all the training you can. And don’t be afraid to expand your services,” Charles said.
And afraid he isn’t. “We have seen business grow since opening our doors in 2014,” he said.
And with new commercial accounts and the company’s Disaster Response division, Charles projects another 35 percent increase this year as well.
How has his company accomplished this? As with most business owners, receiving work from referrals is one of the most profitable marketing methods.
Besides that, saturating the service area with their message has proven lucrative. “We advertise on billboards, in Christian magazines, on restaurant table tops, on social media, and on Angie’s List,” Charles said. “We are members of the Chamber of Commerce and BNI.”
And he knows there comes a time to add staff in order to keep growing. “To increase our local business, we are planning to hire a sales and marketing person,” he added.
PuroClean Property Damage Experts also looks to help specific people in needs such as those in the faith-based community. His company reaches out to churches when they suffer from fire, water damage, and mold contamination.
A faith-based company
Charles isn’t afraid to speak about his faith and how he can positively impact those in his service area. In 2005, he became a chaplain because of the need to help care for volunteers that were spending weeks in the disaster field. He added, “I didn’t realize it was going to help me so much in our business at the time. I now have a training certificate in disaster response.”
With his experience as a Disaster Response Chaplain, he utilizes his training in the company to help customers cope with stress. And it works. Clients who use PuroClean Property Damage Experts realize they will be completely taken care of after disaster strikes.
“Always give back to your community and those who are less fortunate,” Charles stated. “We are still very much involved in volunteering in the faith-based community. One of our favorites is the Appalachian Christmas Project. The week of Thanksgiving, my family, along with other volunteers, gather at a church in the Appalachian region. We do a food distribution, [perform] coat and blanket distribution, and provide a Christmas gift to all the children. We service approximately 1,000 people during this week.”
Over the years, the Atkins family and their restoration company have not only chased storms as part of doing business, but they have also cared for the needs of those devastated by these events. They have even worked with shelters for those in need, providing as much physical comfort as they could including hot meals — and this for approximately 500 to 600 people at each shelter.
A busy man
As part of his work in the company, Charles takes care of the commercial accounts, and most of his time is spent on jobs away from home.
“However, I am blessed to have an awesome team to support me back at the office,” Charles said. “We give God all the glory for the success of this company!”
If you are a restoration contractor and have concerns about travel times from one job to the next, you might appreciate just how good you have it when you consider what one remote company frequently encounters.
Jeremy and Heather Hongslo are the owners of TCM Restoration & Cleaning, with some 21 years of success in business in Alaska.
TCM Restoration & Cleaning covers the greater Anchorage area… but, as Jeremy said, “Alaska is a huge state, much of it without roads. We have had crews go out to remote villages such as those above the Arctic Circle. One time, we had to charter a plane for $11,000 just to fly in building supplies to repair sewage damage in a home.”Try selling that $11,000 travel charge to an insurance adjuster you work with.
Then you have other challenges. Such as dodging the tide.
“We did another job 675 miles south of Anchorage. Our crew and supplies had to be flown in there as well,” Jeremy said. “It was a fire restoration in a home that was an old cannery, and it had been built on piers out over the ocean. The guys had to wait for low tide to be able to work on some of the exterior.”
And do you pay your crew for extended travel time? You probably do. But that’s a bigger issue with remote areas like where the Hongslo family works. “We did a mold remediation job on Kodiak Island. That one was a little easier to get to. The crew drove more than six hours to Homer, and then took the truck and trailer on a ferry for nine hours to get to Kodiak. They were back from that job in less than a week.”
A family operation
Although TCM has nearly 30 employees, it is, at its roots, a family operation. Jeremy and Heather run the show, and their three children are learning the business.
Tanner is 21 and supervises the carpet cleaning, oriental rug, upholstery, tile and grout, and duct cleaning part of the business, with three truckmounts and three technicians on that crew.
Next is Hunter. He is 18 years old and still in school, hoping to escape soon… but when not hitting the books, he helps with both cleaning and restoration for the company.
Then you have Haley. She is 16 and doesn’t do as much with the on-location aspect of the company’s operations. But the Hongslo duo keeps her busy. “She helps with mail-outs, contents cleaning, and laundry — of course, when she’s not in school,” Heather said.
As with most restoration companies, TCM got its start on the cleaning side of the industry. It started a long time ago in Minneapolis. “For four years,” Jeremy said, “I worked for a janitorial company, so I have some experience in that aspect of the industry.”
Then he moved to Alaska.
“I had a friend that bought a portable carpet extractor for $700. He did one commercial job by himself and decided he wanted some help. I gave him $350 for my half of the extractor, and we were in business,” Jeremy said. “His life took him another direction, so I bought him out two years later. We’re still friends today.”
But to keep things more profitable, as time went on, the company added water, fire, mold damage, and construction. The restoration side of the industry is now most profitable for TCM.
Growing the company
As with any company, there are growth pains. For TCM there have been a few issues.
“There have been times when I’ve waited too long to correct some hiring mistakes,” Jeremy said. “I’ve since learned to pay closer attention to actions and results — rather than what someone says.”
Yet with the challenges involved, TCM has grown. Construction is now 46 percent of company revenue, with mitigation and contents at 38 percent. Cleaning is still a part of the company culture, with carpet cleaning and related services at 11 percent and housecleaning at 5 percent.
“We are a very different company than we were 10 years ago,” Jeremy said of the company’s evolution.
One thing that the Hongslo crew as a family continues to believe in is helping others. The company is known in the community as one that cares, an important aspect of a disaster restoration firm.
As far as the future?
“Our plan is to continue strong and steady growth. At this stage in our business, we realize that our employees count on the success of this business to continue to provide a steady paycheck and a future with opportunities for career growth,” Jeremy said.
To make this happen, attracting quality employees and keeping them on the company payroll is important to both Jeremy and Heather. “We are very fortunate to have some really great people working with us here. Hard-working, honest people who care about our customers and the rest of our team,” Jeremy said. “If we can give them advancement opportunities, recognition, training, and a decent income, then they can focus on taking care of our customers. We believe in the basics: Show up on time, do what you say you’ll do, and say please and thank you.”
Beyond that, Jeremy said, “Don’t try to figure it all out by yourself. You can learn a lot from others.”