“The characteristic of heroism is its persistency. All [people] have wandering impulses, fits, and starts of generosity. But when you have chosen your part, abide by it, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The cleaning and restoration industry is full of everyday heroes. With statistics like nearly one in every six homeowners filing an insurance claim each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute, that leaves literally millions of opportunities to restore properties and serve others. Take a moment to think of the best people on your team. Sure, they might be great at marketing, might do well managing margins, or might know how to get creative to restore a property. It would be my guess, though, that when you think about super stars in restoration and cleaning, they also show servant leadership and a true desire and calling to serve others.
The Unsung Heroes Award was created to fill a gap in the cleaning and restoration industry – an award to recognize our superstars who are in the trenches every day.
This award is broken into three categories, with one position from each category eligible to win. In short, there will be three winners every year, each from different positions.
The overall categories are:
- Executive Hero of the Year: Owner, CEO, General Manager, Director of Operations, etc.
- Office/Sales Hero of the Year: Admin, Project Coordinator, Sales, Marketing, Bookkeeper, Receptionist, etc.
- Field Hero of the Year: Technician, Project Manager, Estimator, Carpenter, etc.
This year, the following position were eligible:
- Executive Hero: Dir. of Operations/Operations Manager
- Office/Sales Hero: Project Coordinator
- Field Hero: Estimators (or any role where estimating was a large part of their responsibilities)
I should note, as you continue reading, you will notice there are only two winners featured this year. Of course, the first year is bound to have a hiccup – and one of our winners – decided to leave his company without notice, so we are recognizing two this year.
Nominations were carefully reviewed by a group of industry judges, made up of fellow restoration podcasters who are deeply rooted in the industry and have a good understanding of what each various role within a restoration company entails. You can read about them in the sidebar! A huge thank you to Rachel Stewart, Jon Isaacson, and Eric Sprague for dedicating so much time and energy to this award!
Now, without further ado, meet the 2022 winners of the C&R Unsung Heroes Award!
Office Hero of the Year
Tyler Wright | Project Coordinator| ATI Restoration, Auburn, WA
Tyler rises to the occasion, no matter how tough things get.
In her five years in the industry, all with ATI, Tyler has proved her mettle and not sat still. She started by working the front desk, then rose to program coordinator. From there, she became a restoration coordinator, and just since nominations were submitted and this article written, was promoted to project manager. In her nomination form, her colleagues remarked about one of the very first jobs she ran, while still working as a coordinator. It was a problem job to say the least, with many issues – yet Tyler stepped in, took care of the customer, and earned ATI a raving review.
Like fellow Unsung Heroes Award winner Kurt Smith, Tyler likes to help people in a time of need. Once she saw how much restorers truly help people, she knew this was the career path for her, and hasn’t looked back.
“The situation is often very challenging for our customers and we are helping them when their house is in disarray,” Tyler remarked. “Working for ATI is more like working with a family. Everyone looks out for each other. There may be ups and downs, but everyone works together to get customers’ lives back on track.”
Tyler said the key to success is always being willing to learn new things. With so many different parts of the restoration industry, if you don’t go above and beyond, you cannot keep up.
“Grit and tenacity describe Tyler in the most positive way,” wrote Lori Nelson, AR manager, and Carissa Woodall, project director, in their nomination for Tyler. “She always rises to the occasion, provides the leadership, guides the process, and ensures positive, high-quality outcomes.”
When Tyler joined ATI, she knew nothing about restoration, and didn’t stop with the basics – and her reach has spread across the entire ATI network.
“I have been able to implement new SOPs for every position I’ve been in,” Tyler said. “I have been able to create a few trainings for our technicians so they have the proper knowledge of what is expected that ended up going around the whole company in all states.”
In her nomination, Lori and Carissa commented on how Tyler never says no, and is always happy to lend a helping hand even when her plate is full. For Tyler, she doesn’t say “no” because she views new tasks as chances to learn and grow.
“This gives me the opportunity to learn something new and typically when I do something once, I will always remember how to do it. Also, I am never afraid to ask questions no matter how small,” Tyler said.
“Hard work and determination to succeed really does pay off. Never be afraid to learn new things and always strive for excellence.”
Field Hero of the Year
Kurt Smith | Environmental, Flood, & Mitigation Dept. Manager | Dalworth Restoration, Euless, TX
One word rings through in speaking to Kurt, and in his nomination: positivity.
Kurt has been in the restoration industry for 18 years and counting. He joined at 21, and admits he never looked back, saying “this was the career for me.” He joined Dalworth Restoration, a FLEET Response company, four years ago. The bulk of his experience until that point had been as a lead technician or crew chief.
“The culture and the ownership was everything I could have asked for. Dalworth gave me the opportunity to grow in the company and be a part of the management team,” Kurt said. “I started out with Dalworth as a mitigation project manager and after less than a year, they promoted me to mitigation manager. This year I was also given the opportunity to manage the environmental department as well.”
Today, Kurt oversees 50% of Dalworth’s total dollar volume. He is well-educated in the industry, keeps up on technology, and is on a constant pursuit of growth for himself and his team.
Kurt recalled being passed over for promotions in the past, being told “I was too valuable on the truck setting up jobs to move into a management role.” It is evident Kurt does not take for granted the position and opportunities he has today. While many tire from the long days, and being on-call, Kurt said he’s never been able to get enough. In his words, “this line of work has blessed me in so many ways and has taught me that dedication and hard work pays off.”
Check out this excerpt from Kurt’s nomination from Dalworth VP Josh Hobbs and consultant John Fletcher:
“We saw in his interview, and noticed immediately in his performance, this immense spirit of positivity. Even his phrasing was different. Key phrases were changed in conversations with our team members and customers.
- “Problem” became “Opportunity”
- “Let me see if we can do this” became “Let me figure how we can make this happen.”
- “We hope to complete the job by Thursday” became “We are working diligently to complete the job by Thursday.”
- “No problem” became “We can make that happen”
With that spirit of positivity, it likely doesn’t come as a surprise, but Kurt’s favorite part of restoration is helping people.
“I have always tried to put others before me in life and this industry is all about doing just that. My parents raised me to work hard, stay humble and to help others in need,” he said. “When I discovered that I could do that for a living, I was ALL IN!”
Kurt’s humility rings true immediately in conversation with him. He is immediately kind, generous, and grateful. He also credits his teammates for his success. As a leader, as he does in serving customers, it is all about putting others first. Hobbs and Fletcher remarked that Kurt’s team is intensely loyal to him, because he is personally invested in them.
His desire to serve fits perfectly with Dalworth’s core values: integrity, care for others, trustworthy, results orientation, and commitment.
Kurt’s advice for others in the field is simple, and sound: don’t give up. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
“It has been a privilege to work in the restoration industry and to be able to help others in need. I owe so much to so many people. My family and my faith in God has kept me humble, grounded and supported over all these years,” Kurt said in closing. “Thank you to Shane, Nick and Josh Hobbs from Dalworth Restoration for giving me a chance and helping me achieve my goals… thank you you to my team at Dalworth for working so hard and being a great group of people to go to work with day in and day out.”
As I quietly revealed the winners of this year’s Unsung Heroes Award, I was thrilled to see the excitement of leadership teams and owners to celebrate Kurt and Tyler. As our industry continues through a generational shift, it is so important to embrace what younger generations want – and what both Kurt and Tyler have gotten from their companies: a place to grow, a place where they are appreciated, and a place to call home.
This award will be back in 2023, so be sure to watch for information on next year’s job categories and how to nominate a deserving unsung hero on your team!