Communication: The Crux of Project Management

How two contractors make communication a top priority on jobs

Communication can break through the chaos caused by fire loss, and the restoration process can ensure homeowners and renters are made whole. A solid communication plan can ensure restoration firms address the needs of insurance adjusters and management companies of condominium associations, as well as those of tenants and property owners who are anxious to return to their homes. 

Communication is integral to successful project management.

Parts of a Communication Plan:

  1. Keep messages simple and defined
  2. Shape the message to the audience (i.e. client, insurance adjuster, or local officials)
  3. Define the goals of each communication based on audience
  4. Determine which communication channel is best for each audience (i.e. phone, email, or meeting)
  5. Choose the best time to communicate with each audience
  6. Identify ways to receive feedback
  7. Make sure leaders are on board before communicating with the audience
  8. Execute the plan while allowing flexibility for emergencies

For example, Platinum Restoration, found that communication with the clients went hand-in-hand with their ability to restore a fire-damaged, historic home in Ohio. The property had a remodeled kitchen and master suite integrated into the older portion of the home with its cast iron radiators, ornate woodwork, and leaded glass. Platinum explained the extent of the loss to the family, which was confirmed by the Jilbert’s insurance adjuster. The initial consultation revealed that the Jilbert family wanted the home restored to its pre-loss condition. 

Dry-ice blasting the cast iron radiators helped eliminate the need for their replacement and lowered the cost of the project. However, after interior demolition revealed bowed lumber, the firm needed a solution that would provide a level surface for finished material. Throughout the process, the homeowners were informed of changes in the initial plans, and they were prepared for the cost and time it took to complete the project. From a local supplier specializing in woodwork to a local leaded glass company, Platinum Restoration initiated contracts and ensured the Jilbert family had input on how their home was restored.

Careful communication throughout the process enabled Platinum to restore the home to its former splendor to the delight of the owners, their many winery customers, and a former longtime owner of the property.

Even with more complex jobs, communication is at the crux of a successful project. For instance, the fire restoration at Manors at Village Green in Missouri took up to six months to complete due to the presence of asbestos. United Services was called in by Preferred Response Customer (PRC) Smith Management Group to restore the condominium units damaged by the fire. United Services’ experienced staff discovered that after locking down the units and common areas against looters and thieves that the building was built before 1978 and needed to be tested for asbestos.

A positive asbestos result left many residents in limbo about when they could return to their homes and when they could get some of their belongings, including purses and checkbooks, which they had been without for three weeks. Through a town hall meeting, United Services, the condominium management firm, and others were able to address the concerns of the residents about when they could return to their units for their belongings. 

At the same time, United Services engaged in meetings with the St. Louis County Department of Health to develop a sound plan for remediation of each unit’s contents. Residents were asked to list 10-15 items they considered essential. After a thorough cleaning process over three days, the firm was able return those items to residents. Keeping residents in the loop with regard to the asbestos protocols and decision of the Department of Health encouraged many of the residents to hire United Services for the cleanup and restoration of their own units, not just the common areas the firm had been hired to clean.

Both Platinum Restoration and United Services engaged in planned communication not only with their clients, but also their employees about the proper equipment and personal protection gear they needed to complete the work. Through consistent contact, both firms were able to address the concerns of their clients, keep the projects on track, and quickly handle unexpected obstacles, including asbestos removal and abatement.

This article was shared in C&R with the permission of the Restoration Industry Association.

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