Young people entering the restoration field often struggle to get a foothold in their new career and could use the help of industry veterans on everything from marketing to job costing to managing their finances. Fortunately, the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) offers many resources, including the soon-to-be-launched RIA Mentor Program, to help young professionals get off to a good start, grow in their careers and navigate any challenge they may face.
Matthew Hensley of Indianapolis-based Total Restoration General Contractors Inc. entered the restoration industry about eight years ago after serving as an adjuster with a regional insurance carrier. He says restoration is an exciting industry, and after seeing the impact restoration companies have on people’s lives, he wanted to be a part of that. “My role as an adjuster was limited with home and property owners. Essentially I was there to cut a check and move on to my next claim. What I noticed and what I wanted to become a part of, was the relationship that restoration companies had with the clients. To be able to build a personal relationship, see projects from start to finish, rebuild someone’s life after a tragedy and have a positive impact on them and the community was the missing piece in my professional life,” Hensley says.
Although coming from an adjuster background gave him an understanding of the restoration industry, he says, “I knew coming into the industry that I would need to be trained and certified in certain areas. I wasn’t certain exactly what it would entail but I do know that the best training I received was by acting and doing. There is nothing more rewarding than on-the-job training from industry professionals.” Hensley credits his firm with preparing him to achieve success in his new career. “I literally learned the ins and outs of the industry and all aspects of jobs directly from the owner and CEO of the company. When I started in restoration my pay was tied directly to my production. I had a salary as I was accustomed to in insurance, but the plus for me was the opportunity to make even more with bonus options tied to my production. Being in control of my earning potential was an added benefit to me and my family.”
Embrace the Challenges and Learn From Them
Hensley also has embraced the everyday challenges that arise in the restoration field and used them to his advantage. “The challenges keep me learning, improving, growing, and sharing with my team to be a leader that hopefully others look up to as well. When I started in the industry, I came in as a business development role. I quickly learned there were areas within our company that needed attention as well. I filled in gaps wherever needed from marketing, running jobs, estimating and creating a website to social media pages.”
In addition, he acknowledges the importance of networking and learning from more experienced professionals. “One of the most important tools given to me during the learning curve was patience by the owners of the company. Without their patience in allowing me to learn by doing, making mistakes and learning from them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have relied heavily on industry experts and consultants throughout my career and even more so in the restoration industry. It is essential to surround yourself with a network of people,” remarks Hensley.
And he wants to pass on what he has learned to newcomers in the industry. “I hope to have an influence on the restoration industry by having, being, and practicing the ‘give to get’ mentality. The more I can give to others and pass on my knowledge, experiences, connections and mentoring, the more I will gain both personally and professionally. There are many lessons to be learned from professionals within our industry, and I hope to be able to constantly share that with others. Long term I see myself continuing on the path of constantly learning and growing as an individual and leader in the industry.”
Take Advantage of RIA Resources
Among other things, Hensley calls his involvement with RIA, where he is chairman of the RIA Marketing Committee, as an “essential and invaluable asset.” He notes, “I was able to connect with professionals in the industry. Networking, sharing, helping and learning with others in the industry have made me grow as an individual and professional. Being plugged into the RIA has allowed me to connect with people on a larger scale and make my footprint on the industry that much bigger.”
RIA’s forthcoming Mentor Program, founded by industry consultant Gregory Neil of GNA Inc., aims to “empower new business owners and the next generation of restoration professionals by connecting them to the wisdom and experience of long-standing members of RIA.” The program’s framework “is focused on building the mentoring relationship between the mentor and mentees over a period of time, usually a one-year experience with the option to continue past that mark.” The program will involve one-on-one interactions, face-to-face meetings and frequent updates between the mentor and mentee.
“As a person who has grown up and been in the construction industry for my entire life, I am really familiar with the challenges everyone faces, especially in those early years where I was struggling to figure out pretty much everything,” Neil says. “Fortunately, I ran into older, nearly retired contractors who offered really good practical advice on marketing, job costing, how to design my contracts and other financial management. Their guidance clearly made the difference, saving me years of needless struggle and taught me to work smart, not just hard. I cannot put a price on the value I gained by keeping the counsel of those who have already figured out solutions to our many challenges.”
Hensley calls the restoration industry “a hidden gem waiting to be found.” To encourage more young people to enter the field, he believes the industry should speak to high school students about the vocational and business aspects of the industry and the need for quality professionals, as well as increase its presence in higher education and universities and provide a restoration career path. “I believe that associations, such as RIA and others, in the field provide a means of finding quality professionals. Getting involved in associations, internships with local colleges and universities can lead to a natural recruitment of young professionals into the industry.”
This article was shared in C&R with the permission of the Restoration Industry Association.