Rising Stars in Restoration

Katie Smith, CR

Chief executive officer PHC Restoration Raleigh, North Carolina Age: 34

What drew you to the restoration industry?

I grew up in this business and though I saw how hard my father worked, I also saw that the restoration industry provided a wonderful living for our family. I also found that it was rather noble work to repair someone’s home
in a time when they needed it the most. When my father approached me to join the family business, it was easy to say yes because I’m passionate about the opportunities we are given to help people in a time of need.

Is this an industry you think is attractive for other young professionals who didn’t grow up in it? If not, what can make it more enticing?
I think millennials, in general, want to be part of a cause that’s bigger than them, which goes back to the heart of our industry: helping people. The enticement falls on the business owners to create a culture that attracts young professionals who believe in the company’s mission and can thrive in an environment where they feel like they’re part of something greater than just restoring properties.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?
Consolidation, third-party administrators, and increased competition are always going to challenge restorers, especially independent contractors. These same challenges also present opportunities for restoration companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors and chart their own destinies.

Have you faced any challenges or struggles related to your youth or being a female in this industry?
I face the same challenges that my male counterparts struggle with within this industry. When I began my restoration career, I made a conscious effort to educate myself through certifications, on-the-job training, and continuing education, so my knowledge and experience could help me overcome any reservations my clients may have about my age or gender.

Who have been your mentors in the industry?

Chuck Violand has been instrumental in encouraging me to contribute more to the association, and I am very grateful for the confidence he has instilled in me.

What professional achievement or project are you most proud of and why?
In 2010, my husband and I went through the CR process together while I was pregnant with our son. Although the CR is an individual designation, I’m proud we were able to earn ours together as a team and as a family.

What’s a surprising fact about you most people don’t know?

I have a broadcasting degree. Before my restoration career, I worked on Raleigh’s No. 1-morning drive-time radio show.

Christopher Yanker

Production manager Buffalo Restoration Bozeman, Montana Age: 33

Why did you decide to join the Young Professionals Restorers’ Committee (PRC)?
I wanted to get involved with YPRC to help build advocates for the restoration industry who understand the heritage of the industry. I also wanted to develop a strong ethical vision for the future of restoration in the marketplace.

What drew you to the restoration industry?

I came into the industry following in my father’s footsteps. In the beginning, when I was working directly on the job sites, the draw for me was the relationships I developed with our customers and the challenge of problem-solving in the field. Now that my work is more internally focused, the draw is the relationships I develop with our employees. Seeing our customers’ lives change through our services — and also our employees’ lives change while we grow a team of professional service providers — is the most rewarding part of my job. This is where I’m starting the process of building ethical advocates for the restoration industry.

Is this an industry you think is attractive for other young professionals who didn’t grow up in it? If not, what can be done to make it more enticing?
Restoration is attractive to anyone who values hard work, variety, problem-solving, and, most of all, helping people in their time of need.

I believe we could attract more people to the industry by promoting the challenges and rewards to young adults in high school. It would be great to communicate that restoration is a niche that needs compassionate, motivated people in all areas, such as accounting, HR, carpentry, cleaning, mold remediation, water damage, and contents handling. This is different than most trades because we work so closely with the occupants of the dwellings, and they all have different needs.

Many people who work in this industry used to work in other trades, such as construction. In other words, the technical skills required are not hard to come by, but finding skilled workers who are also compassionate and trustworthy to work in our clients’ homes, and who can manage our clients- ents’ personal belongings and family life can be challenging. I have a theory that one way this industry can entice more young professionals is by structuring benefits packages in such a way that you attract the right people, so they don’t leave because they are treated so well.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?
The biggest opportunity is the continuing need for restoration contractors due to natural disasters and pops- population growth. This, coupled with the challenges of promoting integrity within the industry, leaves us with a lot of work to do both for our communities and the reputation of our industry.

There are opportunities for dishonest contractors to take advantage of insurance companies and customers;
it leaves great responsibility and opportunity for honest, service-oriented companies to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. By implementing proficient, honest, and high-integrity practices, as well as cultivating employees who work and live by these values, we can earn the trust of the insurance companies and the people living in our communities. I hope that all contractors would be advocates for professionalism in our industry.

Have you faced any challenges or struggles related to your youth in this industry?
Being young and in the spotlight as the son of the owners certainly has its challenges. Balancing family life and our differences in how we operate at work is tough.

I am extremely thankful for all of the opportunities and lessons are given to me by my parents, coworkers, our community, and everyone in the industry who has helped me along the way. All of my failures have given me opportunities to learn humility as well. The best advice I can offer for anyone young or old is to seek out mentors and coaches — lots of them. Find people who can help you see past your blind spots personally and professionally; people who can support and encourage you to reach for your dreams; people who will push you to always be under construction and living your highest vision of yourself.

Who have been your mentors in the industry?

My dad, Ben Yanker, is No. 1. He has taught me to think big and has put me in contact with many of the top performers and inventors in the restoration industry. John Kowalski with Pivot Productions and all of my local mentors and coaches — specifically John Brandt and my wife Julia — have challenged me and helped me develop personally.

Where do you see yourself and the industry in the next five to 10 years?
I see myself continually attending industry-related events — creating professional relationships with the best innovators inside the industry. These events also get me thinking outside the box and bringing ideas back to our company so we can provide the best service to our community.

What’s a surprising fact about you most people don’t know?

I am an Eagle Scout. I like long walks in the big mountains, and I reached a personal achievement of skiing/ snowboarding in Montana for 80 consecutive months. I love the outdoors!


TheYPRC exists to engage the next generation of RIA members and encourage them to connect with fellow members, earn our advanced certifications, and give back to our industry by participating in RIA councils and committees.

The committee is currently focused on the following initiatives:

  • In the next year, the PRC will work to expand on its convention roundtable session that gives young restorers a chance to ask industry veterans for guidance and advice.The hope is that it will evolve into a mentor program that will allow members to learn from those who have paved the way over the last 70 years.
  • TheYPRC will also work to encourage members to obtain advanced certifications. One of the ways that the committee will do that will be through youtube videos that will walk potential candidates through the process of applying for the CR, WLS, and CMP certifications. Another project that PRC is working on is a scholarship program for young restorers that will award three members with funds to gain advanced certifications in 2017. In addition,YPRC would like to award scholarships for convention attendance and travel expenses.
  • PRC is also in the early phases of developing educational content geared toward those who are new to the industry.The focus would be on industry best practices, or what we jokingly like to call it: the things nobody told us and we had to learn the hard way.

—Katie Smith, PRC

Jocelyn Dornfeld

Office manager
A&J Specialty Services, Inc. DKI De Forest, Wisconsin
Age: 33

What drew you to the restoration industry?

I was active for six years in residential construction before moving into the restoration industry. With my prior construction company, the owner always used the services of Kent and Lynn Rawhouser, owners of A&J Specialty Services, Inc. DKI, for their high level of professionalism, quality, and compassion for each homeowner and business owner. Although I did not grow up in the industry, I felt that Kent and Lynn would serve as incredible mentors, and A&J would be a company to grow with.

Is this an industry you think is attractive for other young professionals who didn’t grow up in it?
This industry would align with a young professional who holds a great passion for helping people and a drive to overcome obstacles this industry faces. What I mean by that is the constant pressure of trying to dry areas faster, figuring out which program or new app will streamline processes, and communicating efficiently with homeowners, building owners, and insurance adjustors requires an individual who can look at the bigger picture, adjust to change and be an innovator. The world around this industry is changing quite rapidly, and if we can’t get ahead of it or approach situations with a different mindset, we will always struggle or place blame. We can be unified, competitive, and forward-thinking.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?
Some of the biggest challenges I see are the demands of the insurance companies, technology, and motivating employees. As much as I see these as challenges, I also see them as opportunities. How can we beat the demands of the insurance companies without hurting the future state of our companies and/or employees? How can we use technology to improve our position through marketing and to our clients? How can we motivate employees to want to learn new ways of performing a task? Or better yet, how can we do the work better, faster, or more efficiently? You can either be a part of the problem or part of the solution. I choose the solution.

Have you faced any challenges or struggles related to your youth or being a female in this industry?
Not really. I ask a lot of questions, so it may come off as if I’m questioning someone’s thought process or integrity. That’s not the case at all: I’m trying to get to the root of the problem or situation so I can better understand why someone is doing something a particular way. From there, we can fully understand the situation, the resources available at that time, and the results we were given.

Who have been your mentors in the industry?

Definitely Kent and Lynn Rawhouser (owners of A&J). He’ll laugh when I say this, but Tim Hull of Violand Management Associates. Kent and Lynn always make me want to be a better person than I was yesterday. Tim sharpens me — firm but fair.

What professional achievement or project are you most proud of and why?
I’d have to say it’s the Restoring Kindness movement. We are always focused on others and restoring their homes and businesses. We wanted to put a bigger emphasis on restoring the lives of others. The Restoring Kindness movement began in July 2015. We asked businesses and individuals to do something kind for a stranger and expect nothing in return. The response was incredible! Companies from all across the country, both big and small, said yes to committing to Restoring Kindness. We asked anyone who wanted to post their Restoring Kindness act online with the hashtag #RestoringKindness, so their act of kindness would appear on a live feed on restoringkindness.com. For 2016, our goal is to double the number of companies that commit to Restoring Kindness. We ask that if anyone would like to participate, head to the website and sign up for the newsletter to start getting notifications.

What’s a surprising fact about you most people don’t know?

I’m an avid bow hunter and a terrible snowboarder (but absolutely love it!). And, as outgoing as I am, I’m terrified of public speaking!

Ben Justesen

Just Right Cleaning & Construction Moses Lake, Washington
Age: 36

What drew you to the restoration industry?

I grew up in this industry. My father started Just Right Carpet Cleaning, which evolved into Just Right Cleaning & Construction, a full-service restoration company. I remember pulling hoses for my dad when I was younger. I was cleaning carpets and doing janitorial work when I was old enough to drive. I started doing the restoration work as we transitioned into that field and also enjoyed doing the construction repairs. While going to school, I was able to secure a job with another restoration company with the experience I had and definitely gained an appreciation for how my father ran things. After getting married and moving back to my hometown, I was asked to come back to my father’s company to become an estimator and eventually take over the business.

Since then, I have developed an interest in saving and restoring properties in the most efficient manner. I also enjoy estimating and gained a lot of training and experience in this area, eventually becoming a certified trainer in the estimating software most prevalent in our industry. Helping people is really what is most satisfying about working in this industry. We are there to help make them whole again.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?
The biggest influence on how a claim fare is a time it takes to get the work completed. With advances in technology, required documentation, and increasingly demanding timelines, there is a huge opportunity to have people embrace technology and manage their time wisely to progress the work. This has also led to more time and effort on the front end by estimators and management to expedite the claim to a point where it can just get scheduled to begin. We are essentially taking the place of field adjusters and being the eyes and ears for a desk adjuster, all while paying up to six percent for a referral fee. Our margins are in danger of decreasing while the work is increasing.

Who have been your mentors in the industry?

Blaine Justesen (my father), Ernie Storrer, Les Cunningham, and Larry Taylor.

What’s a surprising fact about you most people don’t know?
I speak Swedish fluently and I know simple German.

Mitch Caron

Estimator/project manager Winmar Durham
Oshawa, ON, Canada Age: 25

What drew you to the restoration industry?

Similar to a lot of other young professionals in the industry now, I was brought into the family business at a pretty young age. At 13, I was already doing a bit of labor work and extraction. I started working quite a few hours in the summertime and following my father around on jobs, shadowing him from a young age. It kind of grew from there. That second or third summer, I became more of a


PRC of the RIA Canadian Council seeks to inspire, connect, and educate the next generation of Canadian restoration industry professionals.

TheYPRC consists of restoration professionals aged 35 and under who are passionate about the future of the Canadian restoration industry.

TheYPRC provides insight into the needs and preferences of the next generation of restoration professionals.TheYPRC helps guide RIA education in both digital and live formats, including the annual convention, PLR Expo, webinars, and certification programs.

For more information, contact canadianyprc@restorationindustry.org water technician and helped supervise jobs. So, I just grew every summer.

I went to school for construction management, where I learned a lot about project management. I worked in a similar industry for two years doing general contracting on large $30 million-plus projects. I just came back “home” into the restoration industry within the last year.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?
The industry has grown a lot, and we are seeing a lot more competition now. The industry and our relationship with insurers have become more formalized with standardized policies and procedures, and a higher standard of care. In terms of the customer experience, our people have to be very professional and well trained. With this challenge also come opportunities to attract other business sectors because we’re now operating at a very high standard.

Trying to attract younger people to the industry is another challenge. Not every sixth grader tells their teacher, “I want to work in insurance restoration one day.” Being able to promote our industry and companies as competitive options is a challenge and an opportunity.

What do you enjoy the most about working in restoration?

It’s a very dynamic industry. There could be a huge fire or flood, and we have to literally stop what we’re doing and be all hands on deck. And that can be at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day. It’s a very high-energy, dynamic industry.

You are also working with a different mix of people during a very vulnerable and challenging time. Whether it’s water loss, fire loss, damage from a disaster — it can be pretty devastating. A lot of times, it’s not just the fire or flood that happened in your house, it’s the divorce you just went through or the family death.

Have you faced any challenges or struggles related to your youth in this industry?
I’ve been in a couple of different supervisory positions, and being young and managing an older crowd can be challenging because you’re always having to prove your- self, but it also presents an opportunity. It’s something you can overcome by listening to your mentors and making sure to include your colleagues in the conversations and decision-making. As a younger professional, you should never have to carry on like you know something you don’t. There may be a lot of pressure to act like you know everything, but even seasoned people learn something new every day.

Are there any significant differences between trends in Canada versus the United States?
The United States has a lot more insurance providers and carriers than Canada. A small number of insurance companies hold a very significant portion of our market in Canada. To keep or gain those clients is very difficult. Therefore, quality of work and communication are crucial. You can lose a lot of work very fast. Also, the industry is growing in Canada, so we’re experiencing more competition now. Canada is also starting to focus on marketing and selling our industry properly — an area that hasn’t always been very developed in the past.

What professional achievement are you most proud of and why?
Joining the Canadian Council is definitely one of them. I sit on the council with five of the most influential people in restoration in Canada. On top of that is the YPRC, something we just started and have already received very positive feedback and interest. I’m looking forward to seeing- it develops over the years to come.

Shawn Bradly Anvik

Project manager
BELFOR Property Restoration Abbotsford, BC, Canada Age: 28

What drew you to the restoration industry?

One of the earliest memories I have as a child is being in a food truck. My dad started in the warehouse division at BELFOR shortly after I was born. I honestly had only a general idea of what he did for a living until I was looking for a job and he suggested I try BELFOR to see what I thought. From there, I started in the Warehouse Division and quickly moved into the Flood Division. After four years of being a flood technician (and loving every minute I might add, it is still is my favorite position) I moved into dispatch briefly. After about six months, I saw BELFOR was opening a small satellite branch in Abbotsford, and I was offered the position of becoming a project manager assistant.

I’ve been a project manager going on six years. Initially, I was drawn to the industry because it was an excellent source of work, and I loved how every claim was different. I had no expectations of continuing in the restoration industry and never realized what a rewarding career it could be.

Once I started obtaining advanced education through various training programs, my love for the technical side really took off. It changed literally everything about me personally and what I did as a project manager. I guess you can say I had a “light bulb” moment where all aspects of the job came together, and I started seeing the industry through a different lens. My interest is not only in what we do as restorers now but also in what changes and

adaptations are ahead. The past decade was the learning curve, the next decade is for breaking down the walls.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?
Safety. There is an inconsistent understanding of hazardous materials and their proper handling. Often, restorers are put in situations where our safety is neglected either due to a lack of knowledge or simply because we want to start things too quickly.

Have you faced any challenges or struggles related to your youth in this industry?
I have many times. I also expected to have those challenges. I started as a project manager at age 22, barely legal age for anything in the United States. I found that having a good support crew of senior members gave me the ability to pull information from their experience and avoid mistakes where my youth could’ve been used against me.

Who have been your mentors in the industry?

Gary Envik (my father), Will Cook, Scott Williams, and Ken Larsen. Each of these people has played a crucial role in my development from the start.

Do you see any significant differences between trends/ challenges facing restorers in Canada versus the
The United States?

Yes. The United States is more or less a crystal ball for Canada when it comes to legal issues. Also, the way claims seem to be handled/received is quite a bit different, but ultimately depends on which region of the country you are working in.

What professional achievement or project are you most proud of and why?
My Certified Restorer (CR) status, of course! The networking I did while receiving my training to take my CR course was priceless. Having a chance to not only meet but study and learn from my peers was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I absolutely cherish the time spent with my other fellow CRs because it is one of few times where we all have a chance to discuss/compare our differences and our strengths. As I recall, during my CR exam, we calculated that the room had more than 300 years of experience combined.

What’s a surprising fact about you most people
don’t know?

When I started in restoration, I was saving up to become a 3-D animator, and I have training in drafting and digital animation.

Jacqueline Vallee

Business development Encircle
Kitchener, ON, Canada Age: 26

Can you describe what it was like growing up in the restoration industry?
For more than 25 years, my father was an insurance adjuster before purchasing a disaster restoration franchise. When dad was babysitting, that meant I was on call, too. When we were new in the disaster restoration business, it provided me with summer jobs and weekend jobs — there was always lots for me to do. One of the first calls we ever received was a pretty gruesome trauma. I knew if I could still show up for work after that job, I could handle almost any job in this industry.

Besides it being “in your blood,” what has kept you interested in the restoration industry all these years?
You never stop learning in this industry. Each day, you are faced with new challenges and have to make quick decisions to solve major problems. You not only learn about the industry and how to operate professionally in it, but you also learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of both mentally and physically.

Is this an industry you think is attractive for other young professionals who didn’t grow up in it?
Definitely. This is an industry that requires fast-paced thinking, leadership mentality, crisis management, and project management. Any young professional with that type of drive and doesn’t mind getting dirty will have a rewarding career.

From your perspective, what do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today? I think the biggest challenge is embracing change. Changes in this industry are happening at a quicker pace than ever before. To stay current, you must learn how to continually change effectively.

Have you faced any challenges or struggles related to your youth or being a female in this industry?
There are times when my credibility has been challenged. Sometimes, it’s because of my age. Sometimes, it’s because of my gender. I try not to get rattled and accept the challenge. I actually enjoy those circumstances because it ignites my passion to bring it on.

Who have been your mentors in the industry?

Without a doubt, my father is my mentor. Without his leadership, guidance, and everything he has taught me, there’s no way I’d have the skin I have for this industry. I owe a lot to him.


You never stop learning in this industry.

Rocky Larsen Project manager Network Restorers Brisbane, Australia Age: 29

What drew you to the restoration industry, and how did you join Network Restorers?
Aside from hearing about this industry around the dinner table since I was born, I have always been intrigued by the insurance and restoration industry due to the opportunity to work on a vast variety of claims. I started my career in 2002 as a water damage technician and later decided to progress my career to become a project coordinator and subsequently a project manager.

I emigrated from Canada to Australia in 2012 to further expand my career development where I began my employment with Network Restorers.


One of the most important qualities in young professionals is humility.

Is this an industry you think is attractive for other young professionals who didn’t grow up in it?
I feel this industry is one of the best to get involved in if you have any interest in building and construction. Unlike new build construction, the insurance restoration industry offers a new scope and a new customer on every job. I have also been personally fascinated by the science behind structural drying and how certain elements can affect building materials.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?
Over the course of my career, I have found that our clients have gained more control over the contractor’s charges as well as the creation of the scope of work. I feel this could create a moral and/or ethical dilemma.

Have you faced any challenges or struggles related to your youth in this industry?
As my career developed at an early age, I was faced with many challenges due to the assumption of my lack of knowledge and experience from both clients and customers. I believe strengthening your knowledge base is extremely important, but I have found one of the most important qualities in young professionals is humility.

Do you see any significant differences between trends/ challenges facing restorers in Australia versus
North America?
The restoration industry in Australia is still relatively young. I have found the industry standards, including the IICRC S-500, have not been fully recognized in Australia as they are in North America. With the regular persistence and the education of our clients, I believe we will overcome this challenge.

What project are you most proud of and why?

In 2013, major flooding occurred in Bundaberg, Australia. One of my projects was a large shopping center of approximately 200,000 square feet. The structure was inundated with water approximately 300 mm high. We were required to stabilize the environment and complete structural drying with the use of numerous large-scale desiccants. This claim had many complexities involving business inter- ruption, workplace health and safety, and thorough daily moisture evaluations.

What’s a surprising fact about you most people
don’t know?

One of my passions in life is surfing. I regularly travel to new overseas destinations to chase big waves. RIA

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