- Written by: Christine Fisher
- Produced by: Nick Randall
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Imagine a senior care facility has experienced severe water damage, or an apartment complex is smoldering and first responders have gone home.
HarenLaughlin Restoration (HLR) arrives on the scene, and the first thing it does is hand deliver mugs to each resident. Inside those mugs, HLR rolls a write-up detailing what the repairs will entail, what residents should expect, when they should expect it, and who to call with questions. The cherry on top: HLR fills each mug with candy.
That level of service and communication is the hallmark of the Kansas-based, disaster restoration company.
HLR shows up immediately after a disaster, often in the dark or cold, and puts back the pieces after flood, wind, smoke or fire damage.
The candy-filled mug is “the kind of little thing that goes a long way when 90 percent of the time [tenants] were not planning on doing this,” says Charlie Penner, HLR’s managing partner. “This was not a scheduled re-model. We’re talking about a disaster that they’re thrown in the middle of, and the more information they have, the better off they are.”
Most people don’t have experience with disasters. That’s a good thing, but it means when HLR arrives on site, people are naturally skeptical.
“What we try to do is teach them what’s going to happen,” Penner says. “We walk them through similar situations, so they don’t feel as though they’re the only ones in the world who feel they’ve had part of their structure torn apart and now it’s flooded and there’s damage everywhere.”
HLR creates a timeline for each project, and then each week, it releases an updated three-week schedule. That’s sent to everyone involved in the project—from building owners to property managers, tenants and subcontractors. Those schedule updates help HLR stay on track and let subcontractors know exactly where to be and when.
For clients, the schedule updates set expectations. While clients might not be interested in the details of dry wall or waterproofing, they do want to know when their office or apartment will be dusty or noisy.
“It’s about helping people when they need it, and it’s about being a company and being trustworthy to the core, so that when we do and say things we’re telling them the truth,” he says. “It may be something they didn’t want to hear, but it’s very important.”
When questions come up, HLR tries to respond to phone calls the same day it gets them, and to emails within the following day. Penner still prefers phone calls to emails and texts because tone of voice can convey so much.
“When you get right down to it, these people are in very bad shape,” Penner says. “This is devastating stuff, and I would rather walk in and have our people give very good, very accurate advice and not do the project than walk in there and try to push it and sell it. That’s just not how we operate.”
In most cases, clients are referred to HLR because of previous projects the company has done. That’s a testament to the quality of its work, Penner says.
In 2015, the company won the Phoenix Award for Innovation in Restoration and Reconstruction from the Restoration Industry Association for repairing significant construction defects, and related damage, including damage to support structures, on two four-story condos in Kansas City, Missouri.
“This was a substantial building, and it’s located basically on a cliff, so there were some issues to deal with safety wise, and it was also fully occupied,” Penner says.
On the condos, called Ravello at Briarcliff, it paid special attention to sealing the building from the elements, as the lack of sealing had caused many of the problems in the first place. Through its cost effective and efficient approach, HLR saved the home owners association more than $200,000.
Communicating employee goals
HLR doesn’t just communicate with its clients and staff about timelines. It also asks each employee to share his or her one-, three- and five-year goals.
“It’s hugely important that all of our people know and understand why we do what we do for a living and what our core values are,” Penner says. “We go as far as to sit down with our staff, and I want them setting their goals and expectations, as well as the company’s goals and expectations.”
HLR asks for both personal and professional goals. Then if, for example, an employee has young children, HLR arranges for them to meet with the HR department to discuss setting up college funds.
The goals don’t just sit in a drawer somewhere. HLR reviews them with each employee regularly.
“We want to make sure that they’re achieving what they want because if everyone’s achieving what they want, then everyone’s going to do a better job,” Penner says. “It’s critically important because let’s face it, these guys get up in the middle of the night and they walk out there and they’re standing with you and it’s freezing cold.”
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