Thomasville Restoration is a company that has a killer brand and a strong team culture, and it hasn’t come by accident. We sat down with Andy Amrhein and Alexus Neidert from Thomasville to do a deep dive into their unique approach to branding and culture that sets them apart from other restoration companies. They shared some key takeaways on building a strong team culture in the first episode of the Restoration Playbook Podcast, or you can read more about top three on our blog:
Talking to a friend of mine at one of the off sites, a team member friend of mine, and she was like, I tell everybody about Thomasville, even if I don't think they want to work here. I want everybody to know. Because the really sad fact of the matter, and especially with this generation, my generation of millennials, is that majority of people don't like where they work. And that breaks my heart. I hate that because I don't know what that feels like.
Welcome to the Restoration playbook podcast by KnowHow. I'm Paul Silliman, and the goal of this podcast is to give you an insight into how restoration industry's most innovative companies are building a world class workforce one step at a time. We interview the biggest name in restoration and explore in depth how they're building team culture, developing their employees, and strengthening loyalty, all while increasing their revenue. For today's inaugural episode. We're chatting with Andy Amrhein and Alexus Neidert from Thomasville Restoration. Thomasville is in a league of its own when it comes to killer eye-catching branding, and unsurprisingly their employee loyalty has skyrocketed. At the same time, you can't attend an industry conference without knowing exactly who's working for Thomasville, and anyone who lives in the region with a Thomasville van will tell you the same thing about their fleet.
I sat down with Alexus and Andy to dive into why they decided to invest heavily into brand when it's hard to prove the ROI, and what impact they've seen on the employee morale and loyalty. They also walked me through a clear, proven process for determining company values your team can rally around and helping get buy in at the entry level. If you're looking to increase employee loyalty while building an iconic brand, this is a podcast episode you don't want to miss. We'll kick off my interview with Andy and Alexus from Thomasville Restoration. But first, I'd like to take 30 seconds to tell you about KnowHow. Knowhow is a software tool for growing restoration companies who want to equip their staff with the information they need to succeed in their role.
From tight, structured new employee onboarding to step by step guidance on how to use equipment out in the field, KnowHow ensures your workers are doing things the right way every time. Plus, with over 600 restoration industry templates on everything on how to use an injector drive to which exactimate line item you should enter, you don't need to start from scratch to begin equipping your team. In fact, for listeners of this podcast, I created a comprehensive day one water mitigation checklist that anyone can use for free - even if you're not a Knowhow customer. Just head to tryknownow.com/podcast1. To view it, print it, or even send it to your team. We'll also throw a link in the show notes below.
Welcome Alexus and Andy. So we'll go ahead and jump right in. How would you guys unpack the Thomasville Restoration story? In a few minutes to a newcomer to the industry.
So Thomasville Restoration started actually, as Thomasville Homes. We were a new home developer and house flipper prior to right around when the recession hit. Right around when the recession hit. We needed to find something that we could do that would protect our team from being affected by the market and the industry. And the thing is that restoration is almost - nothing's recession-proof - but almost recession proof. So we started to get into the restoration industry and right around 2019, 2018 is right around when Andy started. And were a smaller company, around 30 teammates at the time. And when Andy started, from 2019 ish, up until now, we've more than tripled the size of our company, including our fleet and our team members, as well as our bottom line.
So we have been very lucky and very blessed to have the opportunity to grow as quickly as we have. And we are just strapped in to the rocket ship that is Thomasville. And we are just running as fast as we can to help as many families put their homes and lives back together as we can while making sure that our team loves where they work. So that was shorter than a couple of minutes?
No, that's perfect. And one thing you just hit on right there was making your team love where they work. So one thing we've seen is what led you guys to make these significant investments into your brand, your visual identity. I see on LinkedIn all the time. I can always tell where you guys are in a conference or be able to see you guys. What kind of led into that?
Let me take this, and I'll let Alexus fill in afterwards. But when our founder, Tom Neidert, and I've been friends for 20 years, when we linked up, like Alexus was saying a few years ago, you know, we talked for months before we actually kind of locked arms about this opportunity. And we both aligned that we if we're going to do something or do something great. And I said, we need a vision, need to be able to paint a vision for our company and our team that is reasonable given where we are today. Even though Tom and I were dreaming of something much bigger right down the road and build a legacy, we had to start with something that was digestible for the team that we had. So they didn't think that it was snake oil, right.
So I came up with it. I basically said, look, let's just focus on the Mid-Atlantic region. At that point, were primarily three or four counties in and around Baltimore, touching on the upper portion of DC. But not really in DC. And that was where the concentration of our so I figured if we said Mid-Atlantic, it was big enough, gray enough, it wasn't too daunting for our team to think about and digest. When we talk about being number one in the Mid-Atlantic region, we're not focused on revenue. We're focused on the quality of workmanship and customer service. And we believe and always will, if we take care of those two things, the top line will take care of itself. And then very quickly after, Tom said, okay, I'm cool with that. That's worthy, noble, it's a stretch.
It's going to take us a while to get there, so that's a good vision to start with. You always want to make sure of that. He then challenged me and said, but we're never going to get there unless we build a company that everybody wants to work for. So the vision is nice. I'm aligned with you on that. He said, but he said, What I really know that we need to do is build a company that everybody wants to work for. And I was like, that was pretty insightful. And I'm like, you're 100% right. That doesn't happen without this. And then once Alexus picked up on that, she came to me and said, I want to own that for the coverage. I said, do you? She said, yeah, I want to own that. I have a vision. I know how important that is.
And I told her, I said, well, why don't you go put all that down on paper, because I can't see inside your head, and why don't you come back with a job description that we can talk through? And when she came back with that job description, I read it, and I'm like, wow, I was blown away. Then I said, you're hired. And that's how we got started. But I'll let Alexus kind of fill in as well.
Yeah, I think it was really cool because we got a chance to be inspired by a mission, a vision of what were trying to accomplish. And I think that we lacked that before this interaction, this conversation. And I think that when you see something that you really want to get behind, like a concept, a dream, a desire, and you see something you really want to get behind, it's easy to start then imagining, what does it look like? Well, what does a company that's that big look like? And so I've always kind of had a knack, a God-given talent for design and seeing the vision of things. I'm very grateful for that. So when we sat down, Andy had made a comment one day about something-something brand ambassador. I was like, well, what's a brand ambassador? I want to know more about that.
And so I started doing some research and things like that, and I looked into this somebody who can oversee the events, the marketing, the branding, the company culture. And I was like, that's what I want to do. I feel so passionately about that. And so I did. I came to him after working one night on the description, and I said, Here it is. This is what I want to do. And he said it was like the leash was let off, and I was able to just go and just start it one thing at a time, just chopping away at one thing at a time. The thing is that if you try to overhaul something so abruptly and aggressively and change dynamic, it scares people. Change is scary for a lot of people.
So what I had to do is I had to be strategic about how I introduced new things into our culture, because every company has a culture, but not every culture is good. So we had a current culture that I needed to slowly introduce into. And it's like a snowball rolling down the hill. Once it picked up, it was faster and faster. Now, that's kind of where the place where we're at now, where it's like, what can we do next? What investments can we make? What event or party can we throw that we can create of this as a place that everybody wants to work at? So, yeah, it's been a wild ride.
No, that's fantastic, because culture is something that's talked about a lot, especially in restoration. Everyone talks about, oh, we have great team culture. You can get on and see job postings. Great team culture. Well, what does it actually mean? Are people actually putting team culture as a high value thing for their business? Or is it just something they talk about? And one thing you've kind of mentioned is bringing that in, and now your guys are saying, what can we do next? What kind of impact has that had on your team morale now that you have this culture that everyone wants to be a part of?
So were thinking a little bit about what it was like when we first started, because we really think it's important to constantly turn back and look from where we've come from and sit in that gratitude, because this is something special. Everything that we have here at Thomasville, the people that we have, it's something special. So we like to turn back. And were reminiscing yesterday, Andy and I, and were talking about what it felt like then versus what it feels like now. And it is the coolest thing to see our team members sharing our posts without being prompted and celebrating our accomplishments and our wins. We just found out a couple of months ago that we hit top performer for Contractor Connection for the third year in a row. And our team was so ecstatic.
And sometimes if you don't have that perspective of taking a look back and seeing where you've come from and how hard you've worked to get to those places, you don't value those moments as much. And so I was trying to think about this from the perspective of somebody who wants to introduce culture. And you're right, culture is the scary, elusive thing that people don't understand. And the thing is, the generations that are coming in, obviously I read Why Workers Quit. So there's a big portion of the generations coming in or demanding a good company culture more and more. And so getting with the times and being willing to do those hard things.
Which of the hard things are writing the checks, making the investments, maybe making certain team events mandatory so you can create those atmospheres of relaxed conversation, but that means sometimes those things are scary and that investment is scary. But I really feel like as we started to see it work and we put our ear to the ground and listened to our team and knew what they wanted, we were able to create this elusive, fearful, scary thing called culture. And sometimes you don't even realize you have it, but as Andy says, you don't realize what you have till it's gone. So it's about constantly maintaining and loving on your team and making sure your team's happy, because it could be gone if you don't focus on it.
Yeah. And I want to add on that. Paul I give a lot of credit to Alexus for the culture that we built and the level of excitement, but she is very intentional about creating the culture that we want. The leaders that we selected, Tom and I. So our last off site was Friday. I asked folks that were here drawing our very first off site that we held when we kind of reinvigorated the brand. Tom and I partnered up and we said, take this thing to the next level. And I believe that was in July of 2020. And so on this past Friday, I asked people to stand up. And if they were here for that, and I think it was like five people stood up and we have 110 teammates today, and everybody was there.
Tom and I also knew that in order to climb Restoration Mountain, that were going to have to go out and get a really talented leadership team first. And Tom and I spent probably 40% of our time in the first 18 months not running the business, but literally recruiting, interviewing. And what were looking for is not the competency, because I can tell from the resume, these people have been in the industry for a long time. So you can see the competency is there. But do you share this true, deep passion that we do for what we are doing, which is helping families put their homes and lives back together? Is that real or is it just a job to you? And then are you committed to operations? Do you aspire to be great?
Do you aspire to try to see how high is high? Do you share that? Because Tom and I, we don't sleep, right? But our expectations, everybody around us are not what the expectations of ourselves are. But we have to at least find people that have those same characteristics, same desires to be great, because ultimately it's going to come down to the leadership that your organization is going to look to. Not just Tom as the founder and CEO, they're going to look to that next layer of leadership for like, okay, this signed picture that you're talking about as far as culture is a real right. So if the words don't meet, are congruent to the actions that they're seeing, then it all falls apart. So we spent a lot of time and we talk about being intentional with the culture that we built.
Alexus does an amazing job of that. But Tom and I were very intentional in terms of the leaders that we selected to bring into that leadership team that we knew was going to be required. Alexus on the intentional side. She goes out as she was building her repertoire of different rhythms in the company quarterly offsite, christmas parties, family picnics, team building events, deep sea fishing, rock fishing. I can go on and on about the different things. She actually is soliciting those ideas from the company. She will send out emails to the company surveys and says, hey, guys, for team building events, what kind of things can we dream of? And then you always got to prioritize and those things because you can't afford to do all those things, but at least you kind of hear from everybody what's on their minds.
And I think that's one thing that she does an amazing job of. And then the company, then these people see like, hey, that was my idea, and they invested behind it, and then they feel like they're driving the company. You know what I mean? And Alexus, I want to give you opportunity to expound on that.
Yeah. So I was thinking because I know that we're trying to target this towards other members of the restoration industry. So the biggest thing that I felt like was the most effective at the time was I got in the truck with guys. I would get in the truck with our mitigation crews, and I would sit in that truck all day long and I would hang out with them. I wasn't much help, but I would buy them lunch and I would just talk to them. I would get to know them personally. And every single time I would do it with our estimators, our project concierge, which are our project managers, and I would do it with our mitigation guys and our contents team. And what came from those every single time I came home from one of those ride alongs, I had a new idea.
Our Thomasville Soccer team came. That idea came from a ride along with the project concierge. Our autobond we just did recently came from a ride along with a mitigation crew member. So when you just sit there and just listen and just talk to them, it was so incredibly helpful just being in the truck with them, riding around all day long, clearing my schedule and being intentional about spending my time, because it's easy to send out surveys because that's where we're at this point. But it was a hard sacrifice to go and spend my time with that with the team. And they understood that, and they respected that, and they loved the opportunity to have an ear to listen for what they wanted in their workplace environment.
Absolutely. And one thing you just mentioned is sacrificing that time, taking that effort, really going out and about. What has your return and investments been for you, just in your employee morale? Because one thing you guys said is, everybody has a culture, whether or not, you know, it's good or bad. So what is that return and investment you guys are seeing for taking that time and effort and investment into your team culture?
That's all you, Andy.
I know you have a great perspective on this as well, but given my background in finance, I think that was right down the sweet spot for me. I think it's interesting when you think about the return on investment, when you're making investments in the brand or the culture, which we believe are inseparable by the way one feeds the other, you can measure it in the engagement, right? I can't fit that into an excel spreadsheet. And that's tough for me because I am a finance guy by trade, right. And I need to be able to put things in excel, and I need to be able to see one plus one equals two. And if it doesn't, I'm ripping it down. And I'm like, until it works, right.
And when you invest in culture, and I would suggest even on the brand side, it sometimes doesn't always equal one plus one equals two. But you can see it in the level of excitement that people have about working at your company. You can see it in the engagement of the team has with each other. You can see it when people are coming to you with, hey, I know you wanted me to do x. I did that, and I took it to see, what do you think? And I'm like, bravo. You know what I mean? When you see people going the extra mile, not just treating it as a job, they have a sense of pride and ownership that's a return right. Can't fit that into an excel spreadsheet. Right.
And what I told Alexus is, for all of the doubters out there, the way to figure out whether you're getting a return is stop doing all that. Pull out all the investment in the brand and the culture and just see what happens for a little while. Just try it, because you'll absolutely be able to measure it then, because you'll be able to see how your company was performing before, and you'll be able to see how your company is performing after, and I don't think you're going to like the results. So who wants to run that science experiment?
Exactly. And one key thing I've seen and you guys mentioned our book, Why Workers Quit. And another key one is our latest State of the Industry is hiring is a big issue nowadays, finding good quality candidates? Well, with your guys' community and the way you've built up your business and the way you've intertwined Thomasville with your employees, how does that impact your employee referral? Everyone wants to work with friends, especially friends that actually enjoy where they work. How are you guys seeing that in terms of referrals?
We recently did some research and discovered that were at an 80% referral rate. So that means 80% of our teammates came from referrals. So we have seen that has been really successful. And the thing is, when you're looking at wanting to join a restoration company and you're looking at two of the comparative payments payment structures and two comparative travel distances and things like that, what additional is there to compare? Well, you're going to compare company culture. You're going to compare growth opportunity, what the brand looks like, how the team feels about where they're currently working. And one of the biggest things that we've done in the past two years is introduce Thomasville University. And we do not just professional development, but personal development.
So we give our team an opportunity to learn about the Five Love Languages and Psychology 101 and Accounting and business practices, things that they can learn about for themselves, that help grow them. Because we're not just developing good restorers, we're hoping to help develop good people. And we want people to buy into that concept. So if you're in that comparison aspect, we want to be a place that everybody wants to work for. And when you have people who are happy where they're working, they're going to shout Thomasville's names from the mountaintops. And that's what we've seen. That's the clear steps that we've seen that people have been taking that they're constantly telling their friends about it. And it was funny.I was talking to a friend of mine at one of the off sites, a team member friend of mine, and she was like, I tell everybody about Thomasville, even if I don't think they want to work here, I want everybody to know. Because the really sad fact of the matter, and especially with this generation, my generation of millennials, is that majority of people don't like where they work. And that breaks my heart. I hate that because I don't know what that feels like. And I'm grateful that I haven't. I mean, the previous companies I've had some of, not the greatest, but when you come alive in a culture like this where everybody's just so bought in, that's what we want to spend as much time as focusing on. Because the thing is everybody knows a good person.And you want a good person to be the person who wants to come and work for your team and having that ability to train, like using Thomasville University. And then we can get people ramped up a lot quicker than we could five years ago and things like that. And we're always growing and building. But yeah, it's been very successful.
I think the other thing that Alexus has done a really great job of and is providing a window into all of those things. And the window I'm referring to is through social media, right? So I think about when my family sees the things on social media, they're consuming that content that Alexus breeds so beautifully and they see what we're doing as a company. It's really cool. It's not why we do it, but it is cool. When my cousins or my uncles or my friends call and say, hey, I saw that video of your Christmas party, that thing was off the hook. You guys are like killing it, having a good time. I can feel energy radiating from your company through social media, right?
And I think about somebody that's on the front lines, right up in the castle, and they're getting that same feedback from their friends and family, right, when they are in the video at a family picnic, right, on a beautiful setting, and they see everybody playing games and having fun and cooking on the grill. And you got to be intentional about having a videographer there. You got to have intentional. You got to be intentional about having a photographer there, right? Because at the end of the day, we want to capture some of those moments, right? Because when we're climbing Restoration Mountain, we want to be able to look back over the years and see all those key moments of the brand, all those little bricks that were put in place, built the fabric of Thomasville.
And then on top of that, we also want to be able to tell our story. And I think one of the things that I absolutely bring with me from my past experience is about telling the story, right? Build a great team, build a great product or service and tell a great story. Those are the three key ingredients to building any great company, right? And I think so telling story is often overlooked, and a lot of times smaller companies can't afford to do that. And why are we doing that? It's easy to look down on it and say, we either can't afford it or it doesn't make sense. What's that going to do for us? But if you want to build that culture and you want to provide that window, then be intentional about those details as well.
No, that's fantastic because I've worked at a couple of companies where it was not the best culture, and it is very easy to say, okay, I need to find an exit strategy or there's no way I'm going to be able to make it a year here. So no, that's fantastic. So kind of jumping into our last little segment here. If we have a smaller restoration company or someone who's looking to reinvest in their culture that's listening to this, what are one or two, maybe first initial steps or things to look at to maybe help change that culture, or kind of where do they start, where it's a good application to get going.
First thing for me, like I said, is knowing what your mission is. What is your mission, what are you trying to accomplish with your company, knowing what your mission is and your vision and where you're trying to get the values come into play. Obviously, knowing what is going to be the most important to your core of who your company is. Ours is family first, compassion and communication, in that order, which was actually kind of funny. We asked our team at one of our off site meetings. We sat down and had everyone pick three. We put them all up on the board and we wrestled with them. Our whole company, our whole company was included in making that stake in Thomasville, having those as our three values.
So knowing what it is that you want to accomplish with your company outside of the actual restoration aspect like ours, is helping families put their homes and lives back together. And our vision is to be the number one restoration company in the Mid Atlantic. And every single one of our teammates can repeat that if you stepped in front of them and asked them, because we're constantly driving it. It's exactly who we are and what we're trying to do. We push it all the time because we need everyone to keep in mind why they're doing it. So when they have those hard days at work. And we had a four-story water loss on Christmas Eve at 09:00.
So our team members were working all night long when they could have been home with their families, but they were helping put those families, homes and lives back together, and they wanted to be number one. So they worked harder and faster and stronger than the guys next to them. So knowing what that mission is, and then once you have a clear idea of what you're trying to accomplish, what your mission is, what your vision is, and what your values are, and you have aligned and decided that the brand that you currently have is the brand that you want to run with. Now, we made some adjustments. Our logos were maroon and the text was gray. I tweaked it a little bit, but we never lost the integrity of our brand.
I wanted to have some little bit crisper, cleaner, more modern colors and things like that. And then it's one thing at a time. Start with your marketing material. Start with your letterhead. Start with your if you want. To start to make those investments. Start with your vehicles. Now, our trucks were lettered before we decided to wrap one vehicle. We did one, and were like, this is cool. Let's do them all. So we made an investment. Andy didn't want to at first because it was going to be over the right.
67 mobile billboards running around the mid Atlantic region. All the different people that have seen our vehicles and feedback that we've gotten, like, buying guys got the best looking vehicles on the road, so people are seeing us all the time. It's a little bit more money. And at first I was need to do that. And then once we did a few of them, at first I told my partner founder, I said, look, we'll do a few, and then as we buy new vehicles, we'll wrap those, but we're not going back and wrapping 40 other ones at the time. But the feedback was so tremendous. And Tom was like, we won't do we keep doing over five years, you think you want to wrap the whole fleet? I'm like, I want to wrap the whole fleet.
That was a significant investment because that cost anywhere from two to three grand per vehicle to do. But I would tell you that the return on that investment has been nothing short. Amazing. So, again, I'm a finance guy. I'm looking to try to put that in Excel, and it's like it's not computing, like it's not showing me any expected value. I can't measure that. But what I can tell you is the response. I can tell you our team feels. I can tell you the feedback that we've gotten from customers, from property managers, from people that open doors and help Thomasville take it to the next level. They see that we're invested. They see that we're serious. They see how tight we're showing up so they can smell it.
So when people smell that there's a team or an individual or a company or a brand that really is trying to take things to the next level and see how high it's high, it's amazing outpouring and support that you'll get from places you weren't even expecting.
Yeah, so I have four, actually. I just thought about two other ones. So mission, vision, values. Define your brand, and defining your brand is getting it on paper. Know your colors, know your fonts, know your logos, know your icons, and have it in one place. So you're consistent across every single thing that you do. So that's really important. The next thing that I would say is find your cheerleader. Every company's got a cheerleader. That cheerleader could be the person who always brings donuts in or somebody who always makes sure that all of the paperwork, I mean, all the paperware in the office is restocked, somebody who is the person who always puts cards and balloons on somebody's birthday. Find your cheerleader and then talk to them about what kind of things that they would love to see happen in your environment. If that is, it could just be a lunch, just having a lunch or a dinner or going bowling. There's some very inexpensive team building things that you can do that don't cost the investment, they cost time. You got to be willing to put in the time and leverage the use of that. I was head of coordination prior to stepping into head of brand and culture and I would still do some of those things, plan monthly birthday lunches and having those opportunities and those opportunities to recognize your team, but for your team to recognize each other as well and create that relationship outside and then talk to your team.
I think that the best way to talk to your team is going to be one one conversations. If you start a town hall and you don't know how that conversation is going to shift, it might not be as productive as you would hope. So having those sit down conversations start with your leadership and then work your way. But it needs to be from all levels. You have to know what all levels are feeling, not just leadership. You've got to have that level of visibility. So mission, vision, values, identify your brand, find your cheerleader and talk to your team. Those are the four things that I would recommend. And all of that is a lot of time investment, very little financial investment. When you're ready to make those financial investments, make them and do it quickly and without hesitation because they're going to pay off.
Guys, this is absolutely fantastic. While we wrap up here, let everyone know where they can find you on social media, where they can take a look at this amazing brand and culture you have. Where can they find you?
Yes. So you can find us at Thomasville Restoration on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and you can find us on the web at www.TVR247.com
Perfect. Thank you so much. This has been amazing. Can't wait to see what's coming next from you guys.
There you have it. Thanks again to Andy and Alexus from Thomasville for sharing those incredible insights with our listeners. As you heard, you can check them out at TVR247.com . This is the first ever episode of the Restoration Playbook Podcast, so if you like it, please share it with your friends and give it a good rating wherever you get your podcasts. And remember, you can get free access to my comprehensive Day One Water Mitigation Checklist for free by heading to tryknow.com/podcast1 Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you guys again soon.