In this episode of the Restoration Playbook Podcast, we hear from Bess Leiti, the owner of Seaside Restoration, about the company's unwavering commitment to providing exceptional restoration services to its clients and the community. Bess emphasizes the importance of communication, empathy, and building relationships during difficult times. Their dedication to excellence has earned them a 5-star rating and created lasting connections with their clients. Join us as we hear from Bess Leiti and learn how Seaside Restoration earned five stars.
Serving people is the most important part because they wanna know what's in it for them, but I'm willing to serve you however I can to make your life better to bring you back to a healthy and safe environment. So knowing people, knowing me, and my personality and my business they tell other people that, hey, you need to call Seaside because they are going to take care of you.
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 the restoration industry's most innovative companies are building a world class workforce, one step at a time. We interview the biggest names in restoration and explore in-depth how they're building team culture, developing their employees in strengthening loyalty all while increasing their revenue. In today's episode, we're chatting with Bess Leiti, at Seaside Restoration. 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, know how ensures your workers do things the right way every time.
Plus, with over 700 restoration industry templates on everything from how to use an injector drive to which Xactimate 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 have created a comprehensive water mitigation estimating best practices list that anybody can use for free - even if you're not a know how customer. Just head to tryknowhow.com/podcast1 to view it. Print it or send it to your team. Again, that's tryknowhow.com/podcast1. We'll also throw a link down here in the show notes. Alright. With that, let's kick things off with Bess Leiti at Seaside Restoration.
In today's episode, we're chatting with Bess Leiti at Seaside Restoration. Bess, how are you doing today?
I'm well. How are you doing, Paul?
Oh, not too bad. Can't complain. You know? The roof's still over our head, so that's a win. Right?
So kinda diving in today. Wanted to learn a little bit about your backstory. You know, what inspired you guys to get into the restoration kind of work and, you know, are there any moments or kind of experiences that kinda spark that interest?
Well, we are actually looking for a new business opportunity. And we looked at many different opportunities. My best friend down in Florida was working for a restoration company. And they were looking to franchise. And they said, you know, come take a look. We went and we took a look at it, and it was awesome because it was is giving us the ability to help people, help the community. You know, all the other opportunities were looking at was not really in that realm. But giving back to the community and helping people is really where I would think towards and that's why we got into restoration.
Gotcha. Well, no. That's a key thing because especially in today's day and age, you have a lot of people who are transitioning from businesses or looking to buy in. You know, that really is kinda the heart of restoration. How do you kinda help people? And that kinda leads into the perfect question I had for you next is, you know, communication is key in this industry. But especially in restoration work where you're dealing with, like you said, clients who are under a lot of stress in frankly, probably the worst day of their life that they've ever had. So kinda how do you guys help keep clients' needs met and help that kind of satisfaction form go?
Well, honestly from the minute of the first phone call, I actually take all phone calls. It's really as an owner, I want my finger on the pulse at all times. So I know as we get larger, I might change my mind. But for right now, I answer all phone calls 24/7. So from the minute that I receive a phone call from somebody in distress or somebody with a major water loss or something going on, I try and put myself in their shoes and I try and understand what they're going through.
Being in the industry, you know, I've seen—I I haven't seen it at all—but I've seen a lot and so I'm able to just kind of calm them down, get them off the edge and be able to empathize with them and just build a relationship very quickly with them to let them know that I understand. And as our tagline is guiding you every step of the way. And that's truly what we do. We guide the client each and every step of the way. So in my conversation, I would let them know if it's a flood or middle of the night water loss or a fire something, I will let them know, okay.
This is who's coming out, who's being dispatched out to you so they know the person's name and who to look for. And what they'll be doing once they arrive on-site and then the process from there forward. And after they arrive on after the team arrives on-site, I contact them, love to ask them how everything went to make sure any comments or concerns are covered with them, and then we move forward and, again, explaining each and every step of the way. So gaining their trust and letting them see that we do care and that their loss is the most important loss to us. Right then and there.
So it sounds like, you know, really putting yourself in the homeowner's shoes because let's be honest, this is an industry to where it's very easy to see dollars and, you know, how do we get our get out there and make but really making taking that time and building that relationship with the homeowners sounds like something you guys have really done well with and is helping create that kind of bond you have with them. Because, again, most people have never had a loss in their lives. So being able to share these are the steps and how to do it. Seems like it's something that's really resonating with your clients.
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, A story that I have is during we had a freeze here in South Carolina in December. I received a call from a business partner, a businessperson that I work with that I give and get referrals from. And he had called me and said, hey. My neighbors got water flowing outside of his house. I think he I'm gonna have him give you a call. Well, the homeowner was in the Philippines. And they had no idea what happened. Well, there are pipers in the house from the freeze. So homeowner called me and went out there immediately. And assess the situation. I had him on the phone the whole time and walked again, walked him through the process.
He asked, do I need to come and, you know, make arrangements and take care of this and I said no, I've got your back. We will take care of everything that needs to be taken care of. If I need you, I will reach out to you, but just trust us that we'll take care of it. And that's exactly what we did. We scheduled, you know, the dry out. We did the the demo and we lined a contractor all while he was in the Philippines. He felt very comfortable, so we just wrapped up that job a few months ago. There's been some hiccups in the rebuild, which is kinda typical in waiting on things and things like that.
But I spoke with him today and they're having a welcome home party to themselves of their new space and we all were invited to his little gathering on Sunday because he really appreciated what we did for him and that were there for him the whole time.
That's fantastic. And, I mean, those are the stories that a lot of times get lost, especially in, you know, if you get a 150 claims come in from a freeze and you're just you know, being able to put yourself in a homeowner's shoes. And, basically, in a nutshell, you become part of their family during this. I mean, you probably talk to them more than you do your spouse at home. So it's truly being able to connect, and that's something that, you know, we did a little research, and you guys have a 5-star rating on Google. It's really not that surprising that it seems that, you know, compassion you have for a homeowner and the ability of communicating, doing. Is that something you see that really drives that satisfaction and why customers are so happy with you guys?
I think so. I mean, it starts with the first phone call. It starts developing that relationship that that bond with the client from that first phone call which I do. Once the team goes out that's the extension of me and our team and our protocols are set into place that the homeowner is number 1 important. We take care of their home just like it's your grandmother's home. You know? You're gonna lay out that floor protection, you know, when you're starting before you enter the home, you're gonna put on your booties. You know, if a mask is required, we go ahead and do that as well. But we make sure that the home is protected. We make sure that the homeowner is protected. So our team is very well adjusted to making sure that they're treating that homeowner in that home like they were there for our mother's home.
You know, that's something you mentioned there. I've actually used that same phrase. Treat this like it's your parents or your grandmother's house. And it really helps kinda take it away from this is just another job. This is something that we're caring for and going in. And you know, one thing we've talked about on this podcast and it's a very hot topic right now, which we saw in some of our books like Why Workers Quit and stuff is how do you build that team culture, which, you know, from the sound of it is, you know, every single person like you said, it's an extension of you. So we're going out like this is my great grandmother's house. How does that resonate with your team culture and, like, the people that you have working for you? Because it's not just show up into a job, you guys are actually taking great care with your clients.
Well, part of the team culture is, you know, obviously, vetting your employee before they come on board. Making sure that they are a fit and they will play well in the sandbox with everybody else. Okay? We're just not gonna hire anybody with a pulse because we need the people. We make sure that person is gonna fit with a culture of the whole team in many different aspects. Whether we do that by a disc assessment or, you know, interview after interview and just enter having them meet with the team, go out with the team to do, like, a ride along to make sure that they understand what the team does, how we act, how we behave, and what we do.
So before, you know, they jump into the job and say, I can do this. Yeah, you can probably do this, but you have to be a fit. So team environment is very important, and we try and make it fun. We work hard, but we like to play hard as well. Okay? So when they're out in the field, you know, they will follow the process. They will be in their PPE if they need to be in their PPE. They'll do what they have to do. But then on days, if we're slower and we have an opportunity to do something with them, maybe Topgolf just opened over here. Couple of times, we've taken the whole team over Topgolf. Let's have lunch over Topgolf, hit some balls, kinda chill out and relax. Go back to the office and let's get revamped up to do what we need to do.
So just doing fun contests you know for different things that need to be done, like, as everybody in the industry knows, getting technicians to take photos and do notes. And, you know, do that kind of stuff. It's really not in the wheelhouse. They don't really like to do it, and it's hard to get them to do it. So creating a contest of teams, like, you know, and a point system to see, like, who gets the most points, and then there's a prize at the end, whether, you know, it's a TV, a day off, or whatever. Just to create a fun and camaraderie so everybody can work with everybody else.
Paul SillimanI'm curious to see because you know, like you mentioned, making this fun to do because restoration can be a very taxing industry. You know, what kind of feedback do you get from your workers? Because these are the kind of stories where you're invited to someone's house as a housewarming party. You know, I had a client where I came out on Thanksgiving and did a loss, and then they had another loss on Christmas, where I spent 2 holidays with them. You know, how what kind of impact do you see on your teams to where, you know, when they get home from work, it's not so much oh, man. I was out there pulling water. It's man, you wouldn't believe we got to go to party at some like, how does that extend? Because restoration does extend into their home life. Like, what kind of impact do you see on your team there?
Absolutely. Everybody everybody is always very positive. You know, do we have our days where everybody is dragging behind? Because a hundred degrees outside, and they're in full PPE, you know, doing a mold job or something like that. And they're miserable. Yeah. When they come back, sit down. We'll talk about the job. You know? What do you guys what do you guys think about the job? Is there anything that we need to do? Always want feedback from the team. Always want feedback from everybody to make sure that we're all on the same page and if they have any ideas or thoughts or things that they think on particular jobs we want to hear we want to take it in. So they feel that they are a part of the company, that they're just not an employee, that they have ownership in the company, they have input into what we do and how we do it. And I think that is a big impact on our employees because they feel like they're a part of something, not just, you know, we sign a paycheck and off they go. You know? We send them out to do a job and off they go.
I I had to go out of town actually to the seminar that we met at, and I jokingly said to them, I was just like, well, guys, I know you're gonna be really upset about this, jokingly, that I'll be out of town for a couple days and I know you'll miss me—laughing. And I said, but, you know, kind of behave. And my husband is the operations manager, so he handles side of the business. And they're like, no. They're just like, we really are gonna miss you. How long are you gonna, you know, be gone and stuff like that? So and then when I return, and it's just like, Yay. This is here. You know? So it's really good, and they wanna come in, they wanna catch up. I have an open door policy.
And I also will talk with them 1 on 1. I'll ask them like, how are you feeling today? You know, are you feeling strong? Something going on. If they say, well, I'm kinda feeling kinda iffy today. I'll pull them into your office, and I'll sit them down and say, okay. What's going on? You know, let me know what's going on. How can I help you? How can I serve you to make your life better? Whether it's personal or professional, how can I help you? How what can we do for you? And just help them in a time of need and I think all of that culminates to happy employees that wanna stay. And that wanna do the work because they feel a part of it - a family, and that's how we treat everybody as a family.
And that's definitely important, especially in today's climate. You know, we did our study of the state of the industry here in December with C&R Magazine, and a lot of people are struggling to hire and find people. And one thing I found is the lack not maybe the lack of, but It's that it's not just you're not just hiring a day laborer. This isn't just a worker. You know? How do you help empower those workers to feel like they have a career? They feel like they're part of something. And sounds like you guys are really taking that to the next level and giving that ownership thinking and helping people feel like it's not I'm not employee number, whatever. I'm actually part of this team. And it looks like, you know, especially from your reviews and the way your customers talk about you guys, It's a reflection in their work. So they're actually going out like it is their grandmother's house and wanting to help those people in the time of need.
Right. Right. And that's what we enjoy. We enjoy them having that feeling of empowerment and belonging.
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From calculating the number of dehumidifiers you need in the room, to helping pack out your vehicle before a response. Knowhow has the expertise you need to get the job done right. Now back to Bess, where we're talking about hiring and restoration.
Hiring people is very difficult, as everybody in the industry knows. Finding technicians is very difficult, finding technicians that care about what they're doing are doing is even more difficult. So let's get them involved. We also do a lot of training and we have everybody get certified. Once you're here 90 days you go for IRCRC water certification And then after that, you go for mold, and they've worked their way up, mold, fire, smoke and odor, and things like that. So everybody here is, they start out firstt 90 days, we see how they do, then we go ahead and I will go ahead and then train them again, giving them that sense of worth that hey, I'm certified and they go out and they know that they're certified so they can handle a situation. And I think they like that as well.
Well, it also shows you guys are investing in your employees. You're helping create a career there, because most people don't realize restoration is It is the most recession resilient. I always say resilient, not proof. But, you know, roofs are always gonna leak. Toilets are always gonna overflow. But how do you create a career in this industry. And, you know, it sounds like you guys are taking a lot of strides to really empower those workers and help build that career. You know? Ideally, we you know, everyone would love everyone stay at where they're at forever. But, you knowing that my company invested in me, I now have kind of a portfolio in the restoration industry. So that definitely seems like something that, you know, would definitely drive growth, especially in your workers.
That's what that's us. That's our goal is, you know, and then to move them into another position. I mean, whether they move them into a you know, a lead for water or a lead for mold or, you know, fire and just have different divisions and have them be a part of that team lead, making the decisions on-site of what they need to do.
That's that's huge because especially in today's age, we're not only finding but how do you grow in advance someone's career? How do you grow and scale your business? And that kinda leads into a perfect little segue when we did meet at the MSPCA meeting. You know, one thing you did bring up, and I think you mentioned it earlier, having those relationships with either other restoration companies, or I know you guys have a great industrial hygienist. You know, what kind of impact do those working relationships have on your guys' business?
Well, again it's relationship building. It's it's going out, it's being in the community and it's building relationship. It doesn't matter who it's with. If you build a relationship people that will unfold sometime, maybe not right then, but sometime you'll get a phone call saying hey, remember we spoke at xyz meeting, hey can we get together and talk about something. You know, it's just relationship building. As far as working with industrial hygienists, it's doing the job as written by them. They write the scope of work. We follow the scope of work and we pass the post remediation verifications. The team knows it's not an option to fail.
In the years that we've been open, we have not, I can confidently say that we have not failed a post remediation verification, and most of what we do is mold remediation. It's again following the process having them care about the person's house and having them clean properly following the protocol. So we're honored to be able to tell people that. We're honored to be able to show people our work and say we are going to help you, especially people that are either mold sensitive, have mold toxicity, have autoimmune issues and underlying problems. We do a lot of work with people with health issues like that because we're gonna clean it right and we're gonna do a good job and it's gonna pass and you're gonna feel better.
And we have many stories of families that we've helped because of the process is done a certain way. And the team knows that, and John will go behind them and he’ll check. You know, he’ll check areas that they wouldn't think to clean. Especially the newer guys. They wouldn't think to clean maybe above the door frame, you know, and he'll wipe it off and see if it's clean or not and check different areas and make sure that they're following the protocol. So building relationships whether it's, it doesn't have to be plumbers. You know, it could be anybody. I have many relationships. I'm in a rotary club. And so within my small rotary club, I built a relationship with 1 of the realtors there and her husband is actually works for a homebuilder.
So through our relationship, he is now sending work our way because I've built that relationship with them, building relationships with property management stuff, and just people just building relationships with people having them trust you and understand who you are and what you do and what you're willing to do for them and how to serve them. Serving people is the most important part because they wanna know what's in it for them, but I'm willing to serve you however I can to make your life better to bring you back to a healthy and safe environment. So knowing people, knowing me and my personality and my business, they tell other people that, hey. You need to call Seaside because they are going to take care of you.
So it sounds like not only are you guys you know, having that team culture, understanding, you know, this is how we do things, having that kind of you know, like we said it a couple times, Treating it like at your grandmother's house, but also embedding yourself in the community and really living on your company's, you know, those values, those vision, You know? It doesn't matter whose house it is or where it is. This is kind of our way of doing it. Really staying by that is really kind of helped embed you guys in your community, which naturally leads to those leads coming in or, you know, being able to take care of those different things. And You know, that's a very important thing because a lot of people, you know, the reference are, stay the industry again.
A lot of restoration companies trying to go away from those TPA models or they wanted to go back to finding their own leads, which is a great thing, but maybe they haven't done the marketing side in a couple years or have really built that community relationship to where it sounds like you guys are a real embedded part of your community. And, you know, when people call you guys, they know they're gonna get that open line of communication. They're gonna get those values and visions and really have someone who you know, lives those out every day.
Yeah. We're on so we're part of you know, we're in a tri county area. So we're a part of all of the chambers, a part of rotary and part of the and, actually this Saturday, there's a woman's-only Habitat for Humanity build in a local community. That myself and Nicole who, Nicole is pretty much my right arm, she does everything if we need she's certified. So if we near in the field, she'll work on a field. She does marketing. She does social media. She she is just a wonderful human being. So she is gonna go with me to this woman-only build on Saturday. So, again, showing the community that we're there to help in any way that we can. And just and just talking to people.
Absolutely. And it, you know, it sounds like really placing yourself in the community and living out those values, you know, is something that really drives a lot for you guys, but it's also not something that necessarily is a you know, I'm gonna get a return on my investment tomorrow. But it's building those long term relationships that will be there for years or whenever or in time of need. So being able to invest that sounds like a tremendous strategy, but also It's some for the long term growth of the company. It's not necessarily like we're going this Saturday, and we expect x amount of leads or we're gonna do this, but just really investing in that community.
Right. And just serving them and giving back. You know? The community gives us, the community gives us by us being able to work in the community. And so we're giving back. We're giving back to people that are in need that need help. I just wanna, again, help and then if we meet somebody and we get something out of it, great. And if we don't, that's okay too.
That's that's perfect. No. Because Not everything's gonna turn into a lead or a sale or anything, but being able to have that name stake in that community to where when something does happen, they know where to reach out.
Absolutely. And you know in this industry, I don't know if many people get returned clients. But it's funny that we will get return clients that they'll call and say, hey. You helped us out about 6 months ago with this water damage, and now I've got something else going on. Can you guys help me out? And we get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals from work that we've done for customers, and they'll refer us to other customers, which is really nice because then you really know that you've done a good job. If your customer is referring you to other people, then you know that they're happy, they're satisfied, and we did a good job for them.
That's great, especially being able to get those repeat customers because, you know, in an ideal world, you have one loss and then you never have to see us again. But, unfortunately, that's not always the case. But being able to have a satisfied customer, sometimes it's the best salesperson you could ever have. So kinda last thing we have here in this is, you know, we wanna give, you know, some maybe advice or someone who's up starting or, you know, maybe hopping into this. Any advice you'd give to someone who's maybe looking trying to become part of that community or really do some more reach outs, some maybe just some quick tidbits of where they can start or any suggestions you might have for them.
Start with wherever you feel most comfortable. There are there are people that like to market, you know, the plumbers and HVAC companies and things like that. I did not have an exact spot that I started I just started going out in the community. It was COVID time. So it was very difficult for us to really get some traction at the beginning because obviously everything was closed and nobody was there. So then it was making phone calls and it was talking to people over Zoom and things like that. And again having meetings with people and actually one of the property managers that gives us all of her work I met from an electrician that was doing work in our office before we opened. And he's like, what do you guys do? And I explained it to him.
He was just like, oh, I need to introduce you to so-and-so you know and he knows this property manager. And so the gentleman didn't even know who I was. I called him up and said, hey. You know, this is who I am. The electrician in my office referred me to you, and he says, oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I've gotta introduce you to her. I'll schedule the meeting. I'll bring in lunch, and I didn't know the guy at all. And it's again, building that relationship over the phone, getting them to know you and trust you within the first thirty seconds is really important and he scheduled a meeting. We had lunch. We were there for a couple hours. She shook my hand and she says you'll get my next loss.
So it's just it's not selling your company. It's selling who you are. It's not selling your services is selling who you are as a person, what your core values are, which are really important, and letting them see that and once they see that and they know you and trust you, then the work comes naturally because they're gonna remember you because they like you and they trust you. Selling who we are, yeah, I can go in all day long and say, hey, we do a water fire mold smoke and odor and everybody's like, yeah yeah. So does this company and that company?
But if I represent who we are as a company and who I am as a person and who my team is as a group. I think that is more how I sell my services than you know handing out flyers and doing different marketing materials and, you know, dropping off doughnuts and things like that. Do I still do things like that? Absolutely. But that's not my number one plan. My number one plan, again, is relationship building.
That's fantastic. Anyone listening to this, those are some dynamite nuggets that were just dropped right there. You know, have those companies values, visions, have your ethos you live by. And, honestly, it's not even selling that. It's just sharing the word of that and being a active member of that community, and I have to take my hands off to you. It is in hard restoration sometime or hard industry to sometimes break, excuse me, break into. But the way you guys are doing is amazing. I felt it from the minute I met you guys. I was just like, man, if I had a loss tomorrow, I'm calling these guys. I want them in my house. So neing able to build that's fantastic. So let me ask, where can people find you guys? Where can they find your brand - LinkedIn and social media?
In all the usual places, you know we have a website seasiderestorationchs.com. And we're on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Google, Yelp, all of your usual places. And anywhere you can, anybody can reach out to us on Facebook. We have a contact form. And then our website, obviously, we have a contact, fax. A contact form there as well. So as soon as anything comes in, those responses are answered immediately. Thank goodness for Nicole because she sees it, comes in, she responds. If it's a lead, she lets me know. I follow-up on that. Within a few minutes of receiving the contact form. But everywhere else, that's where we are.
Perfect. Well, thank you so much for jumping on. I really appreciate your time today.
Absolutely, Paul. Thank you so much for having me.
There you have it. Thanks again to Bess Leiti from Seaside Restoration for sharing those incredible insights with our listeners. If you wanna learn more about Seaside Restoration, you can head to seasiderestorationchs.com. As always, if you like the episode, please share it with a friend and give it a good rating wherever you get your podcasts. Interested in learning more about KnowHow? You can go to tryknowhow.com to schedule a time with me. Show you KnowHow, and let's go through and see what it can do for your workforce. That's tryknowhow.com to see for yourself how KnowHow can help your workforce. Thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you guys again soon!