Restoration / Ask Steve

Ask Steve: What’s the Best Way to Handle Back-Stabbing Contractors?

I formed a strategic partnership with a quality structural contractor in my area

moisture meter on bricksHi Steve,

I’m timidly entering the fire and smoke restoration field and must say I am enjoying the challenges. However, I really don’t want to do the structural rebuilding and hire full time carpenters, drywallers, roofers, etc. And I’m not inclined to mess around with sub-contractors either.

Honestly, I just want to focus on the cleaning and deodorization of the loss and make the insured happy. But I’m finding structural contractors are extremely difficult to deal with on the loss. They don’t much like me and often stab me in the back with the insured by picking apart and criticizing my company’s work.

So am I going to be forced into going into the structural side of things even if I don’t want to? How did you handle this stuff?

-Stumped in San Fransisco


Ah, Stumped, you do bring back the memories! I too avoided structural contracting for two big reasons. For starters, given my small market base, I just couldn’t justify hiring full-time construction employees. Plus, I quickly found out carpet cleaners made really bad carpenters! I shudder as I write this!

Yet just like you, I was tired of getting back stabbed by other grumpy and jealous contractors I shared the job with.

So I formed a strategic partnership with a quality structural contractor in my area I’ll call “Al.” I didn't want to do major re-builds and Al didn't want to do the 24-7 emergency response thing.

So I went to Al (who I had worked with amicably on several large fire losses) and said, "Al, how would you like it if I gave you over a million dollars of structural work every year on a silver platter?”

He, of course, said, “Wow, Steve, that would be wonderful! What do you want from me in return? How big of a kickback should I give you?”

I replied, “Al, I don’t want your money. But I do require three things if I am going to give you the inside track with the adjuster and the insured. First, you must do good work and be honest and on time with both my adjusters and insureds. Second, I need you to coordinate with me on a daily basis on crew placement and be willing to follow my instructions on tear out so I can guarantee odor and/or mold removal. And finally, Al, if you discover a problem with my people or work, please communicate this to me privately instead of trashing me to the customer! Are you willing to meet these three requests?"

You know, Stumped, Al and I struck this deal (nothing in writing) and the arrangement worked great for many years. I received nothing in kickbacks or commissions from Al. But wow did he make me look good to my adjusters and hundreds of insureds!

So Stumped, if you are getting the old "knife in the ribs" from structural contractors, maybe you should try this route. Here are some things to look for in a structural contractor strategic partner:

1. They must truly enjoy and want to do restoration work. (Many contractors take it as a last resort.)

2. They also need to understand how to work with the typical traumatized homeowner after the loss, or at the very least be willing to learn from you. (Most contractors don’t have a clue on the emotional dynamics of working with a traumatized insured.)

NOTE: To help both you and your contractor(s) understand grasp the emotional dynamics of a loss, I have a free Special Report: “Recession Proofing Your Restoration Business.” Write me at and I’ll e-mail it to you at no charge!

3. They must cover your back and look out for pending problems on the loss. And of course you will do the same for them.

4. It also helps if there is mutual respect and liking between the two of you. During restoration season (which was winter for me) Al and I talked every morning by phone at 5:30 a.m. regarding logistics for the day. I think our wives were jealous!

 Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply, write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges! Your help is on the way! A new “Ask Steve” will premiere in the ICS eNews every Thursday. Register to receive it by clicking here

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to i Cleaning Specialist Magazine.

Recent Articles by Steve Toburen

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

The 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition

A look in photos at the 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition, which was held from April 24-26 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center and Spa in Frisco, Texas.


Beginning April 21, Google will start judging websites based on their mobile friendliness. What exactly does this mean to you cleaning website? Find out in the latest edition of The Hitman Advertising Show, which will also cover tips and suggestions on getting mobile compliant.
More Podcasts

ICS Cleaning Specialist Magazine


2015 April

The April ICS issue features content on concrete polishing, green cleaning, air duct cleaning, injection sprayers and new products.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Janitorial Work

In addition to residential and commercial carpet cleaning, do you do any janitorial work on the side?
View Results Poll Archive


The Carpet Cleaner's Book of Unlimited Success! (ebook)

Don’t worry about the recession or about your competition.  Now you can be the owner of over 400 ways for carpet cleaning professionals to make more money and get more jobs!

More Products


Director_Buyer.jpgThe premier resource and reference guide for the cleaning and restoration industries.

Click here to view


facebook_40.png twitter_40px.png youtube_40px.png


Truckmount.jpgEquipment listings and specifications from the leading industry manufacturers.

Click here to view