insurance restoration

Chris Burke started his remodeling career working for an insurance restoration franchise. When the owner retired, he sold the business to his son-in-law—and Burke—and helped them embark on their own company. In 2008, after selling the franchise, Burke founded Guardian Restoration Services, which provides disaster repairs and reconstruction to buildings in West Central Florida.

“Even though we’re in the construction business, we’re truly helping people. We meet people when they’re at the worst time in their life,” he says. “People in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, they may need me right now and they don’t even know it. They get home this afternoon and they see they left the coffee maker on, and it smoked up the house; or the washing machine overflowed.”

Once people learn what Burke does for a living, many of them assume he sits around waiting for the next hurricane to hit the Sunshine State. But most of his business amounts to daily insurance claims such as a washing machine breaking, an air conditioner leaking or even a car running into the side of a building. Jobs do spike in summer, though, as storms usually occur during that time.

“You still need to pay the bills in January, February, March, April and May—when there are no hurricanes,” Burke explains. “We don’t travel, but a lot of companies in our business will travel to those hurricanes. It’s just the luck of the draw [as far as] where the hurricanes hit. For some reason, the immediate Tampa Bay area has been spared from hurricanes for a number of years.”

Guardian Restoration manages each job, no matter how big or small, from beginning to end and works with all insurance companies. The business gives customers a scope of work—as well as price—verified with their insurance adjuster, making the remediation process as seamless as possible. Certified technicians stay on call 24/7 to ensure a quick response for clients in emergency situations.

“These people have never dealt with an insurance claim in the past; they don’t know what to do, they don’t know who to call, [and] they don’t know who to trust,” Burke notes. “If you have an insurance claim and you want someone to handle the whole process from start to finish, you hire Guardian Restoration [because] we’ll take care of things. That’s how we differentiate ourselves.”

The company receives about half of its leads from insurance professionals, typically those people in the claims industry, he adds. The other half arrive via referral sources within the community—family, friends, business acquaintances and property managers. Finding qualified subcontractors to perform the labor, however, has been the biggest challenge recently for Guardian Restoration.

“If you’re a home remodeler [and] you’re currently working on a job, [but] you have the Smith family ready to start their kitchen, you can tell the Smiths, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we’re going to finish this job Dec. 1 and then we’ll come and start your home,’” Burke says. “In the insurance restoration world, the difference is that I might need to go start Mrs. Smith’s kitchen tomorrow.

“Because that’s how quickly we need to get someone in there,” he continues. “We need to have people available to meet those needs. And it’s not just the skilled trades; it’s everything. It’s the project managers, supervisors [and] skilled trades. All those things have been a challenge for us.”

Guardian Restoration grew about 25 percent this year and will finish 2018 with nearly $4 million in revenue, Burke notes. The company plans to earn around $4.8 million next year, which would represent about 20 percent growth. While its market share increases, the business will continue to assess new technologies, such as using a drone to gather detailed measurements for roof takeoffs.

“The construction industry has always been on the trailing end of technology changes,” Burke says. “When everyone else was using computers, we were still using slide rules and calculators and pen and paper. So we’re a little bit behind the curve [compared] with other industries. [But] we’re going to be required to use more and more technology in order to operate our businesses.” | QR

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