Restoration with Compassion

Total Restoration Services

Total Restoration Services is a company that aims to rebuild lives. In the wake of a flood, fire, or extreme weather, Total Restoration has the interests of the Okanagan Valley at heart.

To operate in this field, one must hold the client’s needs as paramount. This is not just a business; this is a commitment to the entire community, one client at a time. We spoke with Owner and President Ken Malcolm about the responsibility that goes along with disaster restoration, and why it is so important to perform this task with integrity, decency, and accountability.

Ken headed up a restoration company in Calgary for over 14 years before moving to Kelowna in 1993. After a few years off to raise his children, he was offered a managerial position with a smaller restoration company. With his previous experience, he managed to turn a young company into a successful corporate entity; soon, however, his passion for helping people and a desire to branch out spurred him to launch his own restoration and reconstruction firm.

The easy assumption in the disaster restoration sector is that any company in the field will be sensitive to its clients’ needs. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. “What I noticed was that the other companies in this field were all about money,” explains Ken. “I always believed in customer service first, and following up even after the job is completed.” As part of this philosophy, Ken believes that business is built upon reputation. “Even if a job is costing us money, we will still do it to keep the customer happy. Of course we need to make money – profit is not a dirty word – but at the same time, if it is always about the money then you end up arguing with the customers in their time of need. The customer ends up being stressed out, and it doesn’t matter how good the work is at the end of the day. Inevitably you will not get referrals, and they certainly won’t consider you in the future.”

Ken believes strongly in “restoration with compassion.” In this business, restorers are working with people and organizations that have just gone through a traumatic event. Their homes, their families, and often their livelihoods have just been seriously impacted, and they need to be treated with the respect and understanding that they deserve. Unfortunately, “Some other restoration companies hire project managers who deal with clients as well as the insurance companies. Most of these guys work on commission, so the more expensive the restoration, the higher the commissions. If the original job was not done well, they will send their contracted workers out to complete, add to or fix something that brings in more money to the project.” The ballooning costs add further stress to an already delicate situation.

Total Restoration Services takes a different approach, with meaningful community involvement a part of its mission statement. An example of this is the company’s sponsorship of an elite cycling team. Road racing is popular in the Okanagan Valley, and as Ken says, “We were raising awareness for cycling and cardiovascular health. We sponsored a lot of junior athletes to try and make it to world cup events and they were very passionate about riding. It was a great way to promote healthy living in our youth.” The company takes good care of its team, sponsoring travel, accommodations, and consultation with a nutritionist.

The team approach is crucial to the firm’s success as a disaster restoration outfit as well. On site, all staff members work together to achieve a comprehensive restoration result; flood techs assist the cleaning crew, who lend a hand to the project managers, and so forth. The company enjoys a non-hierarchical structure, and Ken makes a point of being open and accessible to his staff.

The leading edge technologies used in disaster restoration may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but they enable Total Restoration to achieve a quality result, every time. “We have a full ultrasonic line of machines called Omegasonics, which are tanks. If you gave me a handful of rusty nails, we can put them in our ultrasonic tank, and then within 15 to 20 seconds they will be like brand new,” explains Ken. The tanks can be used to clean heavy smoke build-up, grease, or other residue on tools or China; it only takes a minute for them to look like new. The company also uses a soft goods cleaning line called a Milnor washer, which is a computerized industrial strength laundry machine. It will clean duvets, pillows, sleeping bags, even sporting equipment. It is approved by the federal government under cleaning requirements guidelines, and erases the potential for human error. The Milnor washer is used in most hospitals across Canada.

Other restoration technologies include a “huge industrial dryer as big as a room in which the moisture is literally sucked out. We also have an Ozone room that completely neutralizes odours brought on by smoke or water damage.” The company is also able to bring in trusted subcontractors when in need of specialty services. “We will contract out in order to get prized pieces of artwork clean,” for example. “Artwork is very delicate, so we start by getting an appraisal and then send it to a gallery for restoration in Vancouver.” With these state of the art technologies, Total Restoration ensures that clients’ belongings are able to be returned to them, despite the damage incurred by fire, water, or smoke.

One of the best examples of the efficiency and effectiveness of Total Restoration Services is in the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Fires. Here, thousands of homes were damaged by ash, soot, water, and the red dye that was dropped by airplanes to quell the flames. “We went in and did the restoration on over 500 houses,” says Ken. “We start by doing a complete assessment, and discuss it with the client in detail. Of course the insurance companies would like to spend as little as possible, so a proper evaluation of the contents is necessary. It also has to be done with expedience because the longer an odour has to settle in any given item, the tougher it will be to get the odour out.”

Total Restoration worked with over 100 staff members on site for this job. Able to reach over 10 houses per week, it took nearly a year to complete the work, including cleaning and structural repairs. “Our satisfaction rate was 99.9 percent,” says Ken. “We did not lose any jobs. Of course there are always challenges that arise, but we handled them well,” ensuring that the company’s philosophy of “restoration with compassion” was upheld.

Of course, a philosophy is only as good as the people administering it, so Total Restoration takes its hiring practises very seriously. Experience is always an asset, but the most important attribute of a Total Restoration employee is a positive attitude. Training is provided, but compassion comes first. “We do have turnover, but not often,” Ken explains. “Most of our staff have been with us from day one. Bottom line is that everyone has to pull their own weight… The new people are accountable to the other staff they are working with.”

Ken stresses that every Total Restoration staff member represents the company’s philosophy of caring and meeting client needs. Without them, he says, his company would simply not be as strong or as reputable, and he values his employees as family. “We encourage health amongst the staff,” he says. “We sponsor non-smoking programs for those who need it. We also provide gym memberships, and invite them to participate in nutritional programs. We want them to be the best that they can be at work and at home.”

The company, understandably, is also environmentally conscious. The team recycles everything it can from a given project, collecting cardboard, drywall, wood, metal and wiring, and transporting all garbage responsibly to landfill. All of the company’s paints are taken to be recycled, and batteries from vehicles are taken to a depot. Cleaning products used by the company are among the most eco-friendly on the market.

At the end of the day, to be in the restoration business takes a special kind of attitude. At Total Restoration Services, the financial bottom line is not as important as the satisfaction that comes with a job well done. It is a very trying time when one’s home or business is ravaged by fire, or the elements, and a predatory restoration company is the last thing any client wants to deal with. Total Restoration Services provides a safe haven for those seeking to put their lives back in order, and the Okanagan Valley can rest easy knowing that the team will be there for them when things don’t go as planned.

August 18, 2017, 11:41 PM EDT

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The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) is a National Union representing over 500 000 members – over 110 000 in Canada with an International Office in Hamilton, Ontario. It has Local Unions across the country and is the most common union of construction, healthcare, waste management, and show service workers in this country. In fact, LiUNA, established in 1903, is Canada’s largest Building Trades Union.