A Friendly Face in Times of Crisis

Total Restoration Services

Dealing with disasters that affect a home or business can be a stressful, even downright devastating experience. Waiting for contractors to make repairs and the insurance company to respond to the needs of a customer can test the patience of just about anyone. That’s why Total Restoration Services is dedicated to providing excellent customer service to its clients.

Headquartered in Kelowna, BC in the Okanagan Valley, Total Restoration Services is a restoration contractor providing a high level of service to the insurance industry. The company was the first to provide emergency preparedness planning to the Building Owners and Managers Association in British Columbia and provides a broker claims assist program for clients.

Its offices throughout the Okanagan Valley provide twenty-four hour emergency response capabilities.

The company has a team of eighty employees who perform a range of services, including fire restoration, storm and flood damage restoration, reconstruction, dehumidification, and cleaning and storage services. The leadership team includes five managers with previous experience in claims adjusting, restoration management, and construction.

Company President Ken Malcolm started Total Restoration Services in 2002 after working as a general manager for thirty-five years in the restoration sector. Using what he learned from his years of experience, he felt it was time to start a company that would reflect his values and business philosophy.

Ken says that his approach is what makes Total Restoration stands out from the competition. “Other restoration companies I’ve worked for have been solely about the profit they could make,” he shares. “Making a profit is great, but if you’re just focused on that, you sometimes negate the customer if you’re just spending the bare minimum and wind up arguing with them if they take shortcuts.”

When working as a general manager for other companies, Ken’s hands were often tied because the companies wouldn’t be as accommodating to the needs of their customers. He explains that being empathetic to the customer’s needs is what helps make these jobs a smoother experience for everyone involved. “Restoration of a home after a disaster can be a contentious situation, and we have to work with the customers directly, even if the insurance company is paying for it,” he says. “If you take care of your customer, more business will come your way on down the road. We do our best to avoid the typical back-and-forth that usually happens during the restoration process. We don’t want a situation where the customer ends up disliking the contractor and vice versa – get six to seven people involved wasting time when all the contractor had to do to was make the customer happy in the first place.”

A lot of restoration businesses, Ken says, don’t seem to realize this.

“When businesses make mistakes but try their best to rectify the situation, the customer is more likely to come back. It’s the same philosophy with our business,” he says. “That’s why I wanted to start Total Restoration. We can take care of the job and our customer to the very end. We don’t just walk away when things aren’t going right.”

Indeed, when Ken started the company, he made a name for it by going directly to the customers first before approaching the insurance companies. “Insurance companies weren’t directly phoning us at first because we were a new company,” he recalls. “Rather than focus solely on insurance companies, we flipped the script by focusing directly on the community. We established our brand by advertising and sponsorships in the Okanagan Valley to get our name in the public’s eyes. Next thing you know, we were busy within a month and exceeded our goals.” The company has even sponsored a cycling team for many years as well as minor league hockey teams in the province.

The initial investment ultimately paid off for Total Restoration Services. In 2003, the Okanagan Mountain Park fire destroyed over two hundred homes and forced the temporary evacuation of approximately 30,000 residents in Kelowna and other parts of the valley.

“We were there to service these damaged homes,” says Ken. “We stayed the course and made sure that every single customer we served was satisfied and happy. It was a good kick-start for our business. If we didn’t look after and take care of our customers, we wouldn’t be in business today.”

Ken makes sure that this philosophy is also reflected in the employees he hires. He wants to make sure they are as dedicated to serving customers as he is and display grace under pressure. “The restoration business can be very transient. Unlike many companies, we have a lot of the same employees that we did when we started. We go through a hiring process to see if they can smile. If they can see the customer and smile and keep that smile no matter what, we know that they are a good fit with our company. We want our employees to be calm and listen to the needs of the customer. We want our people to be proud to work with a company that has a good reputation. When people see us in the street in Total Restoration uniforms, you’re more likely to get a smile than a frown.”

He hopes to continue finding people who will work well within the company. “We’re always keeping our eyes open and looking for people who adopt our philosophy. We go through a lot of different sub-trades that will suit us and our customers. We want to find people who can do the job but also know how to communicate and gain that personal connection with our clients. People are under a lot of stress in these situations and we want to be a breath of fresh air, but we don’t undermine or downplay what’s going on in their home either.”

Many of the company’s employees work their way up through its ranks, learning new skills and acquiring certifications to keep them marketable in the field. “We train our employees on everything from carpet cleaning to fire/smoke damage, and flood cleanup,” Ken says. “Our business is cyclical depending on whatever emergency is happening, so I want my employees to specialize in a number of different things. We also have a lot of equipment that people need to learn.

“We encourage all of our staff to train in different specialties,” he continues. “The receptionists have learned accounting and other types of skills so they don’t feel they’re stuck at a job where they’re not recognized; we like to hire and promote from within if we can. We would rather have the people who work with us who know the company’s philosophy, and help them be the best that they can be.”

Ken shares the story of one of the company’s project managers, who started in the back shop eleven years ago. “She took courses and is designated as a Certified Restorer (CR),” Ken says. “She’s probably one of the only CRs in the Okanagan Valley, and is one course away from becoming a Master Restorer. Very few people in Canada are certified with that designation.”

Indeed, Total Restoration pays for the continuing education of its employees and Ken sees it as a worthy investment. “We don’t put conditions or restrictions on our employees. If you have that philosophy that people will just quit and go somewhere else after being trained, with an attitude like that, it’ll happen and who will want to work there anyway?” Ken asks. “Why worry about them leaving if you don’t promote them staying? Our people are worth it. Whether they choose to leave or stay, we wish them well. We’ve had people who have left and returned to the company in the past.”

The company often hires children of employees during the summer between school terms to help them learn about the company and Ken feels this helps with employee morale. “We are a big family. You work eight hours every day with the same people, spending more time with them than you do at home,” Ken said. “We want people to be happy to come to work; this place is a part of their family too.”

Future plans for the company include expanding into the Calgary area; its capabilities were already demonstrated in the area this summer when floods devastated Southern Alberta. “We repaired thirty houses in the area and even turned down a few jobs when we knew we couldn’t properly service them,” Ken explains. “We were opening an office in Calgary and got our license to operate in Alberta when the floods hit, so the floods were an opportunity to provide a soft opening in the area so people know what Total Restoration Services can do.”

One of Ken’s sons works in the Calgary area as an electrician and Ken hopes that his son will continue to work in the family business as a principal of the company. “If he’s up to the task, we’ll upgrade him and we’ll have someone out there [in Calgary] we can trust to build and establish our business.”

Ultimately, Total Restoration Services will continue to succeed by focusing on its philosophy and commitment to customer service. “If you have anything wrong going on in your home and you need a company that will treat your home like a castle – treat you and your family with respect and experience and excellent customer service – give us a try; you will not be disappointed. At the end of the day, our customers will know that they made the right choice. There are a lot of people who talk a good game but don’t deliver,” says Ken.

“We treat all jobs equally. The tiniest job is just as important as our larger jobs… We’re only as good as our last job. We want to be awesome at this – be the best we could possibly be.”

July 16, 2018, 6:44 AM EDT

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