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February 2017 Certified Firm Spotlight

IICRC Certified Firm Spotlight

Joseph P. Cipriano Jr., CR, Owner
Constructeam, Fraser, Mich.

How did you start in this industry?
As a residential construction builder and remodeler since 1988, I found myself at a crossroads in 2005. The real-estate market was about to fall off a cliff. There was the beginning of a mass exodus from manufacturing and unemployment was on the rise. As a result, Michigan experienced the great recession a few years before the rest of the country.  

I also owned and operated a demolition company that was often hired by insurance restoration companies, which gave us an introduction to the industry. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina came ashore and I was soon thrust into the restoration world due to the vacuum created by restoration companies who left Michigan to head down to Louisiana.

This vacuum made space for new companies to get a foothold in the restoration industry. By March 2006, we had closed out our new construction business and reinvented ourselves in the restoration industry as Constructeam Inc. We are now in our 11th year, providing complete restoration and emergency services to Michigan’s entire southeastern region and other specialized regions throughout the state.

How are you involved with the IICRC?  
Constructeam is an IICRC-certified firm, and we only employ IICRC-certified employees. We study IICRC methods, abide by IICRC best practices and contribute to the continuous development of the IICRC’s standards of restoration.

What do you do to market your business?
We employ a diverse marketing campaign with a single goal: expand our brand. Our main focus is “marketing through service,” wherein we create brand advocates or “superfans” by providing exceptional customer experiences.

We’re very involved in many community organizations and we’re Chamber of Commerce members in several local cities. We’re very familiar with local property management companies and real-estate agents, and we establish strategic relationships where value can be provided to all parties.

As Constructeam’s founder, I can tell you that our company was built on networking, and it thrives on returning customers and referrals.

What's one unique thing about cleaning and restoration in your area? Any specific challenges you face due to your location?
We operate in one of the most competitive markets in the country relating to the restoration industry.

Challenges? We have over one hundred competitors in a 25-mile radius. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This competition has challenged us to be the best at what we do. We uniquely market ourselves and create services, both internally and externally, that make us stand out from the competition.

Your firm specializes in servicing high-end homes and historic homes. How did you end up in this particular area of the industry?
As a residential homebuilder and remodeler for many years, I was fortunate enough to have built up a customer base in many areas where I previously completed successful projects. This past success gave us an opportunity to market and introduce Constructeam’s restoration services in exclusive areas of the metropolitan Detroit area.

It only took one major project - completed with extreme care and precision – to start the referral base early on. Now we are widely known and respected for this extreme attention to detail and precision with exclusive and historic properties.

Is there a restoration/cleaning job that you are particularly proud of?
My confidence says ALL of them, but one of them is a real stand out. Not because it was so different, but because it was like a movie in that it had a villain, a hero and a damsel in distress.

I was called into a very large water loss issue that was already being handled by another mitigation company. The home was located in a very exclusive old neighborhood in Metro Detroit. It was built in 1904 and had many fantastic irreplaceable and priceless features from the era.

Needless to say, this mitigation company was more interested in removal than preserving. Thankfully, I arrived just in time and discovered that they were about to demolish some very ornate plaster and trim that is virtually impossible to replicate.

I quickly jumped into action - not even knowing the homeowner at the time - and asked the contractor to stop swinging the sledgehammer. They reluctantly listened and stopped but this created a lot of tension towards me from their superintendents and water technicians.

I stood my ground, though.

I quickly introduced myself to the homeowner, a widow with no one to help her through this emergency. I calmly asked that she trust in what I had to say and listen carefully to what she should do to preserve her irreplaceable plaster and trim. Thankfully, she thought I made a strong enough argument, and agreed with me that removal was not an option. She asked the mitigation company to stop working and reassessed the situation.

At this point, the homeowner did not even know who I was, as I was there by a referral to look at the reconstruction project that would follow the mitigation. I methodically explained how to save the plaster and the mitigation company agreed.

That evening, I visited the site again with my project manager to check on it and noticed nothing was being addressed. I jumped to action, set up a containment area using the materials on site, and built a drying chamber with my project manager and the homeowner.   

She was so happy that we did this even though we didn’t even have an agreement to work on the project yet. Needless to say, the mitigation company was not happy with what we built. They tried to remove our drying chamber the following morning. The homeowner stopped them and demanded they leave it.

In the end, we ended up saving all the plaster and trim in the foyer. We were asked by the adjuster to manage the mitigation to completion and make sure to spare any valuable aspects.

With all this dedication, the homeowner signed Constructeam to rebuild her home, which turned out to be a very large, successful restoration and remodel project.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young professional starting out in the business, what would it be?
In this industry, shortcuts can be harmful or deadly. Do what you say you are going to do, ALWAYS, even if it hurts.

What do you like best about your job?
There are so many things I love about what I do, however, I really enjoy mentoring and training younger generations of staff to grow and prosper.

What is the most rewarding thing about owning a cleaning and restoration business?
The fact that we help people on a daily basis. Sure, we’re not out there saving lives like a firefighter or police officer, but we really are helping people repair their homes and businesses after a disaster.

Can you talk about a cleaning or restoration "horror" story or anything funny you have encountered during your career?
We have many stories, both good and not so good, but one stands out above the rest as a complete shocker.

We received a call about a fire suppression system failure at a large office building nearby. We followed our normal qualifying process, asking the caller a series of questions about the water loss before dispatching a response team.

They indicated to us that about 3,000 sq. ft. was impacted, that there was some standing water, that it happened on the second floor and that water drained down to the first floor but not too badly. The caller indicated they were trying to clean it up but they’d need some carpet cleaning. We classified this as a mild emergency and dispatched a small team. Twenty minutes later, we arrived on-site; shocked and amazed by what we found!

It was as if Niagara Falls was in the main foyer of the building. Water was still pouring over the second floor balcony to the lobby below. The main floor was flooded, with mushy piles of ceiling tiles and other debris littering the floor. My lead responder perfectly quoted the movie Jaws, saying: “WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT!”  

Altogether, there was 50,000 sq. ft. of affected area. Offices belonging to numerous tenants were shut down. Over 250 pieces of drying equipment were used to dry the facility, and roughly 20 technicians and laborers were brought in for a week to fully mitigate the loss.

As you can imagine, we’re now a little bit more thorough during our qualifying process!

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