Thursday, May 28, 2015

A tribute to my mentor

Last week I learned of the passing of one of my Mentors, Martin King.  I was in a room of five other restoration professionals.  I stopped the meeting and asked if they knew of Marty.  I was surprised that none of these individuals had heard of him.  This was a sad and profound understanding for me.  I realized that anyone that has entered the industry in the past decade might not have had the opportunity to learn from Marty or even know who he was and how he helped drive the professionalism of the industry. 

For those familiar with Marty I will repeat several accomplishments and provide a bit of information and perspective for this email.  He was one of the early entrants into the restoration industry and a true RESTORATION professional.  Today I see many successful companies that are run by businessmen.  Marty on the other hand was a restorer.  Today we walk down a well-defined path that was actually built by Martin King and other restoration pioneers.  When these individuals started in the industry it was just a loosely affiliated group of carpet cleaners and remodeling contractors that also completed restoration projects.  These pioneers helped define the industry that we all know today as Disaster Restoration.  I heard today from another voice of the industry that Marty worked hard to define the Insurance Restoration Industry.  Marty was the creator of the Certified Restorer program.  When I first entered the national restoration stage I learned of Certified Restorers and thought of these individuals as the consummate professionals in the industry.  In 1994 I attended the CR class in Arlington VA.  For 5 very full, very long days we digested over 300 pages of restoration science and theory.  During this time I truly came to appreciate the incredible amount of work that went into developing this program.  One thing that added an immense amount of value to the CR program was the professionalism and integrity that was built into becoming a Certified Restorer.  You not only needed to understand the science of restoration but you also had to agree to certain business practices.  I believe that this is at the heart of creating a successful industry.  If we are to be recognized as professionals then we need to be held to a high standard.  Becoming a CR is not easy – many have taken the exam and not passed.  The test included hands on work, real life restoration situational analysis, essay questions, as well as some multiple choice and fill in the blanks.  It took me over six hours to complete.  You could not bluff your way through the process; you had to know the subjects.  In 1995 I was inducted as CR #179.  It was a great honor to be a part of this program and knowing that I was then in the company of over 180 of the best in the industry.  Marty did not only create the CR program, he was the technical advisor the ASCR that has now become RIA.  If you were member and had questions about any restoration situation, you could call and Marty had the answers.  I recall asking about tear gas and skunk odors over the years.  He was always prepared with answers that were accumulated with a lifetime of experience.  Throughout the 1990’s (and certainly before) Marty shared his knowledge from the stage at the ASCR and the NIDR conferences.  I always sat at attention during his presentations taking copious notes.  I think that in perspective it was not always what he said, rather it was how he said what he said.  When Marty spoke, it was delivered with so much credibility.  I continue to attend the RIA (formerly ASCR, formerly AIDS) events and I try and figure what is missing.  Now that Marty has passed I am fully aware of the missing element.  I miss Martin King and the way in which he so eloquently spoke on so many subjects. 

I was a part of a conference call this morning with the editorial staff of Cleaning and Restoration Magazine.  For those unfamiliar with the magazine, for the past several years they have closed the magazine with 5 questions posed to leaders in the industry.  The current editor commented that she does not recall a single person that did not mention Martin King as part of their influences in the industry.  If you did not learn from Martin, rest assured that he influenced those that are teaching today. 

Often we encounter challenges and think that we are the first to experience these issues.  Marty had a way of putting things that put everything into perspective.  I recall sitting with him during the height if the explosion of the mold remediation industry.  Companies were charging a lot of money for mold remediation and then following this service with a large reconstruction bill.  I knew companies that were working on remediation projects that would last for six months or more.  I recall staying in Texas at a Residence Inn and there were two rooms at the hotel occupied for nearly one year with people having mold removed from their home.  The room door looked like my home refrigerator with photos and drawings from my children.  It seemed as though mold was a real problem and very lucrative for the industry.  I was curious about Marty’s thoughts on the direction of the mold industry.  He wisely tells me that most people think there are 4 components required for mold growth.  He tells me that in reality there was only one requirement.  I started to think about the required elements to determine the one requirement that mattered: water, lack of airflow, food source, and temperature.  How you could eliminate several elements and still have mold growth?  I pondered the question for a while and then offered a puzzled look to Marty.  He looked across the table, smiled and said, “money.  When you remove money from the situation, mold will stop growing.”  This reply struck me as so obvious and yet profound.  This is the type of answer you get through years of experience and attainment of wisdom.  Wisdom is defined as good sense, wise decision and accumulated learning.  I encounter a lot of very smart people as I travel through the business world yet I wisdom is a rare trait. 

When I started in the industry I spent hours every week reading and studying industry information.  This was long before the Internet so I gathered as many trade magazines as I could get my hands on and read the handbooks from classes that others had attended.  I collected every edition of Cleaning and Restoration magazine and stored them on my office bookshelf.  You could call me an enthusiast for cleaning and restoration magazine. The first thing I would do when the magazine would show up at the office is to turn to Marty’s column to see what he had to say.  I loved his understanding of the science of restoration as well as his writing and communication style.  There was a balance of real cutting edge technology along with advice on how to put this technology into practice.

Now that I have been in the industry for nearly 28 years I feel as though I have a good understanding of restoration.  I know that Marty had a big impact on my understanding of restoration and I am grateful for the impact on my professional career.  There are many new voices that specialize in specific areas of restoration.  Each has very a deep knowledge in their chosen field of restoration whether it is cleaning, drying, mold remediation, infectious disease control, or building health.  I hope that these individuals will continue to honor the legacy of Martin King and maintain a balance of technology, ethical business practices and working with integrity.  The bar has been set high but the trail has been blazed.  I am thankful that I was able to know and learn from Martin King.  Rest in peace and know that you have impacted a generation of restoration professionals.  Thank you.   

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