In our second YouTube episode of Jeepin’ it Real with iink, our Co-founder, President, and Chief Revenue Officer Ryan Holliday catches up with Millie Varela from Black Diamond Housing.
We discussed our time attending The Experience Convention in Fort Lauderdale, FL, how the law changes in Florida have affected the home restoration and remediation industry, and something so sweet Ryan shares that is like “music to Millie’s ears.”
Read on or click play for the full interview.
Introduction to The Experience and Black Diamond
Ryan Holliday: Welcome back to Jeepin’ it Real. I'm Ryan Holliday with the lovely Millie Varela of Black Diamond Services. Millie, tell us about The Experience Conference here, the restoration remediation conference, and Black Diamond Services. How are you guys helping the restoration industry?
Millie Varela: Well thank you for that warm welcome. We are here at The Experience. It's our first year attending. We are so happy! Honestly, we've made great connections and I think it was very receptive to the audience because we've gone through a lot of changes in just a few months, right?
So, with all of those changes, people can either see it as a negative factor or a pivoting factor for their business and that's exactly what we did. We said okay, there's a problem—there's legislation changes. We have to plan a plan of attack on how we can, you know, be by these businesses' sides, so that they can stay open—they can still obtain cash flow and keep running their businesses.
So we implemented estimating, billing, and collections because we have been doing billing and collections for all of these years for ourselves. So we're like, “why aren't we doing it for others?” And you already know, if documentation is not superb, then your cash flow is affected. And so we wanted to definitely bridge that gap of having businesses send out estimates to carriers and then potentially run the risk of not collecting.
Ryan: Now you guys started off doing Scheduled D: ALE coverage, right? And funding for those scenarios for homeowners who were displaced after an event and now you've expanded to estimates, final billing as well, which is awesome. Certainly something that a lot of folks need in the industry. And when you're running and gunning, you know you don't want to slow down to have to take care of that administration. So, kudos to you guys for handling that for the contractors.
What are the significant challenges contractors are facing in the industry?
Ryan: Tell me, since the laws have changed here in Florida over the last year, especially since Hurricane Ian, besides cash flow, are there any other significant challenges that contractors are facing in the industry?
Millie: I think it all ties into the cash flow, right?
Ryan: It all comes back to the money.
Millie: It does because we’re all a for profit business, right? And we want to do good work, do honest work, and get paid on time, at a reasonable time. And so I think that it's inevitable. But the cash flow does get affected and how it has affected us is and I think other contractors is the whole AOB law.
Now, you no longer have rights to fight for your money. So, it is so important why circling back to our services, is to have the right resources like yourself, like iink. You know without these resources and these vendors, contractors aren't able to run their business effectively, you know?
Any kind of little bump on the road is a delayed payment or a delayed claim because if you're not submitting an estimate that is up to par in IICRC standards and writing great opening and closing statements, then you're not going to get paid.
Ryan: Out of all the problems, it sounds like cash flow is the most important across the board. You know, certainly one of the things that we've done at iink especially on the back end, especially on the back end of the job is we've partnered with a company called Levelset so we can help out with the lien filings when it comes to that point. We'd rather not, right? But we all know that there are a lot of contractors that get taken advantage of they come out they do work and then they just don't get paid by the homeowner.
So we have to help protect those funds because we're still dealing with that paper check. So hopefully the day that we are able to get rid of that paper check there won't be a need for an AOB or there won't be too much of a need to be filing those liens because people are getting squirrely with that money on the back end. You always have to adapt and obviously to keep your business going.
What are some of the key takeaways you learned from “The Experience?”
Ryan: What are some of the key takeaways you learned from “The Experience” this week?
Millie: Truthfully, there’s a whole different group of people that come to this event that do not attend other events, you know all the other conferences. These are a lot of new faces. And it's actually really refreshing because what I really like most about The Experience is that these people are coming here to take something back with them, right? They're intentional about being here.
They're intentional about connecting with vendors on how that will help them scale their business whether it's cash flow whether it's you know management or endorsements of checks whatever, it is. They really are intentional on connecting and I think that The Experience has done a phenomenal job putting this together and making this a valuable event for everybody.
Ryan: I agree I've seen a lot of companies that aren't in restoration coming here because they want to get involved in restoration they're trying to expand their services and expand their wheelhouse so that way increasing the amount of business that they could be capturing and certainly restoration is one of them.
A lot of folks are scared to get into the industry because of the challenges that your company and our company solve on a daily basis for these folks. So, super exciting to be here and sharing The Experience with them.
The Future of the Property Restoration Industry
Ryan: So let's talk about the future of the restoration industry. I know one of the things that we are working to solve obviously is getting rid of that check. We actually did an internal study with a top ten carrier. I can't say who it is, but we did an internal study with them and they said, “Guys if we would have had the iink integration at our at our company and issued payments through iink, your technology would have saved us about six to eight million dollars in Schedule D: ALE coverage for that year.
Obviously you guys make money off the ALE Coverage so not that we want to take that business away, but we're speed to cash, right? So getting people paid without that check, getting more money to the folks that have already done the work and have already provided those services, that's our end goal.
Where do you see the future of this industry headed with changes like that and things being digitized like the payment?
Millie: It’s like music to my ears, right? Because you are now getting us paid faster. At the end of the day, you're not hurting us at all. If anything, you're facilitating that speed like you said because that's the biggest challenge that we all face is how quickly can that check hit my desk and I can deposit it or my bank right.
Ryan: It’ll be in an ACH.
Millie: Exactly, exactly. For us, it's we have promise payments, but from the day that they promise payments, it could be two, three, four, five months that we don't get a check or the craziest part is they now send it to the homeowner. The homeowner has to send the check to us and it's just this whole revolving thing of delays so technology is phenomenal.
I love that you guys are doing this and that you guys are innovative and you have such a robust company. For me, I'm so happy about this and I can't wait to look forward to a future of just having that speed for payment.
Ryan: You made an interesting comment yesterday when we were having a conversation about it and you said, “Well maybe if the carriers actually paid up as they should and were fair to their insureds, then we wouldn't have to deal with that issue so much.”
So absolutely great information. Thank you so much Millie for stopping by the Jeep today and Jeepin’ it Real with us. We'll see you at the next conference. I know you're traveling quite a bit pretty much at every one of the events. What's the next event that you're going to?
Upcoming Events for Black Diamond
Millie: I know The Experience is happening September in Vegas. We're definitely looking into that. Hope you guys can join. Sometimes I just don't know what my next event is because it's just randomly pops up, you know, but definitely on the road.