In part two I discuss five factors to look for when bringing on a contents manager.

The role of a contents manager is one of the most demanding positions in our industry. We are asked to be responsible for the inventory of multiple jobs; coordinate pack outs and move backs, organize thousands of cubic feet of personal property, control breakage (as much as possible) and make sure we turn a nice profit. If you are looking to hire a contents manager or elevate someone to that position, here are 5 points that you may want to look for when making a change.

Obviously, the role requires more than 5 qualities but this should be a nice place to start.

  1. Organization – I’ve had the privilege of meeting some fine contents managers who have had no previous experience in the industry. The one thing they all have in common is that they all have had to make sense of a disorganized warehouse where jobs were in constant danger of getting mixed. This has always been the number one priority for managers who succeed.
  2. Communication skills – Contents managers deal with the fallout of things that happen either in the field or in production. Mistakes are made, it’s how you deal with these mistakes that makes you worth you salt in this job. Crews are made up of different personalities. You are asking these individuals to walk into a sooty house with no light, no power in the middle of July to take an inventory, box and pack out the structure until it’s empty. You are as good as your staff, and your company will not be very good if your turnover rate is high.
  3. Inquisitive – Experience is not on this list like it is on the list for promoting a lead tech. A contents manager might not get caught in the weeds of the daily grind the same way a project manager does. However, the contents manager has to be inquisitive enough to ask herself ‘is there a better way?’ When companies hire me to work with them this is typically the most common question. I provide them with my strategies and show them why it works. Soon their minds illuminate with the possibilities of a more organized workflow. This can only happen if a contents manager questions the status quo.
  4. Knows what clean is – At some point a contents manager will recognize that quality control needs more attention.  This will happen only if the cleaning quality is properly evaluated. The person in charge; the top dog, has to have a standard in mind. Is this okay to go back in my mom’s house? We have to be discriminating about our standards for what is clean. 
  5. Knows how to delegate – It is crucial to come up with a strategy for executing pack outs, cleaning and return of contents. If the contents manager gets caught paying too much attention to a single part of the process, myopia occurs and he/she can’t see the forest from the trees.  Team members have to be able to clearly recite their own responsibilities and follow through, otherwise the contents manager will be drinking from a fire hose.

What happens when your contents division loses a trusted employee?Today’s workforce is mobile and has more choices than ever when it comes to deciding how to earn a paycheck. Freelance opportunities like Uber, Lyft and delivery services like Postsmastes have given more people the opportunity to work their own hours without supervision. More traditional brick and mortar employers are faced with increased wage demands in cities where referendums have increased the minimum wage. So, how do you keep the employees you have and how do you attract new talent?

  1. Leadership is important. When I went to work for a restoration company, I always knew management had my best interest in mind as long as I had the company’s best interest in mind. The leadership displayed by the people I worked for was mirrored in how I treated the customers and my co-workers. Pride in working for a company has nothing to do with branding or corporate color-schemes; it has everything to do with how well everyone works as a team.
  2. Someone has to know what they’re doing. It’s okay to not know everything but it’s critical that somebody knows something. Employees who see visible failures like; broken items returned, contents not properly cleaned or deodorized, lost contents. These occurrences make people wonder if they should be working somewhere else. The best way to solve this is by making your employees part of the solution. Create a process that makes sense. Put your people in a position to succeed!
  3. Don’t play favorites. During the holidays I spent some time with a friend who was telling me about how he trained a new hire. He brought him up to speed on everything he needed to know to be a successful water technician. Now that new hire is his supervisor. There is nothing that should keep my friend from being promoted except that he did not come to the company with any established personal relationships. If an employee feels the game is rigged, he/she will be looking for a better situation.
  4. Get training so you can train the next class. Think of an employee who would be devastating to lose. She’s great with customers; she knows how to operate your ultrasonics to maximum efficiency, she’s been in enough situations to make you feel confident that the job can be handled right. Now imagine her leaving.  Who’s going to run the sonic? Who’s going to be my lead in the field? Who knows how to handle the back end of our inventory software? Understand that these are all temporary road blocks. You can always bring in an expert to right the ship and mold your next great employee.
  5. Anybody can offer a job. Just as anybody can get a job. What separates a job from an opportunity is the potential to grow. So many of us have found careers in this industry. Either as estimators, project managers, general managers to regional managers to sales. Opportunities are everywhere in our industry, but only at the companies that can grow and create those opportunities. Share your vision and find the people who want to join you for the ride.

Real Content Restoration Training

Dear Mr. Gavilanes,

Thank you so much for the great contents training you gave to our facility. Your
training was in great detail and was laid out in such a way that it was easy to follow. It
was enjoyed by all who attended.
Some of the areas that helped us the most were paperwork trail, a form for every possible
scenario, setting expectations (Setting up the job with the customer), along with
Xactimate charges. Although we have always used Xactimate, we learned and went over
billable items that we haven’t used in the past. This alone probably more than paid us
back for the training cost.
Last but not least, the training was NOT boring and the “hands on” stories really made
the training seem to be in real-life settings. The one thing I thought was great was
empowering our people to “Take care of the problem and move on to the next task”
(Problem Solving and time management).
I would HIGHLY recommend your training to anyone in need.

Wayne R. Terry
PuroClean Emergency Services, Jacksonville, FL


Remap patterns in your organization to create better culture.

Training is a must. It is the path of least resistance for companies looking to add contents to their line of services. The alternative is time spent on trial and error inside pack outs and at the cleaning line. To be sure there is nothing wrong with that approach. You will eventually figure things out. For example: How do I know the exact number of people to bring on any given pack out? I know because I’ve been on several with a variety of personnel combinations.
The problem with training of any kind; be it fitness or cognitive, is that there is always a tendency to fall back on habits. Some habits (like a daily shower) are good. Problems occur when habits are messy and inefficient.
Anyone can pack out a house. Most of us have done this when moving at some time in our lives. We cannot however take that experience and apply it to a fire loss or a water loss when time is of the essence and a clear inventory is vital. So there is training. We learn procedures that lead to efficiency. More importantly, the procedures are calculated to push contents through your facility for different cleaning methods. (Aqueous, delicate hand cleaning, upholstery, electronics etc.)
Training provides steps. Follow the steps and see your way to the end of the claim with certainty that everything inventoried went back clean, without odor and without damage.

But why not fall back to the old way? Ditch the digital inventory for a few room photos and item description on boxes. It will be faster and less stressful.
False! Cutting corners on the pack out will only push problems into production. Lost items and longer clean times leads to sacrificing quality control.

Remap your organizational behavior patterns completely by:

  • Committing fully to a tablet style software system that executes reports and holds people accountable for their inventory.
  • Hold people accountable. Tasks are a part of project management. Each pack out is a unique project. Assign tasks!
  • Label everything! The number of iPad’s, vaults, cleaning stations, etc.
  • Measure success. Cleaning logs, average times spent at the pack out combined with referral letters and fewer crises (you know what I mean), reinforces the new path you have set.

In short time the old way will seem Ludicrous to anyone on your staff. New hires will be brought into a successful culture and bad habits a distant memory.

I am a big supporter of inventory software and I encourage everyone to use software regardless of brand. However, a lot of companies have not made that jump and are still collecting inventory on pen and paper. It’s hard to break away from processes that are not perfect but have gotten the job done. My concern, having started in the industry with paper inventory is the vulnerability to damage and the added unnecessary work to restore a manifest. A spilled cup of coffee can force you into a long process of counting boxes and re-writing the data. If an inventory device is damaged the data can always be retrieved from the cloud.

The inventory process is primarily to record what we are packing out. There is also data collection that assists with the billing process. The number of boxes we make are counted so we can be paid back for our material. The box size matters if we are billing the cleaning portion piecemeal. (ex. BXBM vs. BXBS)

What about the blankets, stretch wrap, bubble wrap etc.?

Inventory software is great but does not collect data on all material used. This is significant if the person composing the estimate is not in the field and is only working off the data from pictures and inventory reports. A daily crew time-sheet that captures this information can be vital to writing an estimate that does not leave out materials.

One can be created as a Word or Google doc using the following information fields:

  • Job Name
  • Date
  • Job Number
  • Project Manager
  • Total Hours
  • Total Employees
  • Total Supervisors
  • Total Labor
  • Total Supervisor
  • Equipment
  • PPE
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Stretch Wrap
  • Boxes – SM, MED, LG, LAMP, WARD. etc.


Additional checklists can be added to the DCTS. I like to include Room Photos as a checklist. See below how I made mine and create one for yourself if you think you are not capturing all the daily job info you need.

A great way to record info on Pack Outs.

The Real Contents Restoration Training course was a great investment for the company. I’ve personally had nearly 7 years of contents restoration experience and still found the training to be extremely helpful. It was simple enough for my newest employees to easily follow along with and soak in the information, while at the same time being just as detailed for the longer tenured employees to get plenty of value as well.

David was a fantastic instructor and it was easy to see right off the bat he really knew what he was talking about. David was always willing to stop and answer any questions in ways that was easy for everybody to understand and relate to. The best part of the course in my opinion is Dave was very interested in how WE operate and what works for us. He was able to adapt his training in way that made sense for our process and focused on what tweaks could be made to improve our system rather than spending a lot of time on areas we already do really well. This was hands down the best contents training course I’ve ever participated in and would HIGHLY recommend it to anybody who is serious about being at the leading front of contents restoration professionals.

Jason Boulton
Contents Branch General Manager
Hays + Sons Restoration

Referral Letter to David Gavilanes

Inertia in people is commonly characterized with the phrase ‘A body at rest, stays at rest’. It is the inability to ‘Just do it’. So how does this manifestation creep into the part of your company that handles contents? The answer is something I see all too often. It happens when we accept that our pack outs take as long as they do because that is how long it takes. Cleaning takes a year and a day and the quality is not where you would like it to be but you just accept it. You have done contents for years and have seldom ever thought of changing. That is how a contents division suffers from Inertia.

So how did I avoid this entirely? Fortunately I worked for a company with strong leadership. I entered the property and claims industry as a contents technician. My first impression of a pack out was thinking to myself ‘there has to be a better way than this’. I was asked for my opinion and ownership had a strong desire to make improvements and provide the staff with the tools to succeed.

When providing training, I keep it simple. I explain how to manage a pack out with order and precision. I talk about the cleaning process and repeat myself often, so when I leave, each person can go on and teach the next person. The simplicity is what grabs my students. No matter how long someone has been doing pack outs “their way,” they instantly recognize that my way is better. The best cure for inertia is motivation. Motivation comes when a clear path to success is presented to you.

For Contents Training please call 919.694.RCRT

Or email

Summer/Fall Classroom Training Dates

Paulsboro, NJ June 21-22, 2017

Location: Aramsco/ Interlink Supply | 1480 Grandview Avenue | Paulsboro, NJ | 08066

Dallas, TX July 18-19, 2017

Location: Aramsco/ Interlink Supply | 10702 King William Dr. | Dallas, TX | 75220

Orlando, FL August 17-18, 2017

Location: Aramsco/ Interlink Supply of Orlando | 1035 W. Amelia Street | Orlando, FL | 32805

Nashville, TN October 18-19, 2017

Location: Aramsco/ Interlink Supply of Nashville | 910 Fiber Glass Road | Nashville, TN | 37210

Seattle, WA  November 8-9, 2017

Location: Aramsco/Interlink Supply of Seattle | 18436 Cascade Ave S Suite 100 | Seattle, WA | 98188


Encountering ferrous metals such as tools at a Pack Out is not uncommon and restoring them can be a breeze with the right equipment and procedure.

Procedure for cleaning with an ultrasonic line:

  1. Stabilize tools with undiluted UNWET CPDL prior to Pack Out. This can be brushed on or sprayed on with a spray bottle.
  2. Once at your facility place tools in a basket, then into the Pre-Wash Station and presoak for 1-5 minutes (with a 2-4 ounce per gallon mixture of OmegaSmoke and water) until the residue has been emulsified.
  3. Move the basket to the ultrasonic station prepared with a 2-4 ounce per gallon mix of Omega Smoke. Set the timer on the ultrasonic cleaner to run on 2 minute cycles until all smoke residues has been removed.
  4. Move the basket to the Rinse Detail station and rinse all soap and residue using hot, clean, free flowing water that is the same temperature as the as the solution in the ultrasonic tank.
  5. Move the baskets into a prepared saddle tank in the ultrasonic bath with Omega Descaler at 4-8 ounces per gallon of water. Using an Indirect Cleaning Tank will reduce the amount of soap required and allows the operator to use two different chemistries at the same time. Set the timer on the ultrasonic cleaner to run for 4 minute cycles until all corrosion deposits have been removed.
  6. Move the basket to the Rinse Detail station and rinse all soap and residue using hot, clean, free flowing water that is the same temperature as the as the solution in the ultrasonic tank.
  7. Dip the tools in a 1:10 bath of Omega Rust Preventative that has been preheated to 120°F. (This can be done in a plastic container)
  8. Place the tools onto a table top or leave in the basket and allow to air dry. Do Not blow off moisture or pass treated tools through the drying chamber as this action may remove the post treatment rust preventative from the tools.


In baseball setting a lineup starts off easy. You take your best hitter and bat him 4th (cleanup spot). If one of your first 3 batters gets on-base you’ve given your best hitter the opportunity to drive home a run. Easy.

What about the back of the lineup and the middle?

Building a contents division is no different than constructing a lineup. You will trust the person who demonstrates the most skill and devotion to the job with greater responsibility. Let us not take this point lightly. The most effective employees believe in the company mission and are focused on end results. Each packout is in this way like a baseball game. There are protocols, challenges and goals. In baseball, you want to score more runs than your opponent. In contents the goal is to eventually bring back everything you promised to the property owner in pre-loss condition. Along the way there are varying sets of challenges – weather, scale, distance, coverage limits to name a few. These challenges are met with confidence so long as the people we employee care about the end result.

Conceptual image - success of professional work. Objects over white

What are the roles needed in your contents division?

What is the leader to follower ratio in your company? The scale of the business will make that determination for you as long as you allow it to. For example; you would not want two managers in a manufacturing facility that employs six people total but you may have two project managers with teams of three for your contents division. I advise that one person own as much of a job whenever possible. If the person responsible truly cares about the end result that person will embrace the challenge and their potential will be maximized.

The scale of your business will determine how much responsibility a project manager will have. As the The Contents Team grew, my responsibilities shifted from field and production to entirely field services. I was relieved to know that the management of the cleaning side (ultrasonics, electronics, hand cleaning, upholstery etc.) was as capable in their department as I was in the field.

The recognition of talented employees is important but we must see all of our employees as different position players with different  goals and expectations. If my role is simply driver/mover, I am effective if I am truly devoted to moving people and property safely. If my goals are clear and if I have good intentions I will be successful.

Be sure that everyone at every position knows what is expected of them and be sure that everyone embraces their role. Teams that do this well win more games. Companies that do this well will grow.



For a number of years I have noticed a problem with the tunnel dryers in our industry. For whatever reason many of them don’t circulate air! An ultrasonic cleaning line has a loading station, a pre-wash, an ultrasonic bath, a rinse station and a dryer. The dryer has been the bottle neck in what should be a fast and efficient process. The speed and precision of ultrasonic technology has been handicapped by this glaring oversight…with one exception.
I recently had the chance to visit the Omegasonics factory in Simi Valley, California. I was given a tour and saw step by step the process where thousands of PZT crystals are stored for curing and then assembled into transducer packs. Ultrasonic generators were assembled in a separate room and throughout the plant various tasks were delegated to some of the happiest employees I have ever seen.
I stopped in my tracks near the end of the tour when I saw the back of Omegasonics tunnel dryer. Huzzah! An air re-circulation system! The common sense solution to the cleaning line bottle neck was right in front of me. Needless to say Omegasonics impressed me in a lot of ways on my visit, but so much so that I was immediately compelled to write this post.