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Sam Simon, of ServiceMaster Restoration by Simons, Featured by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification

Chicagoland restoration professional chosen as July Spotlight honoree.

​​ServiceMaster Restoration by Simons is both excited and humbled to announce that Sam Simon, our managing director, was featured by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). Sam and ServiceMaster Restoration by Simons were chosen for the organization’s Firm Spotlight, which recognizes outstanding work in the restoration field. Sam has previously earned the coveted title of Master Restorer for his dedication to restoration industry training.

The IICRC is a certification and standard-setting organization for the inspection, restoration and cleaning industries. The IICRC Standards are developed to provide the highest quality terminology, procedures and concepts in the industry. Check out their interview with Sam below.

How did you land in this industry?

I worked for a local area ServiceMaster Restore franchise during my summers off from college in the early 1990s. I started off cleaning up large loss commercial fire damages and eventually ended up project managing large loss fire and water damages.

After college and a brief career in social work, where I met my wife, and current company president, Nasutsa Mabwa, I started a 17-year career in video/television production. I found that the skills I learned from project managing during my summers off from college applied to my new career in television. Whether managing a large group of audio and video technicians on a Van Halen tour, troubleshooting technical issues on a Pearl Jam tour or putting out the preverbal fire during my many years as a cameraman on the Lollapalooza tours, working in the restoration industry prepared me for always thinking on the move and coming up with quick, safe solutions to problems in moments of disarray and panic.

When it was time to retire from a life on the road and to start raising our family, I decided to go back to what I loved doing: helping people, providing sound solutions to seemingly big problems, restoring properties and, essentially, restoring people’s lives.

How are you involved with the IICRC?

As a passionate academic, I have the desire to learn everything there is to learn about whatever it is I do. I have found the IICRC to be a great source of knowledge and information on property restoration and cleaning.

As a franchise owner, I am required to attend ServiceMaster Restore’s Disaster Restoration Academy of Service – a two-week IICRC training course where we learn everything from Applied Structural Drying (ASD), Water Damage Restoration (WRT) to Fire & Smoke Restoration (FST) and Odor Control (OCT). I was privileged to learn all the disaster restoration courses from one of the country’s great disaster restoration experts and IICRC Board Chairman, Pete Duncanson.

Completing the Disaster Restoration Academy with those IICRC endorsements was very powerful and empowering. I was armed with the knowledge and the training to make important decisions on how to properly restore commercial and residential properties based on IICRC Standards and protocols, including the S500 and S700.

After a short time, I realized that I wanted to complete the track to become a Master Restorer. So, I plotted the path, drove across the country, took the required courses and achieved my goal of becoming an IICRC Certified Master Restorer.

What do you do to market your business?

Because of my past career in television production, I have a penchant for marketing and advertising. I oversee most of the company’s marketing direction. The web is a primary source of our marketing initiative. We work hard to have an efficient, user-friendly website and, of course, all the social media involved.

We also take the time to network and pass out a lot of business cards. We have the IICRC proudly displayed on our business cards to make sure that our customers understand that they are speaking to highly trained professionals in disaster restoration.

In this information age, it’s important for our customers to know that there is a governing body of standards in the restoration industry. We identify the IICRC in all of our web copy, blogs, printed brochures and our everyday conversations with disaster restoration customers. It’s important for them to feel safe in knowing that there is a true standard in restoring their respective properties and personal belongings.

What’s one unique thing about cleaning and restoration in your area? Any specific challenges you face due to your location?

Chicago is a big city. With nearly 3 million residents, not including its near suburbs, it sometimes gets hectic when crisscrossing the city to provide estimates and damage restoration services. The big challenge is servicing our downtown commercial and residential customers. With over 1,300 high-rises in Chicago’s Loop, many of which are Class A buildings, we can’t even walk into a building without being licensed, insured and bonded to the teeth. So, we make sure to throw in our IICRC Certification for good measure.

Property management companies and property managers want to know that they have highly certified professionals on-site. Parking is a hassle and, logistically speaking, loading up heavy equipment in small elevators that you have to share with countless other companies that are trying to get their business done in the same building is a true test of patience, logic and a willingness to play well in the sandbox with others. There’s never an “easy” job in downtown Chicago!

What I find unique about water damage restoration in the downtown area is that most water damages happen from the top-down, rather than from the ground-up, as most restoration companies might be accustomed. Water damages usually occur as a result of damaged or faulty water supply-lines to refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and fire-sprinklers. What should be water damage to one property, ends up being water damage to the source property and every other unit below it, which can sometimes be as high as 30-40 units.

Fires are even more devastating and downright scary. Restoring a highrise property and its units after a fire requires a high level of skill, water and fire damage restoration experience, a skilled IICRC certified labor-force and a lot of state-of-the-art restoration equipment.

Your firm specializes in fire and smoke damage restoration. How did you end up in this particular area of the industry?

Fire and smoke damage restoration is a very complex service. In many cases, water damage is involved, especially if the local fire department has been called out. I just love the complexity. If the affected property is not a total gut-job, then we’ve got to figure out how to clean it, get the odor out, assess and restore soft goods like clothing and bedding, assess and restore electronics, books, documents, art-work —  the list goes on and on. I suppose the nose knows, and it’s our job to make sure that no one can ever tell that a fire or smoke damage took place. Unfortunately, in a big city like Chicago, fire and smoke damages occur often. It’s one of our biggest service requests.

Is there a restoration/cleaning job that you are particularly proud of?

We have countless jobs that we are proud of, but this particular one sticks out: There was a large loss commercial fire that took place on the southwest side of Chicago. The facility had several government contracts to produce a certain product on a very tight schedule. The facility ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week to fulfill these government orders. A vat of acid caught fire and set the entire 19-foot-high ceiling of this 25,000 square foot facility on fire. It was insulated with a foil-faced insulation, but over the years, the fumes from the vats of acid ate away at the foil and degraded the insulation. The insulation burned.

We were tasked with setting up a safety protocol, protective measures for our staff and the facility employees, dust and debris control, removal and disposal of all ceiling insulation, removing and replacing burned or damaged beams, scrubbing and cleaning the salvageable beams, ordering and installing a newer technology foil-faced insulation and providing a final “fine-finish cleaning” of the facility and some big equipment within a three week span, all while the facility remained open and operational with a full staff. That was a true test of strength and passion. We were able to minimize business interruption while restoring a facility that could have lost significant revenue if it didn’t stay open and operational. We completed the job without a hitch; the facility never closed, and ServiceMaster​ Restoration By Simons received high praise from our customer and the insurance provider. We were never prouder.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young professional starting out in the business, what would it be? 

Get as much IICRC certified training as possible. Not only does it ensure that you are following the proper steps in mitigating a fire or water damage, but it also helps keep you safe in a potentially unsafe environment. It helps you recognize when a course of action is not necessarily going as planned. For instance, you’ve got plenty of drying equipment in a chamber, but it’s just not drying fast enough. You need to be able to find out why. And finally, you need to know what you’re talking about. You need to be honest and accurate in your discussions with the customer, with the insurance professionals, with your fellow technicians, and with other restoration companies, should you find yourself working alongside them. It also helps keep you in the lead within your company and provides an avenue for growth in the restoration industry.

What do you like best about your job?

Helping people. We’re always called in after the damage has happened. Homeowners are traumatized; property managers are frazzled; business-owners are panicked. We have to walk in with a sense of urgency and an “aura of calm.” I’m usually the first person the customer will talk to, and this is where my undergraduate psychology courses and years in social work (before television) kick in. It’s my duty to make them smile by the end of our initial conversation. I have to make sure they agree that this is just a bump in the road of life. Then, we get to work. I love restoring properties to pre-loss conditions, I love satisfied customers and satisfied insurance professionals. I also really love five-star reviews.

What is the most rewarding thing about owning a cleaning/restoration business?

The most rewarding thing about owning a restoration business is the enormous sense of accomplishment that myself, our staff of technicians and our office personnel experience at the end of a water or fire mitigation. We love satisfied customers. We love “thank yous.” Putting some aspect of people’s lives together again is a great source of satisfaction. Knowing that property, whether residential or commercial, is recovered and restored by us after a terrible event like a water, fire or mold damage is a great source of satisfaction.

Can you talk about a cleaning/restoration “horror” story or anything funny you have encountered during your career?

Having traveled across the country with our teams for hurricane work, we’ve come across some strange and downright scary circumstances. The few that come to mind have to do with animals.

This includes the time I was in Lumberton, North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew, and I was standing on the side of a road talking to another ServiceMaster Restore owner when an alligator charged me, missed and death-rolled my backpack. Or the time I was lost on some foggy back-road bayou in Louisiana at 4 a.m., trying to get to Houston after Hurricane Harvey and I blew out my wheel in the middle of nowhere, only to find that I’d run over an alligator! Or the time we opened the drywall in a home in Friendswood Texas after a river overflowed as a result of Hurricane Harvey and two rattlesnakes jumped out at us! There was never a dull moment in Texas.