To break Thompson Remodeling employees of the habit of hoarding unused products, Ben Thompson decided to shrink the storage area in the Grand Rapids, Mich., firm's 24-by-30-foot garage warehouse. “Warehouse space is a bad habit. It allows you to hold on to inventory and accumulate clutter,” he says. To jump-start the cleanup, Thompson held a sale and used the company's radio show to promote the event. Any materials that did not sell were donated to Home Repair Services, a Kent County, Mich., nonprofit that provides training, tools, and materials to low-income families to repair and restore their homes.
Thompson then instituted a rule that items can remain in the storage area for no longer than a year. He assigned an apprentice to keep the space organized and help carry out a quarterly check of the items.
To discourage items from being brought to the storage space to begin with, Thompson works with homeowners and crews to identify and deconstruct salvageable items that can be given to Home Repair Services. “It costs less to take the time to deconstruct versus putting it in a Dumpster and paying to have it hauled away,” Thompson says. In addition, the home owners receive a tax rebate for the donation.
Thompson has also increased the company's recycling. His firm has been recycling concrete and metal for years — as an incentive, Thompson puts the proceeds from metal recycling into a breakfast fund for his crews. The company recently added a cardboard recycling service, and now pays $100 per year for a plastic and glass recycling service.
“We've just made these small cultural changes at the company,” Thompson says. In addition, clients are impressed by the deconstruction and recycling. “It demonstrates that we really think about what we do and look for better ways to do it,” he says.