Imagine every one of your jobs has two clients, and that the last thing they planned on doing together is a remodeling project. Imagine also that they can't agree on the scope of work, the budget, or the schedule, and that at your initial meeting, one client is always in a state of extreme emotional stress that will soon deteriorate into anger and depression.

Though it sounds like the premise for the next reality TV show, it's actually just a typical day in the life of an insurance restoration contractor. While many of these companies offer a full slate of remodeling services, most specialize in disaster recovery. That includes anything covered by homeowners insurance: cleaning, drying out, and otherwise repairing or rebuilding homes that have been damaged by fire, flood, hail, wind, and other acts of nature, as well as the more mundane human failures, such as plumbing leaks or mishaps involving the family car and the garage door.

Mark Robert Halper

I recently had an opportunity to speak to several groups of insurance contractors, and I was surprised to learn what a true specialty it is — not because of the work itself but because of the extraordinary circumstances under which the work is performed.

Take the problem of the two customers. On one side of the table is the insurance company. Because it pays the bills, the insurance company also tries to limit the scope of work and reduce every line item in the estimate. On the other side of the table are the homeowners with the opposite agenda. They've paid insurance premiums for years, so they try to expand the scope of work and increase every line item in the estimate.

In the middle is the insurance contractor, who often must negotiate with homeowner spouses who can't agree with each other — except to disagree with the insurance company.

The emotional stress belongs to the homeowners, who meet the remodeling contractor for the first time on the morning after a good portion of their biggest financial investment has been burned, blown, flooded, or shaken out from under them. They are disaster victims who called the remodeler not because they wanted to but because they had to.

And then on top of having to manage the disparate financial and emotional needs of two clients, insurance restoration contractors have to work fast. Their emergency crews are available around the clock to secure a home within hours of a disaster, and they typically complete their projects on an accelerated timeline to both accommodate displaced homeowners and reduce insurance payouts for temporary lodging.

And you thought your job was hard.