Pete Consigli – Conversation with the Restoration Industry’s Global Watchdog – Part 3

Air Date: 8-7-2015|Episode 379


This week we welcome back the Restoration Industry Global Watchdog Pete Consigli for Part Three of his stroll down restoration lane with the Z-man Cliff Zlotnik. Two weeks back Pete was in Pittsburgh to sit down with The Z-man and for a retrospective conversation about their longtime relationship that has spanned almost 4 decades…

Full Description:

This week we welcome back the Restoration Industry Global Watchdog Pete Consigli for Part Three of his stroll down restoration lane with the Z-man Cliff Zlotnik. Two weeks back Pete was in Pittsburgh to sit down with The Z-man and for a retrospective conversation about their longtime relationship that has spanned almost 4 decades. The show could be characterized as “Restoration Confidential”. It was personal, insightful, controversial at times but most of all it came from the heart with a spirit of setting the record straight on many of the industry’s misnomers and folklore!Two of the industry’s most well known and colorful personalities sat down to reflect on their professional life together as they come to the realization that in their twilight years there is still much to be done and their “work” is still in progress! IAQ Radio listeners know Pete as a friend of the show and the Global Watchdog who helps recruit guests and support their interviews that address issues facing the restoration industry. The recent passing of industry icon Marty King who founded the original restoration industry trade group in 1971 leaves Pete and Cliff as the only remaining honorary members of RIA. Next year Pete and Cliff will celebrate 2 milestones with RIA’s 70th Anniversary Convention in March and the 20th anniversary of Summer Camp in August. As IAQ Radio listeners may know, this past March in Dallas IAQA inducted Pete into its Hall of Fame for his work with Joe Lsiburek’s legendary Building Science Symposium known as Summer Camp. What most listeners don’t know is that Cliff was there with Pete for the first Summer Camp in 1996 as the 2 invited representatives from the restoration industry! All three of us are now back from this year’s Summer Camp and we hope you will tune in this week as Pete and Cliff cap off their show about the milestone events that helped shape the industry that you know today. The will continue to give IAQ Radio listeners an insiders view on how, why and when things happened! This week Radio Joe will press Pete and Cliff to finish their retrospective and share their vision for the future of the industry with IAQ Radio listeners. LEARN MORE this week on IAQ Radio!

Z-Man’s Blog:

A Heck of a Day part 2

On this week’s episode of IAQradio we continued our discussion with my longtime industry colleague and friend Pete Consigli.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

MEHRC, fertile ground for recruiting

In our quest to find new knowledge outside the organization and training resources for RIA’s Water Loss Specialist program Pete and Z-Man were drawn to programs conducted by Mid-Atlantic Environmental Hygiene Resources Center (MEHRC). MEHRC was a Philly based nonprofit training organization specializing in indoor environmental specialty training: mold remediation, building science, indoor environmental quality inspection, HVAC system design and maintenance. MEHRC taught the first mold remediation course. Sue Smith was MEHRC’s administrator. MEHRC was supported by 16 colleges, universities and hospitals, and EPA Region 3. Some of the people we met there include: Building inspectors: John Tiffany & Howard Bader, microbiologist/mycologists Chin Yang & Phil Morey, Occupational & Environmental Physician Eckardt Johanning, Building Science guru Joe Lstiburek, Mike McGuinness, HVAC system cleaning/refurbishing expert Davidge Warfield, etc. (Pete and I were honored to join the MEHRC faculty co-instructing courses in restoration, remediation and damage repair.)

Westford Building Science Symposium Summer Camp gets iconic and cult-like            

It was at a MEHRC event that we first met Joe Lstiburek. Joe shared his idea to host a summer conference for a diverse group of attendees interested in building science. From modest origins the event has grown to a core group of 500 attendees from around the world. Specialty food items are brought and shipped from far away. A commercial kitchen has been built. Pete’s work as executive chef and master of ceremonies put him in the IAQA hall of fame.

Founders depart, cleaners left long ago                     

RIA’s original predecessor was the National Institute of Rug Cleaning (NIRC) founded in the 1946. The founders were in-plant rug cleaners who felt that the superior method for rug & carpet cleaning was hauling to and from a plant for cleaning. Plant rug cleaning involved a significant investment in building and equipment. These plants used mechanized washers, wringers and dry rooms to clean rugs. NIRC resisted upstarts who cleaned rugs and carpets on-location. [1] The organization broadened adopted a division model and changed its name to Association of Interior Décor Specialists (AIDS) which at one time: carpet & upholstery cleaners, oriental rug cleaners, drapery cleaners, carpet installers, fire restorers. The businesses of most plant cleaners who refused to diversify suffered. Due to the negative association with the acronym AIDS, the group changed its name to Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR). From an economic standpoint, plant rug cleaning was declining while disaster restoration was increasing. The number of association members interested in disaster restoration grew while the number of plant cleaners remained stable. Member technical training is a primary and common mission for trade associations. There was more for restorers and less for plant cleaners. Asking for forgiveness, not permission, to better serve the majority of association members the board of directors decided to rebrand the association as RIA in 2007. In 2010 the Rug Specialists departed to form Association of Rug Care Specialists. RIA is moving to global model. RIA currently has Councils in Australia and Canada. RIA has influence in British Damage Management Association. The United Nations is a global model based in NYC, no one says the UN is an American organization. Pete looks forward to the time when people say the RIA is a global organization based in DC.

Catastrophic disasters occur worldwide. According to Pete, RIA is moving to a global model with new councils in Australia and Canada. The United Nations is a global model based in NYC, Pete sees RIA as a global model based in DC.

The influencers  

Pete says he studied the ancient Greeks: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who thousands of years ago “figured out important stuff” like banking, medicine, social dynamics, architecture, foundation of western civilization. Gandhi high ethical standards of doing things right. Often quotes US founding fathers: Franklin, Jefferson & Adams.

  • For his consulting on marketing and strategy he credits the books of: marketing position gurus Reis & Trout, principles of Stephen Covey, business improvement consultants Peter Drucker, Jim Collins & Tom Peters (“Big R” importance of taking time off for thought and reevaluation)
  • Mentors and peers: Marty King, Major Long, Reed Dow, Rusty Amarante, Mac Pearce, Sue Smith & Mike McGuiness.
  • The US is founded on the rule of law. Our industry underestimates the pioneering and valuable work done by industry attorneys in advisory roles (foot soldiers of American democracy) Ed Cross, Harvey Cohen, Mike Bowdoin & Dave Governo. Peteism: “We are contractors, we use legal processes to contract with people.”
  • Summer camp guys: Lew Harriman, Ashley Easterby, “Big Ed from State Farm”. Pete has clearly been inspired by Joe Lsitburek’s statement “standing on the shoulders of those who came before us to see higher and farther”.
  • DKI guys: founder Ed York, Don Larson (who added the professional emergency response component to DKI), Denny Jensen & Frank Headen.
  • John Downey fellow industry watchdog

Attempting to come together for the greater good.                                                               

For 3 decades the IICRC and RIA have been the two largest and influential groups in the cleaning and restoration field. Much of the cleaning industry still falls underneath one of their umbrellas or both. Leaders within both groups have realized the value of collaboration and over the years there have been multiple attempts to collaborate.

  • In the 1980’s RIA became a shareholder of the IICRC.
  • Early 1990s partnership board of the IICRC regional associations was tried (Institute for Cleaning and Restoration Associations) the predecessor to the IICRC’s Council of Associations.
  • Mid 1990s an attempt was made to unite the industry by bringing the IICRC and RIA together. It was suggested that association activities be separated from education and standards following the models used in industrial hygiene. At the 11th hour the discussion fell apart sabotaged by personal egos and politics. Association: convention, networking, member services, trade journal, education.
  • Bah Rumbarger Pete calls Chuck Rumbarger (who has 40 years of association management experience) the Peter Drucker of Association Management. In 2008, Chuck was retained to facilitate discussions between RIA and Connections to work together to unite the industry. The RIA delegation was led by Rusty Amarante. The Connections delegations was led by Craig Kersemeier. While the total of RIA’s members equaled or exceeded the combined total number of members of Connections associations at the end of the day RIA due to spoilers RIA was offered the opportunity to join Connections as 1 of 14 members rather than being an equal partner. The discussions fell apart.

Industry unification requires compromise, concentrating on the greater good, requires transparency & honest communication and a wariness of conflict of interest. In order to go forward we must move passed the past! Radio Joe added that the IAQA and the IAQ Council were also ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to unify.

Standard setting                                                                                                                            

The sewage intrusion document [2] was the predecessor of IICRC Water Damage Standard  S-500 and its first two revisions. The 3rd revision also didn’t consider the work done in the prior versions or the third party evaluators. The 3rd revision introduced the acronym IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) into the industry lexicon. The decision to include the term IEP placed the IICRC into intentional competition with other groups such as IAQA, AIHA & ABIH. The successful marketing, sale and positioning of the S-500 Standard led IICRC to write a mold standard S-520.

RIA had an alternate strategy on standards. RIA’s position was that standards provide reference guidance, that contractors should be familiar with all available information and combine them to best meet the needs of their clients.

Abuse of power        

Historically IICRC consultants, past presidents, committee chairs have misused their positions to bolster their own reputation, travel the world at registrant expense while feathering their own nests. Lack of the necessary oversight has permitted abuse in the instructor and school approval process allowing those on committees to shut out competition. These abuses have driven volunteers and trainers away and hurt the reputation of the organization.

Consolidation, national firms and franchisors                                                                                 

Entry into the insurance repair business is easy and low cost. Large national firms and franchises make it harder for mom and pop restoration firms to compete. According to Pete the industry is treading water, time will tell whether the industry will upswing or decline.


Insurance companies are asserting their dominance through use of 3rd party administrators. The relationship between insurance carriers and contractors is tense. Pete said that whatever happens in auto body and collision filters down to restoration. A car is a thing, a house is thing. Not as easy to apply concepts from auto to homes.  The insurance industry wants cookie cutter solutions to property damage claims. Mercedes Benz autos cost more than Chevrolets. Mercedes owners pay more for their vehicles, service and repairs cost more. Mercedes owners are likely to be fussier and expect more. It’s the same with homeowners.  There have been exposes on the charlatans on duct cleaning and mold remediation. The insurance industry paints all restorers with the same brush “you guys”. Restoration pros need to distance themselves from opportunistic gougers who over-scope and overcharge.

Passing the baton  

Economists and scientific types can provide specific data, Pete speculates and follows his gut.  According to him there is an industry maturation curve, he opines the industry has leveled off and is treading water delicately poised either for an upswing or a decline. He is an optimist, looking for the sunny skies not edge of cliff. The relationship between contractors and insurance companies is tenuous. Standards are evolving, states are passing new regulations. Fractionalization exists, multinational and national firms, regional firms and franchisors; the independent restoration firms need someone to lean on and brand with.

The baby boomer “Old Industry Jedi” are retiring and dying off. Industry leadership and stewardship is being passed onto the next generation. Older and younger generations don’t think alike nor do they share the same values. The younger generations are preparing for leadership.

The industry needs to set aside pettiness driven by special interest. The restoration industry needs a unified representative voice on operational standards and government regulations. It’s time for the most serious people to lead. We need leaders who set good examples.


Most pressing issues                                                                                                              

  • Odds are that weather patterns and acts of terrorism will increase the need for restoration services globally. Regardless who pays, the work will need to be done.
  • Increased patent litigation.
  • Emergence of TPAs. Profit margins are falling while the costs of mandated reporting are increasing. Different TPAs have different rules and guidelines. What documentation needs to be done? Standardize TPA practices to cut down on extra work restorers are required to do and not be paid for. Technically experienced restorers should be calling the shots on jobs not technically inexperienced TPAs.
  • Low barriers and cost to industry entry. Some in the industry want a higher government imposed barrier to entry. According to Pete, government should provide safety for citizens and allow economy to flourish.
  • True standardization, RIA is trying to reach consensus on its Certified Restorer Curriculum Body of Knowledge and has reached out to other groups and organizations.
  • RIA continues to work with Purdue Professor Randy Rapp on collegiate programs to build credibility with government and industry.
  • Address big issues collectively as an industry.


  • Separation of church and state– our founding fathers separated religion from administration of government. Our industry nonprofits should do something similar separating trade association issues from standards and certification. Trade association events would be where members gather to learn and network, see new products, get assistance to grow and develop their businesses. Certification, standards and technical peer reviewed journal should be handled by another organization.

Start meaningful dialogue and process to work together– Politics in American reflect our society. Our industry groups are a reflection of our society and government complete with partisanship and special interests. According to the ancient Greeks a revolution is needed every 20 years to clear out the corruption.

  • The issues– the association needs to: identify and address the issues most important to their members, locate the right writers, right speakers, obtain the right leadership, the correct interaction models for committees, and set a theme for the annual conference to address the pressing issues.

The associations must: control special interests and conflicts of interest, establish rules for vendors and provide a platform for exchange of information. Associations don’t take sides in business disputes or competition among members.

  • Associations do what businesses can’t do individuality.
  • Preserve the industry allows for smooth passing of baton to next generation.

Golden age of restoration,

Pete wrote a Founding Fathers of Restoration article wrote in 2007 and is ready to write a sequel and discuss: where we are, where we are going and how to pass the baton of stewardship.

Maturing of industry

The mission, core principal and vision of the IICRC and RIA have much in common. The US Marine Corps motto is “semper fidelis –always faithful” is about loyalty. The historical global impact of the USMC is admirable. The USMC is the only organization in human history that can land anywhere in the world and go to work in 6 hours. Pete’s vison for a mature restoration industry is combined industry response “we make it better, we promise” to a global disasters in 24 hours. The only way this will happen if there is a global organization under one umbrella with its members working together for the greater good.

Role of restoration is underestimated

After the loss of a loved one, not many things more important than the emotional impact of a catastrophic damage event. Insurance companies seem often to forget about the customer who experienced devastation. The insurance repair industry needs to work with government and the insurance industry to serve the public, doing together what we can’t do individually.  RIA website we make it better, we promise.

3rd party certification

According to RadioJoe the government wants and is pushing 3rd party certification on supervisory level. Z-Man opines that the industry obsession with 3rd party certification is misguided. How does 3rd party certification benefit the consumer, 3rd party certification simply validates that the certification process complied with a bureaucratic process. There are No Certifications for asbestos or lead abatement. Government licensing programs training workers and supervisors.

Today’s music: “Godfather Theme” by Slash Guns and Roses

Z-Man signing off


Name the south Philly mobster who said “I’m a cook not a crook” when he took the witness stand in his own defense during a racketeering trial in 2001 before being sentenced and serving 7 years in prison and who now owns a NJ restaurant called the Kitchen Consigliere Café?


Angelo Lutz

[1] Ed York claimed that NIRC’s refusal to allow him to join was his motivation for starting his Society of Cleaning Technicians (SCT).

[2] Suggested Guidelines for Remediation of Damage from Sewage Backflow into Buildings Michael A. Berry, Ph.D.; Jeff Bishop; Claude Blackburn; Eugene C. Cole, Dr. P.H.; William G. Ewald; Terry Smith; Nathan Suazo; and Steve Swan Mr. William G. Ewald Health Scientist Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (MD-5