Q&A with Klark Brown: Uniting and overcoming challenges in the restoration industry
Klark Brown is a veteran in the restoration and disaster recovery industry and is the co-founder of AIR, the Alliance of Independent Restorers, which is a movement by restoration contractors to take back the restoration industry and make sure they get paid what they earn. In this interview, Klark Brown shares his background in restoration, as well as how the Alliance of Independent Restorers and Restoration Rebels got started to unite and empower restorers.
-Klark Brown’s professional background The restoration, disaster recovery part of my career is my second career. I started in 2002. I went to work for a large disaster company, started at the bottom. The company I worked for primarily focused on commercial and larger losses. We went to a lot of hurricanes. From 2002 to 2014, that was my life. I was traveling 200 plus nights a year. The projects kept getting larger and I was gone from home longer. I wanted to do something different. I’ve always had mentors and I’ve always felt that being a mentor to others. I thought this might be where I’d pivot into more of a consulting role. -How did the group of restoration rebels get started? 2017 was the birth year of the rebels. The catalyst was a gentleman named Andy McCain who had been in the restoration industry. He started making YouTube videos and he wrote books and started having this dialogue on LinkedIn. This whole movement started on LinkedIn and a couple of us, myself and some of the other founders, we all kind of found each other. Our movement on LinkedIn was called restoration 2.0 at that point. And we realized the world’s moving quickly and we need to keep up with that. On Facebook, we were able to create a private place, and that’s where the trajectory started. We were just giving information away, and others would hear about us and they would tell more people and that’s just how it happened. We have 4,700 members of that group now. Yearly we have these summits. We have a national gathering of usually 150, 175 people, and we bring in speakers. There’s about 60 new posts today and something around 3000 comments a day. -What is the mission or vision of the Alliance of Independent Restorers? It has been to take back our industry. We feel like we’re operating in an ecosystem that we’re not in control of. And whenever you don’t have control, you don’t take accountability and ownership of it. So we wanted people to take our industry back and feel like that we’re the ones that control over our future. That’s what a lot of people struggle with and our vision was to use social media and community. -Where does the name of rebels come from? Somewhere in 18, so early, late 17, someone said they took the word Alliance and thought of the movie, Star Wars and said, Oh, we’d like to Alliance. We’re like the Jetta; we’re like the rebels. We’re fighting against the Federation because there is this large part of our industry that’s trying to get paid for the work we do. But in our way is this large entity, which may be the people holding the money. And we’re rebels trying to get that money. So people attach to that. We’ve taken a lot of flack for rebel seems like a harsh word to some people. We live in a society where everything is taken out of context, but it’s really just a harmless thing. -What’s been your favorite part of the whole process? I wished there was just one thing. I’ve created this big giving system and my grandfather always taught me, if you’re always giving, you always receive. And I have been gifted with the satisfaction to know that we, several of us doing this or creating a legacy thereof, at least we didn’t sit by and let these businesses go down. -What are some of the challenges that a restoration contractor faces? You can learn how to sell and how to make new construction, but how do you be competitive in a market like New Orleans or Dallas? That’s something that people aren’t ready for. Additionally, payments are usually the most obvious pain. A lot of contractors don’t want to appear as too aggressive by using liens, but liens are a natural part of business and they’ve been around forever. Over 500,000 contractors and suppliers connect on Levelset’s cloud-based platform to make payment processes stress-free. Users easily exchange payment documents like lien waivers, pay applications, and preliminary notices, they see a complete picture of who is on their job, and are empowered with the resources and knowledge they need to be confident in payment. The results are faster payments and fewer surprises. Levelset is venture-backed by S3 Ventures, Altos Ventures, and Brick & Mortar Ventures. Headquartered in New Orleans with offices in Austin and Cairo, Egypt, Levelset employs more than 150 people. For more information about Levelset, visit www.levelset.com or call 866-720-5436.