The RIA Convention and Expo: Redefining Community and Connection

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The sold-out 2024 RIA International Convention and Expo witnessed a remarkable gathering of over 1,240 professionals, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders from across the country, giving way to the incredible momentum and buzz the industry is currently generating. Hosted in Dallas, Texas from April 8-10, the convention provided a platform for industry professionals to connect, learn from each other, and explore new opportunities.

Not only did the RIA announce on-site that it had reached a record-breaking 1,600 members; the convention saw a record attendance for new attendees, with 530 (or 42.67% of the attendees) saying that it was their first time going to an RIA Convention. These numbers alone are a clear sign that the restoration and reconstruction industry is making considerable progress in uniting its community.

The Town Hall Starts It All

The RIA kicked off the 2024 Convention and Expo with a Town Hall meeting where Board Members discussed the organization’s accomplishments in the past year. With a few highlights from their Annual Report, RIA proved to be on solid financial footing, giving them the ability to continue to invest in strategic initiatives to move the needle on the issues that matter most to their members. 

Moving on to its advocacy efforts, the RIA announced it is expanding the scope of the AGA’s reach by adding important task force groups to its structure including a new Carrier Relations Task Force which will be led by Co-Chairs Mark Davis and Jeff Moore. This new task force will bring together advocates and experts within the restoration industry to build coalitions and advocate on issues related to Insurance Carriers, Third Party Administrators (TPAs), Third Party Consultants (TPCs), Third Party Reviewers as well as other adjacent carrier and insurer relationships. The RIA is also adding an AGA Academy Task Force led by Jeff Gross to focus on supplying more robust advocacy education resources that members can use in their day-to-day business.

The RIA 2024-25 Board of Directors was also announced at the Town Hall. Ben Looper was officially installed as the new RIA President, while Immediate Past President Katie Smith was recognized for her tremendous service over the past two years as RIA’s President. Additional officer positions announced included Jeff Moore, CR, WLS, CMP, President-Elect; Justin Woodard, Vice President; Mark Davis, Treasurer; and Marcie Richardson, Secretary. The RIA also welcomed new Directors David Ness (Jenkins Restorations), Brendon Rumsey (Rumsey Construction & Restoration) and Jason Cain (BluSky Restoration). The RIA also recognized outgoing Board Members Mark Springer, Andy Zavodney and Owen Boak for their dedicated service and leadership.

Big Advocacy Announcements and Accomplishments

During the RIA Town Hall, Ed Cross, RIA’s Restoration Advocate announced that Xactware reintroduced language back into the Xactimate End User License Agreement that emphasized the ability for users to adapt prices based on actual market conditions related to a particular job. This major change was a direct result of Xactimate meeting with the AGA. Aaron Brunko, President of Xactware, also personally attended the RIA Town Hall, where he emphasized that Xactware understands RIA members’ needs for creating accurate estimates and keeping fair and balanced market pricing for restorers and carriers. He reaffirmed the company’s commitment to ensuring that Xactware tools deliver on restorers’ operational needs and adhere to industry standard pricing research and publication methods.

In another major announcement, the RIA Advocacy and Government Affairs (AGA) Committee released a series of new peer-reviewed position statements for RIA members that address issues related to claims handling and Third-Party Administrators (TPAs):

  • Claims Handling Position Statement #1 – Carrier’s Duty to Communicate with Contractor
  • Claims Handling Position Statement #2 – Timeliness of Carrier Responses
  • TPA Position Statement #2 – TPA Deference for Contractor Agreements with Carriers
  • TPA Position Statement #3 – Referral Fees for Jobs Not Referred by the TPA
  • TPA Position Statement #4 – TPA Client Disclosure
  • TPA Position Statement #5 – Deviations from Carrier/TPA Guidelines

The AGA researches and assembles peer-reviewed position statements on issues commonly met by restoration contractors. The RIA does not create these position statements independent of its members. Rather, the statements are developed based on consensus of reasonable and fair approaches to these issues. 

Expert-Led Panels and Sessions

Kicking off the educational sessions was an inspiring keynote address, presented by Alan Stein Jr. From this talk, attendees took away one key message: “The number one investment you can make, is the investment in yourself”. Alan emphasized the importance of being intentional in developing oneself mentally, physically, and emotionally to achieve greater levels of success. Alan explained that the key to enhancing individual performance and expanding one’s contributions and significance lies in mastering five fundamentals: self-awareness, passion, discipline, coachability, and confidence. Attendees walked away with practical strategies to heighten self-awareness, create winning habits and routines, and improve productivity.

Later in the program, Ed Cross was joined by Lance Malcolm, Jon Miko, Derek Glerum, and Jake Wilson to discuss the significant challenges reported by some contractors when working with Third Party Administrators. The panel had a lively discussion of TPA hot topics which included whether they should charge referral fees for non-referred jobs, disclose who their client is (carrier or contractor), respect agreements between restorers and adjusters about pricing and scope, and consider reasonable requests for deviation from program guidelines in exceptional cases.

One session that certainly shook things up was, “Masters of Recovery: A Candid Look at Disaster Restoration Success”. This panel of battle-tested entrepreneurs (David Carpenter, Mark W. Davis, and Rick Isaacson) facilitated by Christopher Nordyke, and Brandon Reece, dove into the unfiltered world of business building. Giving attendees a peek behind the curtain, the panel shared personal stories of how they overcame setbacks, pitfalls, and ethical dilemmas while pursuing their passions. An open and honest discussion was had on topics such as resilience, adaptability, work-life balance, and overcoming self-doubt.

Three of the industry’s leading Standards experts, Darren Foote, Ed Cross, and Bruce DeLoatch, led the lively session, “Debunking Myths about IICRC Standards”. Our specialists discussed what “standard of care” means in court and what role the IICRC Standards play in the legal process, along with which parts of the Standards are considered the “standard of care” and which are not. Attendees gained a clearer understanding of IICRC Standards and learned how to avoid common pitfalls, as well as tactics to use the IICRC Standards to their maximum strategic advantage.

The educational program also included several breakout sessions on recruitment and retention, emotional intelligence, contents restoration, building high-performance teams, industry challenge roundtables, project management, marketing, and drying techniques. 

Networking at Its Finest

Attendees and exhibitors alike reported receiving tremendous value in the networking opportunities available during the thirteen hours of Exhibit Hall time. The expo floor was abuzz with energy as attendees immersed themselves in a variety of specialty technologies, products, and solutions. With over 120 exhibitors, every field was represented including asbestos abatement, bio-hazmat remediation, content restoration, construction, emergency restoration, indoor air quality, lead abatement, mold remediation, smoke/fire restoration, and water damage restoration.

Earlier in the week attendees took a break from pre-con classes to attend the RIA Solar Eclipse Watch Party. On April 8, a total solar eclipse swept across North America, leaving the Dallas area in the path of totality, or total darkness, giving attendees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the moon block the sun for just a few minutes. This event certainly added an extra special touch to the already record-breaking convention.

The peak of networking took place at the Industry Party at Union Station, a former train station that stands as a timeless icon of grandeur and architectural splendor steeped in history and brimming with charm. This party, sponsored by Sunbelt Rentals, allowed attendees to mingle while enjoying a delicious spread of gourmet food and drinks, time on the dance floor, and a little friendly competition. To top off the night, Sunbelt announced a significant rebate program for RIA members who rent equipment through their Affinity Partnership program. The rebate program is set to provide over $292,000 in savings to RIA members, further demonstrating Sunbelt’s commitment to supporting the industry and its members.

Celebrating Excellence

The convention also served as a platform to honor excellence and innovation within the industry. The RIA Industry Awards recognized outstanding achievements, spotlighting individuals and organizations driving positive change. Congratulations to the following industry award winners:

  • RIA Volunteer of the Year Award for outstanding support to the RIA: Michelle Blevins 
  • Contractor’s Choice for Outstanding Product/Tool: Encircle
  • Contractor’s Choice for Outstanding Service: AnswerForce
  • Patricia L. Harman Golden Quill Award for the best submission to Cleaning & Restoration (C&R) Magazine: Jeff Moore, CR, WLS, CMP
  • Martin L. King Award for exceptional service and dedication to the restoration industry: Mark Springer, CR, CEPA
  • Women in Restoration Award, recognizing leading women within the restoration industry: Lori Jones
  • Phoenix Award for conspicuously high achievement in Reconstruction: ATI (Trailhead at Woodlands)
  • Phoenix Award for conspicuously high achievement in Restoration: Kelmann Restoration (Lane Elementary School)
  • Pete Consigli Scholarships for deserving professionals to support their pursuit of one of the RIA’s premier advanced designations: Scott Black, Jason Twigg, and Luke Meyers

The RIA also celebrated and honored 41 restoration professionals who received their designation pins and certificates for achieving their advanced designations at the annual Pinning Ceremony. Those recognized for this outstanding accomplishment represent a commitment to excellence in the restoration industry by achieving the Fire Loss Specialist (FLS), Content Loss Specialist (CLS), Water Loss Specialist (WLS), and Environmental Risk Specialist (ERS) credentials. 

Looking Ahead

As the curtains closed on the 2024 RIA International Convention and Expo, participants were left with newfound inspiration, invaluable insights, and a renewed sense of determination. The lessons learned and connections forged at the convention will continue to fuel progress, empower innovation, and shape a unified and powerful voice for the restoration industry. We invite you to save the dates for the next RIA Convention and Expo, held in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 28-30, 2025. Be sure to visit restorationindustry.org to learn more about the convention and other networking and educational opportunities that will help you grow your business and enhance your professionalism.

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