I follow Michael Stone’s blog on markupandprofit.com, and recently he had a very enlightening entry about how contractors are perceived by the public. In it, he describes a classic case of one or two bad apples ruining the barrel. In particular, he points to dishonest contractors who focus only on making a quick buck. When the local news covers their actions, it gives all of us in the construction industry a bad name.
However, there isn’t much to learn from this group. “Don’t be a crook” seems like a lesson most of us embraced in grade school, and for those who haven’t, a blog or a newsletter article is hardly going to change their minds. On the other hand, Stone goes on to describe another type of contractor that is tarnishing public opinion. He doesn’t have a name for them, but I’m going to call them “treaders.” Treaders are most often good people, and they’re almost always skilled workers who have proven themselves to be the cream of the crop in their trade (electrician, plumber, HVAC tech, etc.). Because they were so highly regarded, they started their own business, even though they didn’t have much experience running one.
Like all new businesses, at first they took whatever jobs they could get. But because they didn’t know how to estimate correctly or budget properly, they didn’t plan for profit. That’s when the treading started. They started scrambling towards the next job to pay off the expenses from the last job. They worked so hard trying to catch up that they never established good business habits (consistently tracking expenses, successfully managing collections, accurately reporting taxes). Today, they continue to tread like crazy, but never make any real progress.
Fortunately, there’s a cure for treaders: business training. Michael Stone offers this himself, but so do companies like DSG (take our Power Tools Success Workshops or P4 Learning Labs, for example). These educational opportunities offer insights from contracting experts who understand how to create accurate bids, set realistic budgets, improve customer service and more. And it’s not just about fixing problems. Some of DSG’s most successful contracting customers send employees to P4 year after year. They use it as an opportunity to improve – and it shows. After all, good business training helps contractors to work on their business rather than simply in their business.
The best way to upgrade our image is by improving how we do business, and that’s true for all of us.