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8 simple things that every renovator needs to be doing

"One of the most important lessons I learned early on was from a client who told me, 'Don't tell me about the labour pains, just show me the baby.' "


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July 31, 2014 by Steve Payne

By Scott Newman

Editor’s Note: Scott is the founder of NewRidge Refinishing, Thornhill, Ontario. His firm (www.newridgefinishing.com) specializes in hardwood floors and staircases. He has generously agreed to share his full client excellence systems with anybody who is interested. You can get this information by emailing scott@newridgerefinishing.com with the subject ‘Client Excellence’

When I started my hardwood floor & staircase company almost 10 years ago, I thought I was ready for anything. I’d grown up in the industry, earned a business degree from one of the best schools in the country, and had some incredibly talented journeymen working for me.

But as I’m sure almost everybody reading this article can relate to, I got a pretty rough lesson early on – because none of that was adequate preparation for the realities of handling the day to day business side of things.

I’d be willing to bet I’m not alone in this – Lead generation, prospect qualification and closing, ensuring consistently professional communication between contractors and clients, collecting payments, and juggling the workloads of contractors are things that we knew we’d have to do going in, but which proved to be a lot more work than we could have imagined. I don’t know about everybody else, but for me it was a bit of a shock to realize that it takes a lot more than just producing fantastic quality work to be really successful in this industry.

One of the most important lessons I learned early on was from a client who told me “Don’t tell me about the labor pains, just show me the baby.” This has only become more relevant with the growing popularity of renovation themed TV shows, as more and more clients let these shows dictate what they feel their experience should be.

Ultimately, it is more and more the case that clients default to not caring about anything we do, except finishing the job perfectly as quickly as possible, and with minimal disruption to them. Anything we can do to minimize disruption to our clients lives while producing top quality work has a huge impact on continued success and referrals.

And so for the past decade, I’ve tried a lot of systems to keep the business organized and ensure that my clients had seamless service – from the early days of a wall calendar with appointments and a filing cabinet with the completed estimates & hand written job notes, to a system that combined Excel, Google Calendars, and hard copies of everything.

With a lot of time and sweat, these systems have helped me find ways to minimize disruption for my client while keeping the service levels extremely high. Some examples of ways to do this are:

  • Set each contactor up with a calendar of their estimate & job activity (either online, or through their iPhones or Outlook) to help minimize missed appointments
  • Emails to contractors when a new estimate or job date is confirmed (or updated) with all the details
  • Sending text messages to contractors every morning with a reminder of the day’s activity
  • Ensuring that contractors ‘courtesy call’ each client about 30 minutes before arriving for an estimate
  • Maintaining a collection of good before & after pictures of each to show both the client as well as future prospects
  • Conduct personalized followup with each client after the job is complete in order to get testimonials and referrals
  • Doing a daily check of outstanding estimates to follow up & try to close
  • Doing a daily check of outstanding payments owing to follow up with & collect

All of these things take time, and it’s easy to let some of it fall through the cracks (especially conveying changes in dates or times that the client is available to have the contractor show up). And as I’m sure we all know by now, it doesn’t take many of these things falling through the cracks to cost us a lot of money (not to mention the loss of reputation involved).

Regardless of how your business is currently set up, or how big you are, you will see a tremendous increase in your profitability when you can be certain that on top of doing excellent work, you’ve also made it extremely easy for your clients.

 


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
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