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I developed a system early on for new clients using a tastefully compiled referral book with an eye-catching cover

"When signing the contract I carefully went over that policy sheet again. On one occasion I folded by books and left, due to a testy attitude at signing time.


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February 14, 2014 by Steve Payne

Phil posted this on Jan. 25. We think it’s worth taking a couple of minutes to read and possibly implement.

It will (1) close more renovation contracts for you and (2) reduce your chances of not getting paid on time.

“Wow! My heart goes out to the company (in the previous article) not getting paid for work completed. Someone said, “There are only a few rotters in the world but they do move around a lot.”

I started my company in 1976 and I am currently semi-retired spending my winters in warmer climates.

I have some thoughts that might be helpful from my experience. In our last years in business most of our work all came from referrals and repeat clients.

But I developed a system early on for new clients using a tastefully compiled referral book with an eye-catching cover. That book contained pictures of some of our typical completed projects. At the bottom of each job I pasted in the actual appreciation card or handwritten note from that appreciative customer.

At my first in-home appointment I inconspicuously placed that book on the table above my clipboard, brochures or whatever. Following a bit of chit chat we went into their anticipated dream project. Invariably someone picked up that book and paged through it, often carefully, reading the personal appreciation notes. Our city with surrounding communities is around 200,000+ population so some names were recognizable. That book sold many jobs and seemed to make people feel obligated to also submit their appreciative expression upon completion of their project.

Once we covered what they wanted done and I had indicated my willingness to start the preliminaries, I then pulled out my policy sheet. On that sheet was a preamble of who we were, what our responsibility was to the client and what we expected of the client. There was a section on the breakdown of payment structure (a 10% deposit was minimum upon signing, it went up to 25% depending on various factors).

A statement was then made something to the effect, “How privileged we have been to have so many happy satisfied customers in this community. As you can see our slogan is ‘Pleasing you pleases us.’ We work hard to keep it that way by carefully following this policy sheet. Are you comfortable with what is written here? (We had perused it together.)” Their reply had a lot to do with how I treated going forward with the next steps of the procedure.

At the bottom of the sheet there were five names and phone numbers for them to contact for referrals.

When signing the contract I carefully went over that policy sheet again. On one occasion I folded my books and left due to a testy attitude at signing time. Once we packed up and left after putting in the first day when the homeowner came home with a domineering attitude towards my head employee. There may have been many wasted hours down the drain but we may have not gotten paid in the long run either.

After all these years no one owes me money. Of course there were times when we had to make adjustments and had to wait for money due to extenuating circumstances. Early on a couple of “rotters” were responsible my devising this system in the first place.

As a contractor I feel I owe my clients professional workmanship, no fussy agreements and a work environment that is pleasant. That environment is created by hiring the right employes and subtrades and treating them fair. After all my team is a guest in the client’s home. It takes a few years to assemble personnel of that calibre. It’s worth the effort because that, too, cuts down on conflict which can set a client off – souring a relationship.”


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
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1 Comment » for I developed a system early on for new clients using a tastefully compiled referral book with an eye-catching cover
  1. Move fast forward to 2014 and Homestars and the internet have replaced paper clients already have weeded out Who the will hire by the time the Contractor comes to their Home. It is just too bad most Contractor don’t understand this and blindly do the the same old thing.