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Is your crew undermining your reputation as a contractor?

"I watched as a crew showed up the day after Canada Day to spend four hours sitting on the front porch, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes."


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October 30, 2013 by Brynna Leslie

It takes a lot of time, money and effort for a company to brand itself. The last thing you need is to have your workers destroying your reputation. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Last year, I was  happy to give an excellent referral for a plumber friend of mine to a contractor friend. This plumber is a great guy, does solid work and seems to charge a reasonable rate. He also has some big commercial clients to his name, which cemented his already stellar reputation in my mind. The plumber went on the job for my contractor friend — a household bathroom renovation — and satisfied the client with his meticulousness and quick turnaround.

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Six months later, another friend asked for a plumber referral in front of my contractor friend. I offered up the same name.

“Hang on,” said the contractor. “This guy was good, but his new team is not.”

He went onto tell a story about how he had referred the plumber to some other contractors in his network, right around the time the plumber expanded his company. Apparently, it backfired. While our friend, the plumber, had built his brand on quality, deadline-oriented work, his new employees weren’t making the grade. The result? An end to referrals

There are other ways employees can undermine your brand if you’re not paying attention.

There is a successful renovations company in Ottawa that does a lot of work in high-end parts of town. The company likes to install enormous signs on the client’s lawn during the renovation period — an obvious way to promote the company

I got a firsthand look at one of these renovation projects, however, and the only thing the sign did was convince me to never hire this contractor.

First, I watched as a crew showed up the day after Canada Day to spend four hours sitting on the front porch, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.  They left at lunchtime. The following day, the crew arrived bright and early again, to sit on the porch and smoke cigarettes for two hours. Finally, around 10am, a truck showed up and delivered a skip. The workers looked at the skip and left. On the third day, the crew arrived for a 7:30am call to… you guessed it, sit on the porch for two hours.

Finally, a crew of plumbers showed up. The original work crew hung outside with their coffees for a couple of hours, while the plumbers went inside. Everybody went home just after lunch. On the fourth day, a portable toilet was delivered. (It would sit in the driveway for the next ten weeks). On the fifth day and for the next five weeks, I watched the original crew master the art of laziness. Half their days were spent chatting and smoking in the driveway; the other half walking back and forth from the house to the driveway to grab a single tool from the car — a hammer, for instance. There was no plan, no organization.

Finally, mid-August — the clients, still without a single shower in their home — a new crew was brought into complete the project. It took nine weeks total for a single bathroom.

All the while, the massive lawn sign advertising the contracting company was in full view. I can tell you that no one in this neighbourhood will be hiring that contractor anytime soon.

The moral of the story? If you’re going to invest a lot of resources into building a good brand, you’d better make sure your employees are going to reinforce, not undermine — your reputation.

Check out Ian Szabo’s advice on creating and keeping a positive mindset among your employees can help.

 

 


Brynna Leslie

Brynna Leslie

Brynna Leslie, contributing editor to Canadian Contractor, is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa.
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3 Comments » for Is your crew undermining your reputation as a contractor?
  1. Eric Foren says:

    For more, check out “Ian Szabo’s advice” on creating and keeping a positive mindset among your employees can help.

    The link above is incorrrect, it goes to Flipping Houses discussion, wold love to read the article 🙂

  2. Business owners need to be cautious, part of this comes down to better employee screening while building incentives for employees to deliver a superior customer service. Owners should ask for regular or end of project feedback from the client to improve the visibility of project status and inferior performance included in employee reviews. If its case of a few bad apples and not systemic problem, you would have the data leading to dismissal. Meanwhile, the employees knowing this is what they’re being measured are likely to shape up. One of the worst situations may be the client goes online and writes strongly worded reviews that are going to drag down your revenues. Studies show the majority of customers research their would be service providers online and those bad online reviews are difficult to overcome.

  3. Steve says:

    You have to be careful with referrals. I while ago I referred a subcontractor to one of my clients. The customer got a couple of other quotes and found out my guy was the most expensive by far. I don’t know if my guy was right and the others quoted to low, but the fact remains is that now I look like the bad guy for my sub contractors.

    I took all the risk just to refer someone. I can only imagine if they guy had done the job incorrectly of worse took the deposit and ran. How much worse would I have looked.

    Unless I trust the guy 100% I now tell my clients that are looking for a sub contractor referral that my guys are really busy and I don’t think they would be available. Or I always tell them this guy will be more money but he does really good work. Just to cover me incase his quote is higher.