Canadian Contractor

Brynna Leslie   

Is your crew undermining your reputation as a contractor?

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"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."

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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It’s still about the lawn sign

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.




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