Canadian Contractor

Steve Maxwell   

Two words that can improve your business – and your life – beyond measure

"I consider it a privilege to work for clients, and you should, too." These two words should be said as much as possible.

Back in the 1990s, I had the chance to interview dozens of construction company owners over a period of years for ongoing articles I wrote in a magazine called Carpenter. Almost ever business owner I talked to began their working lives as journeymen carpenters in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (UBC), but by the time I spoke to them they owned construction companies of various sizes and persuasions.

The people who made time for my questions were busy, often employing dozens of people doing amazing projects. One question I always asked near the end of each interview was simple, but useful: “What’s the single most effective thing you’ve done to make your business successful?” The most unexpected answer is the most valuable in my experience and it has nothing to do with management methods, hiring practices, project bidding, tool management or any of the other things that a good construction business depends on. The secret of success cited more than once came down to something your parents should have taught you… say thank you, out loud and often.

I know this sounds too simple to matter, but I’m reminded of the power of the “thank you” mentality every time I encounter someone who uses it on me. Saying a sincere thank you is one of those things that doesn’t seem like much to the person offering the words, but it usually means a lot to the person on the receiving end.

There are two reasons regularly saying thank you to clients, employees and suppliers makes a positive difference in your business. This is especially true in today’s world where ordinary politeness has become rather extraordinary. One reason to say thank you is because it makes people remember you for next time. Whether you realize it or not, your clients do you a favour every time they choose to work with you. They’ve said “no” to other contractors they could have worked with, just like they could have said no to you. The fact that you were chosen is something you must never take for granted. All else being equal, people choose to do business with those they like. Saying thank you makes you more likable.

The second reason to say thank you may be the most important of all. The act of genuinely speaking these words keeps you humble. It’s a personal reminder that this dirty old ball of rock we live on would keep spinning just fine if you and your business disappeared tomorrow. Mutual consent is the hallmark of a free market economy and you can’t take the opportunity to work for granted. In a very real sense, I consider it a privilege to work for clients and you should, too. Saying thank you is an affirmation to yourself that even successful builders are dependent on others. We all are.

When should you say thank you? Pretty much whenever you can. In addition to a personal thank you every time a client pays you, thank your employees and subs when you pay them, too. Sure, officially speaking, the “thank you” is the payment you’re giving them, but why not make it more personal? It’s no extra trouble, and it builds your reputation as a decent, polite and reasonable person. And heaven knows, our world sure needs more people like this right about now, doesn’t it?


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