On Record: Raving fans

As we face what most are predicting to be a rough 2009, I’ve been reminded the basics of being an excellent contractor don’t change, whatever the economic weather.

This reminder came as I called the references for our 2009 Contractor of the Year nominees. There are significant reasons why these contractors are nominees for this national award, one of them being they have raving fans. I confess to chill-bumps when I hear comments like these:

“He gave us personal attention, and did such a wonderful job that in the second phase of our project we didn’t feel it was necessary to go out for proposal. Instead, we sat down and negotiated with him. He built a rapport with the local municipality and that was part of why we negotiated. The municipality had some horror stories of working with other contractors, but they were happy with him. He was upfront and trustworthy.”
– Retirement community vice president of operations

“He can look at plan documents and work up a schedule for price, explore the impact of construction with each phase and determine the interaction between all the trades, and he helps you get the project. He’s helped us double our revenues in the past two years. His values line up well with ours. I trust him because he has the same business model as we do. He has a humility that is remarkably prevalent with real leaders.”
– Construction management/design-build firm representative

“Two words come to mind immediately: ethics and integrity. He’s the quintessential example of both. Construction is a demanding business that often requires compromise, but he works within that sphere without moving away from his values.”
– Construction association president

When you call people and can detect the immediate smile in their voice when you mention a contractor’s name, you know you’re going to hear a success story (and despite the male-specific examples above, this goes for women contractors, too.) There’s an appreciation not only because the contractor in question has made life easier, but also because these people are acquainted with contractors who fall far short of excellence. I often hear the phrase “they’re not like other contractors” in these calls. You know, the ones that make promises not kept, have disrespectful employees who gritch at every opportunity and keep equipment that’s yet to see its first wash cycle.

Chances are you have both your raving fans and your detractors. If you prove you have bedrock values in a sour economy, however, you’ll end up with much more of the former when things turn around.