My wife and I had a general contractor over to the house today. We’re interested in getting tile flooring put into our kitchen, so we invited someone over who’s a new friend of a friend. Never met John before although he was a solid reference who I spoke with over the phone a number of times and we decided to talk about a possible project. Needless to say, my wife and I certainly felt comfortable getting to know one another.
You see, this circle of contractors has a good reputation which didn’t happen over night. These guys do good work some of these guys have had their own business for close to 30 years. They work primarily in Lake County and as many contractors say, customers talk and it’s very important they do good work. I think John’s focus as a GC and contractor involves sometimes imagining he’s doing work for himself – remodeling a bathroom in Buffalo Grove and at the same time, pretending to build a dream bathroom for his wife. When he’s installing a wood floor in a living room, he may be imaging putting a wood floor to be used by his two grandsons. In other words, it’s about being customer centric by being work that he’s proud of. Doing work that those buddies in the trade would be proud of too.
So in a way, it’s it a surprise they’ve had plenty of work regardless of a significant economic downturn? Apparently a recession doesn’t strike fear in his family – knowing that he always does a good job so that he doesn’t need to find work – work will typically find him. In fact, that’s how we found him, my wife bumped into a contractor within his network in her office building and one thing led to another and Matt, the painter recommended him for tile work.
John doesn’t advertise – proof being that he only works on referrals. Apparently prospective clients would have to fit that qualification before any of them would be recommended by one contractor to another. I would assume this group of contractors have a pretty good idea which customers they’d consider themselves and recommend to others within their contractor network. Perhaps being honest, hard working and customer centric allows contractors and general contractors over the years to be choosy when dealing with customers. They are not like doctors who may not be able to fire customers. Good contractors in great demand over the years have acquired experience to quickly determine if they want to work with someone or not. Even though some customers may not be “picked” by a contractor, ultimately, it’s a win-win for those who enter into this business arrangement.
Again, is it not remarkable that some contractors have not suffered financially through the great recession? What takeaways can other contractors, and especially those just getting started, who weren’t so fortunate learn from this approach? Perhaps one lesson of this story is that it doesn’t hurt to talk to people, you don’t know what good may result from a quick chat. The other, more poignant lesson, having a strong network of contractors and sub-contractors who support one another, are honest and do good work. Each project is starting over – doing their best on every job to help keep their brand in demand and pricing too is important. Making the price not the issue and at the same time, a win-win approach for both parties involved. And I suspect this strategy and approach could apply to other independent contractors in various lines of business.