Why Quality Matters

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – As I sat in the transept of a Presbyterian church here, just before a memorial service honoring the life of Don Novak, CGR, the 2005 past chairman of the NAHB Remodelers, my eyes were drawn to very tight miter joints formed by the coupling of a series of massive glue-lam beams that together formed the walls and steep roof of this 1972 church building. Novak had been the contractor who built this church back then, and now, 38 years later it was here beneath these sturdy timbers that he was to be fondly remembered as spouse, parent, a construction professional and remodeling industry leader. Each glue-lam remained perfectly positioned. Each joint seemed as perfectly tight as they had been the day they were set in place.

One of the eulogists for Don remembered the care and hard work that Novak and team had put into not only this job but thousands of others around the community. The eulogist told a story of client amazement at the precise movements of the Novak Construction team. “They were on the job exactly at 8 a.m. Their shirts were clean and nicely lettered with the company name. They worked diligently until 10 a.m. when they all stopped, opened up snacks prepared for them by Don’s wife, and resumed work at 10:15 a.m. until lunch, followed by a full afternoon of work. The project continued in this orderly fashion each subsequent day until the job was completed several weeks later.”

Novak meant so much to a far-reaching group of colleagues around the country. So it is with considerable risk of limiting the fuller arc of his life that I focus on the professional aspect as depicted in this story of a customer amazed at his quality process and ultimately his quality work. But when all is said and done, the works we leave behind and the positive impressions we make on those with whom we work during our lives are a significant part of our legacies as individuals. Don’s example should be instructive to many of you who are working hard to fill your marketing funnel during this economic slowdown.

Though there are many exceptions to the rule, full-service and design-build remodelers tend to not be intense marketers. In fact, many proudly depend on word-of-mouth advertising, repeat business and referrals for all new business.

That is why it is surprising that so many remodelers really don’t know whether they are satisfying their customers. They never ask, but they assume it is the case. By our definition, a satisfied customer is someone who, immediately after the job is completed, is willing to refer others to your company. Satisfied customers tell five people, on average, about their good experience. How impressed would you be if you hired a firm to come to your house and they performed the job with such courtesy and precision as Novak’s team evidently did? Now lay that against what your customers see from your team each day. Is there room for improvement? Customer satisfaction is the cornerstone of quality management. It creates legions of fans that continually drive new business.

I have no doubt that Don Novak understood this, particularly as hundreds of friends and past clients filled a church he built to pay tribute to him.

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