I Was Green When Green Wasn’t Cool

To paraphrase an old country song — were you green when green wasn’t cool? How long have you been green? Now it’s cool to be green. No, it’s almost a must to be green or to at least say that you are. How long is this going to last? How green will it get? Are you lean and green or are you as big and tough as Mean Joe…? OK, don’t run for the Pepto-Bismol. Go along with me a little because everyone (it seems) is wrapped up in the ideas that comprise the new green culture. These days, it’s difficult to open your e-mail or to read an industry bulletin or newsletter without seeing several items offering ways to be more, better, farther, faster, longer or deeper green. So, the question is: Where is this going and how interested are your potential clients about your commitment to the concepts embraced by green?

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a task force of subject matter experts (SMEs) which was convened to write a detailed training manual for weatherization and to examine other successful training curricula of the Home Builders Institute (HBI) division of NAHB. There were 14 people around the table. Present were two life-long journeyman carpenters from the St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program; the program manager for American Youthworks; a number of NAHB builders and remodelers; representatives from Youth Build and the Job Corps; workforce training and education specialists at HBI; as well as representatives from the Department of Labor. HBI is developing weatherization training, and the blue-ribbon group was there to ensure the substance, accuracy and value presented. There was plenty of expertise at the table about being green, but what of being too green? Is green the color of frenzy?

NAHB/HBI have developed the National Green Building Standards (Residential Green Standards), the only ANSI-approved green building standards for residential construction. The approved standards provide the measure for different attainments when pursuing green in new residential construction and to some extent in remodeling. Through these standards you can know and show you have met certain levels of green, but is this enough? Is the buying public gullible or trusting enough so that all you have to say is, “I’m Green, baby!” and out come their wallets as fast as a hammer hits the thumb? Of course not. Green is hot now because it’s getting so much ink and air time. But green isn’t free. It is cool, but how cool do your clients want to be?

Your responsibility when marketing and selling remodeling or new construction projects is not only to show how you support energy-conservation principles, water-saving, sustainable resources and indoor air quality, but also to show how you justify the cost of doing so. In my last column, I looked at finding out “Why they don’t buy” as an important company improvement exercise. When selling green, that same knowledge is also vital. You not only need to know how to meet the RGS standards, but you also need to know how much they cost and why they are a value worth owning. To do that you must know the cost difference over the less green path. You also must know the current market rate of return and the maintenance characteristics. Armed with this information, you can properly explain and show your client why the green solution is not only conscientious but an investment value as well. This may sound a little complicated, but it is quite simple and for years has been a successful, sale-closing tool for me either as a “competition flusher” or as a superior product launcher.

When you offer a green idea that costs more initially but saves energy, uses renewable resources and is environmentally sensitive — calculate the length of time at the current investment or savings rate of return it will take to earn back the additional cost difference. If the time it takes to make up for the additional initial cost is less than the interest that same amount of money can earn, you have a lay-down good deal. If the recovery rate is close, you are being green at a reasonable cost and that is cool and salable. If you have been yelling “Green, Green” from the rooftops and the recovery rate is much longer than the current saving rate justifies, you have a hill to climb, and I will probably get the job you were after with a better and more justifiable value. That way I get the kind of “green” for my bank account that you thought you had all sewed up. While you’re here...