Your Professionalism Can Make a Difference

One of my passions for our industry, especially design/build, is professionalism. Part-and-parcel of the design/build concept demands it. Clients benefit from it. And our collective bottom lines are greater for it.

There are many attributes of professionalism, everything from having a competent delivery system, efficient procedures, after-sale customer care and service, to just plain honesty. But until you know what these aspects are and how to put them in play, professionalism remains just a fuzzy spot on a contractor’s frontal lobe. To bring shape and definition that turns the fuzzy spot into hard-wired reality means not just accepting the idea as a “good thing,” but actually taking steps to make it so.

There is much wisdom in the Chinese proverb, “Learning is like rowing upstream, not to advance is to drop back.” As I start 2005, I am planning a successful and personally rewarding year. Part of my plan is to pay more than just lip service to past mistakes. I plan to actually look at and learn from them.

My partner and I share a desire for excellence, and we therefore hold our entire staff to a high level of professionalism, doing our part to help the industry remove the used-car-salesman stigma.

For the past two decades, increasing numbers of remodelers have come to view their services in a more professional light. Remodelers are hanging up their tool belts and becoming something more than technicians. By necessity they are learning business management and leadership skills, and acquiring the knowledge necessary to own and operate a successful business.

Learning takes an investment of time, patience, and sometimes, money. I can assure you it’s worth the price at twice the cost. Making mistakes is human. Accepting, then learning from one’s mistakes is part of the maturation process, and sharing what you’ve learned with others is an act of leadership. Several times a year, my partner asks everyone to talk about a mistake they have made and the lesson they learned from that mistake. My mistakes range from hiring the wrong person to expecting too much from a client who was on a tight time schedule.

But educating ourselves isn’t enough. It is also incumbent upon us to educate consumers. Like you, I am tired of reading about unscrupulous home repair contractors. Does it happen? Yes. And no amount of effort on our part or by the licensing authorities is ever going to change that. But we can limit the damage these individuals cause by educating the public.

We can have the best delivery system imaginable, but until we take the responsibility to educate homeowners, we can’t expect a real change in the industry’s perception. This public perception keeps homeowners from accepting us as “professional” business owners.

This need to be taken seriously as a professional is one of the major reasons for my involvement in our local Remodelors Council. It was through this venue that I first acquired some tools and ideas that have helped my professional development.

Join and become involved in NAHB’s Remodelors Council and/or NARI. Both provide numerous services. If you like peer feedback, join a Remodeler 20 group, Remodeler’s Advantage, or Business Networks. I strongly suggest The Remodeling Show or the International Builder’s Show, and the many worthwhile educational short courses.

Ultimately, we are all in business to make money. To do that we need to educate ourselves on how to better run our businesses and show the public that we are just as professional as their dentist or lawyer.