Throughout the design/build process there are hundreds of opportunities to connect with the client. From the first moment of contact through final site cleanup, a client will get to know you, your crew and your company. Eventually, the client will fit you into a stereotype and relate with you based on that identity.
It's human nature to categorize and compartmentalize people and information so life makes sense. We rely upon quick mental evaluations to function in life. Therefore, it is important from a business perspective to project a company image that is well thought out and consistent. A good place to begin creating an image is the company logo.
In old days, contractors used the family name in bold block letters to proclaim who they were. If they were avant garde, they may have placed graphics of a hammer or saw next to their name. For many contractors, this approach is still within their comfort zone, and there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, this imagery has a certain connotation for many people which may drive business to that contractor. That is, they are no-nonsense, traditional builders.
I have noticed in my own neighborhood a number of builder signs appearing on front lawns which are cleverly geared toward their clientele. One sign uses a woodsy theme with carved trees. The message is that they are environmentally aware and are very creative craftspeople. Even the name is eco-friendly.
Another contractor has a sleek sign that features a large, green, lower-case letter on a white background. The logo is eye-catching and conveys the message that this contractor is with the times. His sign tends to be in trendy neighborhoods where an eye toward aesthetics is appreciated.
Once your company image is established, don't be afraid to use it on all correspondence. From meeting agendas to invoices to contracts, be consistent with its use because branding your company is important. Why do you think Coca-Cola and other businesses pay big bucks for their products to be placed in movies and on television? They are working their way into your consciousness.
Even employees bear the responsibility of carrying the company's brand with them. This means when they show up on a jobsite they should be wearing clean T-shirts or polo shirts that feature the company logo. As I've mentioned in previous columns, it also means that their behavior is a direct representation of the company, so no loud music, profane language or inappropriate behavior is allowed. Courtesy and cleanliness should be standard operating procedure for all employees and people representing the design/builder.
An example of how one bad apple can spoil your image comes from years ago when I worked with a design/builder who had a great field crew. The lead carpenter had a lot of experience and technical expertise. Unfortunately, he also had a drinking problem and some other personal problems that flowed over into his professional life.
My friend, the design/builder, tried to help his lead carpenter and gave him every opportunity to set himself straight. I told my friend it was laudable that he was not cutting an old employee loose, but trying to save the man. However, in the meantime, the business had suffered a black eye because clients were not so tolerant of the lead carpenter's behaviors. Ultimately, the carpenter took off one day and never returned.
I actually believe that he left not only because he was unable to function, but also because he recognized how his problems were impugning the good name of his friend's business. Clients did not see the carpenter's problems as his own, they saw the problems as the builder's, which ultimately hurt his brand.