A remodeler client recently told me that his company hired a subcontractor (drywall and painting) whose owner does not speak English. The work that the subcontractor’s employees did was good. Now the remodeler plans to work with the subcontractor regularly.
My immediate thought was, “How can you work together when the subcontractor does not speak English?” Then I set that concern aside and started looking at facts.
Immigrants Embrace Craft Work
It makes sense that immigrants do work that can be done with one’s hands and that depends on experience to truly know how to get the job done right the first time. People who have been in the U.S. for some time tend to look down on those who work with their hands. Vocational tech high schools are rarer and rarer. “If you are not going to college, you are not going anywhere” is the message our country seems to send.
And yet the work needs to get done.
Once Laborers, Now Business Owners
The pattern repeats itself over and over. Initially, immigrants work with their hands for business owners who were likely born here. Over time the immigrants realize they could start their own businesses.
Language is a hurdle but not an insurmountable one. Work-arounds are created. The child of a subcontractor might be an English speaker. The contractor hiring the subcontractor might speak Spanish (or the like). Communication happens, albeit with a bit of effort on everyone’s parts.
One way this may all play out in the U.S. economy over the next 20 years or so is that more and more building trade companies and eventually remodeling companies will be owned by immigrants.
Adjust or Get Left Behind
Many folks in the U.S. adopt an “Us vs. Them” mentality regarding those who were not born here. Fact—virtually every one of us is a descendent of someone who came to the U.S. from their country of origin.
This is what makes America great.
Glory in it instead of being fearful. We adapt to changes all the time. Those who start working with people and companies whose owners don’t speak English will be ahead of the curve. The bonds created with those folks will make for mutual success over time.
After all, if the work gets done well and on time and the subcontractor does not speak English, who cares? Just tell 'em “Muchas gracias, amigo.”