Most of the people who do the on-site work involved in remodeling are not white collar workers. These folks do the hard work of delivering on the promises that their companies’ salespeople make.

In the U.S., being a blue collar worker—a promise fulfiller—is not looked upon as a desirable way of making a living. This is an incredible change from the 1950s and 1960s when one worker, usually the dad, was able to support a middle-class household including his spouse, 2.5 children, two cars and maybe a boat. Such families could actually afford to take vacations!

As someone who banged nails back in the day, it is always a pleasure to read about blue collar workers who are doing what they are paid to do, doing it well and are proud of what they do.

In Berkeley, Calif., where we used to live, there is a small chain of hot dog eateries called Top Dog. They serve nothing fancy, just good sausages of all sorts with the works. Recently I came across an interview with an employee at Top Dog, someone who has worked there, with pride in what he does, for 23 years. He preferred to go unnamed, so we’ll call him Top Dog Guy.

Here are a couple of quotes from Top Dog Guy that I think are useful for anybody who has promise keepers on their staff.

What do you like about working at Top Dog? the reporter asks.

Top Dog Guy: There’s this perception in America that a truly educated man wouldn’t work with their hands. That somehow that’s beneath them, because an educated person uses their mind. … But why is a person that works with their hands any less intelligent than one that sits at a desk?

Whatever happened to being a good honest person, who does a good job and is proud of the work they do to make a living? What ever happened to that? There’s nothing wrong with getting dirty and sweaty at work. That’s what showers are for. … Whether I’m a garbage man, a carpenter, or a brick layer says nothing about the thoughts that go through my head and what I think of the world.

Then Top Dog Guy talks about annoying customers and training others to be able to do so effectively. He says he has taken on “maybe eight Padawans”—that’s a term used in the Star Wars movies for a young Jedi knight in training. Top Dog Guy declares “with not a lot of humility that I’m the best that’s ever done my job.”

Reporter: Does that give you a sense of pride?

Top Dog Guy: It does, because I’m someone who believes that anything can be an art. If you are going to do something you can make an art out of it. You can be an artist and be a builder. You can be an artist and make food. Anything that we do can be turned into an art if you do it with pride, skill dedication and true emotion.

Reporter: When you do something with integrity.

Top Dog Guy: Yes, integrity. Whether you’re building a skyscraper or running a newspaper, it becomes something that connects us when it has another person’s real emotion in it. How can it not?


So, what is the point here regarding your small business? It's this: You need and deserve workers who have great pride in what they do. And you must continually help your workers feel that pride.

What happens if you don’t? Several things, in fact, happen. You start losing business for no apparent reason. Your employees leave, or even worse, continue to “work” at your company while sabotaging it. Trade contractors and vendors don’t give your company the service they used to.

How to avoid this? Celebrate your employees who “get” it, who are part of the solution. Do this in your company meetings and in your marketing. And make sure that they are more than fairly compensated, if you want them to stay with you.

After all, as a small-business owner, by doing so you make your company more successful and the lives of those you employ (and their families) better than they would have been otherwise. And you are helping to make blue-collar work as respected as it should be.