Remodeler: Some of my best employees are immigrants, and the same is true of many of our trade contractors. This fact seems to make some homeowners uncomfortable, and I know I've lost jobs to companies with more “All-American”-looking crews. How can I assure prospects that the people who will be working in their home are legal, skilled, trustworthy, etc., without drawing attention to an objection that most people don't want to admit they have?
Michael Lee: Though most people don't care who works on their home as long as the work is done right, there is a small group of people who just aren't comfortable around minorities. I've found that these kinds of folk usually don't make good clients anyway, as their general negativity often results in dissatisfaction with all areas of their lives, including remodeling jobs.
On the other hand, there are also people who believe that Hispanics and other minorities actually do better work on homes than other groups, due to positive stereotypes they may have seen or heard.
My suggestion is to work with customers who judge you by the quality of your work, not by the color of your employees' skin. I think you'll find that you'll be happier and more prosperous as a result.
Some people don't try to communicate at all if they think the crew speaks no English. This can make everyone feel awkward. It's helpful for the salesperson, owner, or another key employee to introduce the crew (and their level of English fluency) to the homeowners.
For example: “John and Mary, this is Manuel. He's originally from Honduras and has been in the U.S. for eight years. His English is quite good, but I encourage you to call me directly if anything is unclear.” This breaks the ice with everyone and can become a point of positive differentiation between you and your competitors. —Michael Lee is a multicultural marketing consultant with EthnoConnect (www.ethnoconnect.com). Have a question for Michael? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.