This year’s crop of Big50 honorees comes from all areas of the country and specializes in a variety of niches from basements to bathrooms. But while they each have their own recipe for success, these top contractors all seem to agree on some basic best business practices — practices that can help any contractor grow their business.
Here’s a look at five basic best practices Big50 contractors have in common and how they incorporate them in the real world:
1. Be a good neighbor
A remodeling job is often a major intrusion to homeowners who must deal with rooms being shut and contractors traipsing in and out. But it’s just as much of a disruption for neighbors who must put up with large trucks, noise and occasional roadblocks. Many Big50 contractors use what could be a liability as an asset by sending letters to surrounding homeowners informing them about what’s happening, the general timeline of the project and what to expect. These contractors take care to give their personal contact information and ask neighbors to contact them directly if problem arise, rather than their customer. This technique not only protects the homeowner from unwanted complaints, it also gives contractors another way to market themselves as professional and conscientious — two characteristics that help with referrals.
2. Give back
Many top contractors make a point of giving back to the community either through charity work or sponsoring local groups. It’s especially effective when contractors use their skills to help the less fortunate. Giving back in this way achieves two important goals. First, it helps create more of a team atmosphere with workers, who are often only too happy to donate their time and expertise to a good cause. Second, it serves as a different kind of word or mouth marketing campaign. When community members see remodeling companies pitching in for good causes — and it gets picked up in the media, as often happens — it makes them more likely to remember those companies when it comes time to do their own projects.
3. Keep employees happy
With today’s chronic labor shortage, this concept should be a no-brainer. After all, happy workers are more likely to stay with your company. But ensuring their satisfaction is about more than simply maintaining your workforce. Smart contractors know that happy employees lead to happy customers — so they go out of their way to keep them contented. Some use flexible work schedules, while others are offering more lavish benefits such as 401ks with generous matching. Another simple way to keep workers happy is just making them feel appreciated. Regular employee recognitions coupled with small prizes, company sponsored get-togethers and even occasional free lunches all go a long way toward making employees feel good about where they work. And who knows, you might have some fun in the process, too.
4. Make it personal
The home may be the most personal place for anyone. The most successful contractors recognize this truth and take pains to show customers they understand the intimate nature of a remodeling. Many contractors short-hand this attitude with the simple phrase of “treating customers like family.” That often means they go out of their way to say hello to customers in the grocery store or even stop by if they’re in the neighborhood. Some have even hired customer care staff to manage projects and get to know clients on a more personal level. While the project is in the works, these employees stay in regular contact with the homeowners, often just chatting about life and avoiding project details all together. When the project is finished, customers receive highly personalized gifts that show the contractor really understands who they are — and cares. For example, one Big50 contractor gave their customer a custom-made dog dish holder for a beloved pet. These kinds of thoughtful touches stay in customers’ minds the next time they need work or someone asks them for a referral.
5. Use tech as a tool
These days, it's easy to get overwhelmed with technology. From social media and phones to tablets and drones, it's easy for contractors to get lost. Remodelers aren't luddites though, and most top firms are embracing technology to be more efficient and profitable. For example, rather than using a costly and complicated project management system, some contractors simply use a free or low-cost cloud-based storage service such as DropBox to give everyone access to project data while maintaining continuity. Other free apps such as WhatsApp provide simple ways for everyone on the project team to stay connected and in the loop. The key is adopting technology as a means to an end — higher productivity, improved customer satisfaction, better communication, to name a few — rather than simply treating it as a end in itself.