Referrals from satisfied customers stand as one of the most effective tools for growing a business. However, not all contractors feel comfortable requesting them. They don’t want to bother their customers, or they believe it’s in bad form to ask for referrals.
If that’s your perception, you may be missing out on new opportunities!
Instead, look at it this way: Your requests for referrals give your customers the chance to help you (a hard-working small-business owner) AND solve a need for someone they know. Asking respectfully doesn’t pressure your customers to “sell out” their friends, family, or business contacts. Instead, it allows them to think about who might genuinely benefit from your services and expertise.
7 Referral Tips for Contractors
1. Get organized and be selective. Make a list of jobs that went (or are going) very well and ask those customers for referrals. The fans of your work are the people most likely to recommend you enthusiastically.
2. Choose the right communication method. Consider the persons you will be asking for referrals. How do they prefer to communicate (phone call, text, email, etc.)? Reach out to them using the method they find most convenient because it may help ensure you get a positive response.
3. Make the ask specific. If you’re interested in getting more jobs of a certain type (perhaps they’re more profitable or more in line with your specific expertise), let your customers know. That will help generate referrals for the projects you want to add to your schedule.
4. Ask before the job Is done. If you’ve completed most of a project that has been smooth sailing, consider asking for referrals before you’ve finished the job. Because you’re still actively connected with your customer, you and your exceptional work will be fresh on their mind. That may help make your referral ask more top of mind, too.
5. Be honest. If you feel awkward about asking for a referral, break the ice by telling your customer you’re nervous or uncomfortable. EVERYONE has experienced that sort of feeling at some time.
6. Be flexible. Some customers may feel most comfortable giving your information to someone else vs. giving someone else’s information to you. Express your preference but let them proceed in whatever way makes the most sense for them and whomever they want to refer you to.
7. Follow up. What if a customer says they’ll be happy to recommend you but wants some time to think about who might need your services? Follow up with them after a week or so to see if anyone came to mind.
We hope these tips help you harness the power of word of mouth to grow your business!
We are pleased to announce that William (Bill) Hursh has joined our team! As an inside sales representative, Bill will support our customers by estimating materials required for projects and facilitating a smooth order process. He began his role at Homestead Outdoor Products on March 14. A Lancaster County native, Bill has years of estimating experience in the commercial flooring industry.
In past articles, we discussed two traits (humble yet driven leaders, and the right people) that author Jim Collins says successful companies embody. Now, we’ll touch on the third trait in Collins’ book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t.
Great Companies’ trait #3: Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith)
Good-to-great companies have leaders who confront the reality of their situation—even when it’s less than ideal. Only by acknowledging the truth can the right decisions be made to improve the circumstances.
Confronting the brutal facts involves:
- Being truthful,
- Asking for truthfulness
- Acting upon truth
But there’s more to it than that. Good-to-great businesses keep faith in their mission and goals. They don’t let pessimism cloud their vision for a brighter future. At the same time, they acknowledge and accept there will be hard work ahead to overcome the challenges that stand in their way of achieving that vision.
Three Tips for Getting to the Truth of the Situation
Collins suggests several ways business leaders can understand their company’s reality. We’ve put our own twist on three of them that we believe may be helpful for contractors.
1. Lead with questions, not answers. Ask for opinions and input from your workers and customers to learn the facts as they really are. Don’t try to steer people into saying what retrofits into your grand vision.
This point is crucial for charismatic business owners with a strong leadership personality. Their outspokenness and strong opinions may overshadow the ideas of less-vocal workers and customers.
2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion. Open the door to discussion and allow room for disagreement (in casual and formal situations). Don’t try to force people to think a certain way. Debate enables people to share different perspectives and ideas for problem-solving and improvements.
3. Conduct autopsies without blame. When things go wrong, discuss them with your team. Take care to do so in the spirit of wanting to get better as a company rather than to condemn people for making mistakes.
Stay tuned for more insight about going from good to great! Next time, we’ll talk about Collins’ “Hedgehog Concept.”
400 Series Railing is a new vinyl railing system designed for drink rail.
- Product construction is an aluminum plate attached to a vinyl top rail (the complete piece is ready out of the box!) to which you attach deck board.
- The aluminum piece has predrilled holes every 12 inches for fasteners (provided).
- Versatility—You choose and supply the deck board to fulfill your customer’s aesthetic vision.
- Simple, No-hassle Installation—You don’t have to grapple with adapters or special brackets. Simply lay the deck board in place and fasten it with the provided fasteners.
- Aluminum plate construction offers enhanced tolerance and strength. It’s ideal for future accessory add-ons (like under-rail lighting) and prone to less deflection and flex than vinyl.
Want to learn more about this new offering? Give us a call!
HOMESTEAD OUTDOOR PRODUCTS
NEW: We will be stocking RISE Siding, a synthetic siding product, from RISE Building Products.
SUPERIOR PLASTIC PRODUCTS AND KEY-LINK™ FENCING & RAILING
NEW: Superior Plastic Products has introduced a new railing product, 400 Series Railing (featured in our Product Spotlight), and Key-Link is rolling out matte color finishes as standard on both Outlook and Chesapeake Series railings.
DISCONTINUED: Superior and Key-Link are making the following changes so that they can focus on providing their best-selling, most in-demand products.
Superior Plastic Products is discontinuing:
- Infill options: Baron, Belmont, Denver, Glass, Victorian, Heritage, Kinzer, Lexus, Imperial, Oxford
- 7000 Series Vinyl Railing
- 1000 Series Vinyl Railing: replaced with a new product line, Fabricator Railing Line
- All lawn and garden items: EXCEPT Pergola offerings
- All porch posts: EXCEPT Plain, Traditional, Madison, and Classic
Key-Link™ Fencing & Railing is discontinuing:
- Infill options: Hammered, Twisted, Decorative, Round, Indented, Bowed, Alternating Twisted
- Arabian and Lancaster Railing (Key-Link will also begin stocking minimal gloss colors. Gloss will require special orders across all railing series offerings.)
- 12-watt Placid Point Lighting power supply and Outlook Series sections without code support
NEW: Fiberon has added “Promenade,” a new line of PVC decking.
The Right People
- Level 5 Leadership
- First Who, Then What
- Confront the Brutal Facts
- Hedgehog Concept
- Culture of Discipline
- Technology Accelerators
- The Flywheel
In this article we’ll take a look at the second characteristic that’s critical for going from good to great.
GREAT COMPANIES’ TRAIT #2: FIRST WHO, THEN WHAT
Collins advises business owners to put “who” questions before “what” decisions. “What” decisions—strategy, vision, tactics—will be easier to tackle when a company has the right people on board.
Whether a contracting business has a handful of workers or hundreds of employees, having the right people on a team can make or break productivity and performance. A good—even a genius—leader cannot compensate for the problems created by hiring individuals who are not a good fit.
Consider a business with four workers. . . one “bad apple” represents one-quarter of the workforce. The company’s owner or a supervisor will have to spend a lot of time managing that person. Also, that individual’s poor attitude or shoddy work can quickly hurt the company’s reputation and lower employee morale.
How can you avoid this trap?
- Focus on building a team of capable people who share your company’s values and work ethic.
- Be choosy about whom you hire. Don’t be in a rush to fill open positions with “warm bodies.” With labor shortages hurting our industry, it may be tempting to hire the first applicants in the door. Instead, take your time and assemble a team that will work well together for the long haul.
- Hire for the attitude, train for the skill. While people can learn many trade skills, a positive outlook and motivation to do an excellent job come from within.
- Compensate your employees at or slightly above the “going rate.” Remember that no matter how much you pay, the right people will perform their best, and the wrong people won’t care about their impact on your business.
Stay tuned for more about going from good to great! Next time, we’ll talk about the third characteristic, “Confront the Brutal Facts.”
By: Stuart Jeffcoat—CEO, Burgard
Can you believe it’s already 2022?! As folks have returned from the holidays and are back in their regular daily routines, many are thinking about upcoming home improvement and building projects. It’s time for contractors to seize the opportunity by launching their sales and marketing efforts for the New Year.
But where to begin? So many tactics and strategies exist to kick-start the sales cycle! To help make the process less daunting and to get your year off to a strong start, we’re sharing some time-tested tips.
1. Outline your sales process.
Likely, the journey from that first phone call with a prospect to the final payment is similar from customer to customer. Write down the process and keep track of how it impacts your business; doing so will provide several benefits:
- Efficiency: By identifying what steps you take with clients, you can remove parts of the process that are redundant or aren’t offering value.
- Consistency: While not every customer is the same, providing a consistent experience is a great way to ensure top-quality service. By observing what you’re doing, you can concentrate on repeating good habits and eliminating bad ones.
- Improvement: When you have a handle on what’s happening in your process and the outcomes, you have the information you need
to improve. For example, if your sales numbers are lagging, or you simply want to grow your business, identifying what’s working and what’s
not is the first step.
2. Understand your market.
Clients come to you instead of the other guys for a reason. Maybe you have extensive expertise and experience in certain projects, or perhaps you provide a price point that your competitors can’t match. Regardless of your distinctive competitive advantage, understanding your market allows you to:
- Communicate the value you provide (and your company values): Sharing what you do best and what your company stands for gives prospects a reason to choose you over the competition.
- Understand what you DON’T do: There are probably types of jobs you don’t like, or that aren’t your specialty, or that don’t turn a healthy profit. Deciding to pass on that work can save you time, money, and hassles. And it will allow you to focus on what you do well.
3. Get the word out.
Sales and marketing aren’t just for big companies with large teams and massive budgets. In 2022, it’s essential to put yourself out there so that prospective customers know you exist. Marketing your company is also critical for reminding past customers you’re still here to serve their needs.
Ways to promote yourself, regardless of the size of your business, include:
- Website: Websites come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big, robust, and expensive—designed and maintained by a professional website developer. Others are cheap and simple—created using free tools (like WIX). Whatever option you choose, having a website is an important tool to make your company visible and to connect with prospects and customers.
- Google My Business™ profile: Most consumers find service providers in two ways:
- Asking friends.
- Searching on Google. Having a Google My Business profile helps to ensure your business turns up on Google when folks search online for contractors in their area. The best part? It’s free!
We wish you a successful 2022! If you have questions about any of these strategies or want to discuss your marketing challenges, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-693-2204.
We’re saddened to announce Dave Wenrich is leaving Homestead Outdoor Products. Dave and his family have purchased a small farm in the Mifflintown area, where they expect to settle down to country life. David Batturs has also resigned his position, citing health issues. We wish both Dave and David the best with their future endeavors.
The book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t sheds light on the shared characteristics of businesses that achieve exceptional success. Jim Collins, author and researcher, identifies seven key traits that enable companies to transition from doing okay to doing phenomenally well.
- Level 5 Leadership
- First Who, Then What
- Confront the Brutal Facts
- Hedgehog Concept
- Culture of Discipline
- Technology Accelerators
- The Flywheel
These may all sound a bit cryptic! That’s why, in this article and several others to come, we will discuss the characteristics that Collins discovered so that you can consider them as you strive to improve and grow your business.
Great Companies Characteristic #1: Level 5 Leadership
Collins describes five levels of leadership that embody different skills and strengths. All levels are important for business owners to achieve and maintain. But getting to Level 5 is especially critical for taking a company from good to great.
- Level 1: Highly Capable Individual—Contributes their work ethic, talents, and knowledge to advance the company
- Level 2: Contributing Team Member—Applies their individual capabilities to group efforts and objectives and collaborates effectively in group settings
- Level 3: Competent Manager—Effectively organizes people and other resources to further company objectives
- Level 4: Effective Leader—Stimulates higher performance standards by motivating others to work together toward a clear and compelling vision
- Level 5: Executive—Embodies a powerful blend of unwavering will and humility, a combination that develops trust and inspires others to aspire to excellence
Contracting companies might find it difficult to transition from the first three levels to the fourth and fifth. In small businesses, owners are often tasked with working heavily in the business (meeting with customers, writing quotes, doing the construction, etc.) to get jobs done and keep operations running smoothly. But working on the business (planning, strategizing) to develop a clear and compelling vision is critical, too. So is communicating that vision and having the right mindset and demeanor to energize others in the company to want to help fulfill it.
So, what can you do if you haven’t quite reached Level 5? Here are a few tips to consider:
- Delegate work to others in your business who have the necessary skills and knowledge—and don’t micro-manage!
- Take time to think about what you want your business to achieve. What vision do you have for your company?
- Establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that allow you to set benchmarks for success, measure performance, and track what’s working and what isn’t.
- Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge a job well done and show appreciation for your team’s hard work.
- Be confident but not cocky. Feel gratified by your achievements but keep focus on how everyone in your business has contributed collectively to your success.
Stay tuned for more about going from good to great! Next time, we’ll talk about the second characteristic, “First Who, Then What.”
Check out our new video at homesteadoutdoorproducts.com/videos, featuring information to help contractors stay on top of building code requirements. Watch and listen as Homestead Outdoor Products’ Ken Burkholder explains the criteria that handrails must meet and where they must be installed to comply with IRC specifications.
Tune in to our other helpful videos, too, and watch for more to come!