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“Building” and “philosophy” may seem like subjects that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but the latter should come into play for builders. Most successful contractors don’t just build stuff. They have a mindset that includes specific ideas of what they are about. They develop their own style, the customer experience they want to deliver, and the types of projects they want to build. They possess beliefs of what reflects well on them as a builder, and a proven approach to people. They have set standards that they operate within and look at their business as a long-term undertaking. They understand that decisions made now affect them in the future. They build and maintain a reputation accordingly and know what they want to be known for. They don’t just take jobs.
They match themselves up with projects and customers that fit. They don’t just ask customers what they want and give free estimates. They consult and help them understand their options and lead them through a process. The best will not deviate from their standards even if a customer would spend money with them for something cheaper. They realize that sometimes something cheaper doesn’t reflect well on them in the long run, so the profit gained up front doesn’t outweigh the potential consequences of a less than stellar reputation down the road. Their philosophy is to operate in a way that includes most, if not all, of the above aspects and one that they can be proud of. It also provides the best chance of a positive long-term reputation, success as a business, and profitability. So, what is your approach to building? Do you challenge yourself with the job types or do you offer options because they are easier to build?
Do you deliver the kind of projects you want to provide, or do you believe the demographics of your market are limited and hold you back? Do you strive to build a business or just provide yourself a job? If a customer asks you what your company is about, how do you answer? What is your 30-second elevator speech? What is your building philosophy? My building philosophy and elevator speech are simple: “We are looking for partners in a build, not just a customer. We only build the kind of projects we believe in and are not just looking to sell a job. Our approach is to build projects that look like true extensions of the home. We combine products that we believe perform for the long term, stand the test of time, and reflect well on us as a builder. We don’t offer lower-end wood decks and porches because we know they don’t reflect well on us over the long term.
“We would rather you wait until you’re willing to budget more towards the project investment. But, if you just want a newer version of what you have, or a wood deck is really what you want, we will refer you to another contractor that does that kind of work. As much as we would like to work with you, we won’t just take your money to put a job on the board.” Your approach to being in business doesn’t have to be complicated. Being organized as a business owner, being creative as a designer, and being open minded about products are a few of the requirements. Being honest and sincere with customers and not being afraid to ask for the sale are necessary.
Using simple logic, organizing your visions and style, promoting, and communicating what you do are keys. Creating simple messaging is part of the formula. The old saying that hard work pays off is only partially true. It takes a lot more than that to get to where most motivated contractors want to be. But not everyone has the same goals. You can limit your hours, limit your efforts, keep it simple, and just make a living if you choose to do so. Because this particular motivation level is common and accounts for a lot of contractors, it makes it easier for those who want to put forth the extra effort to stand out in their markets. Average is easy, and you can coast to maintain that level. Being one of the better operators takes more effort. The common characteristic of top builders is that they possess an inner drive, a clear mindset, a positive attitude, and a competitive nature. Combine this with skill, commitment, and people skills, and you realize the makings of a standout contractor and person.
Being in the upper group in your market when it comes to reputation, recognizable branding, and offering upper-end projects provides many benefits. So can you really fi t something like “philosophy” into building, remodeling, or deck building? One definition of philosophy is: a set of ideals, standards, or beliefs used to describe behavior and thought. Another definition is: an underlying theory or set of ideas relating to a particular field of activity. Both definitions apply to what we do. Successful contractors have more depth than just building stuff. They improve lifestyles and provide improved function and recreational options for their customers. They set standards for themselves, learn how to develop relationships with customers, and deliver projects to them in a way that they don’t require therapy afterwards.
So, I ask again, what is your building philosophy?