January and February are great times for me to think about my business. Closing out books, planning for the new year and updating my website, centervillebuildanddesign.com. These are all the things that consume me in these months. I am still wishing it paid in cash…or check; heck I’ll even take a credit card! What these activities do though, is help me to realize I run a business. These are the same things large companies do like, IBM or Apple, Ford or GM, or any number of large and small businesses across the country. I also field a number of bid requests.
I like this aspect of the business. I get to meet people and find out what ideas they have in the remodeling areas of their homes. But there is a down side: most of these prospective customers are just casting lines. Making calls to “kinda see how much it costs to…” Fill in the blank. Redo the kitchen, add a shower, replace the counter tops in the bathroom, add a deck, take one down. The idea list is extensive. The process is to see what they can do for their money. Here is one thing that may or may not be clear to the customer, I can spend hours in a meeting, more hours pricing, (not to mention others time) and never here back from them. I probably should charge for estimates, but for my market, no one else does. I guess they lose out each time they never here from someone either.
In an effort to make our time effective together, I’ve compiled a short thought list on how to find a contractor to do the project you need completed, professionally, with excellent communication and on time performance. I use me as an example, but most reputable firms are looking for this also. These are things that matter most. All other things can be fixed if you have these assets. Sound familiar in your business?
1. Get a referral from some one you know and respect who has done business with me. They can vouch for what I can do and you will find I give very competitive pricing when I feel the prospective customer is serious about doing the project. Check your Better Business Bureau. I know, we all saw the great expose on 20/20 last year, but I think these guys were a one off. My BBB is above board and can be difficult for me to increase my ratings unless I follow the guidelines of ethical business, time in business, etc…
2. Do your homework ahead of time. This does not include HGTV or browsing the newspaper to see if Home Depot or Lowe’s will get it done for $99.00. They will. They don’t make money on installs. It’s all marked up in the material. Ask friends, people at work or family if they have recently had a kitchen remodeled or their bath updated. If so, how much was it? Was it similar in scope of work to what you want done? How much did it cost? If their unemployed brother-in-law did it, I can’t compete with that: I Run a Business. I have overhead. I pay taxes, unemployment insurance, workman’s comp, etc…and have an office, probably like the company you work for…This naturally leads to number 3
3. Figure out a budget. Be realistic. It helps me to cut down on estimating time, thus lowering my costs and yours. Help me with material selections. I know you want granite tops, but if your budget is low, then tell me up front. I’ll be upfront with you also. I do not participate in the great race to the bottom. I want to be around for the next couple of decades at least, but this requires me to “make a profit” just like the company you work for.
4. Please call me back. I put a lot of effort into doing what I do. If you don’t award me the contract, tell me. I won’t be offended, but it will help me to move forward to the next customer and keep my overhead down as we don’t repeatedly call you and try to continue to win your business.
5. If you are working with multiple contractors to get bids, tell me. Please don’t lead me around just to “get some more ideas”. We are a full service design/build company, but we don’t give away our designs. We will present what we feel is the best solution for your home and let you look at it, but not keep it. It will be yours if you move forward with us. If a contractor or big box is giving away “free” design, you will get exactly what you paid for it in the long run.
The winter is a good time to make plans to get you remodeling projects completed. From spring to Christmas is “Hammer Time”. Please make this a priority if you’ve called me: I have.