It should be obvious. If you own a business, you need to act like a business owner. That means being professional; returning phone calls, showing up for appointments, doing what you say you'll do.
One of our coaching clients was telling me about his problems finding a subcontractor for a job. If you're a general contractor, this might sound all too familiar.
He needed a mason to do exterior stucco work on a job. He hadn't sold the job yet; it was still in the estimating stage. He called over a dozen companies and managed to connect with three of them.
Over the phone, he explained the job to those three, along with his time schedule for the estimate and the job start. All three companies set an appointment to look at the job. Only two of them showed up for their appointment and both of them were late; the third company didn't bother to appear at all. Of the two who showed up, neither had business cards. They weren't wearing a company logo on their clothing and there wasn't any signage on their dirty vehicles.
At the job site, the project was explained to each company in detail. One of the two subs brought five people to the job site. Those five all talked at once, and all five had different opinions on what needed to be done. Not only did they disagree among themselves, they disagreed with the general contractor (GC) who was trying to set the parameters of the job.
The GC waited two weeks, calling both of these companies at least once, but neither one of them gave him a quote. One of them referred the job to a third company. That third company was so totally unprofessional in every aspect that the GC was reluctant to work with him.
So, the GC visited a masonry supply house to see if they knew any contractors in the area who might be able to lend a hand on the job. He was given two additional names; he called both of them and set appointments. The same thing happened: both arrived late with no signage on their trucks, no business cards, no business logos or personnel names on their shirts, and neither one bothered to get back to our GC with a quote.
Remember, the last two companies were referred by the masonry supply house. One of them, at the job site, asked the GC how to do the job because he did not know enough about the type of work to give him a quote. You might be thinking this was an exceptionally difficult project, but he explained the details to me and it didn't sound out of the ordinary for stucco.
At this point the GC and I were talking. I helped out by calling another coaching client in the area who gave me the name of an excellent mason. I sent it along to the GC. Problem solved.
Is it any wonder we have a bad reputation? I hear stories like this all the time about general and specialty contractors from every trade. I am sorry, but it just isn't that hard to conduct business like a professional. It's not rocket science; most of it is common sense and common courtesy. If you haven't yet, read our Ten Cardinal Rules.
If you call a sub and they don't respond, don't waste any more time with them. If they show up late, call them on it. They're wasting your time and probably that of the building owner. If they don't get back to you in a reasonable time frame with their quote, let them know you won't consider them any longer. Don't worry about hurting their feelings, since they obviously don't concern themselves with your feelings or how their conduct makes you look to the building owner.
If you're a sub, you have a right to expect the same from your generals. Common courtesy runs both ways.
I wish I knew how to get through to those who make the rest of us look bad. If you're a mason thinking about relocating, give me a call. I know an area that could use a few more professional business owners.