Be a Professional and Build a Better Business
As a member of the remodeling industry, one of my passions is professionalism. The design-build concept demands it, clients benefit from it and it definitely has a healthy impact on my bottom line.
There are many ways to display professionalism. It can be demonstrated by everything from a competent delivery system, efficient procedures, after-sale customer care and service, to just plain honesty. But until you identify the many aspects of putting professionalism into play, the concept can remain just a fuzzy spot on your frontal lobe. You may recognize it as “a good thing,” but you will actually have to take some steps to make it a reality for your business.
There is an ancient Chinese proverb: “Learning is like rowing upstream — not to advance is to drop back.” In other words, learning should be a conscious part of your everyday ritual. A day without learning is a day wasted. As I start 2009, I am planning on a successful and personally rewarding year. Part of my plan is to pay more than lip service to my past mistakes by actually looking at them and learning from them. And like most of us, I know I will have a large number of mistakes from which to learn.
The acquisition of knowledge is an integral part of professionalism, and sharing that knowledge is important to our industry. My business partner, Andrew, and I share a common passion for excellence and we hold our entire staff to a higher level of professionalism. We use this approach to get away from the “used car salesman” image that too often stigmatizes our industry.
For the past two decades, more and more remodelers have come to view their services in a more professional light, and that can only work to the advantage of their home-owner customers. Remodelers are hanging up their tool belts and becoming something more than technicians. By necessity, they are learning business management and leadership skills, and acquiring the knowledge necessary to own and operate a successful business. They are mastering accounting, sales, human resources and how to navigate the dynamics of successful professional relationships.
Learning takes an investment in time, patience and sometimes money. I can assure you it’s worth the price at twice the cost.
There is another Chinese proverb worth noting: “A single conversation with a wise man is better than 10 years of study.” Making mistakes is human. Accepting and learning from one’s mistakes is part of the maturation process, and sharing what you’ve learned with others is an act of leadership. Our company has an office meeting every other week. Several times a year, my partner asks everyone to talk about a mistake they have made and the lesson they learned from that mistake. My mistakes range from hiring the wrong person to expecting too much from a client who was on a tight time schedule.
However, educating ourselves isn’t enough. It is also incumbent upon us to educate consumers. Like you, I am tired of reading about or seeing an investigative reporter breaking a story about unscrupulous home repair schemes and contractors. Does it happen? Are there unscrupulous contractors among us? Of course there are, and no amount of effort on our part or by the licensing authorities is ever going to change that, but we can make an effort to educate the public in order to limit the damage that these individuals can cause. We can have the best delivery system imaginable, but we still need to take the responsibility of educating home owners. Public perception means a great deal if we want to be accepted as “professional” business owners.
The need to be taken seriously as a professional was one of the major reasons for our involvement in our local Remodelers Council. It was through the council that we first acquired some of the tools and ideas that have helped us in our professional development. I encourage you to become involved in NAHB Remodelers. This organization can provide numerous services and benefits. If you want feedback or would like to know someone in the industry you can call to share a gripe, then join a peer group such as a Remodeler 20 Club or Remodeler's Advantage. Also attend the Remodeling Show and the International Builder's Show, and take advantage of the many fine educational short courses they make available.
Ultimately, we are all in business to make money and generate profit. To succeed in that, we first need to educate ourselves on how to better run our businesses and show members of the public that we are just as professional as their dentist or lawyer.
Michael Menn, AIA, CGR, CAPS, is a principal architect at Design Construction Concepts of Northbrook, Ill. For more information, e-mail Menn, call him at 847-498-1676, or visit the Design Construction Concepts Web site at www.dcc-ltd.com.
Increase Your Professional Credibility
The Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) designation emphasizes business management skills as the key to a professional remodeling operation.
Remodelers who earn the CGR become members of an exclusive national program and gain recognition as industry leaders.
To learn more about the CGR designation, visit www.nahb.org/CGRinfo, or call The Professional Designation Help Line at 800-368-5242 x8154.