In a recent conference with a "peer group" of similar-sized contractors from different areas of the country we spent an incredible amount of time discussing the difficulties of defining what the companies did. These seven strong companies have been around for a number of years, are leaders in their market area, and have a financial resume that would be the envy of most businesses - but why would this group be unclear about "Who We Are"?
As I reflected on this experience I realized how many organizations suffer the same problems and challenges. So, the question I would ask you is, "How would you define your company?" Before you think me, or the question, ridiculous, let me share a few thoughts.
First, defining who you are begins with you clearly understanding what sort of contractor you want to be. That is, are you going to be intentional, transparent, a contractor of integrity in both "human relations" and performance excellence?
Second, know the market in which you want to compete. Are you great with the schools? Industrial? Health care sites? Residential? One thing is for sure, whatever industry "type" you are going to sell and market to you need to be very clear about the language used for that industry -- then tailor your marketing brochure, your website pages, your presentations, even teaching your field leaders how to address customers tailored to the industry.
Third, you need to clearly introduce yourself to others, especially new prospects, with the identification that best describes you and your company. For example, introducing yourself as, "Hi, I'm Brad Humphrey and I'm a paver," is a bit different than saying, "Hi, I'm Brad Humphrey and I'm in the pavement restoration industry." Another good description to consider using is one that some contractors began using a few years ago, "I'm in the pavement maintenance industry." Do not paint yourself into a narrow corner if you are engaged with performing a host of services. Likewise, if you provide only one service then certainly present yourself as an expert with all the confidence possible.
Finally, move your "who are we" to be more value oriented rather than a technical delivery service. For example, to be a dependable and integrity-based owner and contractor is often more interesting and respected than just merely pointing out what you physically deliver. In most markets you might be competing with five to 10 contractors for a single job, so defining who you are is incredibly important. Consistently assess how others perceive you and your firm. Trust me, become known as "that ol' asphalt guy" or "that paint guy" only and you will have a problem. What you are shooting for is to have your current and future customers recognize you as the premier, best-of-class contractor who is also in the asphalt or striping business.
One more "bonus" tip on defining who you are. Many contractors have told me that they feel like they have been forced into becoming all things to all customers over the past few years because getting work was so difficult. This is a frustration shared by many contractors. However, a few words to the wise might be a good medicinal ointment for your hurts.
- Go back to your roots of when you first started in this industry. Write down a few words or phrases that might describe what you were like back then.
- Focus on the type of contractor you want to be…again. Do you really enjoy working with church boards, school district facilities managers, homeowners, property managers, etc.? Then renew your focus to address what these folks need to hear and see from your presentation.
- Settle on three to five values that you want most to be known for. In other words, even if you didn't win a bid the customer could still wind up saying that you were the most honest, genuine, transparent, etc. contractor they met. Often, these personal "carbon prints" come back around and you may wind up winning some work in the future from that customer.
- Get comfortable in your own skin! Like who you are and what you represent and communicate that to your workers, suppliers, and customers.
- Finally, view the different pavement maintenance services you provide through the eyes of a contractor who is consistent, excellence-based, and quality focused.