Any red-blooded citizen of the United States knows about the significance of July 4th. Heck, even the folks I worked with in Brazil a few weeks ago asked me about our nation’s “day of independence” from England. Past the fireworks, the barbeques and the watermelon seed spitting contests, there is still a reminder of the love of country that so many Americans still hold and cherish.
Patriotism is a first cousin to loyalty. What men and women in our armed services today do out of patriotism for our country is closely akin to demonstrating their loyalty for the “red, white and blue.” In a similar way, we see evidence of loyalty in our construction industry with both employees and customers. Scenes of loyalty include:
- Employees showing up early for work and beginning to organize their job site, trucks, tools etc. before the clock starts
- Construction leader supporting his foreman to a customer who is questioning the foreman’s decision of where to start the project
- Customer calling the contractor to work on yet another new project because “You guys are the best out there.”
- Contractor a bit slow with work and the employees quickly agree to fewer work hours for the next few weeks because they love working for the contractor
- Customer telling a competitor of a contractor that “I’m sticking with these guys!”
It is interesting that when you look up the word patriotism in many dictionaries the word loyalty is often one of the first defining words. So, how can contractors build greater “patriots” for their company? I think the effort might be similar to contractors working to build customer and employee loyalty. Consider a few ideas to execute to grow your own patriots.
- Be proud of your company and your workers. Contractors are normally quite candid about their company and workers. Anytime contractors are visiting with others, especially customers and suppliers, they need to be careful about what they say about both company and workers. We’re not perfect creatures but any imperfections that a company or its workers might have do not have to be addressed in any public discussion. Contractors need to realize that every company has a few shortcomings and a few workers who make it short, but the owner’s belief in and love for their company and workers is often respected and appreciated by others.
- Lead and drive a clean, organized and well-planned operation. Nothing makes employees, customers and suppliers more proud of a contractor’s business than recognizing that the company practices overall cleanliness, organization and planning. These traits reflect discipline of how the overall company operates. The three items send signals to others that the company is well managed and that people in the company respect its owner, the company values and those they serve. Spotless-looking vehicles and equipment might not always land you another job but it sure can prevent you from losing a job if there is a “tie-breaker” needed. Most customers appreciated the contractor that goes the extra mile to be presentable, always keeping their job sites organized and clean. Such an image makes it easier for a customer to brag about new work – and the contractor who is completing the work – to others.
- Give away something of value to the customer or employees. Giving something of value to another person often breeds appreciation, respect, sincerity and, yes, loyalty to the giver. This isn’t so much about “buying” loyalty as it is allowing others to sense your deep appreciation for them. Giving something of value to a customer might include performing just a little extra in project completion that wasn’t expected or even budgeted. This might be a physical “add-on” or some warranty-like service to check-up on your own crew’s performance. Giving something of value to workers might be an extra company shirt, hat or maybe a “Wal-Mart” credit card for $50 worth of school supplies. A personal touch by the contractor sends a warm signal of the contractor’s appreciation and love for those responsible for their company’s existence. Be creative and give something of value to others…you always get it back in loyalty.
- Celebrate company milestones and anniversaries. Most contractors just do not celebrate enough when their company has reached milestones of performance or anniversaries of important dates. Such celebration reminds those who experienced a milestone or important date – or educates those who did not – that the company is achieving, growing and maturing. Celebration is also a great excuse to bring people together to share in the celebration, bringing more attention to something of joy. Who doesn’t like a good party? Just consider some of the excuses for celebrating:
- Company “birthday”
- Achievement of safety “non-incident/injury” days
- Biggest monthly sales amount
- Hitting performance goals
- Completion of big or high-visibility project
- Employee anniversary dates
- Employee retirements
- Company move to a new office and yard
- Local recognition for an employee or about the company
Most of the celebration might be internal but anytime a contractor has the excuse to celebrate something important for the company, inviting customers and suppliers to join in the celebration can reinforce their loyalty for the contractor.
- Respect the decisions of customers…no matter how they decide! This might be the toughest suggestion to implement, but it is one that can win the greatest patriotic following from customers. Some contractors have had customers they have repeatedly worked for decide to go with another contractor. While this always stings the contractor’s ego a bit, the response of the contractor who is professional will do more to keep that “lost” customer close by for the next project. For some contractors, losing a job or two to a once-loyal customer can make them angry and invite them to distance themselves from the “traitorous” customer. However, the contractor that “takes it like a man” and works to maintain the relationship, realizing that such an effort can keep the customer just close enough to get back in the hunt on a future job, will win both the respect of the customer and the opportunity for the next shot.
Being a patriotic American provides us with some unbelievable benefits, but it also allows us the “right” to complain and to disagree with those in political office. As frustrating as our politicians can make us, most of us are still patriotic, loyal to the laws of the land and still hoping for greater, brighter and better days ahead.
Loyalty for our company by our customers and employees is often similar. Our customers and employees recognize that our company is not perfect but, likewise, they realize that we work hard to do what is right, do what is most fair, and do what is respectful of others. In today’s economy that includes many contractors who are just trying to make a buck or are one decision away from bankruptcy, it’s easy for a customer or employee to be loyal – even patriotic – about investing in a contractor who tries hard to be professional and a full step above his or her competition.
During this 4th of July, remember that patriotism, like loyalty, is earned!
© 2014 Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/The Contractor’s Best Friend™