Must be spring, at least somewhere, because in the last week I've received three calls from contractors concerned about fly-by-night operators wedging their way into the market and stealing business. As I said the other day, it's very difficult to prevent other businesses from doing business, but there are steps to take that will unlevel the playing field and put those types of business at a disadvantage. 1. Use a printed bid form that includes company name, address, phone number, insurance number, certification (if required), and website. Any fly-by-night operation isn't going to have a pre-printed form with that type of information -- most of their "bids" are verbal or scrawled by hand. Also, make sure to itemize your bid; fly-by-nights won't do that, either. 2. Advertise. Only legitimate businesses spend money promoting themselves, so get your name out there in local newspapers and whatever other means is effective for you. 3. Write articles for local newspapers and websites. Those types of media are often looking for copy, and they are especially looking for expert copy. By writing an article and getting it published you position yourself as an expert and let people know you exist -- you become reliable by implication. 4. Related to writing articles, don't be shy about letting local media know what you're up to. As part of the community you and your business are important, so let them know when you hire or promote an employee, buy a new piece of equipment, are working on a large or high-profile job, donate services to a charity, hold en event etc. But don't make the mistake of sending in one press release and becoming disheartened if it's not used. Persistence pays off and sometimes it's simply right place, right time that gets you coverage. You can be sure any fly-by-night operators are not seeking press coverage. 5. Invite the public to your office and/or yard. Admittedly this can get a little dicey depending on the state of your facility, but if it's a fairly nice operation that you wouldn't mind showing off a little set up an open house or some other type of event to bring the public in. Alan Rose, Rose Paving, has hosted events like this several times and will be presenting a seminar at National Pavement Expo in 2011 that takes you step-by-step how to set up and run an open house successfully. Whatever you do don't hesitate to think outside the box when trying to attract local attention...any fly-by-night operations are working hard to fly under the radar before they head out of town, so by shining a spotlight on your business you make their work that much more difficult.