It is 4:30 in the afternoon. I am demonstrating a selection of Crain installation equipment at a distributor open house when an installation crew saunters in. A rough-looking bunch, I wouldn’t want them in my home or representing my store. I ignore the T-shirts, some of which would make a biker blush, although I just about lose it when one kid turns around and reveals the enormous rip in the seat of his shorts.

I keep my composure, thinking, “What the heck is this guy thinking, going on a job with clothing in this condition? And what is the store thinking sending a crew on the job in this condition?”

All the talk in the past few years about the need for professionalism and quality from installation crews seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I’ve always acknowledged the proud and professional craftspeople associated with CFI, the Union, FCICA, WFCA and those unaffiliated installers who take pride in their work and appearance, but it astounds me that in this day and age tradesmen go to work looking like this.

And it astounds me even more that a retail store would allow a representative of their business to dress in such a fashion! Don’t try and sell me the line that “They are sub-contractors, not employees of the store." That doesn’t fly. As far as your customer is concerned, they are your installation crew! Would you let your people dress this way on the sales floor? Of course not! It would hurt your sales. The eight to 10 hours that an installation crew that spends in your customer’s home can leave a stronger impression of your store than the one or two hours your salesperson spends on the showroom floor with them.

Installers clamor for more money and respect. In that case, I say earn it! Learn more, get certified and act and present yourself as a professional. There some things you can do to make more money without improving your current skill level.

Always be polite. Ask before you smoke, play a radio, use the phone or visit the bathroom. Obviously, you should keep your appointments with punctuality. If you are running late, call to inform the customer. People hate to be held up all day without knowing what is going on.

Wear uniforms. These need not be work pants and shirts provided by a uniform service. There are simple and effective alternatives. For instance, everyone in the crew could wear plain, identically colored T-shirts (devoid of any questionable slogans) and clean jeans without holes. This way, whenever two or more of you are on the job, you look like a professional crew. If you’re clean-shaven, be sure to shave daily. Long hair or beards? Fine, wear them as long as you want, but keep them clean, combed and neatly trimmed.

Keep your truck clean. This practice can enhance or detract from your all-important image. Like it or not, the customer’s perception of your skills will be affected by the appearance of your equipment.

Vacuum each job. It is not enough to just pick up the scraps. Think about it: when you buy a new car, the dealer doesn’t deliver it in dirty condition. Vacuuming has other advantages. You get to see every square inch of the job, seams get trimmed, kicker-pulls get clipped, and in the end, the job looks great. Invest in an inexpensive upright. The last vacuum cleaner I purchased for work cost $80. After spending another $15 for a cloth bag conversion (a vacuum cleaner dealer is the best place to find these), I was all set.

It doesn’t take much time to vacuum a job. The carpet is brand new. You’re not worried about dirt, you are just getting up the cut naps. Use a broom to brush the edges clean. On a 150-square-yard job, you might add 15 minutes to your day, but the customers will be thrilled.

Wear overshoes in bad weather. Buy some heavy galoshes, not the over-the-shoe type you’d wear with wingtips. If you get the right size, you can hold the back of the overshoe with one foot and step out of it even while your hands are loaded with tools or carpet. It blows people’s minds to see you so careful about protecting their homes or businesses.

Remember, in order to really make these tips pay off, you must sell yourself. Ask customers to call the store and report their impressions of your work. Assume you work 10 jobs a week. If even three of those 10 customers contact the store you will have three different sources telling the store owner “Your installers did a wonderful job! I am so happy. Thank you very much.” Follow this course for six months, and then ask for more money. I can’t guarantee you will get what you request. The owner may say he cannot afford it. But, after all these calls from satisfied customers, I’ll bet the he will stop and seriously consider whether he can afford to lose you.