As a seasoned installer, I have had an opportunity to see different aspects of our trade. I have worked as an in-house installer. I have bid my own projects both small and large. Now that I own my own flooring company with my wife, I have the distinction to be the guy that hands out the work. I constantly get asked, “How do you decide who gets what?”
Deciding who gets what job can be a difficult task if I do not pay attention to what the installers are telling me. After spending time with the installers, I find that they are really “telling” me how to make these decisions. Even if they do not realize it, installers end up making this decision by marketing themselves.
Installers must realize that their reputation is everything for them, and only they can create it. You see, all the little things add up. Three times a week I interview installers who are looking for work. They all seem to say the same things.
A. “I find my own jobs, but the stinkin’ economy has forced me to work for somebody else.” I think great, this guy is going to be real happy working here. Not a good start to an interview.
B. “I will work for less money than the installers you have.” If you are willing to work for less than the given rate walking in, how long is it going to be before you get bitter about your poor decision? How many corners are going to cut on my job sites?
C. “My old boss is some jerk who stopped paying me.” Now, I have to ask myself what went wrong. If you want to start fresh, leave the past behind you. At the very least, do not bring up a negative history to a potential employer.
If you are looking for my shop to hire you, be ready to sit down and talk flooring with me. Put on your best work uniform, get your portfolio ready and know your trade. Yes, it does help to have certifications. I love to see CFI badges, Armstrong cards, Pergo endorsements, NWFA training and all the rest. I like to see everything that you had to work for to obtain and maintain. Do these things ensure that you are going to get the job? NO. They do, however give you an advantage over someone who does not have these things. If you come in for an interview and try to BS your way through it, I will figure you out. The longer I keep you talking, the more you tell me about yourself without even knowing it.
Enough about trying to get work from a new employer; let’s talk about the some definite “do’s and don’ts” when trying to get work from your current employer. Times are tough right now. We have more installers than we have jobs in my market. There are two different methods of distributing work. You can try to maximize your immediate profit by cutting labor costs. This can work short term, but the labor always ends up incorrect, costing future jobs. Therefore, your company ends up making less money. The other way is to SELL SERVICE!
Selling service is looking long term at your company’s future strength. I not only want my customers back, but I want their neighbors, relatives and friends. I have to be very careful who I send to jobsites to represent me.
1. Dress for success: They way you look tells people who you want to be. If you dress like a bum, people will think they hired a bum.
2. Drive a nice van: Your van is usually the first thing a customer sees when you arrive. If you are driving something that looks like it was just assembled from a scrap yard, the customers may worry about the care given to their home and furnishings.
3. Call every customer: When you start your day, start it by calling all your customers to let them know they are on the schedule. If you need to leave a message, do it. The first thing most people do when walking in the door is check the answering machine. There is comfort in knowing they did not rush home for nothing.
4. Do not swear: Sounds simple, right? Believe or not nasty mouths turn people off; especially people who do not know you. If you work for a shop, it is assumed the way you act there, is the way you are going to act in a customer’s home.
5. Be early: No matter how much they might tell you, customers remember the time they spend waiting for you. It’s a chip in the armor, so to speak. If you work for a shop, remember the early crews always end up with the best work. There is a comfort in knowing that to arrive early means a better chance of getting your share of the work being handed out that day.
6. Deal with your issues: Have you ever walked into a hornet’s nest of a problem that was created by someone else? If you really want to increase your value, specialize in dealing with this customer. Once you learn how to make this customer happy, your store will refuse to lose you. Keep in mind that a simple smile can disarm just about anybody.
7. Keep your van stocked: Does a plumber go to a job without a plunger? Why is it that carpet installers constantly show up to jobsites without tackstrip, seam tape or the correct metal? If you are leaving your jobsite to get supplies, your customer could begin to lose faith in you. Not to mention the time you are wasting.
8. Own your own problems: If you make a mistake on a job; it’s your mistake; no one else’s, just yours! When you start trying to pass the blame, you end up looking foolish. The store may do what you ask initially, but eventually patterns pop up and they stop using you altogether.
9. Do not play the blame game: Who cares who is fault it is? If something should go wrong on a jobsite, there is no need to create more conflict than is already present. There are ways of handling situations where everyone seems to win or nobody seems to win. Which way would you rather have it? I would rather win; it is how I get paid.
10. Be humble: Nobody likes someone who is constantly talking about himself. If you’re the “greatest ever,” where does this leave everyone else? Chopped Liver? Give me a Break! Most of the time guys that “talk,” talk because they can’t “do.” If you are really that good, let your work talk for you.
11. Do a post-install walk through: Walk your customer through every job before you leave. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Yet, this often gets skipped as installers are rushing to another stop or home. This is when you explain how to clean a laminate or wood floor. Customers will ask about vacuuming and you should know which carpets cannot use certain vacuum styles. This is your best opportunity to sell your store’s future services. You are a partner!
12. Leave your name: I always liked to leave my full name on the receipt with the customer. Not just my first, but my full name. If you are working with a dealer, you want the customer remembering exactly who worked in their house. Leaving a personal business card is usually frowned on by stores. Customers lose them anyway. Most will keep their receipts for years. There you go; I like requests.
Now these are just some minor things that add up quickly. They can really enhance an experience if performed correctly. However, the failure to do some these things can chip away at your image. Remember, if you do not install the flooring correctly, none of these methods can save your reputation. You will just be known as “that nice guy who used to work here.”