Recently I met with a couple, Mike and Marcia that are planning their 16th whole house remodel. I said to them, “frankly I’m puzzled … surely you must have a contractor that you’ve worked with before and would work with again” and Mike says “Well I said to Marcia that this time we’re going to use a contractor that we already know we hate so that nothing changes during the project”.

That’s pretty funny but it’s more tragic – they’ve done 15 complete remodels – the statisticians would concur that this is a statistically significant sample.

Because of their experiences, mortgage brokers, realtors, and other trade partners don’t love contractors much either.

We look up – we see used car dealers – apologies to the car dealers but frankly you’ve worked hard to earn your low standing as well! So is it possible to finish a project for people and actually gain their trust and respect?

If we look outside our industry, it’s not hard to find examples of companies that people love. There’s one right here in Phoenix – Southwest Airlines. I saw a story of Southwest recently where a passenger’s luggage got damaged. Without having to wait and without any argument – the passenger was assisted by a polite and friendly agent and was shown into a room full of new luggage and told to just select any one that closely resembled theirs and take it. The only paperwork they had to do was to sign their name. Southwest took a “Moment of Misery” and turned into a “Moment of Magic” and as a result, they have raving fans. And then there’s the one that almost everyone loves – and that’s Disney. What do these companies do that we can learn from?

I believe that they do have some things that are really special and that can be copied and it’s my opinion that it’s really pretty simple – I didn’t say easy – I said simple. Are Disney cast members friendly? Are they well dressed? Do they take care of you? Are the parks and ships clean and well maintained?

Let’s talk for a moment about the lifetime value of a client as it relates to the construction business – on average, how many times do people build a custom home or do a major remodel? Not often is it? So how important is it to have raving fans in this business? If they aren’t doing that many projects themselves over their lifetime would you agree that it might be even more important to impress them so much that they tell all their friends how great we are?

So how do we get these referrals? Think about this – the last time you left a Disney Park or cruise ship, did a Disney cast member crawl over and grab your leg and beg you for a referral? Of course not, but I’ll bet that you had already emailed, tweeted, and texted pictures and messages to your friends and family about what a great time you had.

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” Walt Disney

And to pull that off they focus on four keys:


We all know the OSHA and WCB regulations but … How about the safety of our clients and their money? How about their stress level and our contribution to reduce or increase that? Is your financial condition a risk for your client?


This seems so easy and yet it isn’t just you. It’s the training we have given to every one of our employees and trade partners to respect the client by respecting their home in every way, big and small.


Is the job site clean and organized? Most clients don’t recognize the difference between good and not-so-good work, but everyone knows what clean, tidy, and organized looks like. Are all our employees and our trade partners in clean uniforms doing their best everyday?


Are we doing everything possible to be “On time” – “On budget”?

Let me summarize:

As contractors we have a problem. Homeowners don’t like or trust us and market partners know there is significant risk in giving us referrals, but there’s a solution to our problem and it’s pretty simple. If we all did these things we could change this industry! It could be the beginning of something really special.

If you’re currently “trying” to do better, even if it’s just “doing the right thing”, you’re probably better than most of this industry. Although we need to admit that there’s no silver bullet, let’s keep it simple! Do what we say, when we say, the way we say!

Let’s focus on what we can do every day to build our business and change our industry. Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you
did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Maybe it’s not possible to change this huge industry overnight; but if each of us put a laser focus on making our clients and everyone involved in our projects feel special and deliver on the what, when, and how, just like Disney does, we are at least not going to be part of the problem, but instead be the solution.