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Appearance Matters

by David Lupberger


Question: I see more and more remodeling companies wearing company shirts and hats. I've always thought it was just a form of inexpensive advertising. Can you think of any benefits to justify spending the money on clothing?

Answer: I've finally seen the light! Like you, I used to think that company shirts and hats were just an inexpensive form of promotion that looked nice. But two experiences have shifted my thinking on this matter.

A Florida remodeler told me he once had to wait at a job for his drywall sub to come back and finish some point-up work. Because the sub himself couldn't come, he sent one of his guys. The remodeler was in the kitchen talking with the homeowner when a truck pulled into the driveway. When he and the homeowner went to the door, they were not prepared for what they saw.

Bubba had pulled into the driveway in his monster truck with oversized wheels that kept the truck chassis over 3 feet above the ground. His modified exhaust system had announced his arrival with a loud, throaty rumble. Bubba opened the truck door and jumped the 3 feet to the ground. He was dressed in hiking boots and cut-off shorts that were covered with dried drywall mud. He was wearing a worn-out baseball cap with the duckbill so curved that it covered up his eyes. He had on a sleeveless T-shirt that in bold, black letters said F--- Authority. He reached up, grabbed a bucket of mud, some finish tools and headed for the front door.

The remodeler stepped through the door and met him halfway. In a quiet voice, the remodeler told him to get back in his truck, and to have his boss call him. "I don't want you coming into this house looking like this!" When the remodeler returned to the house, the homeowner thanked him for doing what he did. "I know scheduling these people is difficult, but I appreciate your respecting my home."

The Florida remodeler understood something very clearly - he understood that anyone coming to work on his job, whether employees or subcontractors, was a representative of his company. In new construction, you work on a house, but in remodeling, you work in someone's home, and their home is an extension of them. You need to be sensitive to a homeowner's feelings about who enters their home. "Bubba" was not representative of this remodeler and his sensitivity to a homeowner's feelings.

I dealt with a similar experience recently. I had called a temporary labor firm to send over a finish carpenter to handle three to four hours of punch work. He showed up 30 minutes late, and told me that he was still a little hung over from a long night of drinking. He was unshaven and the smell of alcohol still followed him around. There was only 45 minutes of inside work, so I stayed until he finished inside. The homeowner was more than happy to see him go outdoors to finish his punch list. Although nothing was said, I knew the homeowner was none too pleased to have this person in her home.

Because it had taken almost 10 days to get the temporary help, I didn't tell him to go home. In looking back, I would make a different decision. I could tell, because of body language, the homeowner was not too happy having this person in her home. The carpenter was representing my company and me. This image problem is one that haunts the industry. Our industry has a reputation of being undependable and irresponsible. Every homeowner has a story about someone's remodeling job that went bad. We only add to that reputation when we or any subcontractor dresses in such a way that says we don't care what we look like.

Homeowners don't want someone in their home that doesn't care. A simple inexpensive company uniform conveys a sense of professionalism. One company I worked with provided different colored polo shirts with the company name embroidered on the left side of the shirt. These were simple shirts, with collars, and each employee got five shirts, one for each day of the week. It was a small investment for the company owner, but the return on that investment was ten fold or more.

On every jobsite, you always knew who the company employees were. Their shirts were clean and they looked good. It may sound silly, but people judge our professionalism by how we look. Are we professionals? Then we should dress the part.

Reprinted with the permission of Qualified Remodeler

To contact David Lupberger directly, call him at (301)570-9756. You may also send your comments and/or questions to David at his personal email..

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