Your Business Is About More Than Making Money
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
Up until the 1950s, most home builders were the sons of other home builders. Carpenters came from carpenters, plumbers from plumbers.
Back then, there were few building codes, because they didn't need them. Workmen took pride in their work. Quality was a point of pride. The mere thought of subpar workmanship was embarrassing beyond measure. You did good work because that's what your dad taught you to do, and he would tolerate nothing less. And you’d expect the same from your own son one day.
In the late 1940s and 50s, this began to change, starting with the horrible, built-overnight Levittown developments, whose goal was to construct as many low-cost and low-quality homes as possible, over 30 units a day.¹ Yes, you read that right.
This push to churn out as many artless houses as quickly as possible meant home construction was eventually taken over by mercenaries who cared only about their bottom line, not about the real human beings who would occupy the houses they built.
According to the experts, following the baby boom, countless low-quality houses were constructed throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Though there was a slight uptick in quality during the energy crisis of the mid-1970s², tract-built homes and condos all through the 1980s were absolute junk. With stricter building codes and increased public and governmental scrutiny of the mid-1990s³, tract builders improved eventually - partly because they had to, with stricter building codes - but the industry is still dominated by people and companies that just want to make big money, not people who care about building quality homes for quality's sake.
What about today?
One of the most well-known parts of the American mythos is our belief in the dignity of labor and the importance of an honest day’s work.
At least, in theory.
Nowadays, those mercenary elements still linger all too often in the building trades. This subversion of the American work ethic may seem especially prevalent among many contractors - so much so that there was a 2014 reality TV show Catch a Contractor⁵ that was aimed at holding these money-minded, dishonest workmen accountable after they cheated homeowners and businesses.
Homebuilding has changed dramatically in the century, but not all contractors follow that trend.
What would a contracting company look like today if it was old school?
If a contractor still took pride in their work today
, and above all wanted to make sure that homeowners were well taken care of, how would the public know that? Let’s take a look at some of the signs of a good contractor.
1. A contractor who cares about homeowners will work to educate homeowners.
A true contractor is a professional who wants to keep you informed about what is going on with your project. You will learn about unexpected issues before they are addressed with a signed change order, not afterward. If your contractor is in regular contact with you to let you know about progress, you are likely working with a qualified individual. Eagle Painting Company based in Dallas, TX is particularly impressive in the breadth of knowledge they freely share through their blogs and exceptional customer service. Look to companies like theirs for inspiration.
2. A contractor who cares about homeowners is honest about their limitations.
They will make useful information available to the public about who to know which contractor to hire for their project, even if it means admitting they're not the right contractor for a particular job.
Never, under any circumstances, trust a contractor who says “I can do it all.” A quality contractor will tell you when a part of a job is outside of their purview. They will tell you when they do not have the credentials, certifications, or experience to do a job right and they will point you in the direction of someone who can. James Trail Contracting out of Northern Arizona is an incredibly forthright firm that other contractors should take note of. Remember, being honest about their abilities and accomplishments is a sign of great moral fortitude in a contractor.
3. A contractor who cares about homeowners will take time to answer questions from homeowners, even if it's not their customers.
This is a sign of integrity and compassion on the part of the contractor. Many people are understandably wary of contractors given past negative experiences, and a true contractor takes it as a point of pride to let their actions speak to the contrary. Remember, these are stand-up people who believe that a job isn’t done until it’s done right, and this extends to everyone in their community, even if they aren’t paying them.
Want to know who the mercenaries are?
The public can spot them. They have websites that say "call now" and talk about what great contractors they are, but don't do anything to educate homeowners with the information they need to make a good decision. “Hire me, you'll be fine. Don't hire me, you're on your own!”
If you're reading this, you do care. So create some blog content on your site - or let us write one for you - so that the public can benefit from your vast experience in contracting. You get out of this industry what you put into it, and too few people are putting in the work.