Saturday

How to Say You're Sorry

We're all human. We make mistakes. As a business owner, there will be times when you, or your crew, are the cause of a problem on the job. It's unavoidable. But how you handle a mistake is very important.

If you think not accepting responsibility for a problem or avoiding apologies will save you money, you're wrong. At stake is more than the cost of materials or labor. Your company's reputation hangs in the balance. And a reputation is your future - our ability to get new customers and to avoid bad publicity. Someone who has a good experience with you will tell 3 people. On average, a bad experience will result in 15 people hearing about it.

Many hate to apologize when they're at fault. Why? They don't want to feel embarrassed. While it may feel like a personal attack, your clients only want to know you will fix the problem and steps will be taken so it doesn't happen again. People realize you are human and problems occur.

An apology will go a long way to reassuring them and your company's image will be maintained. I love to preach referrals because it is a key to long-term business success. A mistake will not eliminate the chance for referrals if there is a sincere apology that accompanies it.

Don't start with, "I'm sorry you feel that way..." or "I'm sorry you think..." You'll do more harm than good. Another mistake is to say, "I'd like to apologize..." and it never goes beyond that. It's like you are saying, "I'd like to fix your roof" and walking away. Don't bother to say anything more if you're "sorry" is followed by "but..." "I'm sorry your roof leaked, but you should have..."

It's more than saying, "Sorry!" and moving on. You need more than a one or two syllable statement. You're in your client's home or business and you are charging more than just a few dollars for your service.

It's not a sign of weakness to apologize for making a mistake. It enhances the reputation of your business and you, if you done right. You should acknowledge that there was a problem. You should accept responsibility and apologize with no conditions. And you should reassure your client you will take steps to avoid repeating the problem.

Believe it or not but apologies can be good for business.

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Friday

Slumping Housing Market Affects Competition & Prices

From Florida Today: "The housing market in Brevard County is doing better than some markets in Florida, and doing worse than others, said Franck Kaiser, chief executive officer of the Home Builders & Contractors Association of Brevard."

'Because of the housing slowdown, small homebuilders like in Brevard County like Bruce Pearce have been forced to focus on home repair and remodeling jobs."

"Pearce, owner of Talbott Construction Design Inc. in West Melbourne, said he may get out of homebuilding if business does not pick up because it is hard to compete with large corporate builders in a slow market."

"Kaiser said homebuilders generally have dropped prices for new homes, including taking losses on some homes to clear out their inventory."


The Herald Tribune reports from Florida. "If you need evidence of how the slumping housing market is impacting the local economy, look no further than Port Manatee. Shipments of lumber, plywood and fencing materials that exploded during the housing boom have dropped off significantly during the bust."

"'The market crashed and no one needed plywood,' said Capt. Rasmus Okland, terminal manager for Port Manatee’s largest forestry product importer. 'Prices have come down and stayed down, and consumption remains low.'"


Monday

Providing Options to Your Clients

When your client presents you with a job request, your experience and instincts usually kick right in. You listen to the client to determine their needs, likes, and personalities. Next, you visit the future job site to view the remodeling, building, or design project. Right away, an idea pops into your head and you present your initial plans and thoughts to the homeowner or business owner.

Does that sound about right? It's how many of us work. And I'm here to tell you it might not be the best method. First, you're presenting a solution for the project what might be something you've seen before, have experience with, or have recently heard about. But it might not be the perfect solution for this project. Second, when you feed an idea into a client's head, you plant a seed. When it comes to the full execution of the idea, you might discover too late that it wasn't the best idea. You and your company will be the ones to take the blame.

By stepping back to evaluate the project before presenting ideas, you may come up with the best solution for the project owner. And by thinking about more than one possible solution, you'll be able to present options. Options are great on any building or remodeling projects because there will be obvious advantages and disadvantages of each. And the decision on which idea to go with will belong to the project owner.

Many fear providing options because it will confuse the client or cause them to change their mind completely on the direction of the project. But it's better to have them thinking about what they want, thinking about their options, in the planning phase rather than after work has begun.

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Tuesday

Construction Industry News Update

"The Home Depot Inc., the world's largest home improvement store chain, cited erratic weather and continued weakness in the housing market as it reported Tuesday a 29.5 percent drop in first-quarter profit."

"'While we expected a tough quarter, this was worse than we expected,' CEO Frank Blake said in a conference call with analysts. He said the housing market continues to be a challenge, and erratic weather conditions across the United States negatively affected the company's spring selling season."

"Blake said Home Depot is not expecting any 'near-term market improvement.'"

The Canadian Press. "Forestry company Tembec Inc says it will shut down its Kirkland Lake, Ont. engineered wood products mill for at least two months to cut inventories because of the slumping U.S. housing sector."

"'Demand for lumber is down sharply, driven primarily by the dramatic decline in the level of housing starts in the United States,' said Dennis Rounsville, president of Tembec's forest products group. 'This decline in demand has resulted in both lower prices for lumber and reduced operating rates in sawmills across Eastern Canada.'"

Monday

10 Money Saving Tips on Fuel Costs

Here we go again. Gas prices are skyrocketing and will probably reach $4.00 per gallon this summer. For nearly every service professional in our network, this will affect your company's bottom line. Higher fuel costs will mean either smaller profit margins or expenses you'll have to pass on to your clients.

There are some things you can do to make sure you are getting the most out of every drop of gas you buy:

1. Stick with the lowest octane fuel you can run in your vehicle that will not cause it to knock. It's a myth that higher octane gas gives you better fuel mileage, a cleaner engine, or more power. Only high compression sports cars need more octane.

2. Maintain the proper tire pressure.

3. Get your work vehicle tuned up properly. Misfiring plugs can rob you of efficiency by 30%. Use the correct oil for it and replace the filters on a scheduled basis.

4. Drive the speed limit and avoid those jack-rabbit fast starts and stops. Excessive and hard driving can really eat up fuel.

5. Don't let your vehicle idle. Running it will burn more gas than restarting it. If you'll be away from it for more than a minute or two, shut it down.

6. Don't overfill the tank. Resist the urge to top off. The excess will more than likely evaporate or spill out as you drive off and stop/start a few times.

7. Plan your route. If you have many stops to make, plan them in a loop to avoid doubling back on every trip.

8. Limit your cargo. If you don't need to take every tool and part with you on each job, then leave them behind. Every 250 pounds takes up an extra mile per gallon.

9. Keep your gas cap tight. Without a solid seal, that expensive gas can evaporate.

10. Speaking of evaporation - try to park your work vehicle in the shade, if possible. When you're parked in the sun, gas will evaporate from the tank from the excessive heat.

There are some efficiency myths to dispel as well. Edmunds.com did a series of tests on the subject and found out there's not much difference in gas mileage when you run your air conditioning or have your windows rolled down. They also said that tire pressure doesn't matter as much, but I'm still going to recommend that one (safety and tire wear are still chief concerns...)

2007 Construction & Remodeling Industry Outlook

Many of the members in our network have been reporting a big drop in local remodeling, repair and building jobs in their area. At Construction Deal.com, we receive and review many economic reports on the industry and we want to provide you with an updated outlook for the rest of 2007.

The Good News
Overall, the economy is moving along nicely. The job market is steady. Interest rates are holding. The stock market continues to expand. Excluding energy prices, inflation is not currently a problem. And the Federal Reserve appears to have no intention of raising interest rates any time soon.

Many of our contractors are saying that people are starting to plan new building and remodeling projects again. Fears of a bursting housing bubble and lower housing prices kept many in the dark but they are coming out to test the waters again.

The Bad News
Recent reports show jobless claims rising. Salary growth is stagnant. Job growth fell to its lowest level in 2 years. Consumer spending is finally starting to cool. Most of the job losses have come from construction jobs and retail. And oil prices are still very high.

What Does It Mean?

  • Consumer confidence and the nation's housing market could cause problems. Homeowners and business owners may not be willing to take on expensive remodeling or repair projects if they fear a dip in the economy.
  • Housing prices have not crashed but potential buyers want and will soon demand that prices come down.
  • If home prices drop, people will have less equity. Less equity means less money to spend on improvement projects. They can't borrow against equity that has dried up. They may be worried it will cause a chain reaction bringing down the rest of the economy.
  • If mortgage and borrowing rates do not drop, fewer people will be buying new homes and may hesitate to remodel current homes. Many economists are reporting that our new Fed chairman is making a mistake by not cutting interest rates. A minority are saying that his inaction on rate cuts may send up into a recession later this year.
  • One thing that will not help the housing market: the disappearance of sub prime loans. These days, mortgage companies also fear 100% financing on house purchases. With fewer people able to buy a house, the supply of houses will continue to stay high.
  • Foreclosure rates are skyrocketing. Some cities and counties have foreclosure rates that are up 3o% to 50% over previous years. Foreclosures increase the amount of available housing and the reports of these foreclosures keep consumer confidence bogged down.

For 2007, it could be a slow year for all sectors of the construction industry. It might mean waiting for confidence to return, which will happen if housing prices only drop a small amount throughout the country. We'll try to keep you updated as new reports come in.

If you are a member of the Construction Deal.com network, we'll continue to bring you as many jobs as we can to help grow your business. We have added 40 new residential categories and over 80 commercial construction, remodeling, and repair categories. Advertising and marketing has begun in earnest on our new commercial categories so you should see an increase in available jobs.

If you're not a member yet - consider registering for free. You can review local commercial and residential job leads in your area. If you see a good history of past and present opportunities, feel free to become a member! If not, continue to monitor your account with us for as long as you would like until more new jobs come up in your area. Give us a call if you have any questions at 866-663-4711!