Issue #369

Sent to members on December 13, 2021

Business lessons from dealing with home contractors

Doing this whole home remodeling project has me calling, talking to… and sometimes chasing home contractors.

Sometimes you call them and somebody picks up the phone and is super-friendly. Sometimes when you send them an email, they actually get back to you in a reasonable timeframe.

But, sometimes they don’t. 😑

Sometimes they just starting ghosting you. Don’t get back to you. Don’t reply to emails or texts. Sometimes, it is a mixed bag where they will show up and talk a great game, but then you need to constantly chase them to get them to follow up after that.

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I have personally found it interesting seeing how some contractors manage their business and their communications. As a business owner myself, it is interesting to watch.

The ones I have hired are the ones who actually respond and act like friendly human beings. They’re not always the cheapest, either. When I get estimates from people, it is often more about feeling out how responsive and professional they are than it is their price.

In one case, we had a drywall guy give my wife the run-around. He was responsive and showed up and all that. But, when he was there, he was acting shady. He wouldn’t give my wife a straight price on the work we wanted done. He wouldn’t give a straight estimate because he kept trying to feel out what other estimates were coming in at to see if his was best. In short, he didn’t act professional. He acted desperate. And we didn’t hire him. I ended up paying a much more professional bunch to do it… even if it cost me about $1,500 more.

Now, these are all home contractors in various trades and services. But, as with so many things, I think there are valuable lessons and reminders on things to apply to our businesses.

When we interact with any business, it is useful to see how they operate and the experience they provide to customers. And always look for things you can apply to your own.

So, here’s a few things even us digital business owners can keep in mind…

#1 – The Importance Of Timely Acknowledgement

Communication is a flow of energy. And it has to go two-way. If somebody is originating a communication to you or your business, acknowledging them in a timely fashion is super important.

Depending on the nature of it, you might even need to reply very quickly. Or even instantly.

But, what happens when somebody you need info from doesn’t reply to you? You start getting annoyed, right? Frustrated? Thinking bad things about them?

It is human nature, really. Because that line of communication has been cut.

Perhaps the most important function of a business is that of communication. Many lose sight of that and think just doing the work and being busy is the main goal. But, timely communication to those who reach out to your business is incredibly important.

For us in the digital space, that just means replying to emails. Replying to comments. Calling people back.

And if you’re ever in a spot where you feel you don’t WANT to reply back to people, always realize that that is a major systems constraint. That’s a symptom. And you need to ask “why”.

#2 – Be Confident and Professional

When somebody is coming to potentially hire your business to do something, it is because you’re the expert. And they want answers to their questions that are clear.

That drywall guy I mentioned didn’t get the job because he acted supremely UNconfident about the job. There was no system and he acted like he was winging it. And did I mentioned he wanted to get paid in cash? 😳 Hehe…. no.

Being an authority and being trustworthy in your line of work means that you come off as if you know what you’re doing. You provide simple answers. And you can do so quickly.

#3 – Charge More And Be Willing Not To Take The Job

So many business owners end up competing on price. They think every customer out there shops only on the basis of the lowest price.

It just isn’t true.

Some do. Some will always take the lowest price. In a lot of cases, though, those people make crappy customers.

That drywall guy acted like he wasn’t confident in his own price. And he was trying to feel things out to see what other people are charging so that he could beat their estimate. Yet… the guy we DID hire came in and provided a straight estimate within minutes. He clearly knew what he was doing. And yes, his price was higher. In fact, he was actually the most expensive one for that job. And we hired him anyway.

Why did we hire him? Because of the professionalism. And the speed. He could deliver what we wanted very quickly. And sure enough, they did a great job.

Part of being professional is sometimes charging a higher price but simply being WORTH that price. You never want to be the cheapest.

And if somebody isn’t willing to pay that price for a better outcome, let them go.

In whatever line of work you’re in, it is best to aim your prices to be in the higher end of your market. Then… set up the business and the work and the professionalism to be WORTH that. Show them what they’re paying for.

Tech Talk

Last week, I asked readers about their favorite WordPress plugin. Many of the ones mentioned were ones I’ve talked about many times. Things like FluentCRM (read about how I switched) and WPFusion (read my review).

I also got a vote for PerfMatters. Which is a great WordPress performance plugin. Very lightweight. And even does some things that the big guys like WP Rocket cannot do.

But, another one came up. One I haven’t personally used, but I was aware of. And that is CSS Hero.

CSS Hero is another way to take visual control of your theme. It will take your existing theme and give you a visual interface to modify the look and feel using CSS code. But, you don’t have to actually know CSS. It has a full, visual editor that will allow you to visually play around with the look and feel of site elements, auto-generate the CSS and then save it as a snippet. In effect, you’re overriding your theme CSS with CSS generated by CSS Hero.

In my view, this isn’t nearly as simple as using a real page builder or theme builder. Thrive Theme Builder would be easier to use. But, that requires you to use Thrive Themes.

Where CSSHero comes in is that it allows you to make visual mods to ANY theme without knowing how to code it. You’re not really going to be moving theme elements around, though. CSSHero is just about changing things that can be altered with CSS alone. And at that, it looks to do a really good job.

A new caching plugin has come out called Surge. This plugin merely does caching. It is put out as a “zero configuration” caching plugin. For that reason, it has no options screen and no settings. You just…. turn it on. It is made to be easy and user-friendly. If you are already running something that does caching, then don’t bother with this. But, if you want a free, simplistic caching plugin to speed up your site without any complexity at all, you might try it.

Joost de Valk has published a fresh market share analysis of CMSs. Not surprisingly, WordPress has a 43% market share…. far surpassing everything else. It is also on a growth trajectory as more and more people and businesses switch to WordPress. The only other system on a growth trajectory is Shopify for ecommerce sites… but their market share is significantly lower than WordPress.

Of course, with WordPress powering such a large chunk of the internet, that also makes it a compelling target for hackers. For instance, Wordfence is reporting another large wave of hack attempts targeting over 1.6 million sites… trying to use vulnerabilities in 4 plugins and a handful of themes powered by the Epsilon framework. As always… just make sure you keep your themes and plugins updated.

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