Thursday, August 26, 2010

Burning Questions

You’ve got them. I’ve got them. We’ve all got them. 

Here’s one I heard from a remodeler a while ago:  

“How many jobs did we lose because of that one negative review on Angie’s List?” It was impossible to know the answer, of course, but the remodeler couldn’t stop asking because the criticism felt so personal. The client was impugning his company. His baby. He built its reputation, he paid its bills, he had his name on it. He knew that client -- he sold the job! 

who hasn't been in the penalty box, after all?
"We've got a few thousand clients. We survey them all and get overwhelmingly good results. So to have a client respond so negatively, it really hurt. She wrote the review when the project was 90% done -- probably the emotional low point in the job," he added. "She and her husband were at each others' necks, and she just lashed out at us!" 

Painful. Possibly unfair. Nearly impossible to defend in any other way except to soldier on, trying to do his best for every other client.

With the debut of daily5Remodel drawing closer, I've been thinking about remodelers and unhappy customers. I've been tossing out some unanswerable questions of my own to the universe:

How do I develop thick enough skin to handle the criticism that I'll invariably get? Blame it on birth order, gender, freckles, whatever, but I've never been great at criticism. As a business owner, I need to become an expert at turning problems into opportunities. 

How long before I start resenting rising well before the crack of every dawn to churn out content that some readers complain falls short of helping them "know more, search less, work smarter"? Now, now. Nobody made me give up my job to create something that I only think the market needs. As an entrepreneur, I need to trust my instincts but also verify them -- and stay the course even when it's no longer fun.

pondering, gazing...
How long before I look back at this time as the emotional high point of this adventure? Though things are moving along rapidly -- it's been a fantastic week for site development -- the business will likely feel dreamlike and hopeful right up until launch. Plus, it's still summer, and the birds are singing.

How long before I can't believe I ever had the time to ponder such naval-gazing questions?

Hmm. Time will tell. In the meantime, I've got some real questions for you, remodeling professionals:

What are your burning questions about your business, your career, your industry? What would you like to ask your peers -- keep it clean -- about how they run their companies or how they got started in the field or how they work through difficult times or how they're getting leads?

Please ask those questions here, in the comments field. You don't have to identify yourself, nor will you have to identify yourself when you (and your peers) answer these and other burning questions every day in daily5Remodel.

There probably won't be a lot of "right" and "wrong" answers, for what it's worth. But we're all curious. We all want to get better. By taking the time to listen, we should find at least a few opportunities where it seemed there were challenges.

Thanks for your help.
Leah Thayer


Sean @ SLS Construction said...

Well Leah, I wish to answer one you posted: How long before I look back at this time as the emotional high point of this adventure?

Hopefully, you will experience this feeling shortly, and then have it replaced just as quickly by a new high as your business takes off. There are quite a few of us rooting for you. Best wishes & luck Leah

Paul L said...

On Angies list, I have 2 A's and 2 F's.
On the A's I got I received high marks for quality, timeliness and cleanup.
On the F's I would not give either caller a bid, one had their own doors and windows and I don't install products other people have purchased.
The other was argumentative when I met her and I thought it would be a difficult place to work. It was an esy choice to make.
So 2 A's for work done, 2 F's because I turned down the work.
The F's were from 4 years ago and Angie's list people said they will remain forever, even though I did not work for the people. Is what it is I guess, a place for the disaffected.
Paul Lesieur/ Silvertree Construction

Amy Good said...

Leah, great to see this blog! I'm excited to see what all material shows up on here. What an interesting forum to ask and receive information. Yes, it may not be fact, but often sharing real opinions through the industry are the most helpful. Book smart is not always best practice.

Yes, it is intensely hard to take criticism. I struggle with feeling hurt myself if something that I created doesn't go as well as I would have expected. But, all things can be used to bring us above the rubble or leave us buried...the choice is truly ours.

Hmmm...a question from me would be: Do other companies find it difficult to be a small business, working as a subcontractor on a prevailing wage/federally funded project? (in this context it would be about financing all the materials you have to buy and then wait 45 to 60 days to get paid). Ok...go!

Shannon said...

Sorry Leah, no industry specific burning question from me today but I do want to know - when will the site be live?!?! I do love the blog, btw, and can't wait to read more. As I believe you know, I write Burgin Construction's blog, and so anytime I have another industry insider to talk with about things it's a wonderful plus for me.

Thanks for sharing, for starting the blog and providing a forum for everyone in the industry to talk about issues, concerns, etc. Good luck!!!

Leah said...

Thanks for the comments and support, all.
Amy: that's a great question -- I'll try to generate lots of discussion about the challenges of working as a federal subcontractor and long lead times on payments (I was a freelance writer for 8 years, so I know the pain!).
Shannon: we're shooting to launch the site on September 20. Your blog for Burgin Construction is terrific, by the way.

Laurie March said...

Leah - Go girl! So rooting for you on all of this.

Also - (hi Paul!) I review Angie's list all the time along with so many other places to find the right contractors for my clients.

I very carefully read each review (A's and F's!) and I think you can safely assume we can always tell when the homeowner had a lot to do with the failure marking. It is a shame those ratings don't 'age off' the site, but I'd hope the clients you want to know will take a second to see the reviewers did not actually work with you.

Burning question - what are the most important INTERNAL processes to a very successful contracting business?


Dennis Scheer said...

Emotions can run REALLY high at times!!