Combat Negative Perceptions with Positive Jobsite Behavior and Rules

by Kyle Clapham

I’ve always been bothered (and that is a nice word) about the low esteem that consumers have for our industry. The large number of unlicensed, uninsured and outright scam artists who operate as contractors is to blame. They are the ones who take homeowner deposits and run for the hills or who perform substandard and sloppy work. They are also the ones shown on the six o’clock news and who spread negative perceptions across social media like an out-of-control wildfire.

We all face this in our respective markets. The fact that professionals, like those of you who read this publication, suffer from the faults of others is unfortunate. You run your businesses at a high level. You care about what your clients think and say about you. That care is what helps you stand out in a crowded market. That care translates to your strong work ethic, your attention to detail and the fact that many of you belong to trade associations, such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

All of these factors help to elevate your company to the extent that most of you enjoy being the cream of the crop in your markets. Association membership offers an opportunity for you to keep abreast of trends with products and methodologies along with educational opportunities that make you an expert when meeting with potential clients.

Another pet peeve is when I see building product waste on roads in and around the very neighborhoods where we work. This also makes it tough on us as we try to establish respect and trust with the homeowners in that community.

A bike ride the other evening literally jolted me to write about this. I bumped and banged over a blotch of dried spilled concrete on a road near my house. Every day I see spills of paint, sand and bagged materials (such as mortar or thin-set), as well as pieces of drywall and lumber. Trucks are often so overloaded that you expect a load to cascade onto the road at any second.

Why can’t these people spend a few extra minutes to secure their loads? And how in the world does paint get spilled onto a road? My goodness, how hard is it to put the bucket lid back on securely and make sure it will not fall off a truck? Even though it is just a few bad apples, every trade contractor and remodeler working in that area will bear the brunt of the blame. When the industry takes blame for a few, that angers and saddens because it is so easily preventable.

Have you ever seen a truck halfway parked on someone’s lawn or, even worse, tire tracks through the yard? What about the geyser from a broken sprinkler head competing with Old Faithful? This is exacerbated when it’s in the next-door neighbor’s yard—a neighbor who is already frustrated with the noise and inconvenience of a nearby construction project. Now they have a reason to unleash their opinions upon your client. It’s all downhill from there for the contractor.

Try leaving a small speck of drywall dust in an elevator or lobby of high-rise condos. The HOA, already dealing with constant complaints from building owners, now has a reason (and a target) to vent their frustrations, and they do so with vigor.

Most of us are not in position to tackle the nefarious operators in our industry, but these small things add up. All told, a lack of professionalism by a few lowers the community’s view of our industry even though the players are properly licensed and insured. It makes me wonder how many of us have policies in place for trade contractors, our vendors, and for own people as to how we operate in the community around a jobsite? We tend to focus on the immediate work area and forget that Aunt Lilly and Uncle Bob are coming for a visit and might appreciate streets clear of construction debris.

Admittedly, I haven’t addressed improper loads and spillage with my subs (I do with my employees), but I have immediate plans to develop a policy. I do have policies in place for the immediate jobsite area, and I thought I would share those with you in brief points:

  • No parking is allowed in an owner’s driveway. They may unload materials as long as the vehicle isn’t leaking liquids.
  • All tires should remain on the road; no vehicle is to be on anyone’s yard.
  • No smoking inside. This is exterior-only activity away from the house/condo. All cigarette butts must be disposed of properly in a crew vehicle.
  • No food wrappers, drink bottles, cans, etc., are to be left in work area.
  • Check that all windows, doors and other openings to the house are secure.
  • Make sure no water spigots or hoses are left running.
  • For sales calls, never walk across the yard or through natural areas. Remain on driveway and sidewalks leading to the front door. Once a job starts, we establish a pathway to the house if exterior work is being performed.
  • Never block a neighbor’s driveway or the street for through traffic unless temporarily while unloading materials.
  • Never use a homeowner’s personal property. Note this includes ladders, brooms, trashcans and cleaning supplies, among everything else.
  • For jobs where clients are living in the house, we must clean the work area daily.

Another idea to consider: We place a note on nearby neighbors’ doors, alerting them that we are starting a job, promising that we will not block their driveway and, if they do have an issue, our message offers direct contact information.

There are many more policies, especially involving jobsite safety, that we follow, but I wanted to mention the little things that often go unmanaged. Those details can turn a beautiful remodel job into a public relations disaster. All of these issues simply take a few minutes to prevent. QR

Doug King, CR, is the president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and owner of King Contracting, Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla.

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