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March 2007

Guest Columnist

Quality Can Save You Money

The difference between a successful contractor and a contractor that struggles is the understanding that performing a quality job can actually save your company money, reflected right on your bottom-line profit. Successful, profitable contractors strive to exceed their customers' requirements and expectations every chance they get because they know that a satisfied customer is often a repeat customer. They also know that keeping a customer costs less than trying to cultivate a new one.

Just think about your own purchasing habits and the purchasing habits of your family. When you buy a product or service and are satisfied with the result, when it's time to repurchase that product or service again, you go back to the same company. If you don't believe me, just think about the person who cuts your hair. How many of us use a new person every time we get a haircut? If someone "butchers" your hair, you undoubtedly will go shopping for a new stylist. (Well, maybe not everyone, from some of the hairstyles I see lately.)

Construction customers are just like us. They purchase masonry the same way as you purchase most of your products; they research providers, maybe ask friends about the choices that are available, and then they choose the best option. If they have a good experience, they may use that company again.

As a contractor, how do you get the repeat order once you've been selected? It's simple: meet or exceed the customer requirements the first time and every time. Perform better than they expect and you can expect to do more work with that client.

There are many ways to assess how you are doing. For one, you can simply just ask your customers. It's tougher than you expect. Most people are afraid to ask how they are doing for fear of getting a negative answer. You can't connect a bad perception unless you know about it. So ask how you are doing.

Second, strive for a goal of a zero punch list on the projects you are building. Is it realistic to expect a zero punch list? Absolutely! We expect our customers to provide us a service with zero defects, don't we? Just think about when you travel on a plane. Do you get on that plane thinking that a 10-percent or 20-percent failure rate is acceptable? Of course not. We expect 100-percent perfection. So why can't we expect zero punch lists from our industry?

Plus, striving for a zero punch list can actually save you money. Just think about it: What does it cost your company to train a mason to not put a chipped brick or block in a wall? Then compare that to the cost of sending a crew back out to a job that you thought was completed. That is the cost of quality — the cost to train versus the cost to fix mistakes.

Also, whom do you think has to absorb the expense of sending that crew back out to fix the punch list items? Your company, of course. Now add that to the cost of not being able to use those workers on a job that you are getting paid for, and that makes the cost even that much higher. Further, add in the cost of a dissatisfied customer that does not use you on their next job, making the total cost to your company astronomical.

This is the main driving force behind MCAA's Masonry Quality Institute (MQI), which is designed to provide you the tools to change the culture of your company, the result of which can be a company of dedicated and caring employees who strive to do it right the first time. What would it be worth to you to have employees who strive to do it right the first time? What would it be worth to your company to have employees who strive to do it right every time and to care as much as you do in meeting your clients' requirements?

Can providing quality save you money? You bet it can.



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