I can tell you right now this blog isn’t going to go over very well with some builders. Others will enjoy it; they’ll laugh and nod because they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Others will also laugh, not realizing I’m talking about them.
I spend a lot of time thinking about builders, what makes a good builder and what makes a bad one. After hearing so many “speak amongst themselves” in various meetings and networks, I’ve come to the conclusion that big builder, small builder, green builder, etc. doesn’t matter. Accountability is what matters. Sadly, listening to builders talk, I’ve also come to the conclusion that accountability is sorely lacking in the home building industry today. When business was so good a few years ago it seemed accountability quietly crept out the door. Buyers bought with abandon, certain they would sell at a nice profit long before anything in the house began to fail. It was a recipe for disaster.
Pondering all of this recently, I was reminded of an experience from my young adulthood that bears a lesson for both buyers and builders….
Many years ago I had a hairdresser who worked in a quaint little shop close to where I worked at the time. I went to her for years – still feeling a certain loyalty from the first time she worked feverishly to salvage a bad perm job I’d received at a beauty school. She was at her best that day, bringing me tissue for my tears and completely focusing on my needs. She was so attentive and so sweet. She won a customer that day who would return to her again and again exclusively for many years.
Over the years, however, my hairdresser developed a bad habit. She talked too much. And as a consequence of talking too much, she also stopped listening. I found myself going back to her more and more to fix things she hadn’t done right in the first place.
One of my hairdresser’s favorite topics to talk about was politics, a subject of which she knew little. But that didn’t stop her from running her mouth about it the whole time I was held captive in her chair. The fact that I didn’t share any of her opinions made this all the more excruciating.
For months I hoped she’d pick up on my stony silence or body language and stop subjecting me to her constant complaints about politicians. But she never seemed to take the hint.
Finally, one day I said to her, while she was in the midst of one of her rants, “You know, I don’t share your political views.”
“Eh,” she shrugged casually, continuing to work on my hair, “I figured as much.”
I was dumbfounded. All this time she suspected I didn’t agree with her and she still continued to run her mouth. Her arrogance, her total disregard for me (a loyal, paying customer) was staggering. Of course, I admit I was an idiot to suffer through it time and time again, but like most women, I hate switching hairdressers. (Ladies, you know what I mean.) At that point, however, I summoned the courage to grab those scissors and cut this opinionated, loud-mouthed hairdresser off for good. (No – I didn’t stab her, I simply left and never returned.)
To put this in the context of the housing industry, you could say I stayed in the house long enough to realize I didn’t get my money’s worth. And I had been most certainly taken for granted.
Nobody Likes a Whiner
What does any of this have to do with builders and contractors these days? Well, let’s just say, there are a fair number out there who are so busy whining and complaining about how bad business is and who is to blame for all their woes, that they fail to realize how this could be alienating potential clients and losing them referrals.
Nobody likes a whiner–even if you like to whine about the same things. People are less likely to work with or recommend a known complainer. Besides, when a builder is constantly talking about ‘who done him wrong’ he sort of sounds like the kind of person that doesn’t like to accept any responsibility himself and I’ll tell you right now, that’s the last builder that any of us ever wants to work with. It’s also the last builder we would recommend to a friend.
Shut up and play the game!
I love the movie Jerry McGuire. Remember the scene when Jerry (Tom Cruise) is fed up with all of Rod Tidwell’s (Cuba Gooding) whining? He gives him this speech:
“….when you get on the field it’s all about what you didn’t get. Who’s to blame. …. Who’s got the contract you don’t. Who’s not giving you your love. You know what, that is not what inspires people. That is not what inspires people! Shut up! Play the game….!”
Face it, there’s a little Rod Tidwell in us all. Probably more than any of us wants to admit. But there is no denying that whining and finger pointing leaves a bad impression. And when you’re a prospective homebuyer about to embark on one of the scariest financial ventures of your life, you want to know that your builder is focused on you and not about who or what robbed him of his “kwan.”
Clearly, some builders would counter back, “What prospective buyers? There aren’t any!”
Hear that? That’s the sound of a builder telling you that you don’t exist. And for many builders, you don’t exist until you’re standing before them with check in hand ready to sign on the dotted line. These are the builders so wrapped in self-pity that they’ve forgotten how many people had hoped (and still hope) to build a home one day.
So when your shopping for a builder, or even daydreaming about building a new house, and you happen to overhear a builder complaining about everything from Fannie Mae to Capitol Hill, remember my hairdresser story.
And if you are so inclined, tell him: Just shut up. Play the game.