Create A Database Of Preferred Contractors For Networking And Greater Job Opportunities
As a home improvement contractor, you want to provide the best solutions for your clients, but sometimes you might find that part of a project is outside your expertise. Rather than telling the homeowner that they need to find another contractor to do what you can't, you can save the day by suggesting and bringing in a specialist to complete parts of the job.
However, you want to make sure that anyone you bring in measures up to your standards, as your client may hold you responsible if the other person does poor work. If you have a database of preferred contractors, you will always have resources to help you do a great job for your clients. You can advance your own reputation (and be able to accept more jobs) by calling on people you trust.
Who Should Be In Your Vendor Database?
In the home improvement industry, no man is an island. No matter how skilled you are, you will always need to know other reliable craftsmen with additional or complementary skills. If you are a great carpenter, you may occasionally require a plumber or an electrician. Being able to do multiple tasks is an asset, but a complex job may require professionals with specialized expertise, licensure, and certifications that you don't have. You should make it a goal to find professionals with skills to complement and supplement your own skills. Creating a vendor database is a formalized type of networking.
Developing A Vendor Database
From day one when you started your business, you probably knew a few experts that you could use as the core of your database. You probably worked with them in the past. If you haven't already made arrangements to use each other, contact them to formalize the relationship. Then plan to add more resources throughout the course of normal business operations. Here are some places to look:
Watch who's good. If you're working on projects in customers' homes or on a commercial job site, you may meet other tradesmen that have been hired. If you like their work style and ethics, make sure to get their contact information for future use.
Attend home shows. When you go to home shows, you're likely to see other professionals promoting their services. Talk to the vendors you meet there to see what holes they can fill in your service offerings. If customers are there as well, pay attention to who they recommend.
Join professional organizations. Consider your local Chamber of Commerce, BBB or other niche organization or association. Some of the people you meet there can help you if you need a professional in another specialty, or they may be interested in using your services themselves. Even in an online world, it's always nice to put a face with a company name, so try to actually attend local events.
Make your database both deep and wide. Some jobs require professionals such as designers, architects, or inspectors. Make sure to include this type of expertise in your database as well. You may need a professional opinion about whether a wall is structural, whether you can reroute water pipes, or whether a proposed technique is up to code. Having a vast professional network is useful for getting advice and suggestions, especially if you're in a pinch and need a quick answer.
Monitoring Industry Trends
Since you're the expert, your customers might expect you to know about new trends in your industry. Talk to your peers and read professional publications, online and off, to learn the latest home remodeling techniques, materials, color palettes, and more. Your database should include this information about the industry as well as contractor names. As you expand your knowledge of the industry, you'll know what specialties should be added to your contractor base.
As you build your database, make sure to note any feedback you receive from customers or any observations you have about your contacts. If you hear that someone is too pricey or lacks skills, you can decide whether or not to use them again. If you have received jobs in return from any vendors, make sure to keep track of that too.
Your database is your network of trusted vendors. Develop it and watch your business grow.
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