What am I talking about? Award contests.
The News recently experienced the thrill of competition when we sponsored our first “Best Contractor to Work For” contest. Contractors from all over the country (with the conspicuous absence of those from Ohio and Missouri), plus a few from Canada, sent us descriptions of their businesses and why we should vote for them. It was, in a sense, a real “beauty” contest.
But unlike typical beauty contests, there was no bathing suit competition or questions about how contractors would change the world if they won. Frankly, we don’t care about those things anyway, and I suspect that your communities don’t care either.
That doesn’t lessen the impact of awards such as ours. In fact, award winners often hold an advantage over other businesses and competitors in their community. Let me explain how.
Contractor “A” wins a prestigious award from a manufacturer or a national publication. Contractor A proudly displays its awards in the lobby of the business and gets some free publicity from the local newspaper.
Meanwhile, Contractor “B” keeps plugging along, servicing customers and doing a commendable job — but they don’t care about awards. They don’t have the time or desire to participate. Fair enough.
A young man decides that he wants to take his field tech skills to a new community. He is relocating because of a family move or he just wants a change of atmosphere. If he is smart, he looks up the local Chamber of Commerce or calls the local media outlet and finds out what kind of employers are in town — hvacr employers.
He is told that Contractor A is looking for technicians and that they recently won a prestigious national award for being a good business to work for, and for offering great customer service.
Contractor B is also mentioned but there is little to say that can compare to the honors bestowed on Contractor A. Who do you think this man will pay a visit to first?
He might visit both, and if he is smart (again I am assuming he is), he will visit both contractors and judge for himself.
Now maybe he’ll choose B over A because he likes the people better, or he thinks there are better opportunities, or maybe he just likes the color of their trucks. Still, I’d put my money on Contractor A.
Don’t get me wrong. B may have a better customer service record and may have happier employees, but A has the awards. That combination of wood and shiny metal with A’s name inscribed on it may just be the difference between hiring a new technician and a continuing dependence on the want ad section of the local newspaper.
Let’s look at another scenario.
A customer is looking to replace his 20-year-old furnace and wants to know who to call. He finds out that Contractor A is the winner of a customer service award and is an award-winning employer. The deck is automatically stacked against Contractor B, even if they can offer a lower price.
In this case, price doesn’t matter — and it shouldn’t. If you have happy workers, an outstanding service record, and have been awarded for it, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing a new customer to your competitor.
And it doesn’t matter if you put three trucks on the road or 30 — service and a winning attitude will set you apart. It will also heap you with a bunch of awards if you take the time to enter the contests.
Am I being a generalist or a dreamer? If you are Contractor B, you are nodding in agreement. After all, you didn’t take the time to enter the beauty pageant. If you are Contractor A, you are already looking forward to the next contest.
Don’t be surprised if The News adds a wrinkle or two to the award contests. And don’t worry if the guy down the street is a millionaire contractor. People like working for and doing business with a winner.
There is no shortage of those in our industry.
Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-6417; 248-362-0317 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).